It’s a sin : How the Kirk judged the Allanachs

Although The Old Parish Records In Scotland (OPRs) can help us to trace our ancestors, it is the church court records that give us specific information about the daily lives of our ancestors and the lives of the individuals within their community. They document the behavior of social classes which do not usually appear in written records.

The records of the Kirk Sessions make up a significant part of Scotland’s recorded history. They are used by a wide range of researchers, especially genealogists. The Kirk Sessions, which dealt with spiritual, moral, and social matters within the local parish, documented all parish disciplinary matters which often detailed accounts of the discipline the minister and kirk elders handed out to parishioners for their immoral behaviors. They would listen to cases within the church regarding such matters as pre-marriage fornication, blasphemy, irregular marriages, and working on the Sabbath.

The Kirk Session also administered poor relief, promoted education, regulated marriage, baptism, and burial, supervised building works, directed communion, and liaised with the higher courts.

I have found two examples so far of the Allanachs featuring in Kirk sessions.


This large fine from 1799 to William Allanach and Isobal Grassick was likely to have been incurred because of Isobal falling pregnant outwith marriage, and possibly due to their age too. This was the largest fine I could see for 1799 in the Strathdon records.

William Allanach fine 1799


An even sadder tale was that of Dorothy Allanach. A Kirk Fornication record from Tullynessle in April 1847 shows that Mary Wilson and Robert Allanach confessed to the ‘sin of fornication’, one for which Robert requested be referred to his own congregation in Glenbuchat for absolution. I believe this to be Robert Allanach junior aged 22, rather than his Father Robert who farmed at Upperton, would would have been 58 in 1847.


A Birth is recorded in Tullynessle as illegitimate.


Luck has changed – Margaret marries George McPherson in Monymusk in 1849


1851 Census – Margaret’s luck appears to have changed. She is residing in Nether Culfork near Towie with daughter Dorothy, another daughter called Helen and a female beggar named Mary as a lodger.

Robert Allanach, the presumed Father of Dorothy, dies in 1851 aged just 26.


Dorothy is no longer living with her Mother and is listed in the 1861 census aged 13 as ‘scholar’ and living with seemingly unrelated ploughmen, likely as a servant.


Dorothy has returned to Monymusk where she has been apprehended for concealing a pregnancy.


Dorothy is sentenced to nine months in prison for concealment of a pregnancy

Nether Mains Moneymusk as it looks today


But there was a happy ending of sorts – Dorothy appears to have made a quick recovery from her ordeal and marries John Lawson in 1870. Note that the father is named as James Allanach (labourer/ deceased) and not Robert Allanach per the birth certificate.


Despite her early struggles, Dorothy lived a long life, passing away in Stirlingshire in 1932


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