About Poor Law Abstracts 1742-1868
Poor Law records are among the most valuable of all sources for genealogists, yet underused. They can contain a mass of biographical detail unavailable anywhere else.
Of particular value are settlement examinations. To avoid parishes being liable to provide poor relief to people settling without good links to the parish, the Settlement Act of 1662 placed certain restrictions on who could claim relief. Incomers to a parish were officially examined and if they were not legally settled in that parish they and their dependents could be forcibly removed. If you are lucky enough to find a forebear who applied for poor law relief, the example abstracts below (for St Botolph Aldgate) show the kind of information you may find:
Elizabeth Joseph (33) of 18 Petticoat Lane married her late husband Lewis Joseph 4 Jun 1850 at Great Synagogue and has 5 children Rachel Joseph (12), Emanuel Joseph (11), Sarah Joseph (9), Ann Joseph (7) and Joseph Joseph (2 ½); about 1852 husband took 35 Petticoat Lane at £8 15s per quarter and stayed 2-3 years and at same time 50 Petticoat Lane at £1 p.w. and husband occupied shop and bakehouse at 35 and let rest out; husband died Christmas 1860. 15 Jun 1863.Origins.net are initially making available a series of poor law records for the City of London. The first two sets of this series, transcribed by Cliff Webb cover the parishes of St Botolph Aldgate and St Sepulchre; the index to these records contains over 20,000 names.
City of London Settlement Examinations
Settlement examinations provide much unique information about a class of people for whom virtually no other sources of biographical information are available. All the rich tapestry of London life can be seen here. However, the documents tend to be verbose and repetitive. Here they have been abstracted; the aim has been to include all the information (not just the genealogical) in the original so as to render consultation of the originals unnecessary (even where possible) to researchers. Thus not only all names, but all places and occupations have been included.
While most of the abstracts are of settlement examinations, other types of poor law records are also included – apprentice indentures and bastardy examinations.
The abstracts contain the Guilhall or LMA references, so that you can locate the original records.
There are plenty of 'repeat customers'. These have been repeated here as often a bit of extra information is given in one entry which is omitted in another. Also included are entries which are struck through in the original. This does not mean that the information they contain is necessarily wrong; the subject may have died or for some other reason the examination may not have become necessary.
Although we are referring to these records as being for the "City of London", the first two sets are for parishes (St Botolph Aldgate and St Sepulchre) which were each partly in the City and partly in Middlesex. Also bear in mind that many of the people mentioned had lived in other parts of England, and outside it, and that consequently there are many references to people from outside the London area.
St Botolph Aldgate 1742-1868
St Botolph is the patron saint of gatekeepers (few classes of people do not have a patron saint!) and is the dedication of several parish churches on the edge of the City. St Botolph Aldgate is a large but poor parish with a highly transient population. There are only a few Huguenots in the records but quite a few Jewish people, Irish, Scots and other early immigrants.
For civil purposes St Botolph was divided into two parts, each with separate civil jurisdiction: St Botolph Aldgate, Middlesex and St Botolph Aldgate, London, the latter being the portion of the parish within the old City walls. The settlement records abstracted here pertain to both parts of St Botolph Aldgate.
The source records for St Botolph Aldgate
All the poor law records of both parishes are held at the Guildhall Library. The table following lists the records abstracted. The volumes are in various formats; the last manuscript number (10034) consists of four boxes of loose documents. Some attempt has been made at some point to arrange these last into alphabetical order, but they have been considerably jumbled. Many of them appear in the volumes, but many do not and these have been appended (entry nos 4504-4662).
The end of manuscripts 2665/1; 2665/2 is in an unusual format. The examinations have been written into a ready-printed book, but the volume expects to have a removal order for each examination, and has headings set out for this on every other folio. In fact only three removal orders (of which two are duplicates) have been copied into this volume, so there is only content on every other folio, and only the used folios have been numbered. Furthermore, only approximately one-third of the volume has been used.
St Sepulchre 1765-1844
St Sepulchre was a single ecclesiastical parish, but for civil purposes (which included matters pertaining to the poor law) was split into two, St Sepulchre, London and St Sepulchre, Middlesex, the former being the area within the old City walls.
While most of the St Sepulchre abstracts are of settlement examinations, there are also apprenticeship indentures and bastardy examination records; in the abstracts these are identified by "Apprenticeship" or "Bastardy Examination" respectively in brackets at the end of the abstract; all other abstracts should be of settlement examinations. Examples:
12 Aug 1777 Elizabeth Cary sp. delivered of male child Thomas Tulley at house of (Mr) Bonney, 46 Featherstone Street, St Luke Old Street 5 Nov 1776 (Bastardy Examination)
The source records for St Sepulchre
There are twelve surviving registers of settlement examinations of St Sepulchre, Middlesex in the Guildhall Library, GL Mss 9095/1-12. In addition there is a book of bastardy examinations 1776-86 (GL Ms 7235) and of poor parish apprenticeships 1802-42 (GL Ms 9107) both of which are included here. Furthermore there are three more books of examinations (GL Ms 3224/1-3) of St Sepulchre, London though these books have been bound into one volume. Ms 3224/1 is a very flimsy book unlike the others and it was at first missed, it appearing to be part of the rough index at the front of Ms 3224/2. This has resulted in the entries for that volume being at the end of the abstracts rather than in the correct position.
Finally, at London Metropolitan Archives there is a bundle of unbound original settlement examinations of St Sepulchre, London (LMA: P69/SEP/22/1-165).
The table below lists the records abstracted.