Description of the parish in 1846

"KIRKCOWAN, a parish, in the county of Wigtown; containing, with the hamlet of Kiltersan, 1423 inhabitants, of whom 607 are in the village of Kirkowan, 6 miles (S. W. by W.) from Newton Stewart. ..
The parish is bounded on the east by the river Bladnoch, and on the west by the river Tarf; it is about fifteen miles in length, and varies from less than two miles to nearly seven in breadth, comprising 30,580 acres, of which 7000 are arable, 300 woodland and plantations, and the remainder meadow, pasture, and waste. ..
The hills afford good pasturage for sheep, of which more than 10,000 are reared, principally of the black-faced breed; they are much prized for the fineness of their wool, about 1200 stone being annually sold, producing an income of £900. The cattle are all of the pure Galloway breed, and are usually disposed of when two years old to dealers from Dumfries, whence they are sent southwards, and, after a year's pasture in England, forwarded to the London market, where they are in great estimation. ..
The village is on the road to Wigtown, and near the river Tarf, on which a mill was erected in 1822, for the manufacture of woollen cloths, affording employment to about seventy persons; the articles made are, blankets, plaidings, flannels, and plain and pilot cloths, for the dyeing and dressing of which the water of the Tarf, from its peculiar softness is well adapted. A post-office has been established under that of Newton Stewart. Facility of communication is maintained by the roads to Wigtown and Portpatrick. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Wigtown and synod of Galloway. The minister's stipend is £292. 11. 8., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £6 per annum; patrons, the Agnew family. The church, erected in 1829, is a neat substantial structure with a tower, and is conveniently situated in the village. A congregation of Seceders assembles for public worship in an old barn which has been fitted up for the purpose. The parochial school is well conducted; the master has a salary of £25. 13., with a house and garden, and the fees average about £30 per annum." - edited from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, Samuel Lewis, 1846.


Archives & Libraries

The ScotlandsPlaces website lets users search across national databases by geographical location. It includes, amongst other material,

  • catalogue entries for maps and plans held by the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh; some maps and plans can be viewed
  • photos and details of historical buildings and archaeological sites recorded by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh
  • 17th and 18th century tax rolls
  • an opportunity to transcribe thousands of historic documents

Business & Commerce Records

The Kirkcowan Waulk Mill, a woollen mill, was a good example of the sort of mill constructed in south-west Scotland in the late 18th century onwards. It was first built by the Tarff Water in 1814 by Robert Milroy, who had had some textile experience already. The mill was later taken over by his son, Robert, who (in partnership with his brothers, who were merchants) built a larger mill on the site of the original one. That Robert's sons, William Milroy (d 1860) and Thomas Milroy, enlarged it in 1835, and were employing 39 people by 1839. At that stage, its manufactures were said to be 'blankets, plain and pilot cloths, plaidings and flannels'. Further additions were made later in the 19th century, and tweed weaving sheds were added 1910-1917. The Waulk Mill closed c1950.

At the Ewart Library, Dumfries:

  • EGD/108
    W & T Milroy, Kirkcowan
    Recipe and sample book including notes on dyeing, undated; Customer books, 1823-1842; Waste book, journal and ledger book, 1855; Copy power of attorney, 1871; Account books, 1802-1904.

At the Ewart Library, Dumfries:

  • GD1
    Kirkcowan Waulkmills Pattern Books
    Tweed pattern books, including sample cloths, 1891-1909; Work book, 1902-1904; Piece books, including sample cloths, 1911-1921; Cloth weaving orders, 1921-1927; Spinner's pattern books, including sample cloths, 1929-1949.


Kirkcowan Churchyard, which surrounds the original Kirkcowan Kirk, in Kirkcowan village (grid reference NX 329605, GPS: 54.911637, -4.607708):

  • Monumental Inscriptions were recorded by J E Birchman in the 1980s. They have been published by the Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society. Copies are in local libraries and at the Ewart Library, Dumfries.
  • Some memorial inscriptions at the churchyard have been transcribed at rootsweb.
  • The graveyard is administered by Local Services, Culhorn Depot, Commerce Road, Stranraer, DG9 7DE. Tel: 03033 333000
  • A listed building.


