One of our volunteers, Bill Chalmers, tells us about his favourite document in the archives:
My favourite document is the first volume of admissions to the Dundee Industrial Schools that covers admissions from 1855 to 1858. It is a large bound volume with a page for each child. Each entry contains details about the child’s life and their parents’ lives, including where they came from. It is handwritten and has remnants of the use of the old long “s” character that looks a lot more like an “f”.
Its my favourite because the registers contain a great amount of detail, which could be used for a variety of historical research uses. Some of the entries refer to families of 8 living in one room. Children go to the Industrial School because their parents cannot afford to keep them in the home, and in many cases they have been convicted of a crime, usually theft. These crimes would have been out of deperation – many steal food, others steal things to sell probably to pay for food and rent for their parents. In some cases one or both of their parents have died. One child was one of 8 eight children, but the other 7 had died. Many of the first boys admitted to the school are noted as having letters tattooed on their fingers. The later admissionregisters just don’t give you this detail. You really get a sense for what life was like for these children and families. Life was hard.