Techniques for Solving Genealogy Problems

Category: Uncategorized

FamilySearch’s new Explore Historical Images tool

Most family historians are familiar with the FamilySearch website which provides access to databases and digitised images of genealogical records, along with family trees, digitised books and other useful tools.

Not all, however, are aware of the large number of digitised records on FamilySearch which have not been indexed but can only be browsed, rather than searched by name. Until recently, the only way to access most of these was to search the site’s catalogue by place or other keyword.

This week FamilySearch announced a new way of accessing these digitised collections called ‘Explore Historical Images’ ( This should help in making researchers aware of these records, as well as providing a new way of searching them.

The ‘Explore Historical Images’ search screen on FamilySearch.

This weekend I’ve been playing around with the Explore Historical Images search to see if there might be any records I had previously overlooked. Like others, I’ve found a few problems with placenames being mis-identified. For example, searching for Bute, Scotland, brings up a suggested 39 collections, but many of these actually relate to Butte County, Idaho!

Scrolling through the results I did eventually find some records relating to Bute in Scotland, including a digitised copy of the Index to the Particular Register of Sasines for Argyle, Dumbarton, Bute, Arran and Tarbert 1617-1780 and several registers of poor for Rothesay, Bute. A record identified as land records for Edinburgh covering 1887 appears to be a baptism register from 1680 which I couldn’t identify but was certainly not for anywhere in Scotland.

I have occasionally found records mis-identified in the FamilySearch catalogue but not to this extent. In some cases the issue probably stems from the fact that records come from digitised microfilms held by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, which contain several different items (sometimes totally unrelated and from different countries) and the individual items have not been correctly identified and linked to the right location.

For now, it seems that searching the catalogue is still going to be the best way of locating most records but I am sure that many of the problems will be resolved in the future. At the moment this is a new tool that family historians can play around with and which may possibly turn up some useful records; but it is certainly something to keep an eye on for the future.

Finding Your Scottish Ancestors: Now on Sale!

I’m pleased to announce that my new book Finding Your Scottish Ancestors: Techniques for Solving Genealogy Problems was published this week.

You can purchase a hardback copy direct from the publisher The Crowood Press, at a discount, or buy it through Amazon and other online booksellers. A digital copy suitable for Kindle and other devices is also available.

I hope it provides some inspiration for tracking down your elusive Scottish forebears!

Scottish Poor Relief Records Online

Queensberry House in Edinburgh, formerly a House of Refuge and Night Asylum.

Poor relief records are a great source for learning more about our Scottish ancestors and overcoming research brick walls. They often contain information not found in any other records but, until quite recently, the only way to access them was to visit the local archives covering the area where an ancestor lived.

Over the last few years an increasing number of indexes, and some original records, have been put online. Here’s where to find some online Scottish poor records:

Angus: Dundee Poorhouse Records

The Friends of Dundee City Archives have indexed the Liff and Benvie Register of Poor 1854-1865 and the Dundee East Poorhouse Register 1856-1878. The index includes name, age, date of admittance and a reference number. The site also includes an index to Dundee Industrial School 1855-1916. Full records can be obtained from Dundee City Archives.

Argyll: South Knapdale Parochial Board People

The Knapdale People website includes a transcript of South Knapdale Parochial Board Minutes 1845-1855 with a separate name index.

Ayrshire: Ayrshire Poor Relief Database

This database covers some parishes in Ayrshire and can be accessed by first registering with the site (for free). The index provides name (including both surnames for married women), age, birth parish and a reference number, including an FHL (FamilySearch) film number. In some cases, this film number can be used to access images of the records, taken from digitised microfilm, through the FamilySearch catalogue (see below). Otherwise copies of records can be obtained through Ayrshire Archives. Some additional poor lists for Maybole are included on the Maybole website.

Borders: Poor Law Records Index

Borders Family History Society covers the Scottish Border counties of Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire. The society is running a project to transcribe and index poor relief records from the area and has an online index which currently covers Jedburgh and Melrose. Full records can be obtained through the Hawick Heritage Hub.

