Place:Birse, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Alt namesBallogiesource: settlement in parish
Finzeansource: village in parish
Marywellsource: settlement in parish
Tillyfruskiesource: settlement in parish
Woodendsource: settlement in parish
Coordinates57.059°N 2.7303°W
Located inAberdeenshire, Scotland     ( - 1975)
Also located inGrampian Region, Scotland     (1975 - 1996)
Aberdeenshire (council area), Scotland     (1996 - )

Scottish Record Office Number: 175
(used by ScotlandsPeople, see Research tips, below)

Churches: Birse Kirk, Birse, Church of Scotland

Cemeteries: list available from the Aberdeen & NE Scotland FHS (link under Research tips)

Old Parish Register Availabilty (within FamilySearch):
Baptisms: 1758-1854
Marriages: 1782-1854
Deaths: no information

NOTE: Civil registration of vital statistics was introduced to Scotland in 1855. Prior to that date births, marriages and deaths had been recorded in local churches in the Old Parish Registers (OPRs). The OPRs were collected by the Registrar for Scotland in Edinburgh as civil registration started. Although local churches continued to record bmd after 1855, these registers were not collected and stored by the Registrar for Scotland. Some may have found their way into local archives. FamilySearch and ScotlandsPeople both keep records prior to 1855, but only ScotlandsPeople retains microfilms of the original parish books.

Missing intervals in OPRs dates may be due to non-collection of volumes (possibly through loss or damage), or the events being recorded in another book held in the parish.

The parish of Birse is located on the south of the River Dee, in the south-central part of Aberdeenshire. It is bounded on the north by the River Dee (opposite the parishes of Aboyne and Kincardine O'Neil), on the east and south by the Kincardineshire parish of Strachan, on the southwest by the Forfarshire (or Angus) parish of Lochlee, and on the west by the old parish of Glentanar (now merged with Aboyne). It includes the communities of Birse, Ballogie, and Finzean. It comprises 31,219 acres (approx 8 miles wide and 8.5 miles tall at its widest/tallest points), mostly farms and forest. Its population has ranged from 1,266 in 1801, rising to about 1,500 in the second quarter of the 19th century, and then slowly but steadily declining to 1,085 in 1901 and 841 in 1951. Number of households has been about 270, plus or minus 20, since 1800. Many of the farms and stone farmhouses from the 18th century can still be found today.


Geographically, the parish is hilly (about 500-600 meters) in its south and east, and comprises three roughly parallel burns/glens which run from the mountains westward and slightly northward feeding into the River Dee: the Burn of Birse, the Burn of Cattie, and the Water of Feugh, with the villages of Birse, Ballogie and Finzean respectively in the lower parts of the glens. The very sparsely populated area atop the glens is called the Forest of Birse.

Population Growth

Areaacressq mihectares
YearPopulationDensity per sq miDensity per hectare

Populations 1801-1951 from A Vision of Britain through Time (
2001 population from Scotland’s Census (


Birse Parish Kirk

Earliest records of a kirk in Birse date from 1157, when it was mentioned in a charter of the Bishop of Aberdeen, and was the seat of the Chancellor of the Diocese. A relic from that time, called the Crusader Stone, was rediscovered when the foundation for the present structure was being laid in 1779, and it can be seen today in the vestry. Earlier kirks stood a bit to the south of the present structure. The most recent prior structure was a stone building with a thatched roof erected in 1603.

The present kirk structure, erected in 1779, is a coursed granite structure in a plain rectangular plan, with a slate roof, its primary adornment being a small ball-capped bellcote on the west gable over the entrance. It seats 550. When the church was in use in the 18th and 19th centuries, the pews were arranged lengthwise on the rectangular plan, with the pulpit being in the middle of the long wall. There was a gallery for the Farquharson family, who were the prominent landowners in the parish. (Visitors to the kirk today will find the pews rearranged perpendicular to the length of the building, as is the modern convention.)

The kirkyard contains over three hundred gravestones, mostly upright, with about two dozen or more recumbent stones, and one prominent enclosure for the Farquharson family. The majority of the stones date from the 19th century, though there are a few from the late 18th century. It is thought that the present graveyard is built on top of an older one, so many who were buried here prior to the 19th century lay unmarked or covered over by newer graves. The kirkyard is thoroughly documented in a booklet called The Kirkyard of Birse, compiled by Sheila M Spiers, put out by the Aberdeen and North East Scotland Family History Society (publication #AA104). The Society also provides an online index of names with dates (though you must get the booklet to find the complete inscriptions).

In 1863, a kirk was built at Finzean, which was a more populous part of the parish (and closer to the Farquharson seat at Finzean House). In 1902, Finzean became a separate quoad sacra parish, but Birse and Finzean were reunited in 1987 (together with Strachan), with Finzean being the parish kirk. Birse Kirk is no longer used as a church, but was recently purchased by the Birse Community Trust for preservation and use as a community and for-hire meeting hall. Visits may be arranged through the trust.

