Westerkirk, Dumfriesshire, Scotland Genealogy
This is a guide to the history and major genealogical records of Scotland as they pertain to the parish of Westerkirk. To learn more about how to use these records to search for your ancestors, go to the Scotland: Research Strategies.
WESTERKIRK, a parish, in the county of Dumfries, 6 miles (N. W.) from Langholm. This place is by some writers supposed to have derived its name, originally Wester Ker or Wester Caer, from its situation to the west of an ancient fortress on the river Megget, near its influx into the Esk; and by others, from its relative position to other churches in Eskdale, of which district a portion was once included within the limits of this parish. The parish is bounded on the south for nearly two miles by the river Black Esk. The church, erected in 1778, is a neat plain structure, situated nearly in the centre of the parish; it is in good repair, and contains 700 sittings.
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 edina.($) Click on ‘Browse scanned pages’ then search the parish reports for Westerkirk. Also available at the Family History Library.
A census is a count and description of the population, taken by the government, arranged by locality and by household. Read more about Scotland Census Records.
Click here for a list of the Family History Library microfilm numbers for the census records of Westerkirk.
Below is information for any known surname indexes:
|1841||941.48/W3 X22 1841|
|1851||941.48/W3 X2m 1851|
|1881||6086550 ( 3 fiche)|
The 1901 census of Scotland is indexed on scotlandspeople.($) 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.
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
|Years Covered||FHL Film Number|
|Births:||1693-1854||1067972 item 3-5|
|Marriages:||1693-1853||1067972 item 3-5|
|Deaths||See Kirk Session below|
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 also be indexed in other FamilySearch collections for Scotland.
Births: There are no entries December 1723–January 1728. The portion prior to 1731 is an old copy, which is continued until 1746. The original from 1731 is extant. Mother's names are not recorded.
Marriages: The record prior to 1724 is an old copy continued until 1746. Original is from 1724 and extant. There is only three entries July 1775–January 1782 and one for November 1796–February 1799.
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:
Record Type FHL Call Number
Mortcloth Dues 1706-1822 Book 941.48/W3 K2m
Irregular marriages 1768-1824 Same
Burials 1805–1854 Same
Cash book 1693–1719, 1768–1931
Minutes 1693–1739, 1749–1799
Note: Available at the Scottish National Archives, Edinburgh, record CH2/368.
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.
No known nonconformist churches. In 1835, there were within Westerkirk parish 14 Burghers who attended a chapel in Langholm and two Cameronians, Reformed Church, who occasionally attended at Ettrick.
Civil Registration Records
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.
Westerkirk 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 scotlandspeople.($) 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.
The 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.
- Lewis, Samuel A., A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846), pp. 588-608. Adapted. Date accessed: 21 March 2014.
Return to the Dumfriesshire parish list.