AMIDST the typically vague causes of death listed in the church records of St Jude’s for March 1857 – ‘apoplexy’, ‘accident’, ‘inflammation’ – one stands out.

“Poisoned by arsenic acid on Sunday night” reads the entry alongside the name of Pierre Emile L’Angelier, the unfortunate apprentice nurseryman who fell under the spell of Glasgow femme fatale (or wronged heroine, depending upon what you believe) Madeleine Smith.

Smith was a 19th century city socialite accused of poisoning her lover, the unfortunate L’Angelier, but her trial ended with a not proven verdict and it continues to intrigue people to this day.

Read more: City police records reveal grisly murder and miscarriage of justice that followed

The Mitchell Library holds the letters she wrote to L’Angelier, which were a huge part of the case against her, given how risqué they were in places.

“My nightdress was on when you saw me. Would to God you had been in the same attire. We would be happy,” she wrote - a frank expression of desire considered shocking for a woman of her class in 1857.

Glasgow Times:

Also at the Mitchell are Glasgow City Archives’ extensive collection of church records.

Senior Archivist Irene O’Brien explains: “We hold the church records for Glasgow Presbytery and its parishes, Episcopal churches across west of Scotland, and other denominations,” she explains.

“The Church of Scotland records also help tell the story of the church, its vital role in the parish and its control over the personal lives of parishioners, particularly in kirk session minutes. Other records include baptisms, marriages and burials (many from before 1855).”

Read more: Five things you didn't know about trailblazing Glasgow professor Emma Ritter-Bondy

Finding out about the city’s collections is at the heart of a new #AskTheArchivist campaign highlighting the services available online from the city’s museums, sports, arts and music facilities. Irene and her fellow archivists, Michael Gallagher, Barbara Neilson, Lynsey Green and Nerys Tunnicliffe, are giving people the chance to ask them questions about a range of topics - more details are available on the Glasgow City Archives Facebook page.

Glasgow Times:

Ask the Archivist is part of #glasgowlifegoeson, a campaign to highlight the services available online from the city’s museums, sports, arts and music facilities.

One of Irene’s favourite church records is the 1594 entry from the High Kirk.

“It concerns Mungo Craig, who was warned not to play his bagpipes on a Sunday – and was then promptly excommunicated on May 28 for repeating the offence,” she smiles. “A favourite from Govan is Janet Dunlop, who is charged with drinking and entertaining no less than three English dragoons in the ‘house of James Hamilton’”

She adds: “And Cathcart kirk session is rich in detail, including the case of a drinking session leading to a fist fight and the use of exceedingly ‘scandalous’ words.”

Glasgow Times:

In fact, explains Irene, if you want to discover more about your ancestors, you should hope they were “sinners, not saints.”

She adds: “From the 16th century, the sessions record often very intimate details of lives of parishioners who appeared for drunkenness and public disorder, gambling, adultery, slander or scandalous words and breach of Sabbath. The pages are full of cases of fornication with details of location of the act often described in very great detail….”