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Description of the county in 1885
"WIGTOWNSHIRE, a maritime county in the SW extremity of Scotland, forms the W division of Galloway, and contains the most southernly land in Scotland. It is bounded on the N partly by the mouth of the Firth of Clyde, but chiefly by Ayrshire, E by Kirkcudbrightshire, S by the Irish Sea, and W by the Irish Channel....
...The interior is divided into three great districts. The peninsula, or rather the double peninsula, W of Loch Ryan and Luce Bay, is known as the Rhinns of Galloway; the district which forms the broad-based triangular peninsula between Luce Bay and Wigtown Bay is called the Machers; while the rest of the county, N of the Machers and E of Loch Ryan, bears the loose general name of the Moors...
...The streams of Wigtownshire are very numerous, but for the most part of short course and unimportant size. The chief is the Cree, which for 21 and a half miles forms the boundaries between Kirkcudbright and Wigtown shires, just before it enters Wigtown Bay at Creetown....
...Wigtownshire is almost exclusively an agricultural and grazing county, its manufacture and commerce, and mining being but of little importance...
...The royal burghs in the county are Wigtown, Stranraer, and Whithorn; the burghs of barony are Newton Stewart, Glenluce, and Portpatrick..."
from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, edited by Francis H. Groome, 1885
TOWNS AND PARISHES
If you are uncertain of the location of a place in Wigtownshire, try searching the Where in Wigtownshire is .... ? pages which locate 1200 places in the county.
The Archives and Local History section, Ewart Library, Catherine Street, Dumfries is the local archive. There is an online catalogue.
National collections, all with material concerning Wigtownshire:
- The National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh (formerly called the Scottish Record Office, the National Archives of Scotland and the General Register Office for Scotland) contains the major Scottish records for family historians. Access to its online resources is via the ScotlandsPeople website. ScotlandsPeople can also be accessed at local family history centres in Glasgow, Kilmarnock, Hawick, Alloa and Inverness.
- Online resources:
- civil registration records (births, marriages and deaths since 1855)
- census returns (1841 - 1911)
- pre-1855 Church of Scotland parish registers
- baptism, marriage and burial registers of some other presbyterian churches
- birth (pre-1908), marriage (pre-1934), death and other records of the Roman Catholic Church.
- wills and testaments (1513 - 1925) held by the National Records for Scotland.
- soldiers' wills, 26000 for the First World War and 5000 for the Second World War, but also including some from 1874 to 1964
- valuation rolls (1855, 1865, 1875, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1920, 1925 and 1930)
- the Public Register of all Arms and Bearings in Scotland (1672 - 1909). This register of Coats of Arms in Scotland is kept by the Court of the Lord Lyon.
- surviving records of the Military Service Appeals Tribunal, 1916-18
- Its multitude of other resources which are not online include later wills and testaments; records of the Church of Scotland - including kirk session records; records of dissenting and other churches; legal and court records; business records; land records; maps & plans; etc., etc. Catalogues and indexes are on this research page.
- The Research Guides A-Z are extremely useful pages.
- Online resources:
- The Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) provides access to the holdings of over 50 Scottish archives participating in the network. It has a searchable catalogue of these collections and has a host of resources and articles which will prove invaluable for anyone interested in the written history of Scotland.
- The Scottish Screen Archive has a lot of footage of Wigtownshire.
- The National Collection of Aerial Photography website has photographs of Wigtownshire with more to be added. The site is free to browse, although in-depth viewing requires a subscription.
- Britain from Above has aerial photos from 1919 - 1953.
- The National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, is "an information treasure trove for Scotland". Although it is a Legal Deposit Library, the more common resources for genealogy are more easily accessed elsewhere. However, its online digital library is outstanding. Residents of Scotland can access its digital collections from home. It has the best collection of maps of Scotland (see Maps below) and also has Ordnance Survey air photo mosaics 1944 -1950 for a small part of Wigtownshire.
- The ScotlandsPlaces website lets users search across national databases by geographical location. It includes, amongst other material,
- catalogue entries for maps and plans held by the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh; some maps and plans can be viewed
- photos and details of historical buildings and archaeological sites recorded by the former Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh, now part of Historic Environment Scotland - see below
- 17th and 18th century tax rolls
- Ordnance Survey Object Name Books
- an opportunity to transcribe thousands of historic documents
- Historic Environment Scotland is 'the lead public body set up to investigate, care for and promote Scotland’s historic environment'. A complex website covers everything imaginable in the historic environment. A start can be made by searching the Canmore database, the online catalogue to Scotland’s archaeology, buildings, industrial and maritime heritage.
- The National Archives (TNA) at Kew, London, is the principal repository for English and Welsh records, but it also has a lot of Scottish material. Its catalogue, 'Discovery', in addition to all the material held at Kew, also contains entries for many records held by other repositories.
- Scran - an online learning resource base with over 390,000 images and multimedia files from Scottish museums, galleries, archives and the media - has a lot of material concerning Wigtownshire. A subscription is required to view anything bigger than thumbnail pictures, although many local libraries allow free access.
- The Archives Hub enables you to search across a wealth of archives held at over 220 institutions across the UK.
- See also the Scottish archives page.
- Google Books, the Open Library, the Internet Archive texts and HathiTrust all have scanned copies of historical books about Wigtownshire. Many of them can be read online or downloaded.
- Electric Scotland has many resources concerning Scottish history, including scanned books and gazetteers.
- Most archive material concerning Wigtownshire is now held by Dumfries and Galloway Council in Dumfries - at the Archives and Local History section of the Ewart Library. Some local material is held at Stranraer Museum and local libraries. The parish pages show what materials are held at which location. An excellent guide to their contents and locations is Researching Local History - A Guide to Sources held by Dumfries and Galloway Council, ISBN 094628072-X, available from the Council, or local bookshops, £5.99.
- The Archives and Local History section, Ewart Library, Catherine Street, Dumfries is the local archive. There is an online catalogue.
