Sunday, 17 October 2010

Living the Poor Life in Glasgow

This week my research took me to the fantastic Mitchell Library in Glasgow where I was mainly searching the Poor Law Archives

Whilst browsing through one of the 5000 volumes of Poor Law Records held there I came across a couple of entries that show that not everyone was satisfied with the help they were offered: 

Glasgow City Archives - Reference: D-HEW 10/3/3 

Page 7 
2nd June 1852 Hector Mc Niel aged 66 born in North Knapdale wife Margt Mc Niel aged 49 born in same place. Residing in 79 McAlpine St. - back low door, applies on account of age and says his wife and his oldest son are in ill health he has 2 Children Hector aged 13 and Catherine 10 years come the 15th Instant _ they came to Glasgow 4 weeks ago, and he is now in proces of prefering a complaint against the Inspector of Islay for inadequate relief afforded before he left Islay _ they Resided in the Parish of Kildalton Islay 7 years ending May last - certified by the Revd. James Dewar Minister, Donald McDougal Session Clerk and two Elders of that Parish, he first applied to the Inspector of Kildalton 1 year ago and has had ocasional relief since till octr last when he was enrolled @ 12/ monthly which he has since regularly received. up to 24 Apl last when his pass book shows he received the last 12/_ I gave him an order for 1/6, with which he was dissatisfied and I took it back _ and requested then to come up at 6 o clock to be admitted into the House _ it is now 8 o clock and none of then have yet appeared _ came up today and I gave a line of admission to the new House for self & Family, 4th June 52 

Page 68 
29 June 1852, Catherine Gouchan or Gallacher wid Jackson, aged 29 born in Ireland. Residing in 2 Jafferies Close, top flat, applies for Onely Child Mary aged 2 years May last born in Ireland who she says is in bad health, Her Husband John Jackson an Irishman died in Ireland 2 years ago and she came first from Ireland 1 year ago _ I gave a line for the house for self and Child on 30th June 52. 
Revisited 22 June 1853 at 15 Jafferies Close up 1, she now applies on account of being pregnant with an Illegitimate Child to a James Sullivan an Irishman of whom she pretends she knows nothing she says she remained in the House last year for 6 weeks, but complains that she was made to work hard &c while there which she thinks was very hard _ I requested her to come up again for a line to the Poorhouse at 5 o clock this evening - 29 June 53 

A further entry reveals the fate of Catherine’s daughter, Mary: 

Page 217 
27 Oct, 1852 Mary Jackson aged about 2 years, born in Ireland Residing at 2 Jafferies Close up 2, where she was left by her Mother Catherine Gouchan aged about 30, born near Bangor County Mayo Ireland, she has worked during harvest at drawfitting(?) near Coalbrig _ but returned lately to Glasgow and left the Child on Friday last under pretence of going out to beg _ she had lodged in the house before and applied here before in Augt last, and was admitted into the House _ the women in the house say they do not believe she will come back for her Child as they have heard her say she wished to be quit of her _ House 28 Oct 52 

Dr Irene O’Brien provides a great introduction to these records in a short video available here - one of a series of useful videos on the Family History resources held at the Mitchell Library.


  1. They're amazing records, aren't they? And absolutely stuffed full of details about my family, as it happens. One of my favourites shows that the authorities actually checked up on what they were told, and didn't just take the applicant's word for it; my great-great grandmother told them her son earned 10/- a week, but there's a later note saying that his employers said it was 12/6 ! They also said there was no trace of his birth in the parish where she claimed he was born. No point in me looking, then (actually I had already looked, and I couldn 't find it, either)

  2. These are some of my fave records in Scotland! Another lesser known source concerning poor law records is the lists of those who were returned to Ireland (parish of birth or workhouse) by the poor law authorities from both England and Ireland, as sourced from the British parliamentary papers. There are lists of those returned from Scotland from 1 Jan 1867 to 31 Dec 1869 and 1875-1878 at arranged by county and parish, and similar lists of those returned from England 1867/1869 and from 1 JAN 1875. The original lists were scanned and reproduced on the site, but these now appear to have been replaced by transcriptions. (I haven't checkled the parliamentary papers yet to see if there are additional lists). The detail is excellent, telling you when couples were returned, how many kids under 16 they had, which port they were sent from, which union sent to, and more.


  3. Thanks for the link Chris,

    I wasn't aware of that website but it seems like a great resource, well worth exploring.