Description in 1887
"AYRSHIRE, a maritime co. in the SW. of Scotland, adjoining the cos. of Renfrew, Lanark, Dumfries, Kirkcudbright and Wigtown. It is in the shape of a crescent, with the concave side, measuring about 70 miles, adjacent to the Firth of Clyde. Its greatest breadth, across the middle, is 30 miles. Area, 1128.5 sq. m., or 729,186 ac. Pop. 217,519 or 193 persons to each sq. m. The coast in the S. is rocky and destitute of natural harbours, but becomes low and sandy northwards from Ayr. The lofty islet of Ailsa Craig is comprised in this co. The surface slopes with slight undulations from the landward border, which is hilly in most parts, and is mountainous in the SE. The soil is various, sandy near the coast, of a rich clay in the middle parts, and moor in the uplands. The rivers are the Garnock, Irvine, Ayr, Doon, Girvan, and Stinchar. The largest lake is Loch Doon, on the SE. border. The minerals are coal, iron, limestone, and sandstone, all of which are extensively worked. The co. is famous for dairy produce and a fine breed of cows. The mfrs. are valuable and include woollen, cotton, iron, and earthenware."
[Bartholemew's Gazetteer of the British Isles, 1887]
See also the entry for Ayrshire in the 1868 gazetteer.
The three Ayrshire District Councils have assumed responsibility for the county archives that had been managed under the former Strathclyde Region. Details are given at the archives page.
In addition, the Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network (SCRAN) is a Millennium Project to build a networked multimedia resource base for the study, teaching and appreciation of history and material culture in Scotland. The SCRAN website has an easy to use search engine.
You can contact the National Records of Scotland (formerly the National Archives of Scotland here. It also used to be called the Scottish Record Office.
The following books provide an Ayrshire-wide perspective of their topic. They are included here as a central list.
"Sources for Family History in Ayrshire" Published 1995 by Troon @ Ayrshire FHS
"Family history: a guide to Ayrshire sources" edited by Jane Jamieson. Published Ayr, 1984 (now out of print).
"History of the county of Ayr: with a genealogical account of the families of Ayrshire". James Paterson, published Ayr, 1847.
"Ayrshire Nights Entertainment: A Descriptive Guide to the History, Traditions, Antiquities of the County of Ayr" by John MacIntosh of Galston, Ayrshire, published in 1894, by John Menzies & Co. of Kilmarnock, Dunlop and Drennan.
"Ayrshire & Arran: an Illustrated Architectural Guide" Rob Close, published in 1992 by RIAS (ISBN 1-873190-06-9) and available from RIAS bookshops in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
"Ayrshire: its history and historic families" by William Robertson, published Kilmarnock, 1908.
"Mining: Ayrshire's Lost Industry" by Guthrie Hutton, published 1996 by Richard Stenlake Publishing (ISBN 1-872074-88-X).
"Tracing Your Family Tree - sources in East Ayrshire Libraries" is published by the East Ayrshire District Library, Local Studies Department, The Dick Institute, Elmbank Avenue, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire KA1 3BU, Scotland.
The publications listed here offer an Ayrshire-wide perspective of material that is published. Local lists are included in the respective parish pages.
"Pre-1855 Gravestone Inscriptions; an index for Carrick, Ayrshire" edited by Alison Mitchell, and published in Edinburgh in 1988 by the Scottish Genealogy Society. This covers the parishes of Ballantrae, Barr, Colmonell, Barrhill cemetery, Old Dailly, New Dailly, Girvan, Kirkmichael, Kirkoswald, Crossraguel cemetery, Maybole, Straiton, Patna and Alloway.
"Pre-1855 Gravestone Inscriptions in Kilmarnock and Loudoun District" edited by Alistair G. Beattie and Margaret H. Beattie and published in Edinburgh in 1989 (reprint) by the Scottish Genealogy Society. This covers burial grounds in the parishes of Dunlop, Stewarton, Fenwick, Kilmaurs, Kilmarnock, Riccarton, Galston and Loudoun.
The Troon & Ayrshire FHS has published the following books of Monumental Inscriptions: Old Alloway, Coylton, Craigie, Crosbie (Troon), Dundonald, Monkton, Newton Green Cemetery (Ayr), Six Kyle graveyards (includes Barnweill, Culzean, Coodham, Fairfield, Newton-on-Ayr and St. Margaret's, John St., Ayr), The Secessionist Graveyard (King St., Ayr), St. Nicholas (Prestwick), St. Quivox, Symington, Wallacetown Cemetery (Ayr), Ayr Auld Kirk.
See our Scotland census page for a description and national indexes.
FreeCen for Ayr has an index including a substantial part of the 1841 census for the county, and welcomes more transcribers for this project providing free access to 19th century census indexes.
East Ayrshire Family History Society publish CDROMs of an 1851 census index (190,000 entries) and 1861 census index (almost 200,000 entries).
For information on records for a particular parish, see that parish's page (where available).
