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Wigtownshire Strays Extracted from the 1881 Census
Compiled by Sam Heron

A stray is a person born in one parish/county/country, and recorded in another county's records. Sam Heron has searched through the 1881 UK census, and offers here an extraction of all those born in Wigtownshire, but recorded outside of the county, with their families. The Wigtownshire Pages wishes to thank Sam for his generosity in offering this useful index.


The UK 1881 census, and its Wigtownshire strays

Given that Wigtownshire is only 310,747 acres or 485 square miles in size it can perhaps be understood why its people have felt compelled over the years to leave to find work and to look for a better life elsewhere. In the 1881 Census, Wigtownshire had 38,798 recorded residents. Of these 30,206 were noted as being locally born with 8,592 shown as being born elsewhere. Irish born with 2,352 was the predominant group. English born was 778. Ayrshire, Kirkcudbright and Lanarkshire were the other predominant places of birth of the new residents. It also is noted that many Wigtownshire people with children born outside Wigtownshire had apparently returned home so this slightly inflates the apparent migration of others into Wigtownshire

The 1881 UK Census also included 11,404 Wigtownshire born people who were residing elsewhere in Scotland with 4,043 recorded in Lanark, 2,381 in Ayr, 1691 in Kirkcudbright, 681 in Edinburgh, 1216 in the Highlands with the remainder scattered throughout the Scottish Lowlands. In addition I found almost 1,400 who were in England or Wales at the time of the Census. So 12,800 known Wigtownshire born people were "away" at the time of the Census. Wigtownshire born people totalled more than 43,000 in the 1881 Census and approximately 30% of them were not resident in Wigtownshire at the time of the Census. The people who moved within Scotland are relatively easy to identify so my task was to attempt to identify Wigtownshire born people living in England and Wales at the time of the 1881 census and the results are shown below.

It should be noted that the strong Galloway-Irish accent of the Wigtownshire born traveller hindered when names and original place of residence or birth were being related to others unfamiliar with the accent. I speak from personal experience on two counts. When I went to Glasgow for holidays as a boy I was taken to be Irish and this had advantages with the extra kindness shown to an Irish "tourist". When I arrived in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia in 1957 it was with immense difficulty that I communicated with the local Australians. I could understand them but they could not understand me. With this in mind when ancestors are being sought outside Wigtownshire be aware that sound-alike names should not be discarded without due consideration. The English Census records demonstrate this when some of the Wigtownshire names were recorded and this added to the fun of finding our Wigtownshire Strays.

In a Statistical Account for the Parish of Stranraer compiled by The Rev. David Wilson, Minister and dated January 1839: "Language.- The language generally spoken is tolerably good. The lower orders (of whom a great many are natives of Ireland)have a good deal of the accent of that country. Indeed, strangers allege that all classes of the inhabitants have a good deal of the Irish accent. This, no doubt, arises from the proximity to Ireland, and our very frequent intercourse with the Irish."

Sam Heron, September 2005