Place:Western Isles, Scotland

NameWestern Isles
Alt namesW Islssource: BIAB Online (1999-2000) accessed 16 Dec 2002; UK Counties and Regions Abbreviations [web site] (1997-98) accessed 16 Dec 2002
Western Islandssource: Webster's Geographical Dictionary (1988) p 1329
Na h-Eileanan Siarsource: Gaelic
TypeUnitary authority
Coordinates57.76°N 7.02°W
Located inScotland     (1996 - )
See alsoRoss and Cromarty, Scotlandcounty in which part of Western Isles were located until 1975
Inverness-shire, Scotland|county in which part of Western Isles were located until 1975
North Uist, Inverness-shire, Scotlandisland in the Western Isles
South Uist, Inverness-shire, Scotlandisland in the Western Isles
Lewis, Ross and Cromarty, Scotlandisland in the Western Isles
Harris, Inverness-shire, Scotlandisland in the Western Isles
Barra, Inverness-shire, Scotlandisland in the Western Isles
Benbecula, Inverness-shire, Scotlandisland in the Western Isles
Outer Hebrides, Scotlandunitary authority replacing the Western Isles region in 1996
Contained Places
North Uist ( 1996 - )
South Uist ( 1996 - )
Former community
St. Kilda ( 1996 - )
Barvas ( 1996 - )
Boisdale ( 1996 - )
Borve ( 1996 - )
Coll ( 1996 - )
Daliburgh ( 1996 - )
Floddaigh ( 1996 - )
Lochboisdale ( 1996 - )
Portain ( 1996 - )
Shader ( 1996 - )
Shawbost ( 1996 - )
Stoneybridge ( 1996 - )
Tolsta ( 1996 - )
Inhabited place
Bayble ( 1996 - )
Callanish ( 1996 - )
Carinish ( 1996 - )
Carloway ( 1996 - )
Castlebay ( 1996 - )
Dell ( 1996 - )
Galson ( 1996 - )
Howmore ( 1996 - )
Islivig ( 1996 - )
Leverburgh ( 1996 - )
Lochmaddy ( 1996 - )
Ness ( 1996 - )
Portnaguran ( 1996 - )
Rodel ( 1996 - )
Sollas ( 1996 - )
Stornoway (town) ( 1996 - )
Tarbert ( 1996 - )
Baleshare ( 1996 - )
Barra ( 1996 - )
Benbecula ( 1996 - )
Berneray ( 1996 - )
Eileanan Chearabhaigh ( 1996 - )
Eriskay ( 1996 - )
Floddaigh ( 1996 - )
Grimsay ( 1996 - )
Harris ( 1996 - )
Lewis ( 1996 - )
North Uist ( 1996 - )
Ronay ( 1996 - )
South Uist ( 1996 - )
St. Kilda ( 1996 - )
Vatersay ( 1996 - )
Barra ( 1996 - )
Barvas ( 1996 - )
Harris ( 1996 - )
Lochs (Western Isles) ( 1996 - )
North Uist ( 1996 - )
South Uist ( 1996 - )
Stornoway ( 1996 - )
Uig ( 1996 - )
Outer Hebrides ( 1996 - )
Ardivachar ( 1996 - )
Ardnamonie ( 1996 - )
Bornish ( 1996 - )
Iochdar ( 1996 - )
Kilbride (South Uist) ( 1996 - )
Traditional county
Inverness-shire ( 1975 - 1996 )
Ross and Cromarty ( 1975 - 1996 )
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names

NOTE: The co-ords are given as a general pointing covering a very large area. It is better inspected on the Google map after clicking the "-" sign a couple of times.

The Outer Hebrides was one of the administrative regions into which Scotland was divided between 1975 and 1996. It was replaced in 1996 by the Western Isles or Na h-Eileanan Siar unitary authority. There was no change in the geographic coverage between The Western Isles and the Outer Hebrides. As a result the two terms sometimes appear to be used interchangeably. Wikipedia covers both in one article which does not discuss the local government arrangements.

Prior to the division of Scotland into administrative regions, the southern islands (Harris, Barra, Benbecula, North Uist, and South Uist) were located in the County of Inverness-shire and the Isle of Lewis in the County of Ross and Cromarty. Since the parish system of division ended along with the counties in 1975, discussion of the parishes making up the Western Isles will be found under the two county headings.

