Have You Checked Out The Statistical Accounts of Scotland (1791-1845) Yet?

This is a great resource to find out more about the places in Scotland where your ancestors lived. Chris Paton referred to this database a lot during his Scottish workshop in Toronto in June. When you first go into the website it asks you to sign in but further down non subscribers can browse the scanned pages. Subscribers get some extra features but this way you can check out the website for yourself and decide if you want to subscribe to get those additional features.

The browse scanned pages search page gives you several options. You can search by the place name in the parish or county reports, choose from the county lists, or choose from an A-Z list. Remember when reading these documents that sometimes the letter s may look like the letter f and a double s might look like ff.

My Rankin’s were bakers in Largs so I searched by that town name under parish reports. I get two choices from the Account of 1791-99 and one from 1834-45. All the options were descriptions of the parish of Largs. In the Account of 1791-99 the first entry is by Rev. Mr. Gilbert Lang and the second “By a Friend to Statistical Inquiries.” In the Account from 1834-45 the entry is by The Rev. John Down, Minister. Each description carries slightly different topics. The descriptions of the land and community are really interesting.

In Rev. Down’s entry is a heading entitled “Climate and Diseases” which a notation says “This department has been furnished by Dr. John Campbell, Largs.” Here I learn that in 1828 there was an epidemic of dysentery and in 1836 and 1837 an epidemic of erysipelas. Cholera showed up in 1832 and it is said that in two of the houses it was brought from Glasgow. They also say that they have typhus fever occasionally but it is mostly “confined to the poorer and worst lodged part of our population.” The parish says that “wonderful longevity exists at present” because there are a large number of people between the ages of 70 and 93.

If your family member died in Largs in 1828, 1836 or 1837 you might try and find out if it was because of the epidemics. Erysipelas is a skin infection that is caused by hemolytic Streptococcus. You might get a fever and large, raised red patches on the skin and other symptoms.

On the county lists I chose Wigton [Wigtown] home of my Grey and McCubbin families. You can choose a report from a pull down list; show reports in this county and find a report. I chose show reports in this county. This provided a similar listing as found in the pull down menu. I chose the parish of Leswalt as that is where my family was from.

Interestingly the section was written by The Rev. Andrew McCubbin, Minister. Now I will have to find out if he is connected to my McCubbin family. He tells me that Leswalt means “the meadow along the burn.” I learn that the parish is very hilly and has large sections of moss. There used to be an animal called “goat-whey” but you do not see them much anymore. You can find salmon and oysters in the waters of the parish. Leswalt “belonged to the monks of Tongland in the reign of James V.”

There is a listing of principle land owners and a population count starting in 1801 and every ten years to 1831. Under “Character of the People” Rev. McCubbin states that they “of late have improved much both in language and manners.”

Live stock found in the area is Galloway cattle and Cheviot sheep. The produce of the parish is oats and potatoes. They have just started to farm wheat. The market town and post office are in Stranraer. This would suggest to me that if I do not find them in the parish records in Leswalt I should try Stranraer. There is a parochial library “which contains nearly 400 volumes, and the people have a taste for reading.” He says that about “200 children attend the Sabbath schools.”

There is a section entitled “Poor and Parochial Funds” and here they say that the church takes care of the poor. Some money comes from a legacy left by the Earl of Stair. The interesting part is the statement that “the greater part of the poor, being Irish, are very frequent and importunate in their demands.” Stranraer is approximately 50 km from Ireland. This account is dated February 1838.

You can see how these Statistical Accounts can be a very useful part of your family history research.

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