- Stranraer Museum, 55 George Street, Stranraer DG9 7JP (A museum which also holds some local archives.)
- Local Libraries in Dumfries and Galloway may also possess some local history material. Those in Wigtownshire are in Newton Stewart, Port William, Stranraer, Wigtown and Whithorn.
- Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society have a research centre at 9 Glasgow Street, Dumfries, DG2 9AF. They hold a lot of information for family historians in the counties of Dumfries-shire, Wigtownshire and the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Their publications include local monumental inscriptions, census indexes, and much more.
- Herbert Maxwell, A History of Dumfries and Galloway, 1896, is available at the Internet Archive.
- Andrew Agnew The hereditary sheriffs of Galloway ; their 'forebears' and friends, their courts and customs of their times, with notes of the early history, ecclesiastical legends, the baronage and place-names of the province, 1893, is available at the Internet Archive.
- Rambles in Galloway: topographical, historical, traditional and biographical, Malcolm McGlachlan Harper, 1876, is at the Internet Archive.
Wigtown is Scotland's Book Town. Bookshops there have a good stock of books about Scotland, or by Scottish authors.
Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society publish local monumental inscriptions, census indexes, and much more.
Stranraer and District Local History Trust have a number of excellent publications on the area.
Dumfries and Galloway Libraries publish many items concerning local history, including newspaper indexes, and the Through the Lens series of old local photographs.
Dumfriesshire & Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society Many of the older Transactions are online - containing much material on history, genealogy, customs, natural sciences, etc., for the three counties of Dumfries, Kirkcudbright and Wigtown.
The cemeteries page has a list of all burial places in Wigtownshire (this page is in process of redevelopment). Details of the cemeteries are given on the relevant parish pages.
Records for cemeteries currently in use are held by Dumfries and Galloway Council, Local Services, Culhorn Depot, Commerce Road, Stranraer, DG9 7DE. Tel: 03033 333000.
An excellent site containing a wealth of information about the older graveyards in the county is Historic Graveyards in Dumfries & Galloway.
Monumental Inscriptions in the Machars were recorded by J E Birchman in the 1980s. They have been published by the Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society. Copies are in local libraries and at the Ewart Library, Dumfries.
The Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society has a large collection of monumental inscriptions from throughout Dumfriesshire, Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire. It has created a database of both published and unpublished headstone inscriptions. The Society also produces booklets listing the stones in many of the cemeteries.
Details of published Monumental Inscriptions are on the respective parish pages.
Unfortunately, burial registers for the parishes in Wigtownshire are very few. Many parishes have no pre-1855 burial registers whatsoever.
War graves can be seen at the Scottish Wargraves Project; and war memorials can be seen at the Scottish War Memorials Project, the Roll of Honour website, and the Wigtownshire pages.
There has been a census every ten years since 1801, excluding 1941, but only those returns from 1841 onwards carry details of named residents. The latest that is currently available for inspection is for 1911. All census returns are held at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh and can be accessed online at the ScotlandsPeople website.
The 1841 and 1851 censuses were organised on a parish basis. The census reference number will be the same as the Old Parish Register (OPR) reference number. From 1861, censuses were organised on a registration district basis. There were some differences between the 2 different administrative areas. Some addresses will therefore appear in a different area, under a different reference number, from one census to another. Differences are noted on the relevant parish pages. There is a list of the census parish / district reference numbers here.
The 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 censuses are indexed and online at the ScotlandsPeople website. They can be searched and copies of the census pages can be purchased. For 1881 only, transcripts can also be purchased.
The 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses are available on ancestry.co.uk (indexed transcripts, no images of the pages).
The 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses are available on findmypast.co.uk (indexed transcripts, no images of the pages).
The returns for 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871 are available on the FreeCEN website.
The census returns for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 have been microfilmed by the LDS church and may be consulted in their Family History Centres around the world. The LDS library catalogue numbers for the films are given here.
Microfilms of the 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901 census are held by the Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society and are in some local libraries.
The 1881 census has been transcribed and indexed and is available at LDS Family History Centres, some libraries and some family history societies.
1841 census surname indexes for every parish in the county are available from the Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society.
Transcripts of the 1851 census for some parishes are on the Maxwell Ancestry site. An index to the 1851 census is available online, created by the Friends of the Archives of Dumfries and Galloway.
An index to the 1891 census is available on microfiche at some local libraries and family history societies.
A Vision of Britain provides census statistics and graphs from the 1801 census onwards.
Histpop, the online historical population reports website, in its census section provides access to all the published population reports for Britain and Ireland from 1801 - 1937. The site has a huge amount of statistical information both at a county level and at a parish or district level. There is no personal information on the site.
A census of Religious Worship and Education was taken in 1851 at the same time as the census of population. A table of statistics about the churches in Wigtownshire at this time is available here.
Take a look at photographs of churches and churchyards in Dumfries and Galloway many of which are from Wigtownshire.
The Churches of Britain and Ireland site has photographs of many churches in Dumfries and Galloway. More are needed - can you help?
Data provided by the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN)
Information about the church records for each parish will be found on the parish pages.
The Established Church (the Parish Church, Church of Scotland):
The original Old Parish Registers, sometimes called the Old Parochial Registers, abbreviated to OPRs, comprise the registers of baptisms / births, proclamations / marriages, and burials / deaths of the parish Church of Scotland for the years up to 1854. They are held at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh with online access at the ScotlandsPeople website. Copies of the original register entries may be purchased.
There is a list of the OPR parish reference numbers here.
Copies of the registers on microfilm may be consulted in LDS Family History Centres around the world. The birth / baptism & proclamation / marriage records are indexed on the IGI (International Genealogical Index) on microfiche and online at the LDS website (see below). Copies of the films (not necessarily of all parishes) are also held by Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society and in some local libraries. There is a list of the LDS library reference numbers for the OPR films here. Note that on September 1, 2017, FamilySearch will discontinue its microfilm distribution services. (The last day to order microfilm will be August 31, 2017.)
