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Poor Relief

Settlement Papers

Settlement Certificates

  • can be hand-written or printed
  • issued by the Overseers or Churchwardens, so that the cost of issue and sending of a Certificate for a named person may be recorded in overseers’ accounts
  • Overseers sometimes kept lists of those arriving ‘by Certificate’ in the parish
  • early certificates usually contain less detail on family members (eg children and their ages)
  • remember the place of settlement named on the certificate may not be the parish of birth

Removal Orders

  • two copies were made – one for each parish.
  • late 17th-early 18th century removal orders often give brief proof of settlement
  • later removal orders (which may occasionally exist up to the 1860s) are instead accompanied by a settlement examination, if one survives  
  • from the late 18th century they often give very specific information on names and ages of children, and sometimes on a husband’s fate (eg in prison, transported) or the pregnancy of an unmarried woman
  • not all those named on the removal order were removed immediately or at all. Look on the reverse for endorsements relating to postponements because of confinement, illness or cancellation due to death.
  • some families were never physically removed; instead they stayed put, and their parish of settlement agreed to maintain them. A member of the family may have regularly travelled to the parish of settlement to collect poor relief. Some were removed for a short while, but then returned to the parish they were removed from, collecting the relief regularly as above.
  • families physically removed were sometimes found lodgings, or accommodated in the parish poorhouse of their parish of settlement, with the rent being paid half-yearly by the Overseers.

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Other papers relating to settlement and removal

Sometimes these survive intact as a file or bundle of settlement papers

In addition to removal orders, can also include

  • settlement examinations  
  • baptismal, marriage and burial extracts (certificates)
  • apprenticeship indentures
  • certificates of chargeability
  • notices of order of removal  
  • appeals against removal order
  • Quarter Sessions orders relating to settlement and removal
  • legal opinions
  • letters
  • bills

Note: also look for entries in overseers’ account books, relating to the costs of removal, examination, disputed cases and poor relief.

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Parish officers carefully preserved any evidence that a parishioner was legally settled in another parish, as it saved the expenditure of poor relief and thus the burden of poor rates for those who were eligible to pay.

These documents are particularly valuable to family historians since they are virtually autobiographies of persons of a class for which other such records are rarely found. They usually give the following:

  • Place of birth
  • Apprenticeship history
  • Occupation, work history and names of employers
  • Parishes of residence
  • Rental value of any property
  • Marriage and children

Note that a pauper sometimes lied under examination, or "remembered" different details on different occasions, and this can be obvious where several examinations survive for the same person. Relatives, past masters or employers and any other person involved in a settlement case were also examined, and their examinations may tell you both about the pauper and about their own lives.