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Friday, 22 November 2013

Ancestry's WAP team turns to useful Poor Law records

Ancestry has announced three record collections ready for indexing under its World Archives Projects (WAP) banner. The three are Hampshire, England, Allegations for Marriage Licences, 1689-1837, Savannah, Georgia, Licenses and Bonds, 1837-1909 and London, England, Selected Poor Law Removal and Settlement Records, 1828-1930. It's the Poor Law Removal and Settlement Records that will be of interest to Irish family historians.

The full collection includes records relating to the unions of London's East End: Bethnal Green, Hackney, Poplar, Shoreditch and Stepney; scanned images of the collection are already available for browsing on Ancestry. Creating an index for these record sets would instantly make them much more useful (and used). This is where the WAP team of volunteer indexers comes in. It has just started indexing the Shoreditch Union records. Hopefully the rest of the collection will follow.

English Poor Law records are a great source for Irish genealogical research because Irish migrants often found themselves in need after leaving their homeland. Responsibility for the poor fell to their local 'home' parish – their legal place of 'settlement' – which was not necessarily the place they found themselves destitute. People who could not show a right to settlement in Place B could be sent back ie 'removed' to Place A, their last legal parish of settlement. For the Irish, Place A was typically considered to be their home townland in Ireland.

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 a right of settlement could include a formal assessment or examination and valuable documentation was often gathered in the process.

Details included in the Poor Law records vary widely. An order of removal may contain name, age, current parish, and parish being removed to. A settlement register may note number of children and marital status. Examination documentation can be even more extensive.

Ancestry have highlighted to WAP indexers that the handwriting and record type variance will make this project a little more challenging than some others.

Ancestry's World Archive Projects help index important record collections for the research community's benefit. Once indexed, these collections can be searched for free on Ancestry (searching is free; viewing of images may require a subscription). The indexing team is made up of volunteers, and new indexers are always needed. Find out more.