The Detailed List of the Old Parochial Registers of Scotland, published 1872, gives details of the coverage of the OPR volumes including the gaps within them. These pages list the information about the Wigtownshire parishes.
The condition of parish registers was recorded in the New Statistical Account. In 1849 William Turnbull published a book which extracted from the New Statistical Account remarks by the ministers about their individual registers. For the most part the ministers describe their registers as imperfect, defective, and not voluminous. The book is available from the Internet Archive.
The searchable LDS website - Family Search (and the IGI):Note on using Family Search and IGI Batch Numbers:
It is not always easy to locate your ancestors in Family Search using the search mechanisms provided at the above LDS site. Manually typing the batch numbers into the search screen can be tedious. Hugh Wallis has made an exhaustive search of the likely ranges of batch numbers and created a database of those numbers and the source records that they apply to. A very powerful feature included is a hotlink from each batch number to the actual search engine provided at the Family Search site, including the ability to enter the surname you are looking for. This makes it very easy to search all the batches for a particular geographic location using just the last name you are searching for - something that is not possible directly from the LDS site without doing a lot of typing. See Hugh Wallis's former site.
Another site, with updated and improved data, is Steve Archer's site.
The Kirk Session of a parish consists of the minister of the parish and the elders of the congregation. It looks after the general wellbeing of the congregation and, particularly in centuries past, parochial discipline. Almost all Kirk Session records are held in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh; those which are held at other locations have been scanned and are available as digital images at the National Records of Scotland (and at some other archives in Scotland). Some Kirk Session material is often to be found amongst the Old Parish Registers. Details of record availability are given on the parish pages. The Kirk Session records have been scanned with a view to making them more widely available soon.
Lists of Male Heads of Families, 1834, gathered as a result of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland's 1834 Veto Act have been transcribed for some parishes by Old Scottish Genealogy and Family History.
The Heritors were the landowners in each parish who were responsible (until 1925) for the maintenance of the church and manse and (before 1878) for the parochial school. They were also responsible, with the Kirk Session, for the Poor of the parish until 1845. Their records are also to be found in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh.
Records of the Synods and Presbyteries are to be found in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh.
For information about the ministers, see Occupations below.
Records of many other churches, particularly Free Churches and United Presbyterian Churches, are also to be found in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. Some of these records include baptism and marriage registers and some are being made available on the ScotlandsPeople website. Some of these records are also available on microfilm in LDS Family History Centres and there is a list of them and their library reference numbers here.
Records of the Catholic Church in Scotland are held by the Scottish Catholic Archives, in Edinburgh. Indexes to and images of the Roman Catholic registers of births and baptisms (1703-1908), banns and marriages (1794-1934), deaths and burials, and other events, are available at the National Records of Scotland and are also on the ScotlandsPeople website.
Records of the Synods and Presbyteries are to be found in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh.
Records relating to Jews in Scotland from the eighteenth century are held by the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre, Glasgow.
Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths began in Scotland on 1st January 1855. The original registers are held at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. Indexes can be searched and copies of certificates can be purchased, viewed and downloaded at the ScotlandsPeople website. Records currently available online are Births (1855 -1916), Marriages (1855 -1941) and Deaths (1855 -1966).
The indexes to later Births (1917 - 2013), Marriages (1942 - 2013) and Deaths (1967 - 2013) are also online at the ScotlandsPeople website. Copies of these certificates can be purchased online for postal delivery. Current (2017) cost is £12 each.
Copies of some of the records on microfilm may be consulted in LDS Family History Centres around the world. The records available on film are for 1855 - 1875, 1881 and 1891.The LDS library catalogue numbers for the films of Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates are given here. The births and marriages for 1855 - 1875 are included in the Family Search website and the microfiche IGI (see Church Records above. Batch numbers - using Hugh Wallis's site - are those beginning C and M for 1855-1875).
Registration districts did not necessarily coincide exactly with parishes. In the 20th century especially, there were frequent changes in registration districts. Unfortunately there are no published maps which show registration district boundaries. The parish pages indicate which registration districts covered each parish. See also Historical Geography below.
There is a list of Registration Offices in Dumfries & Galloway, together with their opening hours and telephone numbers. (Those in Wigtownshire are: Newton Stewart, Port William (Mochrum), Stranraer, Whithorn and Wigtown.) Unlike their English counterparts, local registrars in Wigtownshire may not necessarily hold all the historic registers for their district. Because of this, searches and applications for copies are better conducted at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh (online at the ScotlandsPeople website).
Histpop, the online historical population reports website, in its Registrar General section provides access to all the published registration reports from 1855 - 1920, giving statistical information on numbers of births, marriages and deaths, as well as some medical statistics. There is no personal information on the site.
A very informative site, giving a lot of information about the history of registration in Scotland from 1855 to the Second World War is The Scottish Way of Birth and Death. The section on Marriage, in particular, can explain a lot about the details of a Scottish marriage certificate.
The Scottish entries in the 1939 National Identity Register: for a fee of £15 you can access details for an individual (not a household) from this link to the National Records of Scotland.
Records of Wigtown Sheriff Court, Stranraer Sheriff Court and Wigtown Commissary Court are held by the National Records of Scotland. An outline of the records is given on a separate page.
An Index to Consistorial Processes and Decreets at the Commissariot of Edinburgh, 1658 - 1800, is available at the Open Library. These are court actions concerning marriage, legitimacy and divorce.
A Vision of Britain provides historical descriptions.
Surrounding counties: Ayrshire and the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright; and across the Irish Sea County Down.
A good guide to the Galloway area is C.H.Dick's "Highways & Byways in Galloway & Carrick". This was first published in 1916.
A book which may be of interest is John Hume and Judith Anderson's "Dumfries & Galloway: an illustrated architectural guide". As the title suggests, it concentrates on the architecture of the area. However it is well illustrated with hundreds of photographs and contains short descriptions and historical notes on many places.
