"Commonly called a Stewartry, but in reality and to all intents and purposes a sheriffdom or shire, lies in the south of Scotland, and forms the eastern and by far the most extensive portion of the ancient district of Galloway. It is bounded by Dumfries-shire on the east and north-east, on the south by the Solway Frith and the Irish Sea, by the county of Ayr on the north and northwest, and by Wigtonshire (or Western Galloway) on the west. In extent it measures, from south-east to north-west, about forty four miles, by breadth varying from twenty to thirty miles, the narrowest part being toward its north-western limits....
The aspect of the country, however, forms a very natural distinction into two divisons: if a line be drawn from the centre of Kirkpatrick-Iron-Gray parish to the Gatehouse of Fleet, all to the northwest, with little exception, is so mountainous, that it may be termed a Highland district; while the south and eastern parts exhibit a fine champagne and cultivated country - a contrast strikingly obvious...
The number of horses, cattle and sheep reared in the county is sufficiently large to evince the possession of much practical knowledge, and consequent success, in this branch of the productive economy; and the breed of swine has increased to a prodigious extent, these animals being now a staple commodity both for home consumption and exportation....
The shire, or stewartry, comprises twenty-eight parishes and contains two royal burghs, Kirkcudbright and New Galloway...."
County Description from Pigot's Directory, 1837
See the National Records of Scotland for access to:
Other sources include:
The Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society (address: Dumfries and Galloway Family History Research Centre, 9 Glasgow Street, Dumfries, DG2 9AF) provides access to source material for the county and individual parishes. Details can be found in their publication list.
The Stewartry Museum (address: St. Mary Street, Kirkcudbright DG6 4JG) provides "Local and social history collections relating to the Stewartry, as well as extensive natural history collections".
Dumfries Archive Centre, 33 Burns Street, Dumfries DG1 2PS.
Ewart Library, Catherine Street, Dumfries DG1 1JB.
Local Libraries provided by Dumfries and Galloway Council possess local history and genealogical collections of value to family history researchers.
Old Statistical Account, Sir John Sinclair, 1790s (see the Statistics section).
New Statistical Account, W. Blackwood, 1840s (see the Statistics section).
George MacDonald Fraser, The Steel Bonnets, 1971, ISBN 0-394-47049-4 (see the History section).
P.H. M'Kerlie,History of the Lands and Their Owners in Galloway, vol. 1-5 (Edinburgh: William Patterson, 1870s) available in the LDS library collection.
Index to the particular register of sasine for the sheriffdom of Dumfries and Stewartries of Annadale and Kirkcudbright / preserved in H.M. General Register House, (Edinburgh: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1931) Vol 1, 1617 - 1671, No. 21; vol 2, 1672 - 1702, No. 25; vol 3, 1703 - 1732, No. 27; vol 4, 1733 - 1760, No. 49; vol 5, 1761 - 1780, No. 51. available on film from the LDS library collection (see the Land and Property section).
Index of persons, to abridgements of Sasine 1781 - 1868 (Edinburgh, Public Record Office, Register House, 1958) Kirkcudbright vol 1 - 4, 1781 -1868 available on film in LDS library collection (see the Land and Property section.
Herbert Maxwell, A History of Dumfries and Galloway, (Edinburgh and London, William Black and Sons, 1896) available in the LDS library collection. It has been reprinted by Heritage Books Inc. It is also available on the internet and book web sites such as abebooks (recently reprinted) (see the History section).
There are 7 volumes of pre-1855 monumental inscriptions that cover the 29 parishes in the county. These records are important because there are few parish burial records available. They can be purchased from either the Scottish Genealogy Society or the Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society.
Take a look at photographs of churches and churchyards in Dumfries and Galloway many of which are from Kirkcudbrightshire.
There is also an initiative to put digital images of tombstones with inscriptions on CD. Buittle, Twynholm, Borgue, Parton, and Tongland are available.
