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 Poor relief in the Borders in 1800s?

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hunbun Posted - 23 September 2012 : 16:21:27
Hi all
I am looking for 4 illigitimate births between the years 1838 and 1851 in Selkirk Scotland and i cant find anything. The mum Jessie/Janet Thorburn is at home with her parents in 1841 and her 1st illigitimate daughter Janet/Jessie Heatlie is with her. Jessie went on to have 3 more illigitimate children with the same man Andrew Heatlie but for what ever reason they never married and Jessie died a single woman in 1889, Andrew married Isabella Fairgrieve in 1860 but he died in 1865 no more children. I know their father was Andrew as he is written on each of their death certificates. What i am asking is, is this unusual for none of the children to be registered at that time and was there any kind of poor relief in Scotland at that time that maybe Jessie could have applied for. Also Andrew is know where to be found on either the 1841 or 1851 census.
Thankyou in advance
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vivdunstan Posted - 11 May 2017 : 07:33:02
Belated reply to this, but posting in case it helps other people. I've found in the Borders at this time that illegitimate births are rarely recorded in the Church of Scotland normal registers of baptisms. But they frequently pop up in kirk session minutes, recording the mothers being interrogated, and recording details of the child's birth and parentage. This doesn't mean the children weren't baptised, but it is the records that the church officials tended to put them into.

So do check the kirk session minutes if you haven't done so already. You may just find one or two of the children, and not all, but all info helps.

Also picking up on more recent research: Graham and Emma Maxwell, together with volunteers, are indexing 19th century Scottish paternity court case records. The results are online, included in their website at

and the paternity case records in particular are searchable at

If you find an ancestor in there it is well worth paying the small fee to Graham and Emma to get full details from the court cases. Often you will get detailed accounts of witnesses. And it's not just the rich fathers who were sued for financial support.

Sadly I can't see this Thorburn family in there - the surviving court records may be too late, not sure, but they do include Selkirk Sheriff Court. But it is always worth searching for family names on the site.

hunbun Posted - 27 September 2012 : 11:48:33
Forgot to mention that Andrew Heatlie married in 1860 to a Isabella Fairgrieve which must of been very annoying for Jessie as she was the mother of his 4 children and both Isabella and Jessie lived in the same street at the time.
hunbun Posted - 27 September 2012 : 11:45:20
Hi Elma
2 of the children married and Andrew Heatlie is named on each/all of the marriage and death certificates as the father, although it also says on 2 of them mother: Jessie Heatlie m/s Thorburn so she obviously called herself both names for whatever reason. I have got Andrews will from the Scotland people site (he died in 1865) but only the oldest son James Heatlie is mentioned i will get it out and have another read see if theres anything i have missed on it. I will check out the website you mentioned as well.
epfborders Posted - 26 September 2012 : 21:03:18


Prior to 1855, births were typically recorded at the church which the family attended, depending on whether the minister or the clerk bothered and of course, the records may not have survived - so it's not surprising that you haven't found anything. You don't say where you have searched so far - if the records are not found on Scotlands People, the only other place to look, is within the Kirk Session records. Have a look at the National Archives Scotland website to find the References for the Church of Scotland (CH2) and the Free churches (CH3) and to see the years covered. There is a chance that a birth/christening could have been recorded but not included on Scotlands People. If the records have survived, they are now held at the Scottish Borders Archive in Hawick.
Also, the churches supported the poor before the Parochial Boards took over the role. You may find something the in church accounts. If the Selkirk Poor Rolls survived, they will be held in Hawick as well.
Have you looked for Andrews will on Scotlands People? There is a 45 year old Andrew Hatlie in Selkirk in 1841. Have you looked in the neighbouring parishes ? Did any of the children marry? Is Andrew mentioned as their father on their marriage certificate?

Sorry I don't have an answer for you


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