Chris Pa­ton takes a look at the re­sources avail­able for fam­ily his­to­ri­ans in the for­mer in­dus­trial pow­er­house of Glas­gow

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Trace your Glas­gow an­ces­tors

The thriv­ing me­trop­o­lis of Glas­gow is the third largest city in Bri­tain. Some of its no­table sons and daugh­ters in­clude stand-up co­me­dian Billy Con­nolly, for­mer foot­ball man­ager Sir Alex Fer­gu­son and TV pre­sen­ter Lor­raine Kelly.

If you have ‘Weegie’ kin – the slang term for Glaswe­gians – or in­deed any con­nec­tion to the city, then the splen­did green-domed Mitchell Li­brary, Europe’s largest pub­lic ref­er­ence li­brary, should be your first port of call for re­search.

In March 2014, a new ser­vice was opened on the build­ing’s fifth floor en­ti­tled Fam­ily His­tory at the Mitchell ( glas­gow­fam­ily his­, which brought to­gether the city’s reg­is­trar and ar­chive ser­vices, the lo­cal NHS ar­chive, and the li­brary’s own ge­neal­ogy re­sources and spe­cial col­lec­tions. “Our new shared fa­cil­ity now pro­vides a one-stop shop for re­searchers who wish to visit us from Mon­days to Satur­days,” says Dr Irene O’Brien, se­nior ar­chiv­ist at Glas­gow City Ar­chives, “and over the past year we have cer­tainly seen the num­bers of users rise.”

The reg­is­trar’s ser­vice pro­vides daily ac­cess for a fee of £15 to the records of Scot­land­sPeo­ple, while the ad­ja­cent ar­chive ser­vice holds many im­por­tant lo­cal and re­gional col­lec­tions for much of the west of Scot­land. Th­ese in­clude es­tate pa­pers, burgh records, sasines reg­is­ters, po­lice ar­chives, trade in­cor­po­ra­tion records, church reg­is­ters (in­clud­ing non­con­formist church hold­ings not on Scot­land­sPeo­ple), trade di­rec­to­ries, busi­ness records, and much more. A use­ful list is avail­able at glas­ li­braries/the-mitchell-li­brary/ ar­chives/col­lec­tions/pages/ de­fault.aspx, with col­lec­tions also sum­marised on the Scot­tish Ar­chive Net­work cat­a­logue at

Re­cent projects

Its move com­pleted, the ar­chive is as busy as ever, tak­ing in new col­lec­tions and mak­ing them ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic. One of its most re­cent projects has been to cat­a­logue the fi­nan­cial records of the Scot­tish Women’s Hospi­tals (SWH), thanks to fund­ing se­cured from the Well­come Trust. The SWH was a First World War or­gan­i­sa­tion com­pris­ing 14 units of women who adopted the roles of sur­geons, nurses, or­der­lies, chauf­feurs and cooks, and were sent out to seven dif­fer­ent coun­tries to as­sist in the war ef­fort, and care for sol­diers and civil­ians caught up in the hos­til­i­ties. The records in­clude per­son­nel files, pho­to­graphs of mem­bers (many of them were for­mer suf­frag­ists) and com­mit­tee min­utes. For more on the SWH, visit scot­tishwomens hospi­

An­other cur­rent pro­ject is the digi­ti­sa­tion of his­toric burial reg­is­ters for Glas­gow. While some of th­ese are al­ready avail­able on mi­cro­film in the li­brary, many are

dif­fi­cult to read, frus­trat­ing the de­sires of users to ac­cess such cru­cial ge­nealog­i­cal records. “We’re bring­ing to­gether all the orig­i­nal his­toric vol­umes from the coun­cil's Be­reave­ment Ser­vices, and digi­tis­ing them,” says Irene. “In due course, we hope to be able to make the orig­i­nal records ac­ces­si­ble for con­sul­ta­tion.

“We also hold the records for Mary­hill Cre­ma­to­rium, Scot­land’s first cre­ma­to­rium, which opened in 1895.”

Once known as the Se­cond City of the Bri­tish Em­pire, Glas­gow has played a ma­jor role in the his­tory of the na­tion. From its ori­gins as a me­dieval bish­opric, it ac­quired wealth and the sta­tus of a royal burgh in 1611, al­low­ing it to be­come one of the fore­most in­ter­na­tional ports in Scot­land. Fol­low­ing the coun­try’s union

with Eng­land in 1707, Glas­gow pros­pered fur­ther through its trade in sugar, to­bacco and cot­ton, though as with many other Bri­tish cities, much of the prof­its from th­ese were de­rived from the tri­an­gu­lar trade in slav­ery. The Mitchell Li­brary build­ing, it­self, is an ex­am­ple of the wealth that was ac­cu­mu­lated in this pe­riod. It first opened in 1877, thanks to a be­quest left by a wealthy to­bacco lord, Stephen Mitchell, to fund a pub­lic sub­scrip­tion li­brary for the city.

