Stranraer, Wigtownshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #899

This is a guide to the history and major genealogical records of Scotland as they pertain to the parish of Stranraer. To learn more about how to use these records to search for your ancestors, go to the Scotland: Research Strategies.

History[edit | edit source]

STRANRAER, a royal burgh, a sea-port, and parish, in the county of Wigton, 6¼ miles (N. E. by N.) from Portpatrick, and 50 (S. S. W.) from Ayr. This place, the name of which, of Gaelic origin, is supposed to be derived from its situation on a shore that is dry at low water, is of considerable antiquity, and was formerly the residence of the earls of Stair, whose ancient castle of Stranraer is still remaining. The parish, and the capital of the district of the Rhyns, is beautifully situated at the head of Loch Ryan. The old church, which contained 700 sittings, being condemned in 1833 as unsafe and incapable of repair, a temporary building of wood was erected by the minister for the use of the congregation; and the present church, which is a neat structure, was built in 1841. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, United Secession, Reformed Presbyterians, and the Relief; and a Roman Catholic chapel.[1]

The New Statistical Account of Scotland (pub. 1834-45) offers uniquely rich and detailed parish reports for the whole of Scotland, covering a vast range of topics including history, agriculture, education, trades, religion and social customs. The reports, written by the parish ministers, are available online at  Click on ‘Browse scanned pages’ then search the parish reports for Stranraer. Also available at the Family History Library.

Census Records[edit | edit source]

A census is a count and description of the population, taken by the government, arranged by locality and by household. The Scottish government began taking censuses of the population in 1801 but the first one that listed all members of a household was the 1841 census.  The census records are not available to the public until one hundred years have passed.  Read more about census records.

Click here[low quality link] to go to Family History Library Catalog entry for the census records of Stranraer.  The Family History Library also has a surname index for the 1841 census of Stranraer as well as a surname index for the 1881 census of the whole of Wigtonshire.  

The 1901 census of Scotland is indexed on  To use it, you must register and pay a small access fee. All available censuses, 1841-1901, are indexed on this website. It may be easier for you to pay to use the website rather than access indexes through the library.

Church Records[edit | edit source]

The Established Church of Scotland was Presbyterian. Read more about church records.  Here are the pre-1855 records that exist for this parish. 

Established Church—Old Parochial Registers[edit | edit source]

Years Covered Family History Library Film Number
Births: 1854 1820-1854 1068042 items 1-3
Marriages: 1820-1854 1068042 items 1-3
Condition of Original Registers[edit | edit source]

Index: For an index to these records, see Scotland’s People website, a pay-for-view website. The Scottish Church Records Index is also still available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Some records may be indexed on  
Births: Entries out of chronological order occasionally occur and a number of interpolated entries in the portion after 1846. Mothers’ names are seldom recorded before 1775.
Marriages: Proclamations and marriages are intermixed. There is only one entry after March 1851. A number of marriages of parishioners celebrated in Ireland are recorded.
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. British Book 941 K23b.

Established Church—Kirk Session Records[edit | edit source]

The Kirk session was the court of the parish. The session was made up of he minister and the land owners and business men of the parish, chosen to serve on the session. The Kirk session dealt with moral issues, minor criminal cases, matters of the poor and education, matters of discipline, and the general concerns of the parish. Kirk session records may also mention births, marriages, and deaths.

Here is a list of the surviving Kirk session records for this parish:

Minutes and Accounts 1695–1816, 1821–1833, 1838–1841, 1846–1872
Scroll Minutes 1806–1850
General and Committee Minutes of the Stranraer and Rhinns of Galloway Auxiliary National Bible Society of Scotland 1819–1850
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, records CH2/938 and 1112.

Nonconformist Church Records[edit | edit source]

A nonconformist church is any church that is not the Established church. Read more about nonconformity in Scotland in the article on the Scotland Church Records Union List. 

Ivy Place Associate Congregation[edit | edit source]

About the commencement of the Secession several persons were led to inquire into the secession principles and connected themselves with the Associate congregation of Wigtown. The distance between Stranraer and Wigtown did not admit of their attending ordinances regularly there. They therefore applied to the Presbytery to be disjoined from Wigtown and formed into a separate congregation with its seat in Stranraer. After long delay the church was granted by the Presbytery. The date of their organization has not been ascertained but they appear to have had elders ordained over them as early as 1754. They purchased a dwelling house and had it fitted up as a place of worship. A new church was built on Hanover Street in 1773, which was enlarged in 1800. This church was rebuilt in 1841.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details may be given in the source

Minutes and Accounts 1759–1772, 1774–1798, 1803–1898
Collections and Distributions 1803–1810
Cash Book 1812–1831
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/549.

