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The Wigtownshire Pages

OPR Entries
by Crawford MacKeand
Most entries in the Church of Scotland's Old Parish Registers were of births and marriages, and they often conform to some elements of a pattern which can help in retrieving information.

Typically, baptisms entered in the OPR's were conducted at the family's usual residence when such a place was mentioned and at the church when so listed. A marriage was a little different; it would have been celebrated at the home of one of couple, but where two parishes appear in the records, the significance is that the couple normally resided in different parishes. Banns would be proclaimed in both, but the marriage could only happen in one!

It was common for entries to be transcribed later by the session clerk, or even by the minister himself, from rough notes made by the minister at the time. A typical OPR entry will mention the parish origin of the participants as well as the date(s) of banns and often, though not always, the eventual date of marriage. Sometimes the name of the officiating clergyman will also be given. It is also worth looking to see if the fees were recorded. Some parishes seem to have been rather more particular about the fees than about the events themselves! Also some parishes may not have had a session clerk, or the minister may have successfully lost his notes. This frequently happened in Kirkmabreck in the tenure of the Rev. Inglis, while the noted Dr. Laing in Glasserton, although apparently a much consulted authority on church matters, seems to have lost all his notes for almost 20 years to 1820. In Stoneykirk there is a note for the mid 1700s that the Session Clerk's house had been destroyed by fire, and that may explain some gaps in those records.

Notes from John Roy and Crawford MacKeand
September 2002