Glas­gow in­sti­tu­tions

Glas­gow is also home to Scot­land’s se­cond old­est aca­demic in­sti­tu­tion, the Univer­sity of Glas­gow, which first opened its doors in 1451.

The univer­sity has its own ded­i­cated ar­chive ser­vice ( gla.­vices/ar­chives), which, in ad­di­tion to preserving the his­tory of the in­sti­tu­tion it­self, also hosts many other im­por­tant ar­chive col­lec­tions, such as the Scot­tish Busi­ness Ar­chive (­vices/ar­chives/ col­lec­tions/busi­ness).

Among the gems to be found here are the pa­pers of the House of Fraser Ar­chive (in­clud­ing the records of Glaswe­gian fu­neral di­rec­tors Wylie and Lochhead) and the records of many ship­ping and ship­build­ing firms that were based on the Clyde.

Ves­sels were first built on the Clyde in 1712 at Scott’s ship­yard in Greenock, but by the mid-19th cen­tury the qual­ity of work had made the river the most im­por­tant ship­build­ing re­gion in the world, with the sur­round­ing coun­trysidec pro­vid­ing the coal anda iron nec­es­sary to drive such ra apid in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion.

An­other ma­jor in­dus­try to ta ake root in th he city dur­ingd the In ndus­trial Revo­lu­tionR wasw that of th he cot­ton and wool mills.

How­ever, most labour­ers drawnd to Glas­gow were soon forcedfo to live in squalid te en­e­ments, within a city that was e xpand­ing at a rate much greater th han it could safely ac­com­mo­date.

As a con­se­quence, great pover­typ de­vel­oped along­side the growthg in for­tunes of the wealthy, anda dis­ease be­came ram­pant, with a high in­fant mor­tal­ity rate.

An ex­am­ple of an early-20th cen­tu­ryc ‘sin­gle end’ ten­e­ment ac­com­mo­da­tiona has been faith­fully recre­ated at the Peo­ple’s Palace Mu­seum in Glas­gow ( glas­­se­ums/ peo­ples-palace/Pages/de­fault. aspx).

Help­fully, an im­por­tant set of records has sur­vived to shine a light onto the plight of the most des­ti­tute in so­ci­ety. “Glas­gow City Ar­chives holds some of the most de­tailed Poor Law records in the UK,” says Irene O’Brien. “Not only can th­ese pro­vide a great deal of back­ground to those claim­ing poor re­lief, in­clud­ing in­for­ma­tion about other mem­bers of the fam­ily from whom the au­thor­i­ties could try to claim back pay­ments, they of­ten come ac­com­pa­nied with let­ters and other sup­port­ing doc­u­ments, which can re­ally help a re­searcher to feel for their an­ces­tors’ lives.”

Thanks to an ear­lier col­lab­o­ra­tion with Glas­gow and West of Scot­land Fam­ily His­tory So­ci­ety (, in­dexes for the sur­viv­ing 19th-cen­tury records for Glas­gow, Barony and Go­van are avail­able in a com­put­erised data­base in the ar­chive, with ad­di­tional 20th­cen­tury records up to 1948 (and for other ar­eas in the west of Scot­land) also avail­able for con­sul­ta­tion. A clo­sure pe­riod ex­ists for some of the more re­cent hold­ings, how­ever, at 75 years for adults and 100 years for chil­dren.

For one group, in par­tic­u­lar, the Poor Law records can be a real god­send. “Our records are a won­der­ful source for Ir­ish re­search,” says Irene, “with a lot of ap­pli­cants in the late-19th cen­tury be­ing set­tlers who had moved here ei­ther for work, or in the af­ter­math of the Famine.

The records can iden­tify fam­ily mem­bers, but also in­di­cate from where in Ire­land they orig­i­nated. One of the old­est Ir­ish ap­pli­cants, for ex­am­ple, was born in Done­gal in 1750. Where else would you find that in­for­ma­tion?”

Poverty de­vel­oped along­side the growth of the wealthy. Dis­ease be­came ram­pant and there was a high in­fant mor­tal­ity rate

Who Do You Think You Are? Glas­gow Sci­ence Cen­tre on the

south bank of the River Clyde

Broomielaw Bridge over the River Clyde in Glas­gow in the late-19th cen­tury

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