Thursday 19 June 2014

Ancestry adds Poor Law removals/Vagrant passes

Ancestry UK has added an interesting collection that could easily be overlooked by Irish genealogists. It's billed as 'Lancashire, Vagrant Passes, 1801-1835', which is understandable because the 'vagrant passes' were issued from Liverpool and Manchester in England's north-west county of Lancashire, but it's not wonderfully descriptive.

It's an Irish collection, through and through. It consists of registers created to record details of people being returned as vagrants to their home parish in Ireland. They were making the return journey as a result of the Poor Law Acts which allowed parishes in England to return anyone who was unable to support themselves and/or their family ie a vagrant, back to their parish of settlement.

The term 'vagrant' was pretty fluid back then. It could include unlicensed peddlers, prostitutes, beggars, fortune-tellers, the homeless, gamblers, and criminals. Pretty much any immigrant without steady employment or private income could be passed along, and many were taken back to the port of Liverpool where the majority had arrived.

Many Irish soldiers were among them; after returning from expeditions abroad, they would often find themselves being returned to Ireland along with their families. This collection holds a good number of such cases.

The records are not likely to bring instant genealogical satisfaction to many researchers. The registers recorded the date of departure, name, a note of wife and children if travelling as a group, the number of days they had been in 'process', the costs involved in providing sustenance and sea passage, and, in some cases, the name of the vessel on which they crossed the Irish Sea. Some entries record which parish had instigated the return to Ireland; a significant number got no further than Lancashire or the larger north-west towns. Some had made it to Plymouth, Chelmsford and London.

Unfortunately, the parish of settlement in Ireland was not recorded.

Here are some examples:

5 July 1801: John Doyle, a soldier, was transported on the Ponsonby.
1 November 1833: Dominick Cassidy, with his wife and three children, were being returned as vagrants from St Mary Whitechapel (East End of London). The cost, 17/6.
27 December 1833: Ann Efferton, Sick. Sent to the hospital.

If you find an entry of interest that shows the name of the parish from which the individual or family were returned, you should establish whether or not that parish's Poor Law records survive. The date of departure will give you some guidance in your subsequent research.