Kennedys in the Old Parochial Register of the Parish of Fortingall in Perthshire 1748-1854

authored by Iain Kennedy 16th April 2006; updated 16th December 2007

Copyright © 2007 Iain Kennedy


'The parish is greatly depopulated since the year 1754. No less than 105 tenants have been removed and between 60 and 70 cottagers. Some, but not many, have emigrated to America. The most of them have gone southward to the towns. Gaelic is the language that is commonly spoken.' Rev. Duncan McAra, minister, 1791.

'The earliest entry in the parochial registers now extant is 1748. They are now very irregularly kept, not a tithe [tenth] of the births or baptisms being recorded.' Rev. Robert MacDonald, minister, July 1838.

Minor update 13.12.07. All the parish registers have been digitised and can be viewed either online at ScotlandsPeople or on DIGROS at New Register House in Edinburgh. Or have they? When I attempted to check some of them at Edinburgh yesterday I was disconcerted to find that none of the baptisms and marriages in Fortingall showed up in my searches - and after some investigation by staff they conceded that they must have forgotten to do Fortingall! Hopefully this should get done soon (they are on ScotlandsPeople, so presumably they are only missing from DIGROS). But every cloud has a silver lining, forced to load up the microfilm version I examined the beginning of the register carefully and discovered that there are several records which appear to pre-date the official start date of 1748 (according to the SAFHS publication I use), the earliest dating from 1738. Time ran out before I could make any notes but I believe the 1738 baptism was a MacGregor. It is quite thrilling to glimpse pre-45 events from Rannoch. Sadly there didn't appear to be any new Kennedy records thrown up.

Eventually I hope to offer some analysis like this on each parochial register (OPR) in Scotland. But I had to start somewhere so I chose my old home of Fortingall, the large parish in the north west corner of Perthsire containing Loch Rannoch, Rannoch Moor, Glenlyon and the estate village of Fortingall. The parish is bordered to the north and west by the Inverness-shire parishes of Kilmonivaig and Laggan; in the other direction by the Perthshire parishes of Blair Atholl, Dull, Kenmore and Killin. Note that Kilmonivaig is the parish of Leanachan, the home settled by the 'Lochaber Kennedys' led by Ulric Kennedy.

First we should put the parish register information in perspective. Each parish has a different start date for their earliest parish registers, and each may have had a different level of support for the register. The table below summarises the start date and, where I have collected, it, the number of Kennedy births and marriages/banns recorded in those registers; in all cases the end date is 1854, the year before the introduction of statutory records.

Parish Register start dates Kennedy births§ Kennedy marriages§*
Kilmonivaig 1730 134 98
Laggan 1775 113 38
Fortingall 1748 (a few predate this?) 148 93
Blair Atholl 1718 80 38
Dull 1703 345 185
Kenmore 1636 65 61
Killin 1689 33 16

§ these columns were determined with Soundex turned on which is essential for the Kennedy name this early on

*this column is produced by first searching for Kennedy marriages under both sexes, then reviewing the results to weed out duplicats where both parties gave the name Kennedy. This weeding out has only been done for Fortingall where there were 8 such double Kennedy marriages.

The county of Perth has an overall good reputation for the wealth of data in its parochial registers and if you visit New Register House in Edinburgh there is a framed display of the very oldest surviving parish register entry in Scotland which is a record from Errol in Perthshire dated 1553 (I would like to tell you its a Kennedy but sadly not!). But the table above is enough to show that sadly Fortingall is an exception; however it compares reasonably with its neighbours across the county border in Inverness-shire.

Turning first to the surnames who married Kennedys in Fortingall, here is a list of all those which occurred more than once in the 93 marriages above:

Cameron 23
McGregor 15
Kennedy 8
Stewart 7
McDonald 5
Robertson 4
McIntyre 3
McDougall 2
McLaren 2
Campbell 2
Wilson 2
Fletcher 2

These names, and even the striking density of the Camerons, should be of no surprise if you have read the rest of my site. All the major clan names of Rannoch - Cameron, McGregor, Campbell, Robertson, Stewart and McDonald - are there. Further analysis will include studying the actual locations of the marriages on the OPR film.

What is actually of more interest is the date distribution of the marriage events. Below is another table breaking them down into decades;

Decade Kennedy marriages
1749-1758 17
1759-1768 17
1769-1778 11
1779-1788 10
1789-1798 10
1799-1808 10
1809-1818 10
1819-1828 4
1829-1838 2
1839-1854 1

 Where did they all go? There is not a single answer to this. In general, some went overseas either by force or 'choice'; some went to the lowlands or to England. For the Kennedys specifically, I am hunting down as best I can all the men and women of Fortingall parish. Further data to be released soon will show, amongst other things, how many 'strays' turned up in other parishes or other counties in the early census returns. Suffice to say for now, that by the time of the 1851 census this local profusion of Kennedys was all but gone. Fortingall seems to have suffered a rapid loss of Kennedys more so than the rest of the county; although it is ranked 4th parish by OPR births, it only ranks 10th in the 1851 census.

