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Poor Law Applications - Glasgow City Archives

The wide-range of biographical information about so many of the poor whose lives are rarely recorded elsewhere in such detail, makes Glasgow City Archives’ poor law applications one of the most important sources for family and social history in Scotland. 

Included in over one million applications are letters, press-cuttings, certificates and photographs.  Furthermore, the inspectors didn’t hold back on personal commentary such as judgemental observations like the ‘laziest man in Glasgow’ or that a ‘house was nothing more than a brothel’.

Family historians use the applications to discover the often sad, sometimes funny stories about the poorest members of society. They might find an ancestor who is ‘an awful boozer’, the mother of illegitimate children (the record is 12, all with different men), an orphan, a convict or just a poor person struggling to make ends meet. 

A heartbreaking application from 1879 for a child found abandoned on Christmas night includes a poster advertising a reward for information. The boy’s life can be traced through the records as he is often dependent on poor relief to survive. The last entry is a note that he was killed when 21 in Elder’s shipyard. 

For more information on Glasgow’s poor law records visit the website.