Local and Family History
The Mitchell Library has a wealth of unique resources and services to help you find out more about your family and local history.
The Family History Centre is located on level 5 of the Mitchell Library. Special Collections is just one of several partners in The Family History Centre at The Mitchell, along with Glasgow City Archives the Registrars’ Genealogy Service, and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives. You will find lots more information at the Family History at the Mitchell website.
About Local and Family History
The core of our local and family history collection is the Glasgow Collection. This unique collection was set up by the Mitchell Trustees in 1874 to collect and preserve all kinds of material about Glasgow. The Glasgow Collection has grown to provide a distinctive record of our social, economic and cultural heritage, and is a living and growing part of the city’s collective memory. It offers endless research and discovery opportunities to both scholars and the local community.
We’ve highlighted some key library resources that will make your local or family history research come alive.
Catalogues and Finding Aids
Our finding aids and collection catalogues are the tools to help you open up and discover our rich local history resources. Many finding aids can currently only be accessed within the library.
You can find books to interest you by searching the catalogue for “Local History or “Family History”, or search by author or title to find particular books titles you’re interested in.
Periodicals and newspapers
Our collection contains a variety of periodicals such as the “St. Mungo”, “The Thistle”, “Quiz” and “Glasgow Clincher”. These tell us a great deal about the social and cultural lives of our ancestors, with subject matter ranging from the serious to the gossipy. We have one of the largest collections of Glasgow newspapers in the UK. To find out more see our Newspapers page.
Newspapers can also provide crucial family history detail through birth, marriage and death notices and obituaries. For example the Evening Times Roll of Honour contains short biographies of service personnel who were reported missing, wounded or killed, as an appeal from their families for further information.
Births, deaths and census records
We have microfilm copies of Old Parish Registers for the Church of Scotland. There are also indexes to births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales. Access on microfiche is provided to the International Genealogical Index, a family history database that lists several hundred million names of deceased persons throughout the world. Census returns on microfilm for much of Scotland dating from 1841 to 1901, provide a detailed insight into everyday lives.
Burial registers and monumental inscriptions
We have burial records on microfilm for most Glasgow cemeteries, as well as Monumental Inscriptions (text written on gravestones) for cemeteries throughout Scotland. Glasgow City Archives has the original burial records for the city of Glasgow. Find more information on the Family History at the Mitchell website
Electoral registers, or voters’ rolls, list those people eligible to vote in local, parliamentary and other national elections. They can be used for private research as they often contain useful information for example in the earlier registers, individuals’ occupations are listed. Glasgow voters' rolls from 1857-1962 are also available online via Ancestry which is available free-of-charge in every Glasgow library, and enables searching by name rather than by address. We also hold a number of Valuation Rolls, which give the names of the proprietor and tenants of rateable commercial and domestic properties in Glasgow.
Trade directories and telephone books
Trades directories, Post Office directories and telephone books show the social and economic development of Glasgow, offering a snapshot of industry and businesses, streets and residences in the local area at a given date. They also contain advertisements and other useful details. These directories are also searchable online on the National Library of Scotland website.
We have many significant manuscripts relating to the obscure, the famous, and the infamous, which bring the past to life in a personal and immediate way. These include letters and documents. While some are concerned with industry and business, others, like the literary manuscripts, give a valuable insight into writers’ early drafts and corrections.
Illustrations and photographs
The Glasgow Collection is a rich source of thousands of illustrations such as drawings, watercolours, engravings and paintings. These help bring to life the changing size and scale of the city over centuries.
The Virtual Mitchell is a fascinating online collection of historical images featuring Glasgow's buildings and streets, as well as people going about their daily lives, which can be searched by area, street or subject. The images are just a selection of those held in The Glasgow Collection at The Mitchell Library, Glasgow City Archives, and Glasgow Museums.
We have around 50 separate photographic collections, and many photographs within other collections. Many of these date from the 19th century, reflecting people’s passionate interest in what was then a new hobby. They capture moments which show us gradual changes in the life of the city and document people, places and projects. Here are some highlights from our collection.
North British Locomotive Collection
The North British Locomotive Company in Springburn was once the largest firm of locomotive builders in Europe. Its constituent companies were Neilson, Reid & Co., Sharp, Stewart & Co. and Dubs & Co., and the short-lived Clyde Locomotive Co. Our North British Locomotive Collection, which is mostly made up of works’ photographs and engine order-books, helps to illustrates Glasgow’s industrial past.
The Thomas Annan Collection
Thomas Annan is probably most famous for his commission for the City Improvement Trust, which recorded the cramped living conditions and poor sanitation of the slum areas of the city before demolition in the late 1860s. The volume “Old Closes and Streets”, was published in 1900, but the Glasgow Collection also holds two other unpublished editions from 1871 and 1878. In our Annan Collection we also hold other Annan series, such as those of the Old College and the University, Old Country Houses, and the Loch Katrine water works.
Maps show us the essential, visual information that only contemporary knowledge of a place can bring. They reveal different aspects of the city, including its major physical changes over time, allowing us to compare how people may have lived and worked. In our Maps Collection we have maps of the whole of Scotland, with Glasgow and the counties of Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and Dunbartonshire being particularly well-covered. Ordnance Survey maps from 1856 to the present day are available for most areas.
Entertainment – Theatre, Music Hall, Cinema
Our Entertainment Collection holds playbills and programmes (many autographed) of Glasgow’s many theatres and music halls from 1812 onwards. The collection also includes periodicals and catalogues containing advertisements, reviews and performer biographies, as well as ephemera such as tickets, posters and flyers.
Pamphlets, chapbooks and broadsides
Our collection includes pamphlets and other small publications which were cheap to produce and easy to distribute, making them widely popular and a tool of political protest, satire, or scandal. Chapbooks were usually printed on a single sheet of paper, and then folded into 8, 12, 16 or 24 pages. We have examples from Scotland, England and Ireland, although the majority were printed in Glasgow. Their content is varied, including moral tales, fortune-telling guides, and bawdy stories. Broadsides were single-sheet publications, printed on one side for pasting on street furniture. We have one of the largest collections from a single publisher in Britain – “The Poet’s Box” of Glasgow. These were produced in a number of languages, their content reflecting contemporary interest in ballads and sheet-music, as well as fascination with accounts of crimes and executions.
We have a number of online resources on our eResources page, which will help you find information on local and family history at any stage of your research. For library members using computers in any Glasgow library, we provide access, free-of-charge, to a number of online resources, including the genealogical websites, Ancestry Library Edition, Find My Past, and British Newspaper Archive.
Browse our book collection on Glasgow’s local history and heritage.
We welcome feedback from library users.
Contact us to let us know how we are doing or if you want to find out more.