Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Ancestry adds two new London collections

Ancestry has added a collection of Poor Law Removal and Settlement Records, 1828-1930, for five Poor Law Unions in the East End of London, where a lot of destitute Irish migrants found themselves, especially after the Famine.

The 218,319 records in this database relate to settlement and removals in the unions of Bethnal Green, Hackney, Poplar, Shoreditch, and Stepney. They include examinations and settlement inquiries, registers of settlement, orders of removal, and other documents.

Because responsibility for indigent residents fell to the parish, authorities kept tight control over who had a right to claim the parish as a legal place of settlement. People who could not legally claim the right of settlement could be sent back – 'removed' – to their last legal parish of settlement. Many destitute Irish people were 'removed' back to Ireland under these rules.

Right to settlement could be established by birth, residency for a prescribed period of time, marriage, renting property for at least £10 and paying the poor rate, or completing an apprenticeship, among other ways. Proving one’s right of settlement could include an examination or inquiry, and these often produced valuable documentation; in the case of so many Irish migrants, these papers might hold the only record of where an individual originated in Ireland.

Details included in these records vary widely, depending on the document. An order of removal may contain a name, age, current parish, and parish being removed to. A settlement register may note number of children and marital status. Documents from inquiries and examinations can be even more extensive. You may be able to discover some of the following:
  • name
  • age
  • parish
  • date
  • places and dates of residence (both current and former)
  • spouse and marriage details
  • children’s names, birth dates, and birthplace
  • profession
  • other family members’ names and residences
  • summary of the situation and grounds for settlement or removal
Ancestry advises that some of the cases included in this record set include multiple documents, so recommend that researchers use the arrow keys to browse surrounding pages to ensure you find all the records relating to your ancestor.

This collection comes from the London Metropolitan Archives and has been indexed under Ancestry's World Archive Project (WAP). My understanding was that databases produced under the WAP banner were free to view, but while I can view search results (with limited information) without charge, I'm being refused further exploration without a current subscription/credits. There may be a fault; I'll raise it with Ancestry and update here when I hear back.


The second record set newly added to Ancestry's London line up is the Overseers' Returns 1863-1894. These documents list parish residents who have claimed the right to vote.

The formal description, from the London Metropolitan Archives, says: "These returns can be considered the ‘raw material’ from which electoral registers were produced…The returns are arranged in annual bundles by polling district. The names of electors are listed alphabetically within each parish giving the place of residence and the address by which the elector has gained his vote. Overseers’ returns are particularly useful for dates for which there are no surviving electoral registers.”

Since the right to vote during these years was hugely restrictive and based on property values, there won't be many Irish in this collection.