Bridge Street Relief Church, extinct[edit | edit source]

The Rev. Dr. Symington was minister in that connection in Stranraer before his translation to Glasgow. While there he excited a strong desire for evangelical preaching among a number of persons in the place. The terms of communion insisted upon by him, were considered to be such that, though they attended his ministry with the highest satisfaction, they could not consistently join with him in church fellowship. This circumstance along with dissatisfaction towards the minister of the Establishment, led them to inquire into the principles of other denominations; and at a public meeting held for the purpose they found they could unite in an application to the Relief Presbytery of Glasgow for supply of sermon which was successfully done in 1818. They built a place of worship in 1821. After the resignation of Mr. Matthews in 1868, the congregation united with Bellevilla under the name of the West Church.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details may be given in the source

The extent of records is unknown.

West Church Associate Congregation[edit | edit source]

The Rev. Mr. Drysdale, second minister of the Secession congregation, Ivy Place, Stranraer, entered keenly into the controversy raised by the Rev. Mr. Smyton of Kilmaurs, respecting the necessity of lifting the bread and cup in the dispensation of the Lord's Supper, before which is usually called, the consecration prayer. He at first supported Mr. Symton in the issue but afterwards deserted him. This vacillation gave great offence to the portion of the congregation that had adopted his previous views. They withdrew from his ministry and connected themselves as a congregation with a Presbytery formed by Mr. Smyton and some other ministers, who had ceased belonging to the General Associate Anti-burgher Synod. This Presbytery soon broke up as did also the congregation in Stranraer that was connected with them and had all the time of its existence in this relation without a pastor. A few of the members returned to the congregation from which they had separated; a few joined the Cameronians, and the remainder applied for and obtained supply of sermon from the Associate Burgher of Kilmarnock, 1797. A church was built the same year.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details may be given in the source.

Missionary Minutes 1836–1855
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/736.

Stranraer Free Church[edit | edit source]

This congregation was formed at the Disruption, three elders and a large number of members adhering to the Free Church. They met for worship in various places until the church was built in 1844. A school, built in 1850, was transferred to the Stranraer School Board in 1872.
Membership: 1848; 300, 1900; 243.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols. pub. 1914. Film #918572. More details may be given in the source

Extent of records is unknown.

Sheuchan Free Church[edit | edit source]

Robert Donald, the minister, and the whole congregation of Sheuchan Church extension charge, except one member, came out in 1843. Deprived of the building by legal proceedings at the close of 1844, they worshiped in a neighboring mill until their own church was erected.
Membership: 1848, 150; 1800, 321.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols. pub. 1914. Film #918572. More details may be given in the source

Minutes 1842–1907
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/921.

Cairnryan Free Church
[edit | edit source]

The congregation was started here as an extension charge before the Disruption and was worked along with Inch. In 1844 it was sanctioned as a separate charge. The only site obtainable was the garden of some houses leased by a local supporter of the Free Church. There the church was built, and opened in 1845. The manse was erected in 1856. The congregation suffered from rural depopulation.
Membership: 1848, 80; 1900, 41.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols. pub. 1914. Film #918572. More details may be given in the source.)

Extent of records is unknown.

Stranraer Catholic Church[edit | edit source]

The congregation was formed in 1838 but served from Newton Stewart until 1846. The church was consecrated to St. Joseph in 1846.

Register of Baptisms 1846–1908
Register of Marriages 1846–1971
Note: Available online for a fee, at, Edinburgh, record RH21/61.

See Penninghame parish for earlier records.

Civil Registration Records[edit | edit source]

Government or civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths (also called statutory records) began on January 1, 1855 in Scotland. Each parish has a registrar's office and large cities have several. The records are created by the registrars and copies are sent to the General Register Office in Edinburgh. Annual indexes are then created for the records for the whole country.

See the article on Scotland Civil Registration for more information and to access the records.

Probate Records[edit | edit source]

Stranraer was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Wigtown until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Wigtown. Probate records for 1513- 1901 are indexed online at 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 records of the Commissariat of Wigtown.

The library also has some post-1823 probate records for Wigtown. Look in the library catalog for the 'Place' of Wigtown and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'

Read more about Scotland Probate Records.

[edit | edit source]

  1. Lewis, Samuel A., A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 500-519. Adapted. Date accessed: 07 March 2014.

Return to the Wigtownshire parish list.