Parish / district reference number for 1841 - 1901 censuses: 888

The 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871 returns can be searched on the FreeCEN website.

There is a transcript of the 1851 census on the Maxwell Ancestry site.

There is an online index to the 1851 census created by the Friends of the Archives of Dumfries and Galloway.

Some census records on microfilm may be consulted in LDS Family Search Centres around the world.

LDS Library Film Numbers:

  1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891
Kirkcowan 1042846 1042555 103921 104112 224060 220460
(Data provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)

Further information on the main GENUKI Wigtownshire page.



Presbyterian / Unitarian
Kirkcowan, Kirkcowan, Church of Scotland

Church History

In addition to the parish church at Kirkcowan, there was a United Secession Church, later United Presbyterian and United Free.

A list of all persons over 12 years of age, collected under instructions to the Episcopalian Curates of Galloway and Dumfriesshire, was published as Parish lists of Wigtownshire and Minnigaff, 1684. It is available at the Open Library.

The Old Statistical Account (written in the 1790s) gives no information about Dissenters.

The New Statistical Account (written in 1838) gives this information:

  • Families attending the Established Church - 263; families connected with the Secession and Relief - 21; families connected with the Reformed Presbytery - 7; Roman Catholic families - 7.

The1865 Ecclesiastical Directory lists the parish church and the United Presbyterian Church.

Details of church history:

  • Kirkcowan Parish Church
The church of Kirkcowan, also previously know as Kirkcoan, was dedicated to St Coan and prior to the reformation belonged to the Chapel Royal of Stirling. Ministry is recorded here from 1564 in the person of John McGhie. There have previously been two charges in existence in Kirkcowan, Kirkcowan St Conan's and Kirkcowan Dawson Memorial; the two were united in 1954 and the parish remained under the name of Kirkcowan. The parish of Wigtown was linked with Kirkcowan in 1982. Kirkcowan originally sat in the Presbytery of Wigtown until by Act of Assembly XXI, 1963, the Presbytery of Wigtown and the Presbytery of Stranraer were united to form the Presbytery of Wigtown and Stranraer. The present church was built in 1834.
  • Kirkcowan United Secession Church, later United Presbyterian, United Free and Church of Scotland Dawson Memorial
Kirkcowan United Secession Church originated with a group who appear in the records of the Secession as early as the 1740s, but no separate congregation was formed. In 1836 the Secession Presbytery of Wigtown agreed to send preachers to Kirkcowan and the first minister was inducted in 1844. The charge then passed successively to the United Presbyterian and United Free Churches. The UF charge was named Kirkcowan, but known as Dawson Memorial, and passed with that name to the Church of Scotland. The Church of Scotland charge, which was in the presbytery of Wigtown and the synod of Ayr, united with Kirkcowan St Conan's in 1954 as Kirkcowan.

Church Records

Data provided by the  Scottish Archive Network (SCAN)

The Parish Church (Established Church, Church of Scotland):

The original Old Parish Registers (of baptisms / births, proclamations / marriages, and deaths / burials) of the Church of Scotland, which cover the years up to 1854, are held in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh, and they can all be consulted there at the National Records of Scotland.

Parish reference number: 888

The Old Parish Registers (OPRs) span the following dates (although there are gaps within these ranges):

Kirkcowan OPR Births / baptisms Proclamations / marriages Deaths / burials / mortcloths
888/1 1788-1819 - -
888/2 1820-1854 1832-1854 -
(Data supplied by National Records of Scotland)

The Detailed List of the Old Parochial Registers of Scotland, published 1872, provides this information about the content of the OPRs, including the gaps within them:

B.  Only 2 entries prior to Jan. 1792. Record tabulated.
M.  It would appear that the early Session Books of this Parish were destroyed by fire. There does not seem to be a record of Marriages extant of a date prior to 1832.

The baptisms / births, proclamations / marriages and deaths / burials indexes can be searched at the ScotlandsPeople website. Copies of the register entries may be purchased.

Copies of the registers on microfilm may be consulted in some local libraries and at LDS Family Search Centres around the world. The indexes to baptisms / births and proclamations / marriages can also be searched on the LDS Family Search website or on the IGI on microfiche in local libraries.