The original Old Parochial Records of the Church of Scotland are held in the General Register Office for Scotland [GRO(S)] in Edinburgh, and copies on microfilm may be consulted in LDS Family History Centres around the world. The birth and marriage records are indexed on microfiche. Copies (not necessarily of all parishes) are also held by some of the Family History Societies in the county and also in some local libraries. The birth, marriage and death records can also be searched at Scotlands People - the online database of Scottish Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes at the General Register Office. (Note that this site charges for access to the database.)
The Kirk Session of a parish consists of the minister of the parish and the elders of the congregation. It looks after the general well-being of the congregation. In centuries past, the Kirk Session was responsible for parochial discipline. Some of the Kirk Session records for the Presbyteries covering Ayrshire are held in the Scottish Record Office in Edinburgh. Some Kirk Session material is often to be found amongst the Old Parochial Records. Click here for a tutorial on Old Parochial Records.
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 Scottish Record Office in Edinburgh.
Records of many other churches, particularly the Free Churches and United Presbyterian Churches, may also be found in at the National Records of Scotland, formerly known as the National Archives of Scotland and the Scottish Record Office, in Edinburgh. Some of these records include baptism and marriage registers.
To assist in the identification of the different entities that have existed during the turbulent history of the Church of Scotland, there is a diagram and set of notes, based on those originally compiled by Linda Merle, which may be of assistance.
Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths began in Scotland on 1st January 1855. For details of these records held at the General Register Office (Scotland) in Edinburgh, see GRO(S) tutorial.
Records of testaments, inventories etc. are held at the National Records of Scotland, formerly known as the National Archives of Scotland and the Scottish Record Office.
In amplification to the historical description of the county at the head of the page, it should be noted that for local administrative purposes, Ayrshire was divided into the North Ayrshire, East Ayrshire and South Ayrshire Districts, each with its own unitary council. These districts are not much different from the more romantically named Cunningham, Loudon, and Kyle & Carrick districts which existed previously under the Strathclyde Regional Authority. The names of Cunninghame, Kyle and Carrick are those of the three areas which were brought together to form Ayrshire in medieval times.
An 1837 description of the county is given in this extract from Pigot's Directory for Ayrshire. The transcript was provided by Keith Muirhead from Queensland.
Family History in Scotland pages offer an introduction to the subject and the differences derived from Scotland's own, legal, religious and political systems.
There is now an electronic mailing list for Ayrshire researchers. To subscribe to AYRSHIRE-L, or to its digest form AYRSHIRE-D, send an email message to either for the List or for the Digest delivery. Leave the subject field blank and put "subscribe" in the body of the message. Your request will be confirmed by a message from RootsWeb giving details of using the List and Digest.
The GENUKI Mailing Lists page offers a county-by-county listing of the other mailing lists which are available.
This page offers a glossary of some of the Scots legal and vernacular terms and some Latin terms that genealogists may encounter in researching their ancestry in Ayrshire.
The county has long established military connections with two major units of the British Army; the Royal Scots Fusiliers, one of the oldest infantry regiments; and the Ayrshire Yeomanry, an ancient volunteer cavalry unit. Both of these regiments are still represented today in the British Army's establishment. More details on the history of both units are available at the Ayrshire Military page.
- Rolls of Honour and War Memorials (monuments) are one good resource for family historians, but need to be addressed with some caution - it should not be assumed that they are either complete or accurate. Memorials (and Rolls of Honour) were created at the local parish level after asking the local inhabitants whose names should appear. Thus:
- Some names may have been omitted, for a variety of reasons.
- Some names may appear on more than one memorial.
- Some names may be misspelled, or given names transposed.
- Some people may be listed as killed in action, but were not.
- Some people may be listed who were not in the service at all.
- Some people may have been confused with others of a similar name.
- A Roll of Honour may sometimes list the names of all who served, not just those who died.
- Some of the original records may have been incorrect, for a variety of reasons.
- Some (more recent) research may be incorrect.
- View a list of the Rolls of Honour for Ayrshire.
There are some details of the sources of military records, both unit records and those of personnel who served in them, at the Ayrshire Military page.
(Monumental Inscriptions - see Cemeteries)
Ayrshire researchers may also be interested in the possibility of contacting others interested in Ayrshire family history through the contacts pages on the Ayrshire GenWeb Page.
The county wide coverage of the Ayrshire Post and other newspapers in the group can be seen at their web site. Other more local newspapers are listed under the respective parish pages.
The occupations of Ayrshire people were and still remain associated with three traditional occupational areas: farming and its by-products, milk, meat and wool; maritime business both fishing and commercial trading; the mining of coal and iron. The later years of the 20th century have added commercial aviation and the recreation and leisure industries.
Here are some figures showing the county's population through time:
There are a large number of local and family history societies in the county. Dave Killicoat is the secretary of the co-ordinating federation whose mail address is:
Ayrshire Federation of Historical Societies, Dennison House,
11 Chalmers Road, Ayr KA7 2RQ, Scotland.
Family History Societies covering Ayrshire include:
See also the full GENUKI listing of Scottish Family History Societies.
"The Hearth Tax for Ayrshire 1691" was launched on 2 June 1998. Copies can be obtained from Mr Rob Close, Ayrshire Federation of Historical Societies, 1 Craigbrae Cottages, Drongan, Ayrshire KA6 7EN, Scotland. The cost of this book is £14 plus P&P.