Scottish census returns are held at the General Register Office and copies on microfilm may be consulted in LDS Family History Centres around the world.
The following census indexes are available that will help in research:
1841 census surname indexes for most of the parishes in the county available from the Dumfries and Galloway FamilyHistory Society.
1851 census surname index is available online at the web site of the Dumfries and Galloway Council.
1881 census surname index is available at the web site of the General Register Office, scotlandspeople.gov.uk. It is also available for purchase on CD.
1891 census surname index and digital images of each census page are available from the General Register Office web site, scotlandspeople.gov.uk, for a fee.
1901 census surname index and digital images of each census page are available from the General Register Office web site, scotlandspeople.gov.uk, for a fee.
Church Records are located at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. The General Register Office (now part of the National Records of Scotland) has put the OPR online. The OPR consists of the pre-1855 Church of Scotland church records. The people in the county belonged predominately to the Church of Scotland. For a fee you can search these records at their web site, scotlandspeople.gov.uk. You can also search the LDS database (IGI) which contains much of the OPR. Copies of the parish registers on microfilm and the OPR index may be consulted in LDS Family History Centres around the world. The LDS library catalogue can be searched online to determine which parish registers are available.
The condition of parish registers was recorded in the New Statistical Account (see the Statistics section). 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 National Records of Scotland hold nonconformist or church records for those churches other than the Church of Scotland. Local archives also hold some nonconformist records. Search surrounding parishes for nonconformist registers since the boundaries of a nonconformist church did not match Church of Scotland parish boundaries. A number of people from outlying areas belonged to nonconformist churches in Dumfries.
The Kirk Session of a parish consists of the minister and elders from the congregation and a clerk. It looked after the general well being of the congregation and parochial discipline. You will find in these records mention of illegitmate children, irregular marriages, and poor people that received money from the Kirk. The detailed accounts will mention many people in the parish. Kirk Session records are held in the National Archives of Scotland.
The registration of births, deaths and marriages began on January 1, 1855. Civil Registration records are held at the General Register Office in Edinburgh. For a small fee you can download and print images of the vital records at their web site. The records are indexed and easily searchable.
The LDS database (IGI) contains birth and marriage data from 1855 to 1875.
Records of testaments, inventories etc. are held at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. (previously known as the Scottish Record Office and the National Archives of Scotland)
The latest information on sites to see, recreation, and accommodation can be found on a site established by Visit Scotland - Scotland's National Tourism Organisation .
Dumfries and Galloway online provides similar information.
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.
- The transcription of the section for Kirkcudbrightshire from the National Gazetteer (1868) provided by Colin Hinson.
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."
The Union of the crowns in 1603 marked the end of the the reiving times. The reiving times was the conflict that raged between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries on the border between Scotland and England. A book, The Steel Bonnets, provides a history of the reiving times. See also Tom Moss Deadlock and Deliverance
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. Read some brief excerpts. "...It has been stated above the activity of the Legislature in proceeding against witches was not manifested in Dumfrieshire and Galloway until a latter period than in the rest of Scotland. From 1656 onwards, however, this devilish business was pressed with diligence by some of the church courts....
....The record is not so black in Wigtownshire. There is indeed, no evidence of any witches having been put to death in that county...."
The Covenanters in Arms -- "...The smouldering fires, kindled by the creation of Episcopacy and the imposition of a liturgy, now broke forth. The General Assembly, in defiance of a writ of disolution issued by Hamilton, continued to sit at Glasgow, and on November 21, 1638...
...Preparations for war were begun as soon as the Assembly adjourned. Although the great territorial influences of the Maxwells was on the side of the king and bishops, the mass of the people in the south-west and many of the baronage had signed the Covenant, and were ready to fight for it...."
