Wigtownshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Scotland Gotoarrow.png Wigtownshire



Wigtonshire (or Wigtownshire) is a maritime county in the southwest of Scotland, bounded on the north by Ayrshire, on the east by the stewartry or county of Kirkcudbright and by Wigton Bay, and on the south and west by the Irish Sea.  It is about 32 miles in length and 29 miles in extreme breadth, comprising an area of nearly 480 square miles or 305,000 acres.

The county, which forms the western portion of the ancient district of Galloway, appears to have derived its name from the situation of its chief town on an eminence whose base was washed by the sea.  After the departure of the Romans, the province became part of the territories of the Northumbrian kings until the ninth century, when it fell into the power of the Picts who continued to exercise a kind of sovereign authority, even after the union of the two kingdoms by Kenneth II.  But the original Celtic inhabitants retained their ancient customs and heroic character which caused them to be known as the "wild Scots of Galloway." 

The county consists of 17 parishes.  There are three royal burghs of Wigtown (the county town), Stranraer, and Whithorn; the burghs-of-barony of Newton-Stewart, Garliestown, Glenluce and Portpatrick, and several small ports and thriving villages.

The surface, though generally level, is diversified with numerous hills.  The coast is deeply indented with bays.  The rivers abound with salmon.  The ancient woods have almost entirely disappeared, but of late years the deficiency has been supplied by plantations.  The soil is generally rich and considerable portions of the land are fine pasture.  The richest land is near the coasts.  The chief crops are oats, barley, turnips, and potatoes.

Considerable attention is paid to the rearing of cattle, sheep, horses, and swine, which are sent to southern markets.  There is little coal and other rock and ore are not wrought.  From the scarcity of fuel, the manufactures are very inconsiderable.  The principal public works are distilleries.  Flax-spinning for domestic use, weaving by hand-looms, and embroidering of muslin are carried on.  The chief trade consists in the fisheries off the coast, and the export of grain and other produce and of live-stock and wool.

The population in 1851 was 39,195.

(Source:  Samuel Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 2nd ed., 1851.  Family History Library book 941 E5L.)


Historic Parishes for the County of Wigtonshire
Parish No. Parish No.
Glasserton      885 Old Luce 894
Inch 886 Penninghame 895
Kirkcolm 887 Portpatrick 896
Kirkcowan 888 Sorbie  897
Kirkinner 889 Stoneykirk 898
Kirkmaiden   890 Stranraer 899
Leswalt 891 Whithorn 900
Mochrum 892 Wigtown 901
New Luce 893 Newton Stewart -- see Penninghame 895
Wigtownshire In the Family History Library Catalogue
The Wigtownshire Page on GENUKI provides a comprehensive view of records and sources for the county.

Census, Civil Registration, and Parish Records

Virtually everyone can be found in census and civil registration records and many in the parish registers. ScotlandsPeople website provides indexes and images to all of the census records, civil registration, and pre 1855 Church of Scotland parish registers for Wigtownshire.
Microfilmed records can be accessed at Family History Centers  around the world. There is an advantage to using the microfilm for the Census and Parish records. While ScotlandsPeople website has an index of the records it costs over £1 to view each individual page.

Census Records

The Scotland Census Records Article provides and indepth view of Scottish Census Records. The 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911 census records are available for every parish in the County. The 1901 and 1911 census records can only be accessed at ScotlandsPeople website. The 1841 to 1891 census records are on microfilm. Refer to the Parish Pages for film numbers.
There is statistical data available for the census years 1801 to 1931 that records the number of houses, families, people, and other statistical data for every parish in Wigtownshire. Refer to the Histpop - Online Historical Population Reports wiki article.

The Family History Library has county-wide census indexes for Wigtonshire for 1881.   The library also has a collection of census surname indexes for different places within Wigtonshire. Click here to see a table listing these other census surname indexes that are available at the library.


  • FREECEN has indexed 100% of the 1841 and 1851 Wigtownshire census
  • The 1841 census has been indexed by the Dumfries & Galloway Family History Society.
  • The 1881 census has been indexed by the Dumfries & Galloway Family History Society
  • ancestry.co.uk provides transcription and index for 1841 to 1891 census
  • findmypast.com provides enhanced transcript of 1841 to 1901 census

Civil Registration Records

Refer to the Scotland Civil Registration Article
Images and Indexes Available at ScotlandsPeople Website
Births 1855-1910 ◊ScotlandsPeople Website has indexes to 2009
Marriages 1855-1935
Deaths 1855-1960
◊annual indexes available on microfilm
◊The 1855 to 1875, 1881, 1891 images of births, marriages, and deaths have been microfilmed.
◊Most of the 1855 to 1875 Births and Marriages are indexed at FamilySearch. See Batch Numbers

Parish Records

The Scotland Church Records Article and the Scotland Established (Presbyterian) Church Records Article provides and indepth view of Church Records.
The ScotlandsPeople website provides an index and images of Church of Scotland parish registers. FamilySearch provides a searchable index and access to microfilm copies of the registers through Family History Centers. Refer to the Parish Pages for film and or batch numbers.


Court Records

The county of Wigton was in the Sheriff's court of Wigtown (SC19).  The Registers of Deeds for Sheriffs' courts contain much valuable information for family history research such as marriage contracts and deeds of 'disposal and settlement' (or assignment) of property, which both give names and relationships.  The records are deposited at the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh and are not indexed.


Galloway refers to Kirkcudbrightshire, Wigtownshire, and Dumfrieshire. The history of the region is often combined into single volumes.

Probate Records

Probate records are those which deal with the settlement of the estate of a deceased person.  In Scotland, until 1868, a person could only pass movable property such as household furniture, farm equipment, livestock, money and clothes through a document known as a 'testament.'  Immovable property such as land was passed to the eldest son or heir through a document known as a 'Service of Heir,' which is not a record of probate.  Read more about Scotland Probate Records.

Until 1823, the parishes of Wigtownshire were under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Wigtown (CC22).  Since 1823, the county has been under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff's Court of Wigtown (SC19).

Probate records for 1513-1901 (including inventories of goods) are indexed online at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. You must register on the website but use of the index to probate records, called 'Wills & Testaments,' is free. You may then purchase a copy of the document or, if the document is before 1823, it will be on microfilm at the Family History Library. To find the microfilm numbers, search in the library catalog for the 'Place' of Wigtown and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the 'Testaments registers.'


Click here to see an outline map of the parishes of Wigtonshire.

Poorhouse Records

There are two poorhouses:

Rhins of Galloway Combination www.workhouses.org.uk/Wigtownshire/

Wigtownshire Combination (Stranraer) www.workhouses.org.uk/Wigtownshire/[[]]

Helpful Websites

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