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:
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.
The Knapdale People website includes a transcript of South Knapdale Parochial Board Minutes 1845-1855 with a separate name index.
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 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 Archives’ online historical indexes include Dumfries Poor Board Minutes 1871-1885 and Dumfries Industrial School Admissions and Discharges 1881-1922.
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 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.
The Am Baile website includes a small selection of poor lists and letters from paupers in Highland parishes.
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.
Digitised and indexed poor law applications and registers for five parishes in North Lanarkshire covering 1849-1917 can be found on Ancestry.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.