Family history and the records in the Mitchell Library

A learning session led by Glasgow City Archives in the Mitchell Library introduced me to a range of resources that can be useful for researching individuals who lived in Glasgow. Here’s a round-up of what I learnt.

The Glasgow City Archives holds:

  • Council/Corporation: material from the old Glasgow Corporation offices plus some materials from outwith the Glasgow city such as some records relating to Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire.
  • Churches: some churches records including Church of Scotland, Episcopalian and Methodist churches.
  • Business: some records form Glasgow businesses. Glasgow University archives also holds business records
  • Clubs and societies: organisations which operated in the city, including , of course, the Arlington Baths.

There’s a complete list of the GCA collections on its website.

Voters Rolls / Electoral Rolls

From 1832 for each parliamentary constituency. There are some gaps when they didn’t compile the rolls –  1915/1916 and 1944/1944 – but there are some years with two editions to catch up  – 1920/1926 and 1945/1946.

It includes the Absent Voters register, which has the names of people away due to war service.

These lists were often also used for local elections and these may include women as voters as female ratepayers could vote in local elections. Also remember that because of restrictions due to property qualifications, not all men could vote until 1918.

There are also voters’ rolls for the independent municipal burghs such as Partick, Hillhead and rolls for the county elections.

The records will show you: person’s name, address and occupation. has the Glasgow rolls online from 1857-1962.

About the Voters rolls on the Glasgow Family History website

Valuation Rolls

These divided Scotland into areas and assessor would assess every piece of land and building for a rateable value every autumn/winter so each Roll is a snapshot of the previous year.

You need to find the relevant war index for the address you’re interested in (these are not always the same as the electoral wards!) and then you can identify which Roll you need.

GCA holds the Rolls from 1913- 1975 and then on the 1996. But the records from 1855- 1912 are in the National Records in Edinburgh. Scotland’s People website has also digitised the records from 1935 – 1956.

The record will show you: Property, name of owner, name of occupant (though it’s not a census so it won’t include everyone who lives at the address) and, from 1920s onwards, sometime the occupation.

About the Valuation Rolls on the Glasgow Family History website


These are records of the transfer of property. They can be very detailed. Glasgow City Archives has Glasgow’s records from 1694 to 1927.

To use the records it’s best to have the address and an idea of when the person you’re interested in would have been living there.

There’s also an abridged register for Strathclyde with an index of persons, and minutes books which are summaries of the Sasines.

The National Records has a complete record of Sasines from 1876.

See more about the Sasines on the Glasgow Family History website

Poor Law

Before 1845 poor relief was handled by the Church , then, due to  schism in the church, civil parishes were  created to  deal with poor relief. The General Register of the Poor records the individual applications.

The index for the 1850s to 1948 is computerised in the Archives, type in the name of the person you’re interested in and you’ll get the information to access the records. Bear in mind women often applied under their maiden names.

There were two types of support:

  • Indoor relief – when a person was admitted to the poor house (which is not the same as the English workhouse)
  • Outdoor relief – when a person received s money when living in the community.

Data protection applies to these records so you may need a death certificate of the person to see records less than 75 years old.

Record will show you: names, address, parents, dependents, religion, occupation, wage and updates if there was a change in circumstances or further applications.

See more about the Poor Law records on the Glasgow Family History website


In 1872 compulsory , but not free, education was introduced.  This meant though there was a school building and teacher recruitment campaign. The schools kept admissions registers and a headteachers’ logbook

There are maps in the GCA room you can use to locate schools closest to the address you ‘re interested in.

There are restrictions on what you can access: you can see headteachers’ logbook up to the last 50 years, and admission register up to the last 30 years in unless you are a looking for your own records in which case you need to prove who you are.

More about the School records on the Glasgow Family History website

Police records

GCA has the Strathclyde Police records which include areas like Greenock and Renfrewshire etc.

The police were established in 1800 and they hold the service records, including bravery awards,  from 1832. They can be accessed up until 1932.

More about the police records on the Glasgow Family History website

Incorporated trades

There were 14 incorporated trade so Glasgow, which oversaw the apprenticeship system and were associations for qualified people. Anyone who became incorporated also became a Burgess of Glasgow.

There are different materials for each trade but there’s a list on the Glasgow Family History website of what’s available.

Church records

The GCA has the Glasgow Presbytery records.

These include kirk session records where people were called to account for their ‘low morals’(pre-1845). The National Records Office has digitised the kirk sessions – ask the archivist in the GCA for the capacity to access these.

There are also records of baptism, marriages and burials. These are now on the Scotland’s People website.

The GCA also has some record for non-conformist religions.

See the Glasgow Family History website for information about seeing the records of:

For Jewish families, see the Scottish Jewish Archive, in Glasgow.

Landed estates

Check the card index under the name of the family that owned the estate. These may not seem like useful sources, but the estate records often include rental records, wages books and factors’ correspondence that may have details about individuals.

Other sources

  • Special Collections in the Mitchell Library holds old newspapers.
  • There is a card index in the Archives in the Mitchell where items are listed under topics and names etc. Just have a rummage!
  • The Glasgow Family History website is an easy way to find out what potential sources for there are for research, organised by topics and records,  and it tells you what you’ll need to know to use them, even before you set off for the Glasgow City Archives.
  • Members of Glasgow Libraries have free access to Ancestry from any library computer.
  • To get a day’s access to Scotland’s People in the Family History Centre in the Mitchell Library costs £15; you can book access with the registers at


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