Dumfries and Galloway: Dumfries Poor Board Minutes

Dumfries and Galloway Archives’ online historical indexes include Dumfries Poor Board Minutes 1871-1885 and Dumfries Industrial School Admissions and Discharges 1881-1922.

Edinburgh: City Archives Name Indexes

The majority of Edinburgh’s poor relief records were destroyed, but the City Archives’ website includes name indexes to St. Cuthbert’s Parochial Board Paupers’ Claims 1850-1852 and Inmates of Edinburgh Charity Workhouse 1835-1841.

Fife: Kirkcaldy Poorhouse Register Records

Fife has few surviving poor relief records but a digitised and indexed register for Kirkcaldy Combination Poorhouse (later Abden Home) covering 1888-1912 can be accessed through Ancestry.

Highlands: Am Baile

The Am Baile website includes a small selection of poor lists and letters from paupers in Highland parishes. 

Lanarkshire: Glasgow Police Return of Destitute

The majority of poor relief indexes and records held by Glasgow City Archives can only be accessed by visiting in person but an index to the Glasgow Police Return of Destitute for 1841 can be found online and provides fairly detailed information for those included.

Lanarkshire: North Lanarkshire Poor Law Applications and Registers 

Digitised and indexed poor law applications and registers for five parishes in North Lanarkshire covering 1849-1917 can be found on Ancestry.

Renfrewshire: Paisley Poor Law Records

Paisley library has created an index to poor relief applications they hold for Paisley (including Abbey parish) covering 1839-1949. The index provides name, age, birthplace, name of spouse, date and reference numbers. Full records can be obtained from the library. The index can also be accessed through FindMyPast (see below) although coverage may not be identical.

Stirlingshire: Stirling Council Archives Poor Relief Indexes

Stirling Council Archives have online poor relief indexes for fourteen parishes in Stirlingshire, including Stirling. Covering dates and the amount of information provided vary by parish. Full records can be obtained from the archives.

West Lothian: Linlithgow Poorhouse Records

A variety of records and registers for Linlithgow Poorhouse, covering 1859-1912, have been indexed by West Lothian Family History Society and this index is now available through FindMyPast. As a combination poorhouse, Linlithgow Poorhouse took in paupers from a number of West Lothian parishes, as well as some from neighbouring Stirlingshire parishes.

Scotland: Poor Law & Poor Lists (FindMyPast) 

FindMyPast’s poor records index currently covers some parishes in Angus, Ayrshire, Caithness, East Lothian, Inverness-shire, Moray, Renfrewshire, Ross and Cromarty and Sutherland. Much of the information has come from family history societies (including Stuart Farrell’s transcripts of Highland poor registers published by the Scottish Genealogy Society) or local archives (in the case of Paisley and East Lothian). 

Scotland: FamilySearch Catalogue

A variety of digitised records of Scottish poor relief can be accessed via the FamilySearch catalogue. These records are not indexed on the site, but in some cases handwritten name indexes can be found in the front or back of individual volumes. The best way to locate records is to search the catalogue by a parish name and then look under ‘Poorhouses, poor law etc.’ Some records may only be accessible at Family History Libraries.

Scotland: Board of Supervision Poor Law Appeals

Old Scottish Genealogy & Family History have created an index to appeals from paupers recorded in the Board of Supervision minute books for 1845-1895. These are particularly valuable in cases where records have not survived locally. The indexes can be accessed through individual parish pages on the Old Scottish website and full details can be obtained from them for a small charge.

Do you know of any other online Scottish poor records? If so, please share in the comments below.

Welcome to ‘Finding Your Scottish Ancestors’

I have created this website to accompany my new book Finding Your Scottish Ancestors: Techniques for Solving Genealogy Problems which is due to be published by Robert Hale in February 2020.

The aim is to share the latest news from the world of Scottish genealogy and some tips and techniques for solving those ‘brick walls’ we all encounter when researching our family history.

I look forward to exchanging ideas on how to track down even the most elusive of Scottish forebears!