Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Old Poor Law (Part II)

While studying for my Archives Administration degree in Wales, I had to complete four miniature papers on various record types, which I figured I'd share here in order that the files could see the light of day again.


  1. Overseer's Accounts: Overseers of the Poor had to both collect the poor rate (the tax on parishioners in order to take care of the poor) and account for the spending of that money, whether in payments to the poor, payments for their upkeep, or payments for their transport to another parish.
  2. Parish Rate Books: This was a list of people within the parish who could pay the poor rate and how much they paid. 
  3. Settlement Examinations: Any stranger in a parish was required to give information as to their past working history, their full name, and other details that would inform the overseers as to whether they had a settlement or not. 
  4. Settlement Certificates: These certificates were given to prove legal settlement in another parish. The parish from which the person came provided the certificate, and declared to the new parish that the person holding the certificate was chargeable to their former parish. 
  5. Removal Orders: When a parish found that person or family had been chargeable, could not claim settlement in the parish, or was currently indentured to someone in another parish, the said person was ordered to remove back to their parish of origin. 
  6. Settlement Appeals: Removal Orders would be contested and were appealed in the county Quarter Sessions. 
  7. Settlement Warrants: Overseers could get a warrant, demanding the examination of a person lately entered of their parish. It was another tool to ensure that a parish would not be saddled with caring for more poor than their own. 
  8. Bastardy Examinations: Upon the identification of a single woman or widow being pregnant, the parish overseers would examine the woman and induce her to name a father. It was their hope to make the reputed father to pay for the upkeep of a child rather than a parish in which it was born. 
  9. Bastardy Bonds: These were often issued by the fathers of illegitimate children absolving the parish of having to support the child in question. If a father did not provide this or a bond to pay a regular rate to support the child, he was often thrown into gaol. 
  10. Apprenticeship Indentures, Bond, and Accounts: Children, particularly of the poor, were indentured to learn a trade such as husbandry or housewifery, depending upon gender, to other people both within and beyond the parish. If beyond the parish of their birth, the place of settlement of their master or mistress was considered to be their new legal settlement. 

Further Reading:

Cole, Ann. Poor Law Documents Before 1834. Bury: Federation of Family History Societies, 2000. 

Durham Record Office. "Poor Law" Durham Record Office. (Accessed 25 Nov 2009).

Grant, Raymond K. J. On the PArish. Cardiff: Glamorgan Archive Service, 1988. 

Shropshire Archives. A Guide to the Old Poor Law. Shrewsbury: Shropshire Archives.

Suffolk Record Office. "Old Poor Law Records" (Revised May 2009). Suffolk Record Office. (Accessed 16 Nov 2009).

Tate, W. E. The Parish Chest. Cambridge: University Press, 1946. 

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