Poor Law from 1845

This is a brief guide to poor law archives where you can discover vital clues about your family’s history and reveal details of their daily lives.

What do I need to know before I star​t?

Try to find out: 

  • name of the person

  • where they were born

  • approximate year of birth

What records can I find in the Mitchell: Glasgow City Archives​?

Glasgow City Archives holds the records of the poor law authorities in Glasgow and other areas in the west of Scotland, which were formerly part of the Strathclyde Regional Archives collection. These authorities began in 1845, becoming Public Assistance in 1930, and ended with the introduction of social security in 1948.  

 

To establish the needs of the applicant and their eligibility, Inspectors of the Poor recorded large amounts of personal data in ‘registers of applications’ or ‘general registers of poor’. Where these records do not survive, other records may assist, e.g. minute books (useful in smaller parishes); printed annual rolls; poor house registers. 

 

Applications and General Registers will normally include:

  • name of applicant, including maiden name of women 

  • age, sometimes with actual birth date 

  • birthplace, including county of birth (compulsory from 1865)

  • religion (from 1865)

  • dependants, including children’s names, ages, places of birth

  • marital history 

  • names of applicant’s parents and parents-in-law, confirming where born and if still alive

  • previous addresses

 

Glasgow City Archives hold registers for the following areas: 

  • Glasgow, 1851-1948

  • Barony, 1861-1898 (part of Glasgow from 1899)

  • Govan, 1876-1930 (part of Glasgow from 1930)

  • Bute, West Dunbartonshire, South Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire (not Paisley),  often dating from 1845

 

A return of the most destitute families and individuals within the police jurisdiction of Glasgow was prepared by the Police Superintendent, 1841, and can be viewed in the archives search room.

 

When visiting the archives search room, you can access databases of applications for Glasgow, Barony and Govan to c.1925 and for the County Council areas up to 1900.

 

Records are generally closed for 100 years for children and 75 years for adults.   

 

The NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives hold records of Govan Poor House Hospital Infirmary.

What records can I ​see online?

W​​hat records can I see elsewhere?

You can view the records of poor law applications for:  East Dunbartonshire in East Dunbartonshire Archives; North Lanarkshire in North Lanarkshire Archives; and Paisley in Renfrewshire Libraries.​

​​What other resources will help me find information?

Books 

Ian Levitt, Poverty and welfare in Scotland 1890-1948 (1988)

Glasgow City Archives leaflet on Poor Law has some helpful information on the City Archive holdings and how to access them.