Wanlockhead, Dumfriesshire, Scotland Genealogy

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Scotland Gotoarrow.png Dumfriesshire, Scotland Gotoarrow.png Wanlockhead

Parish #853b

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


WANLOCKHEAD, a mining-village, in the parish of Sanquhar, county of Dumfries, 6 miles (E. N. E.) from Sanquhar. This place is situated at the eastern extremity of the county, bordering on Lanarkshire, and upon the small river Wanlock, from which it takes its name. A church, or preaching-station, in connexion with the Established Church, is maintained for the accommodation of the inhabitants. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship.[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 Sanquhar.  Also available at the Family History Library.  See Vison of Britain online


Wanlockhead Cemetery Gravestone Inscriptions

In the 1980's the Nithsdale District Council sponsored a Manpower Services Commission project recording the inscriptions on gravestones in the old Wanlockhead cemetery.  Gravestones in a newer cemetery near the site of the Free Church were not included:  See book: Families of Wanlockhead FamilySearch Catalog

Census Records

A census is a count and description of the population, taken by the government, arranged by locality and by household. Read more about Scotland Census Records.

Click here for a list of the Family History Library microfilm numbers for Wanlockhead FamilySearch Catalog

Below is information for any known surname indexes: 

Years Surname Index         
1841 941.48/W2 x22d 1841
1841 941.48/W2 D2n
1851 941.48/W2 D2n
1861 941.48/W2 D2n
1871 941.48/W2 D2n
1881 941.48/W2 D2n
1891 941.48/W2 D2n

The 1901 and 1911 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, 1841-1911, 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

The Established Church of Scotland was Presbyterian. Read more about Scotland Church Records.

Here are the pre-1855 records that exist for this parish.

Established Church—Old Parochial Registers

This is for the Parish of Sanquhar

Years Covered FHL Film Number
Births: 1693-1854 1067971
Marriages: 1718-1854 1067971
Deaths: 1768-1777 1067971
Condition of Original Registers

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 in the International Genealogical Index. 
Births: Irregular entries for 1775–1804 are on two pages after December 1762. There are only two entries December 1762–April 1765. From 1781–1785, and 1799–1802, entries are extremely irregular.
Marriages: Chiefly proclamations with no entries except two 1786–1807, December 1777–July 1812. There are six entries 1816–1823 on the page at December 1777.
Deaths: Nine entries of burials for 1768 and one for 1777.
Source: Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland, by V. Ben Bloxham, pub. 1970. British Book 941 K23b.

Established Church—Kirk Session Records

The Kirk session was the court of the parish. The session was made up of the 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 from the National Archives of Scotland:

No known pre–1855 records.

CH2/1319 Records of Wanlockhead Kirk Session 1861-1977 nas.gov.uk catalog

CH2/1318 Records of Leadhills Kirk Session (quoad sacra) 1882-1937 nas.gov.uk catalog

CH2/1269 Records of Sanquhar, St Bride's, Kirk Session 1876-1969 nas.gov.uk

Sanquhar Kirkyard -- Monumental Inscriptions

Tom Wilson recorded and annotated the Sanquhar Kirkyard monumental inscriptions in a 1912 book (Publisher: Robert G. Mann, Dumfries and J.M. Laing, Sanquhar.) This book is online as a set of webpages:

Text:  http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cdobie/sanquhar.htm

Photos:  http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cdobie/sanquhar-photos.htm

Also in book form at The Family History Library 941.48/S1 V3wt

Nonconformist Church Records

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 Lists.

Sanquhar South United Presbyterian Church

The Rev. John Hepburn, incumbent of the parish of Urr, was one of very few clergymen who in his time, early 1700s preached Evangelical doctrine in the south of Scotland. He kept alive the cause, then in danger of dying out in Galloway, Dumfries, and Ayr, to which he chiefly confined his ministerial visits. After Mr. Hepburn's death, a number of his adherents joined the Old Dissenters, but most of them abstained from any ecclesiastical connection until the rise of the Secession, ten years afterwards, when they formally acceded to the Associate Presbytery. They were joined with the other Seceders in the district and recognized by their previous designation of "The Societies of the South and West," which comprehended associations in Ayrshire, Nithsdale, Annandale, and Galloway. The principal preaching stations were in Kirkconnel, a village 4 miles north–west, Wanlockhead, 8 1/2 north–east, and Closeburn, 14 1/2 miles south–east of Sanquhar. When a site for a place of worship came to be chosen, the town of Sanquhar was preferred, but supply of sermon continued to be given at the other places also, which ultimately led to the formation of the congregation of Moniaive and Thornhill. First church built, 1742, second built in 1841. The agitation respecting the Burgess Oath commenced while the congregation of Sanquhar was in a state of vacancy, and when the Breach took place in the Secession 1747, they almost unanimously adhered to the General Associate Anti-burgher Synod. In 1835 there were 164 persons attending Secession chapels in the parish. This would include a few Baptists.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details are given in the source.

