Dumfries has long been the most important burgh in southwest Scotland and dominates the trade of the area known as Dumfries and Galloway. Dumfries was established as a Royal Burgh by King William I of Scotland in 1186. Lying near the confluence of the River Nith and the Solway Firth, Dumfries had been involved in both coastal and overseas trade since the medieval period, and in the late 17th century trade with the Baltic and the Americas increased substantially. This trade led to immigration to Ireland initially but especially to North America and the West Indies. As a burgh Dumfries was semi-autonomous with a council elected by the burgesses, who were an urban elite representing about ten percent of the adult males there, mainly the merchants and craftsmen.
This genealogical source book, part of a series devoted to ancient Scottish burghs, identifies many of the inhabitants of Dumfries of the 17th and 18th centuries and is overwhelmingly based on primary sources. It is designed to provide information that would enhance the basic data of baptisms, marriages, and sometimes deaths found in the Old Parish Registers of the Church of Scotland for this burgh. A range of documentary sources have been located, including testaments, deeds, sasines [property], marriage contracts, bonds, court records, customs references, letter-books, and others, all of which provide a useful insight into the lives of the people of the period. Dr. Dobson identifies each inhabitant of Dumfries by name, occupation, a date, and the source. In many instances he has also dredged up additional facts, such as the name(s) of family members, if/when traveled to the Americas, contestants in civil suits, and so on.
Among the inhabitants listed here is Robert Burns, the national poet, who lies buried in the churchyard of St Michael’s. The major families in Dumfries and its neighborhood were the Maxwells, Johnstons, Griersons, Carruthers, Charteris, Kirkpatricks, Irvines, Jardines, and Carlyles, surnames well represented in this book.