History of GWSFHS

In 1977, a newspaper advert invited interested parties to come to a meeting with a view to forming a new Society to “promote the study of family history in Glasgow and the west of Scotland” and the Glasgow & West of Scotland Family History was founded as a Charity run by a Council of volunteers.

Image ogf Newsletter no. 1 - 1978
Newsletter no. 1 – 1978
Photo of Joe Fisher, first Chair of the Society
Joe Fisher, first Chair of the Society

In the beginning, the Society held monthly evening meetings in an upstairs room at Hillhead Library with a speaker on a family history topic followed by tea and biscuits when members could mingle and exchange information.  Chairman Joe Fisher, head librarian at the Glasgow Room at the Mitchell Library negotiated a small room off the Glasgow Room where Council meetings were held and Tom Waugh, a founder member, held informal classes on beginning family history research. 

In those days, access to Birth, Marriage and Death Registers and Census Returns involved a visit to the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh.  While there were handwritten indexes for each year for the Births, Marriages and Deaths, a search for the correct entry could be exhausting especially without an exact year or for a common name.  Visitors were not permitted to handle the original Registers but were required to enter the Index reference on a Request Slip and wait for an assistant to accompany them upstairs armed with a notebook and pencil (no ink permitted!) to view the original entry to be transcribed.

No index existed for Census Returns and a search through a whole Census area was required to identify possible families and transcribe their entries, again with notebook and pencil.  On returning home, details could be transferred to index cards for easier access.

To ensure members were kept informed about the Society, the first Journal was issued in February 1978, printed on paper using, a Gestetner duplicating machine.

As the Society grew, it became obvious that a more permanent base was required and the Society rented the small Unit 15 at 32 Mansfield Street members could access the growing volume of printed material and 1988 version of the IGI compiled by LDS.  However by February 1998, the Society had to move again, this time to Unit 5 at 22 Mansfield Street, to make room for a photocopier and fiche and film readers.

When personal computers became more affordable, member Michael Smith hosted computer sessions at the premises to introduce others to specialised programmes for family history.   Computers made collecting and sharing data so much easier!  In collaboration with Joe Fisher and Anne Escott of the Glasgow Room at the Mitchell Library and staff at Glasgow City Archives, members volunteered to transcribe the 1851 census for Glasgow and index the Glasgow Poor Law Records.  Society members also took part in the LDS project to transcribe the 1881 census.  These indexes are available to view at the Society’s premises.

By October 2005, however, the Society had outgrown Unit 5, and moved to the present premises at Unit 13, 32 Mansfield Street.  This was a mammoth task undertaken by members who volunteered their time and expertise.  There are now six research computers with internet access, printing and photocopying facilities, film and fiche readers and a separate library room.

Over the years, Society members have taken part in transcribing monumental inscriptions at various cemeteries, notably Glasgow Cathedral, lair records at the Southern Necropolis and indexing pre 1855 deaths and burials in Scotland.  The work goes on and the results are available to view at the Research Centre which is well worth a visit.