By 1881 there are only 7 Kennedys residing in Fortingall, including 2 natives of the parish. The Scotland wide total of Fortingall natives was 10, with 2 others listed as born 'Rannoch' which was not actually a parish. This habit of putting non-parish locations down as parishes in the census can be frustrating since they seem to be picked arbitrarily; I note for example that 'Foss' also gets put down as a parish, when this should strictly read 'Dull'.

Each page of the parochial registers typically holds many short entries, resulting in large numbers of spares. They are well worth studying, if only to familiarise oneself with the clerk's hand and to learn about the locations in the parish. Often if you can't read your own entry you can figure it out by comparison with others. For example let's examine the page starting December 26, 1764:

p84 Rannoch December 26 1764

Hugh son to Hugh Kennedy and Katharine Fletcher in Fionnart [Finnart] was baptised. [Interesting as their earlier child Angus was born at Kinloch right at the other end of the loch.]

Donald son to Donald McKay and Ann Brown in Easter Finnart was baptised. [McKay is an unusual name in these parts, coming from the far north. This Donald might be a younger brother of my own Kennedy matriarch Elizabeth McKay.]

Katrin daughter to John Stewart and Janet Campbell in Tempar was baptised.

Duncan son to Alexander Stewart and Katharine Cameron in Crossmount was baptised. [a reader advises this should read Katharine Cumming]

January 2d 1765

John son to Alexander and Janet McGrigor in Kinlochrannoch was baptised the 13th.

Duncan son to John McGrigor and Margaret McGrigor in Camasericht was baptised.

Christian daughter to Finlay Campbell and Katharine Campbell in Camgran was baptised.

Duncan son to Donald McIntyre and Grisel McGregor in Bailnacraig was baptised the 19th. [Is this Balnacraig near Fortingall village, some distance from Rannoch?]

John son to Donald McGrigor and Katharin Stewart in Innerchaddan [Innerhadden] was baptised the 20th.

Elizabeth daughter to John McDonald and Katharine Stewart in Innerchaddan [Innerhadden] was baptised.

Marian daughter to Archibald and Ann Cameron in Kinlochrannoch was baptised the 28th.

Donald son [to] Robert McGregor and Janet McDonald in Invercomrie was baptised Feb 3 1765

Mary daughter to Angus Cameron and Katharine Burdon? in Dunan was baptised eo die [the same day]

Elizabeth daughter to Malcom McGrigor and Isabel Fletcher in Kildlochran was baptised eo die [Fletcher is said to be a McGregor name]

Janet daughter to Duncan Kennedy and Helen Campbell in Kenloch [Kinloch Rannoch] was baptised 7th day [Feb 1765]

Donald son to Donald McFarlane and Margaret Campbell in Aulich was baptised. [Aulich on the north loch shore was the birth place of Angus Kennedy in 1754]

Duncan son to Archibald McGrigor and Margaret Burdon in Craganour [Craiganour] was baptised

Duncan son to Archibald McDonald alias Cannach and Mary Stewart in Crossmount was baptised

Katharine daughter to Donald and Esther Stewart in Lassintullich was baptised March 9th 1765

Jane daughter to Thomas Menzies and Jean Mc[?page torn] at Crossmount was baptised 16th [March 1765]

A later page starting Sep 15th 1780

Ann daughter to Donald McGregor and Janet Cumming in Lergan [Leargan] was baptised

Hugh son to Hugh Sinclair and Ann McPhillip in Innerhadden was baptised eo die

Rachel daughter to Angus Kennedy & Eliz McKay in Balnoie was baptised Sept 16th [my own line, but Rachel hasn't been seen since then!]

Catharine daughter to Duncan Cameron and Mary Cameron in Cambuserich was baptised eo die

Janet daughter to Donald Cameron and Catherine Cameron in George Town [Rannoch Barracks] was baptised

Place-names with modern spellings and OS grid references. Rannoch is on Ordnance Survey Landrange map 42 - Glen Garry & Loch Rannoch. For older maps I recommend the 1st and 2nd edition one-inch Ordnancy Survey maps at NLS, and the 1783 James Stobie map of Perthshire. The 1805 Stobie revision lists some of the lairds - Foss - Stewart esq.; Kynachan - Stewart esq.; Crossmount - Stewart esq.; Mount Alexander - Robertson esq.; Temper - Stewart esq.; Dalchosnie - McDonald esq.; Inverhadden - Stewart esq.; Carie - Robertson of Strowan; Camaserich - Menzies Bart. Many of the old places are lost, also note that Dunalastair Water between Lochs Rannoch and Tummel is a new arrival courtesy of the Tummel hydro project, which built a dam there in 1933 (described in a fascinating but lengthy SEPA pdf. Two hundred years ago it was woodland. The list goes clockwise around Loch Rannoch starting at the west end, north shore:

Camusericht, Ardlarach, Aulich, Craiganour, Kinloch Rannoch, Maragdubh [Blackpark], south shore, back westwards, Crossmount, Lassintullich, West Tempar, Innerhadden, Carie, Camghouran, Finnart, Invercomrie.

Overall surname rankings (baptisms)

Stewart (1001)

MacGregor (914)

Cameron (740)

Campbell (523)

McDonald (398)

Robertson (394)

Menzies (275)

Kennedy (148)

If you found this interesting I have also surveyed all the Kennedys of this area in the 1841/1851 census too.