London Poor Law Removal and Settlement Records 1828-1930

A few days ago I spoke about Ancestry adding to their UK collection without putting up a stand-alone advert box on their main page, they just add it under the What’s New page. Today I will talk about another new Ancestry database London Poor Law Removal & Settlement Records 1828 –1930.

If you have never used this type of records before then you are in for a treat. Basically they come about because some-one who didn’t ‘belong’ to a parish has fallen on hard times and is costing that parish money and they don’t want to pay out for food, clothes, medical treatment etc. for someone who isn’t their responsibility. The law concerning this is centuries old and it was by an 1572 Act that each parish had to appoint an Overseer of the Poor to handle such matters.

This set of records would have been created in consequence of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act which grouped parishes in unions and appointed Boards of Guardians amongst it’s rate payers who oversaw the needs of the poor, sick and elderly. The system remained in place until 1930 when a further act handed the responsibility to borough and county councils.

The Poor Law system and workhouses were viewed with some dismay amongst those who felt there was a chance that they may end up in them and the phrase “You have us ending up in the workhouse” when someone did something wasteful or thoughtless was still to be heard partly as a threat and partly as a prediction well into the 1960’s.

A person’s place of rightful settlement was established by various means; by birth, father’s place of settlement, residence over a certain period, marriage (wives took on their husbands place of legal settlement), serving an apprenticeship and a number of other ways. This all altered over the years when amendments to the act were declared. If a person was living not in their place of settlement and had to call on the assistance of the Board of Guardians for assistance then an examination of the person and their situation was called with testimony from the person concerned and sometimes witnesses. Depending on the evidence given a removal order might be issued and the person returned back to the parish that was deemed to be their rightful place of settlement. 

This database contains the documents that have survived for the unions of Bethnal Green, Hackney, Poplar, Shoreditch, and Stepney.

The amount of information given in an individuals each set of documents varies greatly, but here is an example of a Removal Order and a Settlement Certificate.

Removal Order

The removal order is a pre-printed page with details entered and then a page written out by hand as to the circumstances leading up to the removal order. The facts given as as follows –

To the Guardians of the Poor St Leonards, Shoreditch

From Hackney Union

The Hackney Union is sending them all back to the Shoreditch Union.

27 October 1899

Mary Ann MATKIN, a pauper aged about 45 years who is in the Hackney Workhouse and her children William 11 years, George 9 years and James 7 years who at living at the Strand Union School, Edmonton.

Mary Ann is the lawful wife of John Matkin who is absent.

Mary Ann states that on 17th October she left her husband at 43 Abbotts Street, Kingsland, they had lived there for less than 3 months. There is then a list of other addresses where they had lived and the approximate length of time.

She goes onto say that on 10 May 1880 she married William Matkin at St Mary’s Church, Beverley, Yorkshire. There is then a list of places in Beverley where they clip_image002[7]lived and the approximate time periods. The names and birth months and years of their children are given.

William the father was in the Shoreditch Infirmary in 1885 and last year they applied for help from the Medical office of Shoreditch.

So it can be seen that whilst it was not easy for your ancestors to be the subject of a removal order they do provide some great genealogical information. By the way I couldn’t resist but search for Mary Ann and family in the 1901 census and she is living with her children in Spitalfields, none of them states they have a job so i suspect she is receiving out-relief – no sign of a husband!!

Settlement Certificate

3 March 1852

Mary Alpin aged 10 weeks has been left with Mrs Rogers at Mr Jeffreys, Grove Parsonage, Hackney. She doesn’t have settlement in Hackney.

Notes state that her mother has died and she has been deserted by her father John Alpin late of 24 Regents Road, Stepney at Mrs Welch’s. John Alpin last worked at the Central Gas Works, Bow. The father is to be apprehended.


Mary’s details have been written up in the Hackney Union Settlements of the Poor pre-printed book. As her mother has died and her father has deserted her they have written her in the settlement book because that is where she was born. However if her father can be found she will be handed over either to him or to his place of settlement. There will be court records regarding the order to find and apprehend John Alpin so that is another set of documents that could be searched for.

