Research on Ancestry of McLellan Family

Posted on 19 November 2013

As a professional genealogist I value the expansive resources of The Family History centre which enriches research into Glasgow related family history.

Preparing a family tree chart can be a fascinating exercise in itself. Researching a family history associated with the family tree provides a much deeper journey into the lives of your forebears. The resources in the City Archives is a rollercoaster for the researcher making the journey through Glasgow’s varied and proud history. A good example would be a recent research project into a family named McLellan, who were in business in Glasgow for many generations. After conducting the usual searches of births, marriages, deaths and census records, it was then time to dig deeper to build a picture of the business dealings of the McLellan family.

The McLellan forebears started out in two main ancestral strands, both traced back to Dunlop in Ayrshire; McLellan and Carswell. The McLellan's first appeared in Glasgow around 1850 and were publicans running the Cossack Inn in King Street, Trongate. They then progressed into a shawl fringing business, which spawned a successful cartage contracting business in Kinning Park. The Carswell's arrived in Glasgow about 15 years earlier, around 1835, and were also shawl fringer's in Glassford Street. Yet, the eldest male offspring became the progenitor to successive generations of writers or solicitors in Glasgow.

A good start when researching businesses in Glasgow is to check the Glasgow Directories, dating back to the 1780s. There I found an Andrew McLellan in 1851 living in Miller’s Place but running the Cossack Inn in King Street. In 1855 Robert Carswell was advertising the solicitor’s business of Walker and Carswell, at 51 St Vincent Street. Later research confirmed he was to become the first Town Clerk of Govan in 1864. Later research in the Directories traced the business of A & J McLellan, cartage and motor haulage contractors, throughout the 20th century up until WW2. One fascinating insight was to see the business develop from postal addresses, to the advent of a telegraphic address and then to the start of a small telephone exchange.

Another area of research to bear in mind when researching business records is the extensive archive of the 14 Incorporated Guilds and the Burgess records, as well as the records of many of Glasgow and Scotland's businesses. In 1835, Robert Carswell was incorporated into the Glasgow Weaver’s Guild by his father’s hand, meaning his father was also a Glasgow Burgess Weaver. Even so, businesses have a tendency to peter out or go into liquidation, and family members can then fall on hard times. The McLellan business was very successful until after WW2. A check on the huge and expansive Glasgow Poor Records held by the Glasgow City Archives showed one offshoot of Andrew McLellan the publican, a grandson also named Andrew McLellan, claiming poor relief in Glasgow in 1921.

It is also important to check whether businesses submitted any architectural proposals for changes or additions to their premises. This was a particularly good find at the City Archives; no less than six sets of drawn building plans found were relating to the business premises in Kinning Park and also at the family villa in Bellahouston. They all related to the pre-WW1 Edwardian era when A & J McLellan was at the peak of its expansion. Prepare to jump aboard the Glasgow City Archive’s rollercoaster and ride the highs and lows of the deeper goings-on within your family history and get to the roots of your family tree!

John McGee, Glasgow