View Full Version : Adoption Scotland 1870s-1890s

11-06-2013, 5:39 AM
My Great grandfather was born in Ireland (just a few days before the now destroyed 1871 census-grrr) but was brought up in Scotland, by his mother's sister and her husband. Name on birth cert is Thomas Archibald Johnston. In 1881 the household consisted of Head Henry Kelly McArthur 43, his wife Margaret McArthur nee Davidson, his daughter Jessie, wife's sister Mary Davidson (maiden name being used), and her children Thomas Johnstone (sic) and Polly Johnstone. In 1889 Henry Kelly dies of a liver tumour. His wife Margaret soon afterward emigrates to Australia, with daughter Jessie, niece Polly and Nephew Thomas- the interesting thing is on the passenger list (I have the original) Polly and Thomas are now McArthurs, and remained so afterwards. Thomas Archibald Johnston was known after this as Thomas Johnston McArthur to his deathbed at age 92. So.. the question is were the children adopted by the McArthurs before Henry died? Would there be any records? Interestingly Henry and Margaret had two other children who died in infancy, born the same years as Polly and Thomas... There is a document from Daniel Stewart College in 1884 noting the entry of Thomas Johnston, guardian Henry McArthur, so any adoption would be between 1884 and 1892 when they left for Australia. I have never been able to trace any evidence of the existance of Thomas' father on his birth cert, but do know that his mother was still alive at least until 1899 when she is mentioned in her mother's poorhouse records. My goodness what a long tale- any thoughts appreciated!

11-06-2013, 7:01 PM
In Scotland, adoption wasn't legally formalised until 1930, so there won't be any official documentation. Since this was apparently an arrangement between family members, the chance of there being any other informal record is probably pretty slim.

It doesn't get much better after 1930 - whereas in England it's possible to go to London and view the adoption register (which doesn't say anything about birth parents), the equivalent Scottish records are available only to those who have been adopted and a very restricted range of other people, which doesn't include family historians.

This information is from the National Archives of Scotland site at http://www.nas.gov.uk/guides/adoptions.asp where it's explained in more detail.


12-06-2013, 12:40 AM
On the trip to Australia would the travellers have needed passports (or equivalent documentation) and are copies of these obtainable? Google tells me passports were standard for British nationals from 1855, doesn't say from what age.

12-06-2013, 12:59 AM

The link below has information re passports but most people would not have had documentation.