Adopted and Looked After Children

How do you find that elusive ancestor who was adopted, boarded-out, fostered or in-care within Glasgow or the west of Scotland during the nineteenth to the twentieth century?

What do I need to know before I start?

Try to find out:

  • birth and/or adopted name
  • birth parents' names
  • place of birth
  • where adopted/boarded-out/fostered

What recor​ds can I find in The Mitchell: Glasgow City Archives?

Glasgow City Archives holds the records of the various local authority and predecessor bodies, which were responsible for child care from the middle of the nineteenth century, for Glasgow and for areas of the former Strathclyde Region.

Legal adoption was only established in Scotland in 1930. Before 1930 ‘adoptions’ could be arranged by private individuals or by one of a number of charitable adoption agencies or by a poor law authority. From 1930, adoptions have normally been by charitable bodies or local authority ‘social work’ departments and then ratified by civil courts. The official birth records and court records of adoptions after 1930 are held by the National Records of Scotland.

The records held by Glasgow City Archives relate to the placement of ‘adopted’, boarded-out, fostered and in-care children by the following authorities:

  • poor law authorities which were established in 1845 and acquired responsibility for orphaned, separated or deserted children, including: Glasgow, Bute, Dunbartonshire (West), Lanarkshire (South) and Renfrewshire
  • Glasgow Corporation and Glasgow City Council, 1930-1975, 1996-present
  • Strathclyde Regional Council, including records of former county council areas of Argyll, Bute, Dunbartonshire, Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire, 1930-1996

The records which may be available include:

  • poor law applications or general registers of poor (often include separated children)
  • separate children registers
  • boarded-out children registers/cards
  • adverts and applications for adoptions
  • case files: adoption, boarded-out, foster and in-case children

There is no general access to these records until 100 years after the child’s birth. You should check the City Archives department to get further advice.

What records can I see online?

There are no records online but do come and visit us.


What records can I get elsewhere?

Official birth entries and court records of adoptions after 1930 are held in the National Records of Scotland. You should contact the Adoption Unit. Court records may still be held by the Courts, so if the adoption took place less than 25 years ago, you should contact the National Records of Scotland to check whether the court records have been transferred.


Glasgow City Archives

0141 287 2910

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