A list of all the inhabited islands making up the Western Isles or Outer Hebrides can be found in the Wikipedia article, List of the Outer Hebrides. Skye, the largest island off the western coast of Scotland, is considered to be part of the "Inner Hebrides" and is not included in the Western Isles.

Source: Wikipedia's list of the administrative regions of Scotland between 1975 and 1996

Research Tips

Notes for the Highland Council Area and the Western Isles Council Area

The local archives are held by The Highland Archive Service which is based in Inverness with branches in Stornoway, Fort William and Caithness. It is "responsible for locating, preserving and making accessible archives relating to all aspects of the history of the geographical area of the Highlands."

Family history societies and historical associations covering the Highland Council Area and the Western Isles Council Area are:

These associations publish their aims on their websites as well as a list of publications. In many cases the publications are also available through the Scottish Genealogy Society (see below).

Sources for Old Parish Registers Records, Vital Records and Censuses

  • Scotland's People This is a pay website providing vital statistics and census data for all of Scotland with original images. There is a description at Scotland under Genealogical Resources.
  • See the publications lists of the above Family History Societies.
  • The FreeCen Project--Scotland has a searchable (not browsable) transcription for each of the counties in the area. Nairnshire and Caithness have the 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871 complete. Inverness-shire and Ross and Cromarty have 1841 complete with some work on 1851 and Sutherland has not completed 1841.

Transcriptions of Gravestone Inscriptions

  • The Scottish Genealogy Society provides a series of monumental inscriptions either in print in booklet form or on CD for each of the counties in the area (Caithness, Inverness-shire, Nairnshire, Ross and Cromarty, and Sutherland). Some of the booklets cover only one graveyard, others cover a group. Prices vary. In many cases the coverage is of pre-1855 stones only--this is because gravestone inscriptions are often used by family historians as death registration equivalents in the era of the Old Parish Registers (when deaths were not universally recorded).
  • Sutherland cemeteries are covered in Pre-1855 tombstone inscriptions in Sutherland burial grounds by A S Cowper & I Ross, published at Edinburgh in 1989 by the Scottish Genealogy Society.
  • There are no specific notes for gravestone transcriptions for either Inverness-shire or Nairnshire in GENUKI. However, the Scottish Genealogy Society lists booklets for both counties.

Sources for Emigration Records

  • Hebrides People have a database containing lists of people who emigrated to North America from a number of parishes in the Western Isles.

Further Sources of Reference

Please note and respect the copyright warnings on these websites.

  • GENUKI has articles on each of the counties. These may not appear up-to-date but a query to the organizer made in August 2014 was answered within a few hours and followed up by an amendment to the article.
  • The Gazetteer for Scotland provides an article on each of the old counties of Scotland. The tabs on the right provide more information, plus a map of the county within its surrounding area, with parishes highlighted and linked to more information. Each parish within the county also has a set of webpages which follow the same design.
  • The FamilySearch Wiki article on Scotland provides information on research in Scotland in general and links to pages for the individual counties and from there to some individual parishes.
  • The National Library of Scotland have a website devoted to maps from the 1600s right up to the present. Comparisons of modern-day and old maps of the same place can be made. From the home page click on "Find by place" and then follow the instructions on the next page. Once you are viewing the place you want, use the slider <----> at the top of the map to compare the layout of roads and the place names of smaller areas, perhaps even farms, with the landscape today. The website takes some getting used to. The One-inch 2nd edition, Scotland, 1898-1904 OS is a series of maps with the parishes delineated. Each of these maps cover an area of 18 x 24 miles and will zoom to comfortable reading size with a couple of mouse clicks on the map itself. Unfortunately, they are not geo-referenced, and it is necessary to go to the OS One Inch 1885-1900 series to locate places by latitude and longitude.
  • The Statistical Accounts for Scotland In the 1790s and again in the 1830s, the ministers of the all the parishes of the Church of Scotland were asked to provide a description of their parish to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The original account request included 160 questions to be answered. These accounts are available in print in 20 volumes and are also online where it is freely available to browse. The browsing portal is below the viewing area of most computer screens. Scroll down to "For non-subscribers" and click on "Browse scanned pages". This brings you to another page on which one can enter the name of the parish in which you are interested.
  • Excerpts from The Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885 are provided by Scottish Places. Selections from Groome and other gazetteers from the 19th century are also found on GENUKI.