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Poor Relief



Poor Relief Registers

Before 1845, under the old poor law, not all parishes kept formal records of poor. The only references to individual paupers, other than minutes of kirk sessions and heritors authorising payments, may be financial accounts. Where registers were kept, it was often the practice to have two rolls, a 'permanent roll' for paupers who were expected to be chargeable for the remainder of their lives, and a roll of 'occasional poor' for the others. The Poor Law (Scotland) Act 1845 established parochial boards in rural parishes and in the towns, and a central Board of Supervision in Edinburgh. The forms of records created by the new poor law were closely controlled by the Board of Supervision which had direct oversight, both of the local inspectors of poor and of poorhouse governors. At least some types of record were printed in Edinburgh as volumes of blank forms, to the Board's specifications. Not all the local boards used these forms, but even if they did not, their records necessarily include the same information. The main record types (other than the minutes of the board and its committees) were those kept by the inspectors, in particular the Registers of Poor and the Record of Applications for Relief.

Registers of Poor

General Registers of Poor
Children's Separate Registers
Applications for Relief
Adoption and other children's records
Miscellaneous inspectors' records

Use of poor relief registers

Those with a special interest in the form of these records are referred to the records themselves, normally in local authority record offices, and also to the Annual Reports of the Board of Supervision. The Appendix to the Fifth Report (1851) lists the record series to be kept by poorhouses, and the Appendices to the Tenth and Twentieth Reports (1855 and 1865) list the records to be kept by inspectors, with illustrations of the formats of the most important series. Not all the records referred to are available for public access, or at least not as far forward as 1948. Local authority adoption records will normally be closed, other than to those having a personal interest in them. Access may be through a counselling service provided by the Social Work Department. For registers of poor and records of applications for relief, the practice of authorities has not yet been standardised and closure periods may vary.

Other Knowledge Base entries on poor relief
Poor Law before 1845
Poor Law after 1845
Registers of the Poor
In the SCAN Virtual Vault you can see examples of poor relief records from Scottish archives.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. What do the terms 'indoor relief' and 'outdoor relief' mean?

2. What is meant by the terms 'test case' and 'test ward'?

3. Where can I find parochial board, parish council and poor relief records for a parish?

4. Why might the information in a register of the poor contradict information in other records?

5. If poor relief registers do not survive for a parish, is it worthwhile looking in parochial board/parish council minutes for information on a pauper?

6. I have seen the term 'General Register of the Poor' used. Does this refer to a central register of the poor, kept nationally for the whole of Scotland?

In the SCAN Virtual Vault you can see examples of poor relief records from Scottish archives.