Whithorn, Wigtownshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Parish #900

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

History[edit | edit source]

WHITHORN, a royal burgh and a parish, in the county of Wigton, 11 miles (S.) from Wigton, and 97½ (S. by W.) from Glasgow containing the village of Isle of Whithorn. This place, which occupies the south-eastern extremity of the county, is of remote antiquity. The parish is bounded on the south by the Irish Channel, and on the east by the bay of Wigton. The church, erected on part of the site of the priory in 1822, is a substantial and neat structure containing 800 sittings: in the churchyard are the only remains of the priory and cathedral, conveying but a faint idea of the ancient grandeur of the buildings. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, the Secession Synod, and Reformed Presbyterians, 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 http://edina.ac.uk/stat-acc-scot/.  Click on ‘Browse scanned pages’ then search the parish reports for Whithorn. 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 lists members of a household by name is the 1841.  Census records are not available to the public until one hundred years have passed.  Read more about census records.

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

The 1901 census of Scotland is indexed on www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk.  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: 1763-1854 1068042 items 4-5
Marriages: 1796-1854 1068042items 4-5
Deaths: No entries
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 also be indexed in other FamilySearch collections for Scotland.
The regular record does not begin until May 1796. Prefixed to this are four pages containing ninety-six irregular entries dated between 1763 and 1844. On page 112 are thirty-three irregular entries 1789–1819.
Marriages: One entry for 1788 is recorded after August 1811.
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 1712–1722, 1866–1915
Poors’ Accounts and Minutes 1811–1843
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH2/402.

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. 

Whithorn Free Church[edit | edit source]

This congregation was formed on July 17, 1843. Whithorn and Isle of Whithorn were sanctioned as separate charges, with their own sessions under one minister. A church was erected in 1844. The use of the Reformed Presbyterian Church was kindly granted for worship on Sabbath afternoons while the church was being built. A hall was built in 1896, and called the Anderson Memorial Hall, in memory of the first minister. In 1876 a minister was settled in Isle of Whithorn. The congregation suffered through decline of the agricultural population.
Membership: 1848, 145; 1900, 124.
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 1843–1913
Communion Roll 1843–1914
Baptismal Register 1843–1921
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/801.

Isle of Whithorn Free Church[edit | edit source]

This congregation was at first united with Whithorn under one minister with separate sessions. The congregation worshiped for a time in a wooden shed. The local proprietor refused a site for a church, but the Town Council granted one on the shore, where the church was built in 1844. The church was renovated in 1856 and again in 1890. Decline of the shipping trade through extension of the railway to Whithorn reduced the population.
Membership: 1848, 125; 1900, 121.
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.

Whithorn Associate Congregation Church[edit | edit source]

Four members of the Associate Congregation of Wigtown, resident in Whithorn, tendered a request to Mr. Ogilvie, their minister in 1790, to preach in their locality. A field on the farm of Craig was procured as a place of meeting. In 1791 the tent belonging to the congregation was obtained. In 1792 the four laymen presented a petition to the General Associate Anti-burgher Presbytery of Dumfries for regular supply of sermon, which was granted. Church built 1793.
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.

FHL Film Number
Baptisms 1795–1885 0889475
Marriages 1795–1895 0889475
Session Minutes 1795–1810, 1835–1840, 1848–1850
Communion Roll 1835–1843
Baptisms 1852–1912
Seat Rent Accounts 1821–1912
Note: Available at the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, record CH3/308.

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]

Whithorn 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 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-names' 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-names' of Wigtown and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'

Read more about Scotland Probate Records.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Lewis, Samuel A., A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 588-608. Adapted. Date accessed: 07 March 2014.

Return to the Wigtownshire parish list.