One of the greatest transportation changes of the nineteenth century, the railroad, came to the county in 1859. There had been a railroad between Glasgow and Dumfries since 1850. The first line that that was opened was the section between Dumfries and CastleDouglas in 1859. Soon after the railroad was extended from CastleDouglas to Portpatrick in Wigtownshire. A branch of the line was opened from CastleDouglas to Kirkcudbright in 1864. Articles appearing in county newspapers of 1909 marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Dumfries-Dalbeattie-Castle Douglas railway. The articles relate accounts of the impact the railway has had, how it was received by the people, and the celebration that took place in 1859.
The site, Museums and Galleries, provides a look at various aspects of Dumfries & Galloway over the centuries. The link, Local economy within the the section History of Dumfries records 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. One of the favourite crossing points which saved a detour of miles was from Dornock across the Solway and there is a pub on the English side at Monkhill near Burgh by Sands called the Drovers Rest. One of the places on the distance marker affixed to the Midsteeple is Huntingdon, in the last century one of the most important of the English cattle markets. Droving was killed off by development of steam shipping but meat export continued to be important."
Take a look at photographs of churches and churchyards in Dumfries and Galloway many of which are from Kirkcudbrightshire.
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 1617 to 1868 and beyond. The sasine registers to be aware of are the Particular Register for the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and Burgh register of Sasine for the towns of New Galloway and Kirkcudbright. 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 and may be purchased from them. Search the indexes first to determine if these records exist for your ancestor. (See Bibliography #5 and #6.)
History of the Land and their Owners in Galloway, by P.H. M'Kerlie, provides information about land and its owners in every parish from the dark ages into the nineteenth century. Many place names that are no longer on maps can be found in this work. The Buittle Section is online. (See Bibliography #4.)
There are militia records available for the county. They start in 1802 and continue into the 1820s. These records were created due to the Napoleonic wars. There are ballot and enrollment lists for various parishes in the county and miscellaneous papers. The ballot lists record men 18 to 45 years of age. The enrollment lists record those that joined the militia. A ballot list and a volunteer list for the parish of Urr can be found online. These records are held at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. The reference numbers are SC16/71/1-28
See "The Place Names of Galloway" by Sir Herbert Maxwell, published in 1930.
Castles of Kirkcudbright
The earliest newspaper that reported news and circulated in Kirkcudbrightshire was the Dumfries newspaper. The first Dumfries paper started in 1725. A personal name and subject index has been made of Dumfries newspapers from 1777 to 1925. The index covers the following papers; The Dumfries Weekly Journal, Dumfries Times, Dumfries Courier, and the Dumfries Standard. The index in book form is at Ewart Library and may be found in other libraries around the world. The newspapers on microfiche are at Ewart Library.
The Kirkcudbrightshire advertiser and Galloway News which circulated in the county started in 1858. It can be found on microfiche in local archives.
The Wigtown free press and Galloway advertiser which circulated in the county started in 1843. It can be found on microfiche in local archives.There is a personal name and subject index for this paper.
For a listing of newspapers and periodicals in Kirkcudbrightshire and Galloway refer to, The Waterloo directory of Scottish Newspapers and Periodicals.
The Society publishes a newsletter 3 times a year with interesting articles and information. There is also a section where you can place queries about your ancestors. Source material for the county and individual parishes can be found in the Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society's publication list. (See genealogy section for an online surname list.)
The statistical accounts are the result of a series of questions that were directed to the ministers of each parish. There are accounts for every parish in Kirkcudbrightshire. These reports provide a description of the social and economic life in the parishes and much more.
The Old Statistical Account was compiled in the 1790s. The New Statistical Account was compiled in the 1840s. The Statistical Accounts are online. Segments of the New Statisical Account have been used in the various parish pages. The New Statistical Account has been microfilmed and may be consulted in LDS Family History Centres around the world.
There is also a Third Statistical Account which was prepared in the 1940s
The Farm Horse Tax of 1797-98 records the names of over 1000 farmers in the county. There is a list for every parish in the county. It records the number of horses each farmer had and a specific place he lived in a parish. A horse tax list for the parish of Kirkgunzeon can be found online. These records are held at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. The reference number is E326/10/3.