Burial Ground Survey

Prestonkirk Church is situated in the village of East Linton, near the eastern end of East Lothian district in Scotland.

In the Spring of 1996, 29 folk gathered in Prestonkirk Manse to begin the process of surveying all the gravestones in the churchyard. The idea that such a survey might be useful came from our Minister, Rev. James Lawson, who had expressed surprise at just how many people came to the churchyard, from near and far, in search of ancestors. A handy 'at-a-glance' guide, he thought, would be the best way of helping them in their quest.

Inspired guesses among the party gathered in the Manse that Saturday morning as to how many gravestones there were ranged between 300 - 400. In the event the intrepid team recorded 743! Had we known at the beginning precisely how many we were looking at, then maybe we might not have even begun. But we did, and we persevered, and we are very glad that we did so.

mille2 mille1
The oldest stone recorded during the survey, erected in memory of the 18 year old Margrat Mille who died in 1685.

It took us two years to carry out the survey, two years in which we got to know more about monumental inscriptions, about our parish - and so about each other.

The comprehensive survey involved recording not just the monumental inscriptions, but also the details of each stone, its dimensions, materials, types of carving and condition, and each stone was photographed to complete the record. All of this information was entered into a computer database to form an electronic version of the record.

In addition sketches were drawn of some of the most interesting stones and these have been used to illustrate the publications of the group.
angel ranken
An early stone with beautiful symbolic carving.
Very little remains of the inscription
An elaborately carved early 18th century stone
commemorating the deaths of Robert Rankin (d.1729)
and James Ranken (d.1782 aged 1 year 8 months).

The full text of all the inscriptions, the graveyard plan, and an index of full names are contained in a 126 page booklet published by The Scottish Genealogy Society. It can be purchased online via their website. All of the sketches are included in the booklet, and there are footnotes, containing additional local information, for many of the stones in the old part of the churchyard.

The complete archive is held at the Royal Commission for the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (part of Historic Environment Scotland since October 2015), and also at the Local History Centre in Haddington.

An index of surnames contains links to the inscriptions referring to each surname recorded, while queries by Email for further details of the record will be answered as far as possible.

You may be interested to read A Short History and Tour of the Church by Chris Tabraham, formerly Principal Inspector of Ancient Monuments, Historic Scotland. This was written prior to the union of Prestonkirk with Stenton and Whittingehame.

Follow this link if you would like to know where to find us.

The survey team wish to acknowledge the following organisations for their financial and practical assistance:

East Lothian Council
Historic Scotland
Prestonkirk Parish Church
Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Dunbar
Royal Commission for the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

Page last updated 1st June, 2016
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