The extent of records is unknown.

Sanquhar North United Presbyterian Church

This congregation was formed by persons connected with the Associate Burgher Synod, who had come to reside in the district. Supply of sermon was afforded them, upon petition, by the Presbytery of Annan and Carlisle, 1815. Church built, 1818; enlarged, 1830.
Source: Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church, by Rev. William MacKelvie, D.D., pub. 1873. Film #477618. More details are given in the source.

The extent of records is unknown.

Sanquhar Free Church

In the movement that led to the Disruption, the minister of Sanquhar adhered to the protesting party; but he did not "come out" in 1843. There was, however, a large exodus of his people, who formed the Free Church congregation. Persecution and difficulties of various kinds had to be faced; but before the end of 1844 the church was built. The closing of Crawick Carpet Mills greatly reduced the number of members. The top of the old cross of Sanquhar (1680), where the famous declarations were read, one by Richard Cameron on June 22, 1680 (founder of the Reformed Church), the other by James Renwick on May 29, 1685, was placed on the apex of the roof of the church porch.
Membership: 1848, 440; 1900, 203.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols. pub. 1914. Film #918572. More details are given in the source.

The extent of records is unknown.

Wanlockhead Free Church

Thomas Hastings, minister of Wanlockhead, and a large proportion of his congregation, "came" in 1843. For ten years the Duke of Buccleuch absolutely refused a site. The minister's family was compelled to live for eight years in Dumfries, 30 miles distant. In this, the highest inhabited district in Scotland, the people worshiped in the open, and often under a storm swept sky, or in the scattered cottages. At length, in 1853, church and manse were built. Until 1897 the charge appears in the Blue Book as Wanlockhead and Leadhills.
Membership: 1848, 230; 1900, 169.
Source: Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843–1900, ed. Rev. William Ewing, D.D., 2 vols pub. 1914. Film #918572. More details are given in the source.

The extent of records is unknown.

1843 Wanlockhead Free Church Communion Roll

1853 Wanlockhead Free Church Communion Roll
1863 (October 6th) Wanlockhead Free Church Communion Roll
1883 (March 10th) Wanlockhead Free Church Communion Roll
1893 (March 25th) Wanlockhead Free Church Communion Roll
These Communion Rolls are in the book: Families of Wanlockhead 941.48/W2 D2n

CH2/1410 Records of Wanlockhead, Hastings Memorial Church (formerly Free church) 1932 National Archives of Scotland Catalog

Sanquhar Baptist Church

An Independent movement began in the parish about 1805, influenced by the teachings of the Haldane brothers. When they converted to Baptist views, so did most of the members of the Sanquhar Church in 1809. The cause soon died out but was revived by 1830 and a chapel was built. The congregation at first thrived under its first minister who was with them until about 1860, then the membership slowly dropped until the meetings were ended and the chapel was sold about 1890. There is a Baptist church in Sanquhar today, but its beginnings were Presbyterian and it did not become Baptist until the 1980s.
Source: The Baptists in Scotland, by D.W. Bebbington, pub. 1988. FHL book 941 K2bs.

The extent of records is unknown. Write to:
The Baptist Union of Scotland, 12 Aytoun Road, Glasgow G41 5RT, Scotland

Leadhills Free Church

CH3/1309 Leadhills Free church, South United Free and C. of S., united with Leadhills, North, in 1937 1882-1954 National Archives of Scotland Catalog

Civil Registration Records

Government or civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths (also called statutory records) began on January 1, 1855 in Scotland. Online indexes and certificates available 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.

The book: Families of Wanlockhead has a listing of all the births,marriages, and deaths 1855-1891. FamilySearch Catalog The Family History Library also has a copy of all the births, marriages and death certificates 1855-1875,1881, and 1891. Civil Registration of Scotland

Probate Records

Wanlockhead was under the probate jurisdiction of the Commissary Court of Dumfries until 1823, and since then has been under the Sheriff's Court of Dumfries.  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 Dumfries and the subject of 'Probate records.' Then click on the link to the records of the Commissariat of Dumfries.  Another source for Probate Records for Scotland is in the Principal Probate Registry 1858-present.  The index covers 1861-1941 and has some Scotland probate and is at ancestry.co.uk which covers both wills and administrations proved
The Family History Library also has some post-1823 probate records for Dumfries.  Look in the library catalog for the 'Place-names' of Dumfries and the subjects of 'Probate Records' and 'Probate Records - Indexes.'

Read more about Scotland Probate Records.


  1. Lewis, Samuel A., A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 588-608. Adapted. Date accessed: 21 March 2014.

Return to the Dumfriesshire parish list.