Tracing ancestors who came into contact with civil or criminal courts.

What do I need to know before I s​tart?

Try to find out:

  • name of person
  • which court
  • approximate date of court appearance


What records can I find in The Mitchell Library: Glasgow City Archives and Special Collections?

The records of central and local courts contain details of individuals who came in contact with them either in civil or criminal matters. As well as cases held in court, the records of the central and burgh courts contain Registers of Deeds. These registers record a great variety of documents, including contracts, marriage contracts, lands, indentures of apprenticeships and occasionally wills.

The City Archives holds an incomplete series of burgh court books for Glasgow and Rutherglen. Burgh courts had jurisdiction over various civil and criminal matters. The burgh criminal courts usually dealt with minor matters. These include:

Glasgow Burgh Courts

  • Services of Heirs, 1625-1866
  • Justices of Peace Court, 1663-1680
  • Register of Deeds, 1625-1973 (also printed indexes for the rest of Scotland, 1665-1683)
  • Small Debt Court, 1773-1817
  • Licensing Court, 1779-1977
  • Criminal Court, 1802-1950
  • Police Courts, 1805-1875
  • Central Police Court, 1906 (final sitting) (ref: B3/1/1/1-10)

Rutherglen Burgh Courts

  • Court, 1619-1975
  • Service of Heirs, 1794-1860
  • Registers of Deeds, 1628-1736

Glasgow City Archives also holds records of the Justice of the Peace Courts for the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including minute books, small debt courts, and juvenile courts (sometimes incomplete) for the following:

  • Dunbartonshire, 1728-1975 (ref: JP6)
  • Glasgow, 1889-1974 (ref: JP22)
  • Lanarkshire (includes Glasgow), 1811-1970 (refs: CO1/10/5/1 and JP16)
  • Renfrewshire, 1859-1971 (ref: JP7)

Among other things, the Justice of the Peace of Courts include:

  • licensing courts include applications, appeals, testimonials in favour of applicants and records relating to the type of premise licensed
  • court books include petty sessions to try small crimes and juvenile courts to deal with young offenders. Such registers usually give the parties' names, the charge, the date of trial and sentence, standardly involving a fine or short spell of imprisonment​


A small series of police court records survive, including but not exclusive to:

  • Glasgow Police Court books, 1813-1824 (ref: B3/1/1/1-10)
  • Printed list of cases for trial at Glasgow Autumn Circuit, 1825 (ref: SR22/53/1)
  • Circuit court indictments, 1896-1977 (ref: SR22/53/2-3)
  • Glasgow Sheriff Court book: criminal indictments, 1815-1819 (ref: SR22/53/5)
  • Last sitting of the central police court, Glasgow, 1906 (ref: SR22/63/50)

Glasgow City Archives holds the following Glasgow District Court records and a small number of Police Court records which were still in place during the transition from Police to District Courts:

  • Glasgow District Court, 1979-1998
  • Glasgow Central Police Court, Sept 1967-Oct 1975
  • Strathclyde Central Police Court, Nov 1975-Nov 1979
  • Glasgow Charing Cross Court, Jan 1973-Dec 1977
  • Glasgow Govan Court, Jan 1973-Feb 1978
  • Glasgow Marine Division Court, Jan 1973-Jan 1978
  • Rutherglen Court, May 1975-Apr 1977
  • Glasgow Juvenile Central Court, Jan 1969-Mar 1973


​What records can I see online?

Check the National Records of Scotland for details about how to search for High Court Criminal trials online.


What Records I find elsewhere?

Many of Glasgow and Scotland's court records are held in the National Records of Scotland, including:

  • High Court of Justiciary, which is the principal source for information on crime and criminals, and in particular over serious crimes, such as murder, rape, treason and other serious offences. In the 19th century repeat offenders, or persons deemed criminals 'by habit and repute', could be tried there for lesser crimes such as theft, or housebreaking. The court sits permanently in Edinburgh and travels on circuit around Scotland
  • Sheriff Court, which deals with both civil and criminal matters, latterly for lesser crime, commonly theft and assault


What other resources will help me find information?


The National Records of Scotland has various guides to court records.



Glasgow Libraries published Glasgow Circuit Trials 1827-1879, which is a an index to cases heard in the Circuit Court.

Local newspapers often publish stories of court proceedings and there is a comprehensive newspaper collection within Special Collections. ​



Glasgow City Archives

0141 287 2910

In this guide