Many Scottish directories can be read and downloaded at the National Library of Scotland's Scottish Directories pages. They are also available in different download formats at the Internet Archive texts (search for 'scottishdirectories').
Wigtownshire is included in Pigot's 1825/6 Directory of Scotland, available on CD from Archive CD Books. It is also at the Scottish Directories pages.
Pigot's National Commercial Directory for the whole of Scotland, 1837, is online at the Scottish Directories pages, at Google Books. The Wigtownshire section is available on microfiche by Nick Vine Hall, available from Gould Genealogy in Australia.
Slater's 1852 Directory of Scotland is available on microfiche from The Parish Chest.
Slater's 1861 Directory of Scotland is at the Scottish Directories pages.
Slater's 1878 Directory of Scotland is at the Scottish Directories pages.
Slater's 1886 Directory of Scotland is at the Scottish Directories pages.
Slater's 1903 Directory of Scotland (vol. 1) is at the Scottish Directories pages.
Many Wigtownshire residents will be found in the County Directory of Scotland, at the Scottish Directories pages. Editions for 1862, 1868, 1872, 1875, 1878, 1882-85, 1886-9, 1893-6 and 1901-4 are available online there. The 1912 edition is available on CD from the Scottish Genealogy Society. [The series started as Directory to Noblemen's and Gentlemen's Seats, Villages, etc. in Scotland, then became the Directory to Gentlemen's Seats ... . Editions for 1843, 1852 and 1857 are also at the Scottish Directories pages. These volumes are very useful in locating farms and country houses.]
If you are uncertain of the location of a place in Wigtownshire, try searching the Where in Wigtownshire is .... ? pages which list over 1200 placenames together with the parish in which they are situated. Once you have located the parish, go to the relevant parish page where a link to Places in .... parish takes you to a selection of online historical and modern maps.
|You will find other places not in Wigtownshire listed in the GENUKI Gazetteer which covers the whole of England, Wales and Scotland and can be searched by place-name (or part of a place-name) or Ordnance Survey Grid References (six-figure, eg NX432552). If there are multiple place-names matching the name you enter, you will initially be presented with a drop-down list of the matching place-names with their distances and bearings from Wigtown.||
Many older gazetteers are available at the National Library of Scotland, Digital gallery.
David Webster's Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, published 1819, online at Google Books.
Fullarton's Topographical, Statistical and Historical Gazetteer of Scotland, vol. 1, A-H, and vol. 2, I-Z published 1842-1852, online at the Internet Archive.
Samuel Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, published 1846, is at British History Online, contains parish descriptions. It is also worth searching for places within the parishes.
Descriptive gazetteer entries for the county, each parish and some places within the parishes from Frances Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4) and John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles (1887) are on A Vision of Britain (click on "Historical places and writing").
Edinburgh University Geography Department has produced the first new Gazetteer of Scotland since 1885.
Rootsweb Mailing List - Dumfries & Galloway for the wider area covering the 3 counties of Dumfriesshire, Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire.
Rootsweb Mailing List - Wigtownshire
RootsChat Messaging Forum - Wigtownshire section
Ideas for messages to the Lists may include:
- The Wigtown surnames you are researching
- Queries regarding Wigtown individuals or families
- Questions or information regarding Wigtown localities
- Questions or information about Wigtown genealogical research
- Requests for or offers of help on Wigtown genealogical research
- Tips & tricks regarding Wigtown genealogical research that you'd like to share with everyone
HappyHaggis has a lot of useful genealogical material on all parts of Scotland.
The Scottish Page is devoted to the research of Scottish ancestry, especially that of Dumfries and Galloway.
TheDumfries and Galloway Family History Society maintains a database of Members' Interests.
The People of Medieval Scotland 1093-1314 is a database of all known people of Scotland between 1093 and 1314 mentioned in over 8600 contemporary documents.
The Public Register of all Arms and Bearings in Scotland (1672 - 1908), the register of coats of arms in Scotland, is kept by the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh. It is part of the National Records of Scotland, with online access via the ScotlandsPeople website.
Unlike other counties in Scotland, there were no changes to parish boundaries in Wigtownshire on 15th May 1891.
In 1865, part of Penninghame parish, from Glassoch to Glenhapple northwestwards, was removed from Penninghame registration district and was included in a new registration district - Bargrennan, 857b. For registration purposes only, this part of the parish was transferred from Wigtownshire to the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. The area comprised: Beoch, Bridgend, Castle (Meikle Castle), Clauchaneasy, Crungle, Fyntalloch, Garchew, Glassoch, Glenhapple, Glenruther, Glenvernoch, Kirkcalla, Kirkhobble, Knockville, Knowe, Knowe School, Ochiltree, Waterside, Woodhead.
A Vision of Britain provides historical descriptions, population & housing statistics, historic boundaries and maps.
The Highland and Agriculture Society of Scotland published an article by Thomas Maclelland of Kirkinner, Wigtownshire in 1875 on the state of agriculture in Galloway. Section 5, A sketch of the early state of agriculture in Kirkcudbright and Wigtown, depicts the times from the seventeenth to nineteenth century.
These paragraphs record the effect the Napoleonic conflict had on the region. "The first impetus the agriculture of the two counties received was consequent on the high prices of grain during the French war. Gold or silver had always hitherto been a scarce commodity in Galloway. No transaction of buying or selling was ever settled in cash. Bills or promissory notes were given and taken for the smallest, as well as for the largest amount. Tradesmen's accounts, and even servants' wages, were paid in the same manner. When the excitement of the French war brought prices double of what had ever been heard of, and gold found its way into the district, the farming interest began to flourish. New steadings with thrashing mills were erected, strong and substantial fences were put up, and improvements on all sides became visible. The rent of land received an extraordinary advance, and at the set of the Baldoon estate in 1806, just before purchased by the Earl of Galloway, such was the excitement, and the eagerness to possess land, that the auctioneer had to restrain his bidders with the caution, "Remember, gentlemen, you are not purchasing the land, you are only leasing it." But, alas! the high built hopes that these prices would always remain were suddenly dashed to the ground; for on the cessation of the war in 1815, the low prices which followed drained the farmers' pockets, of most, if not of all their capital, leaving them completely in the power of their landlords, who in some instances, at least, did not push their advantage to the utmost. A period of great depression in agriculture ensued, and for twenty years neither landlords nor tenants were possessed of ability or spirit to prosecute much improvement."
