London Poor Law Records

Family History London's PoorYesterday I wrote about the new Poor Law Records added to the Ancestry London Collection, I promised that I would report back having taken the time to look into them further. So here I am…..

The announcement by Ancestry said that the records now spanned more than 500 years and were everything from Workhouse Admissions to Registers of Servants. I did question why the poor law records would include a register of servants and I still do, but perhaps as I work through these records over the next few days I will find out. if so I’ll let you know!

The first thing to note is that this collection is NOT indexed, you have to browse through them page by page as we used to in the “old days”. We are all so used to having indexes that it comes as a surprise when confronted with a non-indexed set of records. However there are advantages to browsing because you get a feel for the records and how they were kept and there is always the chance that you might pick up something that the indexers didn’t.

So what is in this collection

  • Admission and discharge books of workhouses
  • Registers of individuals in the infirmary
  • Creed registers
  • School registers
  • Registers of children boarded out or sent to various other institutions
  • Registers of apprentices
  • Registers of lunatics
  • Registers of servants
  • Registers of children
  • Registers of relief to wives and children
  • Registers of inmates
  • Registers of indoor poor
  • Registers of deserted children
  • Births & Deaths
  • Baptisms
  • Apprenticeship Papers

    Genealogy Covent Garden Flower Sellers

There are also quite a few groups of documents titled Miscellaneous, I would recommend that you  always take a good look at these for the parish or poor law union where your ancestors lived. It’s a bit like a raffle, but you never know what you might find. I think that most genealogists are optimists always hoping that some document or paper still exists that will solve all our family history riddles!!

If you are new to these sorts of records I suggest you visit Peter Higginbotham’s website which gives excellent background information on the poor law system and also has pages regarding individual workhouses.

The London Metropolitan Archives who hold the originals of the documents in this collection has a good guide to the collection which can be downloaded as a PDF file.

Almost everyone is going to have an ancestor who has lived in London at some stage in their lives, this collection is a must if you think those individuals may have fallen on hard times whilst there. Take you time, locate which borough or poor law union area your family lived in and then browse and see what you can find.

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