LDS Library Film Numbers:

1068037 Items 3 - 4 Baptisms, 1788-1854; Marriages, 1822-1854.
(Data provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)

Further information on the main GENUKI Wigtownshire page.

Kirk Session records are held at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Heritors' Records (HR343) are at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh.

At the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh:

  • CH2/226
    Kirkcowan Kirk Session
    Minutes, 1719-1727 and 1826-1900; Cash book, 1892-1920; Baptismal register, 1855-1882; Proclamation register, 1889-1967; Communion roll, 1849-1852, 1870-1882 and 1886-1903.
  • HR343
    Kirkcowan parish heritors' records
    Minutes, 1902-1928; Accounts, 1924-1928.

Other Churches:

Records of other churches are at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh.

At the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh:

  • CH3/871
    Kirkcowan United Secession Church, later United Presbyterian, United Free and Church of Scotland Dawson Memorial
    Minutes, 1840-1858, 1861-1935; Congregational managers' minutes, 1861-1936; Cash book, 1889-1925; Seat rent accounts, 1908-1924; Notebook kept by Rev. Thomas Smail containing: minutes, 1838-1841, baptisms, 1838-1842, marriages, 1839-1842, deaths, 1844-1854, list of members, 1838-1844.

The Kirkcowan page of the LDS Family Search Research Wiki has more information about church history and records.


Civil Registration

Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths began in Scotland on 1st January 1855. Full information on the main GENUKI Wigtownshire page.

Registration districts covering this parish:

Registration district number start date end date
Kirkcowan 888 1855 1966
Newton Stewart 895 1967 1971
Newton Stewart 872 1972 2004
Dumfries & Galloway, Newton Stewart 872 2005  

Registration districts did not necessarily coincide exactly with parishes.


Description & Travel

Kirkcowan village Ordnance Survey Grid Reference GPS Post code Lat. 54°54'50"N
NX 328607 54.913864
DG8 0HQ Lon. 4°36'30"W  

A very informative local website is Kirkcowan.info.

Surrounding parishes: New Luce, Old Luce, Mochrum, Kirkinner, Penninghame, Wigtown (not joining, but very close), and Colmonell (in Ayrshire).

You can see pictures of Kirkcowan which are provided by:



The parish entry in Pigot's National Commercial Directory for the whole of Scotland, 1837, is online at Google Books.



Several old gazetteers are available. They all contain descriptions of the parish and many are also worth searching for entries of places within the parish.

  • David Webster's Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, published 1819, online at Google Books.
  • Samuel Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, published 1846, online at British History Online.
  • Frances Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4) and John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles (1887) are on A Vision of Britain (click on "Historical places and writing").
  • Frances Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland(1892-6) on Electric Scotland

Historical Geography

A Vision of Britain provides historical descriptions, population & housing statistics, historic boundaries and maps.


Land & Property

Details of historic buildings and archaeological sites in this parish held by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh, are catalogued at ScotlandsPlaces. In the results, click RCAHMS. Unfortunately, not all entries have digital images.

Listed buildings in Kirkcowan.

Valuation Rolls, from 1855, are held in Edinburgh. Valuation Office field books and plans (for the Valuation Office survey of 1911-1915) are also held in Edinburgh. A few valuation rolls are held locally. Kirkcowan records:

At the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh:

  • VR123
    Valuation Rolls: County of Wigtown
    1855-1975; the rolls for 1855, 1865, 1875, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1920, 1925 and 1930 are online at the ScotlandsPeople website.
  • IRS87/9-12
    Valuation Office (Scotland): Field Book, 1910-1920: Kirkcowan Parish
    Entries 1-100, 101-200, 201-300, 301-333.
  • IRS133
    Valuation Office (Scotland) maps to accompany the above field books, scale 1/2500, Ordnance Survey sheets for Wigtownshire.

At the Ewart Library, Dumfries:

  • EW4
    Wigtownshire County Council: County Treasurer's Department
    Valuation rolls, 1891-1975; Assessment rolls, 1890-1897, 1950-1960.