A History of Dumfries and Galloway by Herbert Maxwell provides a history of the region as it relates to Scottish history from A.D. 79 to about 1750.
One of the greatest transportation changes of the nineteenth century, the railway, came to the county in 1861. There had been a railway between Glasgow and Dumfries since 1850. Moving into Galloway, the first line that that was opened was the section between Dumfries and CastleDouglas in 1859. It was extended to Portpatrick in 1861. A line to south from Newton Stewart to Wigtown was opened in 1875, and extended toWhithorn in 1877. Also in 1877, a line was opened from Portpatrick to Girvan, providing onward connection to Glasgow.
The site, Museums and Galleries, provides a look at various aspects of Dumfries & Galloway over the centuries, recording the following: "Dumfries was, and indeed still is, the most important market town for South-West Scotland and as such has always serviced the surrounding countryside. Cattle have long been an important industry and ancillary industries used to be significant in Dumfries; tanning, leatherworking, shoe making, clogmaking and saddlery to mention a few. The agricultural improvements of the 18th century brought about increased yields from cultivated land and considerable areas were given over to the cultivation of oats, barley and wheat. The ancillary industries for these are brewing, distilling and milling. ...Galloway cattle together with beasts imported from Ireland were driven south to English markets in vast herds, often as many as 30,000 a year. Towns such as Stranraer, New Galloway, Kirkcudbright and Dumfries served as collecting points on the droving routes, which ran the length of Galloway from Portpatrick to Carlisle. ... Droving was killed off by development of steam shipping but meat export continued to be important."
The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft lists 15 witches who lived in Wigtown between 1563 and 1736.
Valuation Rolls, 1855-1975, are held at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh (ref. VR123 - County of Wigtown) and, for some years, at the Ewart Library, Dumfries (County Treasurer's Dept). Other locally held copies, together with listings for the burghs, are listed on the parish pages. The rolls for 1855, 1865, 1875, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1920, 1925 and 1930 are online at the ScotlandsPeople website.
Valuation Office field books and plans (for the Valuation Office survey of 1911-1915) are held at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh. Details on the parish pages.
Information about many Wigtownshire buildings can be found by searching the Dictionary of Scottish Architects 1840-1940.
Details of historic buildings and archaeological sites are held by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh. They are catalogued at the ScotlandsPlaces website. In the results, click RCAHMS. Unfortunately, not all entries have digital images.
Wigtownshire is included in the 1873 Return of Owners of Land (Scotland), which is available on the ScotlandsPlaces website (under Land Ownership Commission). It has also been published as Scottish Landowners and Heritages 1872/3 on CD from S&N Genealogy Supplies. This includes all those who owned more than 1 acre of land.
A primary source of land ownership can be found in Sasine registers. Many farmers leased land so they would not be in the sasine registers.
The sasine records are indexed from 1781 to 1868 and beyond. There are no indexes, either in Edinburgh or on-line, to Sasine Registers for Wigtownshire prior to 1781. The sasine registers to be aware of are the Particular Register for Wigtownshire and Burgh Registers of Sasines for the towns of Wigtown, Stranraer, and Whithorn. There is also a general register of sasine which was kept in Edinburgh. Sasine records are held at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh.
The Archives at the Ewart Library holds the printed personal name index to the General Register of Sasines 1701-1720; person and place indexes to the Wigtownshire Particular Register of Sasines 1869-1971 (lacks 1965); the printed Abridgements to the Particular Register of Sasines for Wigtownshire 1781-1971 (lacks 1964, 1966-1970); and typewritten index to and extracts from the Particular Register of Sasines, 1st series, 1619-1627 (typed from a hand-written index and extracts in Reid: Calendar of Wigtownshire Sasines 1619-1627, Reid Collection v. 143).
The Archives at the Ewart Library also holds a manuscript copy of Wigtownshire Register of Sasines, 1620-1666, with index (Reid); and Summary Extracts from the Wigtownshire Register of Sasines, 1669-1711 (Reid).
Services of Heirs:
- The 3 volumes of abridgements of the Inquisitionum Ad Capellam Domini Regis Retornatarum, 1544-1699 (in Latin) are at Google Books. Vol. 1: Special Services, Aberdeenshire - Kirkcudbrightshire ; Vol. 2: Special Services, Lanarkshire - Wigtownshire; General Services; Retours of Tutory ; Vol. 3: Indexes by name and place.
- A CD of the Decennial Indexes, 1700-1859 (in English) is available from the Scottish Genealogy Society.
History of the Land and their Owners in Galloway, by P.H. M'Kerlie, 5 volumes, 1870s, provides information about land and its owners in every parish from the dark ages into the nineteenth century. Volumes 1 and 2 cover Wigtownshire. Many place names that are no longer on maps can be found in this work. There is a surname and place name index of this work online. Reprints, 1906, of the Wigtownshire volumes are at the Internet Archive.
Listed buildings (those listed for preservation) in Dumfries and Galloway.
Some estate papers can be found at the National Records of Scotland. Suggestions for searching will be found on the parish pages.
This Charles Close Society Sheetfinder will provide the sheet numbers for historic Ordnance Survey 1-inch and 6-inch maps for any location.