Farquharson of Finzean Estate

The Finzean Estate, today nearly 8,000 acres in the parish of Birse, has been held in a branch of the Farquharson clan since 1609, when the bishops of Aberdeen granted a charter to Robert Farquharson, 1st laird of Finzean. (Finzean was previously held by Sir Alexander Gordon of Cluny, and by Sir Robert Carnegie before him.) Subsequent lairds acquired additional properties, expanding the estate, of which Finzean has continued to be the seat. In 1708, Queen Anne granted a Charter of Barony to Robert Farquharson, the 4th of Finzean, comprising Finzean, Tillygarmond, Balnaboth, Balfidy, Percie, Dalsack, the Mill of Clinter, and Woodend.

Finzean House
Finzean House

Finzean House

Finzean House has been the home of the Farquharsons of Finzean probably from the first laird. The present house was largely rebuilt in 2002, having been nearly destroyed by fire in 1954, but it was reconstructed to match the size and form of the house as it was known to have existed from the Victorian era. The present house retains a portion of a wall with a stone bearing the date 1686, when the house was rebuilt by the 3rd laird of Finzean. (The original house was most likely destroyed in 1644, when most of the parish was laid waste by the Earl of Argyll in retaliation for Royalist support.) In the mid to late 18th century, the 5th laird increased the size of the house, adding a south frontage, and also started a formal garden (the holly hedge of which still stands today). In the 1830s-40s, the house suffered from the neglect of the spendthrift 8th laird followed by the absentee 9th laird, before it was energetically restored in the 1850s-60s by the 10th laird, who also built the church and did much to revitalize the community life of Finzean.

Finzean Kirk

Although the parish kirk was historically at Birse, a church was built at Finzean in 1863 which gained in prominence and became a quoad sacra parish in 1902. In 1987 it was made the parish church for a reunited Birse and Finzean parish, encompassing Strachan and other historic parishes into what is today called the Birse and Feughside Parish Church.

  1. Farquharson, Geoffrey. Clan Farquharson: A History, pp. 66-79.


Tillyfruskie farm and house
Tillyfruskie farm and house
Tillyfruskie is a farm in the Aberdeenshire parish of Birse. It was acquired in 1759 by Francis Farquharson, the 5th laird of Finzean, from the Ochterlony family,1 and has been held by the Farquharson family as part of the Finzean estate up to the present. Historically it was a tenant farm. The stone farm house dates from 1733 (as can be seen etched in the high cornerstone in the photo).
  1. Farquharson, Geoffrey. Clan Farquharson: A History, p. 69.


Woodend is an inhabited place in the Deeside parish of Birse. It is found along the Water of Feugh, about 3km east and south from Finzean, heading up the glen toward the Forest of Birse. It is just down from the bucket mill.

It is part of the Finzean Estate, having been held by the Farquharsons of Finzean since 1708, when it was included in a Charter of Barony granted by Queen Anne to Robert Farquharson, the 4th laird of Finzean.1 Historically, it has been a tenant farm of the estate.

[NOTE: Many parishes throughout Aberdeenshire have settlements named Woodend.]

  1. Farquharson, Geoffrey. Clan Farquharson: A History, p. 68.

Research Tips

There was formerly a note on this page that the parish was linked to the Presbytery of Kincardine O'Neil, Synod of Aberdeen, Scotland. It would appear that since 1975 the organization of the presbyteries and synods has been revised. Readers are reminded that the Church of Scotland is Presbyterian in nature while in England the Church of England is Episcopalian. (See Wikipedia. )

General Aberdeenshire References

  • official civil (from 1855) and parish registers (from when first produced) for births, marriages and deaths for all of Scotland
  • original census images for all years available (1841-1911).
  • references to wills and property taxes, and
  • an extensive collection of local maps.

This site is extremely easy to use. There are charges for parish register entries and censuses. The charges are reasonable and payable by online transfer.

  • The Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online provides access to digitised and fully searchable versions of both the Old Statistical Account (1791-99) and the New Statistical Account (1834-45). These uniquely rich and detailed parish reports, usually written by local Church of Scotland ministers, detail social conditions in Scotland and are an invaluable resource for anyone interested in Scottish history.
  • Scotlands Places
  • Gazetteer of Scotland includes descriptions of individual parishes from F. H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4)
  • The FamilySearch Wiki
  • GENUKI which provides, amongst other data, complete quotations from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1851) by Samuel Lewis, John Bartholomew's A Gazetteer of the British Isles (1877), and A New History of Aberdeenshire edited by Alexander Smith (1875)
  • A list of Burial Grounds in Scotland is now available on the website of the Scottish Association of Family History Societies.
  • Aberdeenshire and Moray Records. Town Council minutes, accounts, letters, plans and harbour records provided by Aberdeenshire Council plus other local records.
  • Aberdeen and North-East Scotland Family History Society is one of the largest and most reputable family history societies in Scotland and has a long list of publications referring to individual parishes.

Local Birse References