Friday, 15 November 2013

"Please don't send me to the Poorhouse!"

The amount of information about everyday people held by the National Records of Scotland is truly astounding. If you are descended from the ‘Great and the Good’ you will expect to find sasines, wills, deeds etc. you may even find your ancestor’s name on a royal charter! If however your great-grandfather was an ‘Ag Lab’ finding information about him and his family’s life can take a little more patience.

Outside the standard research tools of BMDs, census and OPRs many of the records of everyday people are unindexed. Records of the people in receipt of poor relief can help us trace our genealogy and help add to picture of our family.

Some records are held in local archives, some by the National Records of Scotland. You will find Kirsty Wilkinson’s list ‘Records of the Scottish Poor’ invaluable in your search for the documents you need.

If you would like me to search one of these records for you, perhaps because you cannot visit the relevant archive yourself, use the form on the right hand side of this page to contact me.

I wanted to show you today a type of document that sadly does not survive throughout the whole country but when it does it gives you such a rich insight into your ancestors lives.

The record is held by the National Records of Scotland, their reference is SC19/70/10 and it is entitled ‘Wigtown Applications to the Sheriff for Poor Relief’.

Here is a transcription of the case:

Item one part a:

Poor Law application by Ann McGinn or Fleming 1864

Stranraer 1st Aug[us]t 1864
Unto the Honourable the Sheriff of Wigton (sic) and Kirkcudbright
Petition of Ann McGinn or Fleming a Widow, residing in Fisher Street, Stranraer, who

Humbly Sheweth
That she is 67 years of age, and was left a widow about 39 years ago, and after that time she wrought at all kinds of work - sometimes in House service, - sometime at Agricultural service - sometimes acting as sick-nurse for the support of herself and three helpless children left with her at her husband’s death - the youngest of whom was then only Six months old.
That she, through great anxiety and laborious attention to whatever employment she got from various kind friends she managed to bring up her children. (The Balgreggan (The late Major Maitland’s) family were kind and good to her.). And it is only since the month of April that she has been rendered unable to earn a support by work as usual, owing to having a very sore leg, and having pains through her frame, and a general weakness, that she complains, -
She has applied on more than one occasion to Mr Henry Watt, Inspector for the Poor’s Board of the Parish of Stranraer for assistance and Relief but he refuses to grant any, although she sent in two petitions to the Board.
That all the petitioner wanted from the Board was as much as would pay the rent of her house being £2..10/- and half of Poor Rates to her Landlord & some little charges for Water, and lighting the Gas on the street; But although all this would amount to little more than one shilling per week, it was refused to her, and a threat made that she would be sent to the Poor-House if persisted in craving that justifiable and honest necessity out door Relief to which she considers herself entitled according to all Rules of Humanity, Justice and Equity, even if “Brotherly Love” was not to be included.
Your Petitioner Humbly prays that your Lordships will take her case into consideration, and afford her such relief as to you may seem proper, and for whatever you do she will be most grateful.
[signed] Ann Fleming

Item one part b:

Wigtown 9th. August 1864, The Sheriff substitute having considered the foregoing Petition of Ann McGinn or Fleming, a Widow, residing in Fisher Street Stranraer, Directs the Inspector of Poor of the parish of Stranraer to afford to the applicant interim relief and orders him to lodge with the Sheriff Clerk within six days from this date a statement in writing shewing the reason why the application for relief was refused.
[signed] M Rhind

Item 2

[A letter sent to M. Rhind Esq, Sheriff Depute, Wigtown]
Stranraer 11th August 1864
Case of Ann McGinn or Fleming
The Inspector not having been served a Copy of the Applicants Petition to the Sheriff, he cannot of course answer any statements which she has made, but he apprehends that she has not stated the fact of her being offered relief by admission to the Rhins Poor House, which she refused on 19th Feb[ruar]y 1863. & she has not recently asked relief -
The Inspector has this day again offered her interim relief by a ticket of admission to said Poor House, to fulfil your Lordships deliverance, which the Inspector apprehends takes this case out of Court, to be thereafter dealt with by the Board of Supervision, should she complain of inadequate relief, which your Lordship knows is her only complaint generally - Absolvitor humbly craved. -
H. Watt Inspe[cto]r

Item one part c:

Wigtown 19th August 1864 having resumed consideration of the complaint with the statement by the Inspector of the Poor of the Parish of Stranraer In respect the Petitioner has been offered a Ticket to the Poor House, dismisses the complaint.

[signed] M Rhind

Note. If the Petitioner thinks proper she can apply to the Board of Supervision.

© Copyright National Records of Scotland and Emma Maxwell of