- On-line maps:
- The National Library of Scotland has a large collection of historic maps on-line including county maps, town plans, the best online copies of the 1850s first edition Ordnance Survey six-inch maps, later editions of the Ordnance Survey 6-inch and 25-inch maps up to the 1930s, and the early Ordnance Survey one-inch maps. Using the geo-referenced maps allows historic maps to be viewed on top of a modern map or satellite view.
- ScotlandsPlaces has the Ordnance Survey First edition six-inch maps, and also shows parish boundaries plotted on a modern base map.
- British History online also has on-line images of the first edition of the Ordnance Survey 6-inches to 1 mile (1:10560) maps of Scotland, as well as those for England & Wales. The Wigtownshire maps are dated around 1850.
- Old -maps.co.uk, along with a very useful gazetteer, has:
- the first edition of the Ordnance Survey 6-inches to 1 mile (1:10560) maps
- images of later editions of the 6-inch (1:10560) maps up to the 1950s
- images of the larger 25-inches to 1 mile (1:2500) maps from the 1890s to the 1970s
- images of the metric 1:10000 maps from the 1980s.
- A Vision of Britain has maps showing parish & burgh boundaries; Land Utilisation mapping (1930s); and more.
- Genmaps have a selection of historic maps of Wigtownshire.
- Another gateway site is OldMapsOnline.
- Paper maps:
- Caledonian Maps publish a map of Wigtownshire (from Black's 1847 County Atlas) which shows the parishes; and reprints of the 1890s one-inch Ordnance Survey maps (Victorian Ordnance Survey Map Series).
- The National Library of Scotland sells paper and digital copies of their maps (select "Enquiries & copies").
- Old -maps.co.uk sell paper copies of all their on-line maps.
- Ordnance Survey one-inch, 7th series (1960s) sheets 79, 80, 73 and 72.
- The best collection of large scale local and estate maps and plans is held by the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh. The RCAHMS also has some plans. They are catalogued on the ScotlandsPlaces website. N.B. Only a few maps and plans are available as digital images.
- The Archives at the Ewart Library also have some plans.
- On-line maps:
- National Library of Scotland map collection - main page
- Streetmap and the Ordnance Survey have on-line maps of present-day Scotland, England & Wales, which can be searched by placename or postcode.
- Paper maps:
- Wigtownshire is shown on Ordnance Survey Landranger maps (at a scale of 1:50000), sheets 82 (Stranraer & Glen Luce), 83 (Newton Stewart & Kirkcudbright), 76 Ballantrae & Barrhill) and a little on sheet 77 (Dalmellington & New Galloway).
- Ordnance Survey Explorer maps (at a larger scale of 1:25000) sheets 309 (Stranraer and the Rhins), 310 (Glenluce and Kirkcowan), 311 (Wigtown, Whithorn and the Machars), and 319 (Galloway Forest Park South), cover the county.
Sailors on board ships registered at Stranraer, Wigtown and Whithorn in 1851 are listed on CD: Scotland South-West, Highlands and Islands Seamen Crew Lists, 1851 available from Family History Indexes. The data is taken from TNA documents BT98/2735 (Stranraer), BT98/2794 (Wigtown) and BT98/2395 (Whitehorn [sic], wrongly included in Banff returns).
Records of merchant seamen 1913 - 1972, held by the National Archives (TNA), Kew, can be searched in their catalogue (BT372).
The Shipping Registers of Dumfries (1824 to 1904), Kirkcudbright (1824 to 1841), Stranraer (1824 to 1908) and Wigtown (1836 to 1920) have been indexed by the Friends of the Archives of Dumfries and Galloway. The register gives ownership details of ships registerd at these ports, together with ships' details and naming the Master. The database can be searched here.
The England's Immigrants 1330-1550 database contains some 3389 Scottish emigrants who appeared in England in that period, as mentioned within various medieval documents.
The Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle commemorates nearly 150,000 Scottish casualties in the First World War, 1914 - 1918, over 50,000 in the Second World War, 1939 - 1945, and the campaigns since 1945, including the Malayan Emergency, the Korean War, Northern Ireland, the Falklands War and the Gulf War. You can carry out an on-line search of the Scottish Roll of Honour.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission's "Debt of Honour Register" is the Commission's database listing the 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died during the two world wars and the 23,000 cemeteries, memorials and other locations worldwide where they are commemorated. The register can also be searched for details of the 67,000 Commonwealth civilians who died as a result of enemy action in the Second World War. This site records some Scots not listed on the Scottish National War Memorial, and, for those listed in both databases, contains some additional information.
An increasing number of military records held by The National Archives (TNA), Kew, can be searched online, including those for World War 1 Campaign Medals, World War 2 Seamen's Medals, Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, and Registers of [Royal Navy] Seamen's Services (1873-1923).
Other records held at TNA include soldiers discharged to pension (WO97 and WO121). The Wigtownshire pages have a transcript of the entries for Wigtownshire and Galloway in the WO97 and WO121 records.
Many Wigtownshire men served in the 5th King's Own Scotish Borderers. The Sons of Galloway project has a website with a lot of detailed information including lists of men who served. Details of their actions in 1914-18 are on the Long, Long Trail website.
An excellent site with a lot of detailed information about the British Army in World War 1 is the Long, Long Trail.
War graves can be seen at the Scottish Wargraves Project; and war memorials can be seen at the Scottish War Memorials Project, the Roll of Honour website, and the Wigtownshire pages.
Information about the Militia is on the Wigtownshire pages.
Surviving records of the Military Service Appeals Tribunal, 1916-18, are online at the ScotlandsPeople website.
See "The Place Names of Galloway" by Sir Herbert Maxwell, published in 1930.
The Ordnance Survey Object Name Books provide a description of every town, village, building, archaeological site and natural feature. They were created during the compilation of the O.S. First Edition maps of Wigtownshire and include notes and observations on all features on the original six-inch maps published in the 1840s. Each parish is split between several different books. The original first edition name books are held by the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh. Details for each parish are on the parish pages. They are available at ScotlandsPlaces.
