|General Research in Scotland|
|For those new to genealogy in Scotland, go to Genuki's Introduction to Scottish Family
History, to read more about the General Register Office, Old Parish Registers, census, and
Definitions on subjects as sasines, and poor relief can be found at Ayrshire
|Counties, Countries and Other Mysteries
Great Britain, the main island of the British Isles, today comprises three countries, Scotland,
England and Wales. Scotland and its neighbor England have been divided into administrative
areas known as counties, or shires, since the early Middle Ages.
The counties are further divided into civil parishes, which are generally the same as the
parishes of the Church of Scotland in Scotland, and the Church of England in England. These
parishes also once had a substantial civil government function but that gradually eroded to
almost a nullity over the years. However, during the latter part of the last century, many of the
time-honored county divisions were also abolished in both countries, and modern maps often no
longer show the traditional boundaries. New districts or regions often combine smaller
counties, or break up larger counties, and are not often useful yet for genealogy.
Other district names have long histories too. In our area, Galloway today comprises
Wigtownshire and Kirkcudbright, but in times past it has also included the Carrick district of
Ayrshire and at least part of Dumfries.
Adjoining to the East are The Borders, a group of former counties which
held the much disputed border with England for many years. Across the
Solway to the South in England is Cumbria, formerly the counties of
Cumberland and Westmorland and a small part of Lancashire.
|The Churches in Scotland|
|The forerunner of all Scottish Christianity was the monastic Celtic Church, likely starting
with Ninian in Whithorn about 400 AD, and acknowledging only its own direct link with Rome.
From about 1100 AD, as community with other Western churches came about, bishops played an
increasing role in church government. But from the mid 1500s the Reformation in Scotland moved
the Church away from its Roman connections. Now individual "heresies" were replaced by
widespread informed dissent.|
From 1560, Calvinist and presbyterian forms came to the fore. While
bishoprics were restored in 1610 and again from 1662, after the Settlement of 1690 the Scottish
Reformation was the most complete in Europe, though far from unanimous, except against Rome.
Especially in our area, the South-West, throughout the 17th. century, Covenanters strove for
more puritan ideals. As a principle, Presbyterianism was now entrenched, and it was
'guaranteed' in the Union of Scotland with England in 1707.
Nonetheless, internal disagreements continued. Some favored state support, and the Relief
Church, opposing it, separated in 1761. Evangelicals, with once again a more puritan approach,
disfavored patronage. This had been restored by the Westminster government in 1712, local
magnates choosing ministers instead of congregations. The culmination was "The Disruption" of
1843, when 470 ministers, some two-thirds of the total, left the Established Church of Scotland
with their elders and laity, and formed the Free Church of Scotland, the "Wee Frees". Although
patronage was abolished in 1874, no major reconciliation was achieved until 1929. As a
practical and genealogical matter, the Disruption resulted in gaps in many parish
records -- often very difficult to bridge -- between 1843 and the start of Civil Registration
|Old Parish Records or OPRs|
|Prior to 1855, registration of births and marriages was carried out by the
Church of Scotland. Most parishes started register books in the 1690's.
This was not compulsory, and the keeping of records varied from parish to
parish, from minister to minister, and from session clerk to session clerk.
It also varied from family to family. Some did not feel it important to
have events recorded. Not all families belonged to the Church of Scotland.
(Sometimes families from other churches were still recorded, regardless of
this, but often not.) Thus, lots of events were never recorded in the OPRs.
(There were some other church records, but those that have survived are not
included in the OPRs.) Of those records originally made, not all survived,
and some were not passed on to the GRO. Very few death records were made in this
|1841 Census Booklets|
| These are indexes of the census taken June
7th, 1841. Each parish is printed in a separate booklet, containing census data for that
particular parish or district as identified. The detail contained in them is in strict
alphabetical surname order, with no attempt to gather together everyone at a given address. It
needs to be realised that the ages are only approximations, as ages of adults were apparently
rounded down. A point for anyone looking at the 1841
census transcripts: if a birthplace isn't specified, the person was born in Wigtownshire.
The many booklets are available for purchase from the Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society for a nominal
To read an explanation of the differences between the booklets, and the actual film, please click here.
|1851 Census Films
||There are indexes for very many Censuses throughout Scotland, but most of them are only
available in print format, and some of those are unpublished. This leaves most amateurs with
two possibilities - view the film at your local LDS Family History Center and carefully work
your way through it, or use a professional searcher. A lookup request for the census taken March 30th, 1851, requires considerable
effort on the SCT-WIGTOWNSHIRE volunteer as they need to scroll slowly through the film, frame
by frame, until they find the target family. This can take half to one hour, depending on the
population of the parish, the speed at which they can read, the clarity of the original
writing, the quality of reproduction on the film, the state of the original records when
filmed. They will perform this lookup for people in need, but request that you can be specific
in your request, and be aware of spelling variants
for your surname, as volunteers will normally be aware of spelling variants for their own
surnames, but not necessarily for someone else's.
Volunteers would not normally have films of their own, but possibly are members of a society or
work at an LDS FHC which has some films. A next day response will not be common - more likely
a week or two.
|Wigtown Free Press Index|
| The Wigtown Free Press was the local newspaper for Wigtownshire (it included limited news
from Kirkcudbright and Dumfries). There are four volumes in total for the Wigtown Free Press
Index, covering years 1843-1925. They contain details of birth, marriage and death
announcements placed in the paper together with, on occasion, obituaries, adverts and other
information that local newspapers usually contain. The indexes give the year, month and date
of the issue where the information is located which then enables the relevant microfiche to be
checked. Birth/marriage/death notices are usually not much longer than the abstract given in
the index. Additional information is generally limited to the actual event date, rather than
the index's publication date. Obituaries are very good, but these are only found for prominent
citizens. The fiche of the actual newspapers are available for viewing and copying at the Ewart
Library in Dumfries and also the regional libraries at Stranraer, Newton-Stewart, Wigtown,
Dalbeattie, Lockerbie, Georgetown (Dumfries) and Annan.
A typical directory of the 1800s would contain a listing of residents,
usually only head of household, by street, or alphabetically, or both. It
would also often have a listing of trades and professions and their
practitioners, and a listing of local institutions and societies with
A property listing for a parish or other civil division,
useful mainly for establishing names of heads of households, but also
often will include exact locations.
|IRC or International Reply Coupon|
|IRC's, or international reply coupons, have been commonly purchased in the past at local post offices, and used whenever a foreign source required an self addressed stamped reply envelope. However, many jurisdictions no longer provide IRC's, though all will accept them.
Instead of expensive IRCs, you may be able to buy foreign stamps through a dealer, and some suggestions will be found in our Links.