Find your ancestors in Lanarkshire, The People Of New Lanark 1785-1935

New Lanark school girls dancing

Discover your Scottish ancestor through this unique collection of records from the industrial town New Lanark. The collection includes court appearances, employee transfers, poor relief applications, warrants for arrears of poor rates, work records, rent books and more. You might find out that your ancestor was a teacher in the New Lanark School, died in a fatal mill accident or was one of 55 people who owed money to William Gibson, the New Lanark surgeon, at the time of his death in 1831. Search for your ancestor or select the different record types to explore this unique collection.

Record Types

The Lanarkshire, The People of New Lanark 1785-1935 includes 245 different publications/documents from the village’s history, which are separated into 24 record types. These include:

  • Baptisms – includes the name of the individual’s parents, occupation of father, birth date, birth place and minister. The records are from the New Lanark Baptismal Register.
  • Communion rolls – a register of the names and addresses of the communicants, created and maintained by the Kirk Sessions. The established Church of Scotland is Presbyterian. The communion rolls are from the New Lanark Church; Hope Street United Presbyterian Church; St. Nicholas Parish Church (Church of Scotland); and Broomgate First Relief Church, later United Presbyterian.
  • Cotton mills – documents related to the cotton mills including the New Lanark Mill Register, which records all employees and births and deaths and the General Ledger of the Lanark Twist Co., which recorded mill suppliers.
  • Court inventories – records of New Lanark residents found in the Glasgow Sheriff Court Inventories, Ayr Sheriff Court Inventories and the Edinburgh Sheriff Court Inventories.
  • Criminal – records from the Lanark Sheriff Court, the local criminal court; Lanark Prison Register; and the Justice of the Peace Clerk of Lanark. The justice of the peace is a lay magistrate, appointed by the local community and trained in criminal law and procedure. The Prison Register recorded a description of the prisoner at the time of admission, detailing the prisoner’s weight, eye and hair colour. Most of the criminal records also include information about residency, trial date, sentence and an account of the crime.
  • Deaths – the death records come from the Hamilton Advertiser. Every year in January a full review of the past year was published. The records include the individual’s name, spouse’s name, death date, death place, residence, age at death and occupation.
  • Fatal accidents – there are only four reports of fatal accidents, one from 1899 and three from 1935. The reports include the individual’s name, age, address and death date.
  • Funeral societies – records of funeral society members from the New Lanark Senior Funeral Society, Old and New Lanark Funeral Society and New Lanark Junior Funeral Society.
  • Kirk Sessions – these records were taken from the Lanark Kirk Session Minute Books. Kirk sessions was the court of the parish. The established Church of Scotland was Presbyterian. Includes the names of those who appear in the roll of poor, a list of people receiving poor relief from the parish.
  • Marriages – includes the names of the couple, marriage date and witness.
  • Miscellaneous papers – individuals named in a selection of documents from Lanark including the Lanark Heritors Minute Books, inventory of William Gibson Surgeon, Robert Owen’s diary, Thomas Robertson’s Memorandum Book, The Petition of the Inhabitants of New Lanark to the House of Lords in 1818 and more.
  • Monumental inscriptions – includes the deceased’s name, death date, parents, spouse and/or children’s names.
  • Newspaper notices – retrieved from the Hamilton Advertiser, the transcripts describe the newspaper article and why this individual’s name is mentioned within the article.
  • Poor law assessments – lists of individuals in arrears of their Poor Law contribution.
  • Poor rates – the list of those with a warrant to recover arrears to be collected by the Collector of the Poor Rate. The debtor’s belongings could be held until the debt was paid.
  • Poor relief – records come from the application for Poor Relief and the Register of Poor. Includes the individual’s name, age, address and allowed relief.
  • Rent books – details of those who paid rent and how much in New Lanark.
  • Schools and Institute – includes school admission records and school certificate books giving the names of pupils, length of schools and reasons for absence. Some records will include the student’s birth date and names of parents. Also includes reports from government inspectors about the conditions and progress of the schools.
  • Seat rents – seats or pews within churches could be rented yearly. These records include the family members’ names, the number of seats they rent and how much rental charge they paid.
  • Small debtors – details of debts owed and judgements given from the Lanark Sheriff Court. In the records you will find the person’s name, occupation, spouse’s name, whether pursuer or debtor, amount owed, date of judgement and final decision.
  • Valuation rolls – annual rolls including the name of the proprietor, tenant, annual rateable value, weekly rent payable and the occupier of every property in New Lanark.
  • Wages – details of a person’s post and wages.
  • Wills – this small collection includes a person’s name, death date, relatives’ names, occupation, residence and date of the will.
  • Workhouse – includes the date the inmate was admitted to the Lanark Workhouse. Also, includes records of those who were able to leave the workhouse.

New Lanark

New Lanark, the former cotton spinning village in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, was founded by David Dale in 1785 and was continued by mill manager, social pioneer and reformer Robert Owen.

In 1785 Richard Arkwright, in partnership with David Dale, opened a new cotton mill on the River Clyde in New Lanark. Dale started to create an industrial village for his workforce, but it was not until 1799 that Dale went into partnership with Robert Owen, a Welsh cotton spinner, that the village started to become an example for other growing industrial communities. Within the records we can find the marriage announcement of Robert Owen to Catherine Dale, David Dale’s daughter.

By 1809 Owen started to remodel New Lanark. He believed that industry depended on the well being of the workforce. He wanted to create a Utopian society without crime, poverty or misery. Construction was started on new housing and public buildings for both the villages’s physically and spiritual needs. Central to Owen’s vision for social reform was education. He built schools for the community’s children, including an infant school, and did not allow children to work before the age of ten. A prominent part of the school curriculum was Geography, but there was also time allotted for military exercise, dancing and music.

New Lanark reflects the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment. Robert Owen left New Lanark in 1824 to develop New Harmony, Indiana in the United States. Today, New Lanark is a World Heritage site, through a process of conservation and rehabilitation the town has been preserved as an early example of industrial planned settlement.

The People of New Lanark 1785-1935

This collection has been created by Alan E Laurie and Nicholas Young. They describe their efforts as an ‘attempt to bring together in one place all the surviving details on the life events of the mill workforce, starting with the list of men and boys who went to Cromford in 1785 & the list of orphan boarders of 1802 to the village rent books of 1901-1921.’

Alan E Laurie and Nicholas Young have consulted all surviving church records (baptisms, marriages, communion lists, irregular marriages and cases of fornication), Sheriff Court and High Court records (small debt and minor and major crime) as well as the Lanark prison register, which provides a physical description of each prisoner and personal details.

All properties in Scotland have an annual valuation giving details of owners and tenants. A selection of these has been included up to 1935. They provide a head of household census for years when the census was not taken or has not yet been released. Rent books, wage books and letters books at the University of Glasgow have been consulted and details added to the index.

The list of children that David Dale recruited from the West Kirk Charity Workhouse in the 1790s and the petition from New Lanark to the House of Lords in 1818 bearing the signatures of over 500 men are among the more interesting discoveries included.

The poor are always with us and the records of those who applied for parish help provide a vast amount of family detail from people, who because of their circumstances, usually leave little or no documentation.

Alan E Laurie and Nicholas Young located and transcribed the school registers of 1850, 1851 and 1852 from 3 separate archives, the New Lanark school log of 1870 -1901 and the Admission Registers 1871-1927. They also consulted historical newspapers including the local paper, the Hamilton Advertiser (1890-1918). No stone has been left unturned. The greatest treasure is the Mill register of Births deaths and Marriages 1818-1853, fully transcribed.