Dumfries and Galloway libraries have copies of historic newspapers, mostly on microfiche, all held at the Ewart Library, Dumfries, with copies at some other local libraries. They also have many indexes to them.
- Galloway Gazette
- microfiche, 1870 - date
- Wigtown Free Press
- microfiche, 1843 - date
- indexed, by person and subject, 1843 - 1925. Published in 4 vols, available from Dumfries & Galloway Libraries.
- Many other titles covering the wider Dumfries and Galloway region, many of them indexed.
- There used to be an online newspaper index covering newspapers from 2000 to date. This is now only available at the Ewart Library.
The Wigtownshire pages have an ongoing project to index all Birth, Marriage and Death notices from the Wigtown Free Press from 1843 onwards.
The British Newspaper Archive, also available available on findmypast.co.uk, has: the Dumfries and Galloway Standard, Jan. 1844 - Dec. 1860.
Historical editions of The Scotsman, published in Edinburgh, can be searched online for the period 1817 - 1950.
You can search the catalogue of the British Library to find details of the newspapers which have been published and which are held by the British Library.
The National Library of Scotland is the main repository for Scottish newspapers, although Dumfries and Galloway local libraries may provide easier access to copies. The National Library does, however, have an online guide to Scottish newspaper indexes.
There is a listing of current Scottish newspapers. Those of particular local interest in Wigtownshire include: The Galloway Gazette and The Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press.
The Edinburgh Gazette, the official newspaper of record, contains legal notices, insolvencies, estates fallen heir to the Crown, etc.
- Biographical information and job lists are available online at the Dictionary of Scottish Architects 1840-1940.
- The Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae, which lists details of all Church of Scotland ministers, is online at the Internet Archive. Volume 2 covers the Synod of Galloway. Volume 8 takes the succession of ministers up to 1929.
Volume 2 (covering years up to 1866) is online at Ancestry.co.uk.
- A database of criminal trials of the 19th century has been compiled by the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. Names are included in their online catalogue, reference AD14 or JC26.
- see Merchant Marine
- The Police Roll of Honour Trust researches and maintains the National Police Officers Roll of Honour and Remembrance which is dedicated to police officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
- Records of the railway companies which operated in Wigtownshire are held by the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. The companies were: the Wigtownshire Railway, the Portpatrick Railway, the Portpatrick & Wigtownshire Joint Railway and the Girvan & Portpatrick Junction Railway. They were later managed by, controlled by, or amalgamated into the Caledonian Railway, the Glasgow & South Western Railway, the London North Western Railway, and the London Midland Scottish Railway.
- see Merchant Marine
Many references to places and persons in Wigtownshire are to be found in the searchable Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707.
Local government records for the whole of the county of Wigtown are held at the Dunfries & Galloway Archive Centre - see Archives above. Brief details of the records here.
Records of the former burghs are held at Stranraer Museum, and the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh. Details will be found on the parish pages.
The Dumfries & Galloway Council website has further information concerning present-day local government - including Registration, Archives, Cemeteries, etc.
The relief of paupers after 1845 was carried out by the Parochial Board and later by the Parish Council. Their records are at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh. Details will be found on the parish pages.
The workhouses.org.uk website has a lot of information about the Rhins of Galloway (Wigtownshire) Combination Poorhouse; and Kirkcolm and Penninghame almshouses.
There is a page with census statistics from 1755 to 1951 here.
See also A Vision of Britain and Histpop for population statistics.
Probate records are 'Confirmations' in Scotland.
Good online background information about this subject can be found at the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) Knowledge Base, in the National Records of Scotland online guides, and on the Scotland's People website.
Prior to 1826, most Wigtownshire testaments will be found in either the Wigtown Commissariot (CC22) or the Edinburgh Commissariot (CC8) records. These records are held at the National Records of Scotland. Printed indexes to some of these records up to 1800 were published by the Scottish Record Society and can be read online at the Open Library; the Wigtownshire pages also have a transcript of the Commissariot Record of Wigtown Testaments 1700-1800 (covering some of the names in CC22/3). Indexes to all the testaments are now available on the Scotland's People website which has a searchable index to Scottish Wills and Testaments from 1513 - 1925, comprising over 878,000 names of 'defuncts'. The indexes may be searched free, and copies of the documents may be viewed and purchased. The earliest testaments available for Wigtownshire date from 1700. The Scotland's People website has indexes to the Wigtown Commissary Court, 1700-1826 (ref. CC22/3/1-6) and the Edinburgh Commissary Court, 1514-1829 (ref. CC8/8/1-152 and CC8/11/1-6).
The LDS have filmed the following records which may be consulted at LDS Family History Centres.
LDS Library Film Numbers:
231254 Wigtown Commissary Court Warrants of Testaments, v.1-2, 1641-1731 Original documents: National Records of Scotland - CC22/3/1,2 231255 Warrants of Testaments, v.2, 1732-1745 Original documents: National Records of Scotland - CC22/3/2 231256 Warrants of Testaments, v.2-3,1746-1764 Original documents: National Records of Scotland - CC22/3/2,3 231257 Warrants of Testaments, v.3-4, 1751-1789 Original documents: National Records of Scotland - CC22/3/3,4 231258 Warrants of Testaments, v.4-5, 1789-1809 Original documents: National Records of Scotland - CC22/3/4,5 304674 Warrants of Testaments, v.5-6, 1806-1823 Original documents: National Records of Scotland - CC22/3/5,6
(Data provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)
From 1826, commissary court business was conducted by the Wigtown Sheriff Court (SC19), and also by the Edinburgh Sheriff Court (SC70). These records are also held at the National Records of Scotland. On the Scotland's People website are entries from the Registers of inventories and settlements (wills) up to 1875, and, from 1876 - 1925, entries in the printed Calendar of Confirmations. Ancestry has the Calendar of Confirmations from 1876 - 1936. There are no online indexes for wills, testaments or confirmations after 1936. The Scotland's People website has indexes to Wigtown Sheriff Court Commissary Records, 1826-1925 (ref. SC19/41/1-34); Edinburgh Sheriff Court Inventories, 1808-1925 (ref. SC70/1/1-741) and Edinburgh Sheriff Court Wills, 1855-1925 (ref. SC70/4/1-595).
