Immigrants from the Isle of Tiree

GenealogySiteJust south of the Isle of Skye is a collection of smaller islands, which includes Tiree. The Scottish island is a relatively flat slab of treeless land measuring 20 km long and between 2 and 12 km wide. Artifacts found on Tiree date back to the Stone Age, and Celtic and Viking settlements. MacDougall, MacDonald, MacLean and Campbell clans at one time or another controlled the island. The language of the people was Gaelic, and many inhabitants still speak it today. Tiree is Gaelic for ‘land of corn’.

At its peak of population in the mid-1800s, more than 5,000 people called Tiree home. Only about 700 live on the small island today. Between 1847 and 1853, the Duke of Argyll assisted 1,354 people to emigrate, many making the journey to Canada. Others left the island for mainland Scotland. Although the moves were said to be voluntary, evidence reveals some individuals, particularly the poor, were forced from their homes.

The Isle of Tiree Genealogy website hosted by Keith Macdonald Dash provides extensive information on the island and its people. Five well-researched booklets and articles in the Tiree History section helps genealogists understand what life was like for the residence throughout the centuries. Each booklet contains several chapters detailing such things as The Campbell Takeover and the potato famine.

The section on Births, Baptisms and Marriages provides transcripts and indexes from the Tiree Old Parish Registers 1766-1854 and civil registrations of births between 1855 and 1875.

Eight of the eighteen ships listed on the Emigrant Ships page arrived at Canadian ports. Amongst them was the Economy that carried 285 passengers from Coll, Tiree, Colonsay and possibly from elsewhere in the Highlands and Westerns Isles. The ship arrived at Pictou, Nova Scotia on October 4, 1819.


The information on Alternative Forenames will help sort out individuals who may have been recorded in parish records in Scotland by one name and in other countries by another. The obvious are noted, such as Alasdair and Sandy for Alexander and Bessie, Betsie and Betty for Elizabeth, as well as the not so obvious, such as Shona and Nettie for Janet and Sarah, Sadie and Sally for Marion.

The map of the Isle of Tiree reveals where the old ruins for the church are located along with the Kirkapol Graveyard and Chapel. The Origin of Township Names in Tiree list provides a breakdown of place names and indicates if they are Gaelic or Norse origin.

The website contains a huge amount of data concerning census, church and mariner records. The host and his associates have compiled genealogies for their families and others who lived on Tiree.

A link near the bottom of the page takes visitors to Isle of Coll Genealogy—the sister website—which contains information and databases for the nearby island. The history section—Coll in Crisis – Emigration in the 1800s—details the conditions leading up to mass emigration.

Further down the Coll page are links to Historical Journals depicting life on Coll (1690s and 1773), old newspaper transcriptions and the story of John Macdonald and his family’s journey from the island to Australia in 1853.


Diane Tibert is a writer based in central Nova Scotia. Her alter-ego is Diane Lynn McGyver. Her short story collection Nova Scotia – Life Near Water is now available.

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