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Wigtown Cultural Heritage Project


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OVERVIEW

Begun in October 1996, this project has constructed a computerised system now containing data relating to Wigtown people and places during the period from the late 17th century to the early 20th century.

Using material provided by the personal historical research of the project leader, Mrs. Donna Brewster, the published census records of the 19th century, the available old parish registers, a locally produced cemetery inscription record, old copies of town directories, and information offered by local people, gathered data was evaluated, interpreted and entered on a computer.

The basic software package has been commissioned by the project from Edgetech Systems and was designed to be compatible with the Dumfries and Galloway Regional Museum Services and Archive Centre computers.

The computer system that has been created is now available for use by individuals engaged in genealogical or property history studies, schools and colleges/universities working on historical social projects, and members of the public simply curious about any aspect of Wigtown’s history.

Subjects for study within the system may be searched for by using a detailed cross-referencing facility. Searchers key in individual or family names, street names, house names, specific dates, historical subject descriptions (e.g. "covenanter" or "Crimea"), occupations or places of birth or death.

The project at its official completion contains a massive amount of information but this work is viewed less as an achieved goal than as a framework for ongoing development.

The two project workers have pledged to continue work on a voluntary basis (1) providing access to the system for people who come seeking information and (2) adding additional material. They have already found that people who come seeking information about their family history usually have information of their own which is fed into the system in a satisfactory reciprocal arrangement. Because of the interest such people have expressed in their Wigtown connections, a list has been entered of people who wish to have their names entered as "known descendants" of former Wigtown inhabitants. Some have been able to discover and make contact with distant family of whose existence they had previously been unaware.

Wigtown data has been placed on the computer in a design that will allow the material for up to seven other towns or villages to be added.

The project workers have begun explaining the system to interested local historians in nearby towns and villages and hope to encourage knowledgeable people from the area to participate in eventually producing a unified package covering at least the Eastern part of Wigtownshire. This would be of great benefit to researchers whose subjects relate to more than one parish in the area. Other places that should be considered for placement are : Newton Stewart/Minnigaff, Whithorn, Port William/Mochrum, Kirkinner, Sorbie / Garlieston, Kirkcowan and Creetown. These have natural historical and population connections with each other, and a system incorporating them all for the purposes mentioned above would greatly extend the interest in and influence of the system.

The data on the Wigtown computer can be accessed through the Dumfries Regional Museum computers and is to be eventually available on the Internet.

The licensed use of the computer system based in Wigtown, which would have expired with the end of funding, has been generously granted an extension of up to ten years by the software designers, Edgetech Systems, in a unique gesture marking their recognition of the importance of the continuation of the work at Wigtown. Had this undertaking not been given any further work would have meant the project workers having to travel to Dumfries (60 Miles) or later to Stranraer (25 Miles) in order to add up-to-date material to the system.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Funded by – The Scottish Office & Groundbase

Contributions in kind
Machars Action – Dumfries and Galloway Library & Museum Services – Mrs. Donna Brewster

Project Design and works
Mrs. Donna Brewster – Mrs. Sandra McDowall

Advisers : Dumfries and Galloway Library & Museum Services

Computer software providers – Edgetech Systems

Funding application made by Ms Meta Maltman, Head of Operations, Machars Action
Project Administration – Jak Kane, Depute Head of Operations, Machars Action

Illustration from Wigtown, The Story of A Royal and Ancient Burgh
By Donna Brewster
Published by Donald King, The Post Office, Wigtown

 

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