Sunday, 27 November 2011

More Records of the Edinburgh Poor

A few months ago I wrote about the Lists of the Edinburgh Poor held at Edinburgh City Archives, which cover the period 1869-1884.  I’ve recently been researching an individual who was on the Edinburgh poor roll at a later date and once again found that, whilst it is true that the majority of Edinburgh poor relief records have been lost, it is possible to find some information about those in receipt of poor relief.

Edinburgh City Archives is housed within the City Chambers
The records I was examining were the minutes of Edinburgh Parish Council from the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Edinburgh Parish Council existed from 1895-1930 and incorporated the former Edinburgh and St Cuthberts Combination Parochial Boards as well as parts of Liberton, Duddingston and Leith.  Among the Council’s responsibilities were the Craiglockhart and Craigleith Poorhouses as well as other institutions within the Edinburgh area.
Despite having previously been told that the chances of finding any mention of a particular individual within the minutes was pretty slim, I found that they were full of names; and for some periods names are even indexed at the front of each printed volume of minutes.
The information on children, especially those who were boarded out, is particularly detailed as these examples show:
Edinburgh City Archives ref. SL14/1/7 - Edinburgh Parish Council: Minutes of Council and Committees From 17th June 1901 to 21st Oct 1901. Edinburgh: James Turner & Co., 1902.
Pages 92-93
Children’s Committee.
Wednesday, 9th October 1901.
Joan Davidson, Prestonkirk, taken off roll by Grandmother on 3rd September, and working to Mr Smith, Factor, Whittinghame. Wages 8s. a week.

James Weir, Lanark, ran away on 20th August. No trace of him can be got - supposed to be working. Police to be communicated with again, and if no word of the boy within a fortnight, the Clerk to advertise and offer a reward of 20s.

886, 892C 
Edward Byrne, and David Brown, Gladsmuir. The Visiting Committee recommend a Topcoat for each. Grant.

Mary Douglas, 12, with her Sister in London. Doctor reports her a confirmed Epileptic, and should be in an institution. Clerk to enquire and report as to any institution suitable for the treatment of this girl.

William, Henry, Roderick, and Winifred Young, in Craiglockhart Poorhouse with Mother. Deserted by Father. Advertise for Father.

James Sandilands, in Craiglockhart Poorhouse with Mother. Illegitimate. Delay for a month.
Note: The numbers against each child’s name seem to be case numbers, although any records to which these numbers refer do not survive.
In addition to children, the names of ‘lunatics’, paupers suffering from some illness and whose cases were considered by the Medical Committee and those whose place of settlement was debated are frequently mentioned, often with at least some brief details.
Whilst not everyone who received poor relief will be mentioned by name in the minutes of Edinburgh Parish Council, in the absence of other records they are certainly worth a look and may well provide some explanation of how an ancestor fell on hard times.


  1. Wouldn't it be fabulous if these records where fully indexed? Is there a genealogy or local history society willing to take up the challenge?

  2. I thought the same but I don't know if there is anyone willing to take it on. Part of the problem is that Edinburgh has no dedicated family history society (although The Scottish Genealogy Society is based in Edinburgh and has indexed some Edinburgh records). Indexing the minutes of Edinburgh Parish Council (and its predecessors and successors) as well as the Lists of Poor I previously blogged about would certainly go a long way to making up for the lack of poor relief applications.