More information on Wigtown Sheriff Court and Wigtown Commissary Court records here.
The Scotland's People website also has records of Non-Scottish Courts, 1858-1900 (ref. SC70/6/1-83) which includes testaments relating to Scots who died in England and other foreign countries.
The wills of some Scottish soldiers and airmen, 1857 -1964, are held by the National Records of Scotland.
Scots who owned goods or investments in England were supposed to have their wills proved in England as well as Scotland. Wills proved before 1858 at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury are held at The National Archives, Kew. There are also has a few Scots listed in the Death Duty registers.
From 1858, the annual National Probate Calendars need to be consulted - wills and other probate materials for England and Wales for the period from 1858-1996, 1996 to present, and soldiers wills can be searched at the probate search service. There are also copies of the calendars for 1858-1966 at Ancestry.co.uk, and for 1858-1959 at findmypast.co.uk.
Many wills can be found in the collections of Deeds deposited in various courts. Worth searching for Wigtownshire are the Wigtown Sheriff Court Registers of Deeds held by the National Records of Scotland.
Services of Heirs: see Land and Property above.
Many early Scottish state documents were transcribed and published in the nineteenth century. Some are now available on the internet. The earliest documents are in Latin.
- The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, First series, 1545-1625, at Ancestry.co.uk.
- The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, Second series, vols. I-IV, 1625-1632, at Ancestry.co.uk.
- The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, Second series, vols. II-VIII, 1627-1660, at the Internet Archive texts.
- Registrum secreti sigilli regum Scotorum. The Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland, vol. I, 1488-1599, at the Internet Archive texts.
- Registrum magni sigilli regum Scotorum. The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, vols. I - IX, 1306-1651, at Ancestry.co.uk.
- Registrum magni sigilli regum Scotorum. The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, vols. II - VII, 1424-1620, at the Internet Archive texts.
- Rotuli scaccarii regum Scotorum. The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, vols. VI - VII, 1455-1469, and XVIII - XXIII, 1543-1600, at the Internet Archive texts.
Before1878, the parochial schools were the responsibility of the Heritors of each parish (see Church Records), although mention is frequently made to them in the Kirk Session papers.
After 1878, School Boards were created. Their records and / or school logbooks are held at the Ewart Library, Dumfries. Details on the parish pages.
A census of Religious Worship and Education was taken in 1851 at the same time as the census of population. There is a table of statistics about the schools and Sunday schools in Wigtownshire in 1851 here.
- Dumfries & Galloway Family History Society
The Society has an excellent research centre in Dumfries, publishes a newsletter 3 times a year, and publishes an extensive list of monumental inscriptions, census indexes, and local history materials. See Archives above.
- Dumfriesshire & Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society Founded in 1862 with the aim (amongst others) to collect and publish the best information on the natural sciences and antiquities (including history, records, genealogy, customs and heraldry) of the three counties of Dumfries, Kirkcudbright and Wigtown. Many of the older Transactions are online.
- Stranraer and District Local History Trust was formed to research, record and publish information on local history for the benefit of the community. They have an excellent publications list and also hold an audio archive.
"Statistical accounts" were written on nearly every parish in Scotland on three occasions - in the 1790s (the "Old Statistical Account"), in the 1840s (the "New Statistical Account") and in the 1950s-1960s (the "Third Statistical Account"). The author was usually the parish minister. They give fascinating insights into the local topography and history, social and economic conditions, and even the daily lives of people of those times. Published versions include:
- The 'Old' Statistical Account, 1791-1799
- is available online at The Statistical Accounts of Scotland.
- is also online at Google Books, but the parishes are not arranged in any order. Links are given on the parish pages.
- It was reprinted as The Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791 -1799 edited by Sir John Sinclair. Vol. V: Stewartry of Kirkudbright and Wigtownshire. Published by EP Publishing, Wakefield 1983. pp 575.
- The 'New' Statistical Account, 1845
- The Dumfries, Kirkcudbright & Wigtown volume (vol. IV) is online at Google Books.
- is also available online at The Statistical Accounts of Scotland.
- The Third Statistical Account of Scotland - The Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and the County of Wigtown. John Laird. Published by Collins, Glasgow, 1965. 526 pp.
A Vision of Britain provides statistics on population, housing, industry and social class from the 1801 census onwards.
Histpop, the online historical population reports website, provides statistics in the published population (census) reports (1801 - 1937), and the reports of the Registrar General for Scotland (1855 - 1920).
The ScotlandsPlaces website has a copy of the 1891 Medical Officer of Health’s Report for Wigtownshire.
The hearth tax, due on every hearth in Scotland, and payable by both landlords and tenants, was levied between 1691 and 1695. Records (E69/25 - Wigtownshire) are held by the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh, and are available on the ScotlandsPlaces site.
From 1748, taxes were levied on various items for varying lengths of time. These included windows (1748-1798), inhabited houses (1778-1798), retail shops (1785-1789), male servants (1777-1798), female servants (1785-1792), carts & carriages (1785-1798), farm horses, dogs, clocks & watches (1797-1798). The farm horse tax, which is the most useful of these returns, the male servants tax and the female servants tax are available on the ScotlandsPlaces website. Surviving records are patchy and are held by the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Details of Wigtownshire taxation records here.
The National Archives, Kew, has a few Scots listed in the Death Duty registers.
Towns were usually referred to as Burghs in Scotland.
The burghs (towns) in Wigtownshire were:
- Royal Burghs: Stranraer, Whithorn, Wigtown
- Others: Newton Stewart
Records of the former burghs are held at Stranraer Museum, and the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh. Details will be found on the parish pages.
A few voting registers are held by the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh. Details here.