Aberlour’s Archives Revealed

An update from our project archivist Jennifer Roach on her work to open up the archives of Aberlour Children’s Charity

8 months on, our project to catalogue the historic records of Aberlour Children’s Charity, which was funded by Archives Revealed is coming to a close, with the catalogue now available on our website. The project has made a range of records covering Aberlour’s near 150-year history accessible for the first time. 

The archive predominantly dates from when Aberlour Orphanage was founded in 1875 up to the 1980s, recording the changes in social care in Scotland during this period and the decisions made to step away from institutional care to smaller family group homes. The records provide a comprehensive understanding of the management of Aberlour Orphanage until its closure in 1967, but the largest, and arguably most valuable, component of the collection, are the case files of the children who were in Aberlour’s care. 

As part of this project, we have been able to catalogue and repackage over 2,500 case files of former residents, covering those children who were admitted between 1893 and 1922. Unfortunately, we do not have much information for the children who were admitted between 1875 and the beginning of 1893.  

When the Orphanage was founded, there was no formal or standardized application process for admitting children and relied solely on correspondence being sent to the Warden from a parent, relative, or a member of religious body or charity, detailing a child’s circumstances. The only record we have of these children who were in Aberlour’s care prior to 1893 are their entries in the admission register, which include their names, dates of birth, parent’s names, city, or town they came from, and admission and leaving dates. 

With the adoption of a new constitution in 1893, it became necessary for application forms to be completed for any child being considered for admittance.  

Blank application form for Aberlour Orphanage, c1895

These early case files do not contain much besides an application form, and copies of birth certificates of the child. However, over time, we see the case files become more substantial as more records are produced and kept. These can include correspondence discussing the child prior to admittance to Aberlour Orphanage, medical and family information, educational records from previous schools, and correspondence from employers of children providing updates on how they are settling into their new role. We also see letters by the children, writing as adults back to Aberlour, being kept with the case files, which can talk about their memories of being at Aberlour, or updating the Orphanage on their personal lives. 

Illustrations drawn by a former resident of the Orphanage, sent in a letter to Aberlour and kept with their case file, 1933

We have catalogued all case files up to and including those admitted in 1922. A closure period of 100 years is placed on all records containing a child’s personal information. This means that records less than 100 years old cannot be viewed by members of the public, unless it contains their own personal information. It is our intention, however, to continue cataloguing case files to make them accessible as soon as their closure period is over. 

A note on access: If you have personal experience of being looked after by Aberlour and wish to access personal case records please contact Aberlour directly. For further information on access restrictions and use of the collection please contact the University Archives.

archives Written by: