Kennedys in the Old Parochial Register of the Parish of Kilmonivaig in Inverness-shire 1730-1854

authored by Iain Kennedy 2nd January 2010, updated 4th January 2010.

Copyright © 2010 Iain Kennedy


Kilmonivaig is a large parish in the south of Inverness county, bounded amongst others by Laggan, Kilmallie and Fortingall. It plays an important part in the study of the Kennedys as it contains Leanachan, claimed to be the ancestral home of the family. I have now transcribed all the Kennedy baptism and marriage entries. Nominally the register starts in 1730 but this date is taken from one retrospective entry and the bulk start in the 1780s. Like many Highland Kirk registers it fizzles out in the 1840s due to parishioners breaking away to the Free church. It lost others to the Catholic church (at the end of the 18th century the parish was approximately half Roman Catholic [1]. In theory their entries should be in the register too. In most parishes for one reason or another they are not included. For Kilmonivaig we are at least fortunate in that we get to know why: on at least two occasions the clerk has stated that 'irregularities' in the entries are due to the Roman Catholics refusing to pay their dues. Each time this happened the Catholics were taken to court for enforcement, in 1801 and 1812.). Many also emigrated particularly in the early 1800s. The entries are dominated by the two major clans in the district, the Camerons and MacDonalds. Kennedy ranks a distant third in numbers behind them.

During the term of the register the Caledonian canal was built through the parish and references to employment on the building work can be found amongst the listed occupations.

Early baptism entries lack the mother's name. This can cause some problems in linking children to the right set of parents, although in some cases this is alleviated by batch entries where all the children from one marriage are entered in one go (this happened three times for the Kennedys plus once where the mother was a Kennedy and had 13 children with Duncan McIntyre at Unachan).

The Kennedy records fall into two geographical areas, one clustered around Leanachan and Brackletter, the other further north in Glengarry. To a certain extent this reflects overall settlement patterns and in 1855 the parish was divided into the two registration districts of Lochaber and Glengarry. The first Kennedy baptism recorded is at Mucomir at the mouth of the River Spean in 1781. At the time the register gets going Angus Kennedy was the tacksman at Leanachan Mor and his brother Neil Kennedy the same at Leanachan Beg. It would appear that no-one was actually living at Brackletter; in 1811 a group of (non-Kennedy) couples start having children there and the Kennedys follow in 1818 when Alexander Kennedy the Chelsea Pensioner started his family. His is the only Kennedy family at Brackletter whose children appear in this register.

This data is in line with what is known from the Gordon estate papers which show the negotiations over tacks at Leanachan, Brackletter and Inveroy in the early 1800s, when Angus and Neil Kennedy successfully bid for renewal of their tacks. Angus bid £250 for Leanachan Mor in 1804 and £105 on behalf of Neil for Leanachan Beg. Captain Alexander MacDonald bid for a group of farms which included Brackletter. The next year Angus and Neil put in slighly raised bids of £260 and £120 respectively, which again were accepted. Rentals for Brackletter from 1809 show several Kennedys there - Alexr., Ewen and Alexr. Ban Kennedy all paying small rents for their crofts. Confusingly there were two Alexander Kennedy pensioners at Brackletter. From the marriage register we learn that when Alexr married Ann MacDonald in 1820 both were residing at Brackletter; but the Alexr. Kennedy who married Sarah Cameron in 1815 resided at Leanachan. It is unclear what the full story behind this but his residence might have been a temporary one following his departure from the army, or it may indicate he was living at Sarah's house.

Eventually the original Leanachan group of Angus Kennedy daughtered out and the final Leanachan baptism is 1836. Margaret Kennedy married there in 1849 to Dr. Ewen Cameron and not long after that, the two bachelor Kennedy men who maintained the farm both died without issue. This family are buried at the kirkyard in Kilmonivaig. But Kennedys continued to multiply in the area at both Brackletter and Inveroy, and many of them worshipped in what became the Catholic parish church of Roy Bridge.

Overall, the register is not that useful as it covers only a few decades and one of the three main churches. Effectively it starts later even than that of Fortingall in Perthshire next door where Kennedy baptisms in the 1750s abound. It is shown from other records that the Kennedys had been at Leanachan for a good two centuries before they first appear in the register; and they are known to have been respected in the community as they were appointed elders to the Kirk session around the time their records start up. There is still some way to go to show that this was their first home in the Highlands, never mind that they had time to spread out into Rannoch, StrathTay, Lewis, Skye, Coll and Tiree before they are first shown to be there (for example they were on Coll in 1710). A cluster of records at Leanachan spring up in the mid 1600s and the register for Inverness shows that they took until about 1700 to get that far north. But in 1650 they were already numerous in Logierait and Aberfeldy.

In the following table Lianachan and Inveroy would come joint top with 8 if the Beg and Mor farms are combined. Some entries just say Lianachan. As it is, Glengarry trumps Lochaber. Predictably the Laggan Glengarry Kennedies have their own origin story.

Kennedy Baptism location rankings
Old Ground, Glengarry 7
Laggan, Glengarry 6
Unachan 6
Lianachan 5 (+3)
Inveroy 5 (+3)
Shentalich Fachim 5
Brackletter 4
Glenlee, Glengarry 4
Kilmanivaig (farm) 3
Mucomir 3

Overall surname rankings (baptisms)

Cameron (458)

MacDonald (316)

Kennedy (85)

Campbell (81)

MacKinnon (60)

MacPherson (54)

MacIntyre (47)

Stewart (44)

Grant (38)

MacMaster (37)

Notes [1] First Statistical account, parish of Kilmonivaig. Rev. Thomas Ross writes in 1795 that there are 1200 Protestants and 1200 Roman Catholics in the parish.