Estate Papers

At the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh:

Some estate papers can be found by searching the National Records of Scotland of Scotland catalogue for "Kirkcowan" and reference starts "GD". Collections particularly worth searching are:

  • GD27
    Papers of Kennedy of Dalquharran
  • GD135
    Papers of the Dalrymple Family, Earls of Stair
  • GD138
    Papers of the Stewart family, Earls of Galloway (Galloway Charters)
  • GD154
    Papers of the Agnew Family of Lochnaw, Wigtownshire


You can see maps centred on OS grid reference NX291652 (Lat/Lon: 54.952289, -4.670812), Kirkcowan which are provided by:


Names, Geographical

The Ordnance Survey Object Name Books are held by the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh. Kirkcowan records:

At the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh:

  • RH4/23/228, RH4/23/229, RH4/23/230, RH4/23/232 and RH4/23/233
    Ordnance Survey Original Object Name Books for Scotland: Wigtownshire
    Parishes of New Luce and Kirkcowan (book 6); New Luce and Kirkcowan (book 8); Kirkcowan (book 9); Kirkcowan and Penninghame (book 10); Kirkcowan (book 11); Kirkcowan and Penninghame (book 12); Kirkcowan and New Luce (book 25); Kirkcowan (book 26); Kirkcowan, New Luce and Old Luce (book 27); Kirkcowan (book 28); Kirkcowan and Penninghame (book 29); Kirkcowan and Penninghame (book 31); Old Luce and Kirkcowan (books 43 and 44); Old Luce, Kirkcowan and Mochrum (book 46); Kirkcowan and Penninghame (book 47); Kirkinner, Kirkcowan, Mochrum, Wigtown and Penninghame (book 49)

Poor Houses, Poor Law

The relief of paupers after 1845 was carried out by the Parochial Board and later by the Parish Council. Their records are at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh. See Public Records below.



Year Population
1755 795
1801 787
1851 1541
1901 1153
1951 869

There is a page with census statistics from 1755 to 1951 here.

See also A Vision of Britain and Histpop for population statistics.


Probate Records

Probate records are 'Confirmations' in Scotland.

Prior to 1824, wills, testaments & inventories of residents of Kirkcowan may be found in either the Wigtown Commissariot (CC22) or the Edinburgh Commissariot (CC8) records. From 1824, commissary business has been conducted by the Sheriff Court of Wigtown (SC19).

Sources worth searching for deeds include Wigtown Sheriff Court.


Public Records

Parochial Boards and their successors, Parish Councils, administered many local functions including poor relief.

At the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh:

  • CO4/34
    Kirkcowan Parish Records
    Parochial Board Memorandum Minute Book, 1852-1855, 1855-1859; Parochial Board Minute Books, 1854-1913; Parochial Board General Register of the Poor, 1845-1900; Parish Council Minute Books, 1913-1930; Parish Council General Register of the Poor, 1900-1922, 1923-1930.


School Board records and / or school logbooks are held at the Ewart Library, Dumfries. Kirkcowan records:

At the Ewart Library, Dumfries:

  • EW5/11/1-3
    Kirkcowan School Board
    Minutes, 1873-1882, 1891-1903, 1910-1916.
  • EW5/11/4-5
    Kirkcowan School Management Committee
    Minutes, 1925-1947. (Closed)
  • EW5/50
    Kirkcowan School
    Log book, undated. (Closed until 1/01/2046)
    Kirkcowan Primary School: This was in existence by 1858. The master doubled as registrar and it was originally a parish school. It was downgraded to primary school status in 1956.
  • EW5/25
    Darnow School
    Log books, 1873-1945. (Access restricted)

The Ordnance Gazetteer for Scotland lists the following public schools in the parish (1893):

School Accommodation for scholars Average attendance
Darnow 35 20
Kirkcowan 239 183

Social Life & Customs

At the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh:

  • GD1/786
    Kirkcowan Curling Society, later Kirkcowan Curling Club
    Minutes, 1843-1948, prefaced by notes on the practice of curling in the parish since prior to 1804 and the progress of the society since its formation in 1835-36.


"Statistical accounts" giving fascinating insights into the local topography and history, social and economic conditions, and even the daily lives of people, were written by the parish ministers in the 1790s and the 1830s. For more information see the main GENUKI Wigtownshire page.



The parish listing of the farm horse tax, 1797-98, the female servants tax, 1785-92, and the Male Servants Tax, 1777-98, can be seen at ScotlandsPlaces.

For details of other early taxation records see the Early Taxation Records page.