Again I couldn’t resist seeing what happened to baby Mary Alpin. In 1861 she is a nurse child with William & Rebecca Rogers living in Limehouse, they also have another nursechild. Sadly there is an entry in the GRO death index for Mary Ann Rogers Alpin in the June qrt of 1865 which is almost certainly her.


Do take a look at these records, they are a treasure house of great genealogy material. I assume that this collection may be added to as more records are indexed. The originals are held at the London Metropolitan Archive, London and they have been indexed by the Ancestry World Archives Project volunteers.


London Metropolitan Archive

Image – Gustave Doré London poor

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.

London Poor Law Records 1430 – 1973

London Poor Law RecordsAncestry has just put online an additional 300,000 poor law records for London. This is great news for those of us who have “lost” some ancestors in London ! The blurb from Ancestry says the new collection is everything from registers of servants (why these would be classed as poor law records I can’t imagine!!) to workhouse admission books.

I’m off to see if I can find any of my lost souls …… I’ll report back more fully when I have seen what’s there ….. might be a while!!

Family Search new additions

Northumberland Genealogy & Family HistoryFamilySearch has recently added another 19 million indexed and/or digital records to their website, the numbers are mind boggling and represent many, many hours of hard work. The new collections are from a variety of countries Austria, Australia, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Italy, Ivory Coast, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, United States, United Kingdom, and Venezuela.

The English addition is the Northumberland miscellaneous records 1570 – 2005 and are 16,799 browsable images added to existing records already online, these records are not indexed.

These miscellaneous records comprise Parish Registers, Electoral Registers, Nonconformist Records, and Parish Chest material, I’m not sure why they have been headed as miscellaneous as parish registers are hardly miscellaneous. However that is just nit-picking on my part and I am always very grateful to the LDS for so freely letting non LDS members use their wonderful resources.

It should be noted that these images can only be viewed by non-LDS members at a Family History Centre or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. This is a requirement under the agreement between the Northumberland Archives and FamilySearch.

If you click on the link below it will take you to a page where you have two options, the first is to learn more about the collection and the second takes you to a page where you have the option to choose to browse either Cumberland, Durham or Northumberland records. If you click on the Northumberland link then you are presented with a further page listing the parishes covered.

As an example I chose the parish of Ford and this is what is on offer.Old Postcard - Ford Northumberland

  • Baptisms & Burials 1804 – 1812
  • Baptisms 1813 – 1858
  • Baptisms, Marriages & Burials 1684 – 1724
  • Baptisms, Marriages & Burials 1723 – 1750
  • Baptisms, Marriages & Burials 1750 – 1810
  • Burials 1813 – 1848
  • Burials 1848 – 1909
  • Churchwarden Accounts 1841 – 1862
  • Confirmations 1837 – 1872
  • Confirmations 1875 – 1910
  • Marriages & Banns 1754 – 1819
  • Marriages 1813 – 1872
  • Marriages 1837 – 1906
  • Marriages 1928 – 1935
  • Offertory Collections in Ford Church 1843 – 1861
  • Poor Book 1794 – 1800
  • Vestry Meeting Minutes 1689 – 1768
  • Vestry Meeting Minutes 1769 – 1818
  • Vestry Meeting Minutes 1819 – 1861

So you can see that there are some great records available for searching if you have ancestors in the parish of Ford (sadly I don’t). Other parishes have electoral rolls and no parish records so you just have to hope that you are lucky with your particular parish. The collection is being added to all the time so keep checking back. I wonder when they will get round to Hampshire & Berkshire?!!!!


Bastardy Bonds & other records

Poor woman & child

A new new article on Illegitimacy Documents has just gone online at MadAboutGenealogy’s sister site

Everyone is going to have at least one of their family lines come to an abrupt halt because of an illegitimate birth, Mark Herber in his book “Ancestral Trails” gives a figure of 2% of all birth in the early 18th century were illegitimate. However all is not lost because such an event can lead to a paper trail generated by officials as they attempt to locate the father and have him pay towards the upkeep of the child rather than the mother & child be supported from the poor rate. All of this creates documents that can be of great help in researching your family history.

To learn more head over to ….