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Apprenticeship Indentures, Parish (Poor Law)

Nature of Source

Details of employment agreements between an apprentice and a master, overseen by the parish authorities. Normally only poorer children were apprenticed and are often referred to as pauper apprenticeships. The Poor Relief Act of 1601 (Old Poor Law) allowed the parish officials to bind a child to a master. Originally children could be apprenticed from the age of seven but in the early 19th century the age was raised to ten. The child was originally bound until the age of 24 but was lowered to 21 in 1778.

If no indenture for an individual is found, some apprentice agreements are found in the Vestry Minute records, apprenticing charity records and the Overseer of the Poor minutes. These indentures were not subject to stamp duty unlike trade apprenticeships. Most pauper apprenticeships were arranged to remove the child as a financial burden on the parish such as in cases of illegitimacy. Many children were sent miles away from home to work as cheap labour in factories or merely as unpaid servants. Other pauper children were contracted out to local families for a period of seven years and were often used by the master as menial, low paid labour. However, the child did receive board and lodging until the age of 24 in the case of boys and the age of 21 or marriage, if a girl. The apprenticed also gained legal settlement in his master's parish. An Act of Parliament in 1801 required the keeping of an apprenticeship register, although not many survive.

With the advent of the New Poor Law in 1834, responsibility for pauper children was placed in the hands of the newly established Poor Law Unions. The system of compulsory apprenticeship came to an end in 1844. The establishment of Ragged Schools in 1844 and together with reforms and improvements brought about by the Factories Acts provided poor children with better opportunities for self advancement.

See also
Bastardy Documents
Overseers of the Poor Accounts
Settlement Certificates/Examinations and Removal Orders
Workhouse Records (Poor Law Unions)

Where Found

County Record Offices (Poor Law records)
Society of Genealogists (Apprentices Of Great Britain: Apprentice indenture indexes extracted from the tax records held at The National Archives and Index to Masters 1710-1774; The Crisp and Clench Collection of bound original apprentice indentures indexed by Colonel F Wall)
The National Archives (Lists of pauper apprentices returned to their master after enlisting in the army and registers of apprenticed merchant seamen)
The National Maritime Museum (Records of apprentices assisted by the Marine Society)

Period Covered

1601 - 1844

Genealogical Value

Name, age and home parish of apprentice. Trade of apprentice if applicable. Name of apprentice’s parents or guardian
Name, address and occupation of master.
Occasionally the father of a bastard child might be noted.

Further References

Aschrott, Paul Felix. The English Poor Law System, Past and Present: Knight 1902 (Available to read online or download at the Internet Archive)  Buy Now on Amazon
Bagley, John J & Bagley, Alexander John. The English Poor Law: Macmillan, 1968
 Buy Now on Amazon
Beier, Lucinda. The Problem of the Poor in Tudor and Early Stuart England: Routledge, 1983 Buy Now on Amazon
Boyer, George R. An Economic History of the English Poor Law, 1750-1850: Cambridge University Press, 1990  Buy Now on Amazon
Brundage, Anthony. The English Poor Laws 1700-1930: Palgrave, 2002  Buy Now on Amazon
Emm, Adele. Tracing Your Trade and Craftsman Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians; Pen & Sword Books, 2015
Englander, David. Poverty and Poor Law Reform in 19th Century Britain, 1834-1914: From Chadwick to Booth: Longman, 1998  Buy Now on Amazon
Fowler, Simon. Poor Law Records for Family Historians: Family History Partnership, 2011  Buy Now on Amazon
Hawkings, David. Pauper Ancestors: A Guide to the Records Created by the Poor Laws in England and Wales: The History Press, 2011  Buy Now on Amazon
Hindle, Steve. On the Parish? The Micro-Politics of Poor Relief in Rural England 1550-1750: Oxford University Press, 2009  Buy Now on Amazon
Lane, Joan. Apprenticeship in England, 1600-1914: Routledge, 1996  Buy Now on Amazon
Leonard, E M. The Early History of English Poor Relief: F. Cass, 1965 (Available to read online or download at the Internet Archive)  Buy Now on Amazon
McLaughlin, Eve. Annals of the Poor: Federation of Family History Societies, 1990  Buy Now on Amazon
McLaughlin, Eve. The Poor are Always With Us: Varneys Press, 1994  Buy Now on Amazon
Raymond, Stuart. My Ancestor was an Apprentice: Society of Genealogists, 2010 Buy Now on Amazon
Rose, Michael E. The English Poor Law, 1780-1930: David and Charles, 1971  Buy Now on Amazon
Sim, Alison. Masters and Servants in Tudor England: The History Press, 2006  Buy Now on Amazon
Slack, Paul. The English Poor Law, 1531-1782: Cambridge University Press, 1995  Buy Now on Amazon
Thompson, Kathryn. Apprenticeship and Bastardy Records: Historical Association, 1997  
Tomkins, Alannah & King, Steven. The Poor in England 1700-1850: An Economy of Makeshifts: Manchester University Press, 2003  Buy Now on Amazon
Welbank Fowle, Thomas. The Poor Law: Macmillan, 1893 (Available to read online or download at the Internet Archive)  Buy Now on Amazon
Wilkes, Sue. Tracing Your Ancestors' Childhood: Pen and Sword Books, 2013  

TNA Research Guide: Apprenticeship records

The EurekA Partnership
: Various titles containing transcriptions of Poor Law records covering Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Warwickshire and Worcestershire

Websites (Researching Apprentices)
(Pauper apprentices at the Bridewell Prison and Hospital) (The Guilds and Apprenticeships, by Dr Richard Evans) (Skills Funding Agency: Apprenticeships in Britain c. 1890 to 1920) (Apprenticeship documents, by Lisa Spurrier) (Getting Your Indentures - The Life and Times of the 'Poor' Apprentice) (Devon Archives and Local Studies Research Guides: Poor Relief Records) (UKGDL Occupations/Trades/Apprentices: Links to online transcriptions records dealing with a variety of trades and occupations with some data extracted from trade and street directories)

Online Databases (London Poor Law and Board of Guardian Records, 1430-1930 provided in association with London Metropolitan Archives: This collection includes browsable online access to a huge variety of different records created as a result of the Poor Laws in London including registers of apprentices) (London Poor Law Abstracts, 1581-1899. Genealogical Abstracts from the City of London Parochial Poor Law Records including Bastardy/Affiliation Orders, Bastardy Bonds and Examinations as well as Quarter Sessions and Quarter Sessions Appeals. These poor law abstracts contain a complete summary of the details contained within each entry and includes all details including names and places plus incidental information such as relationships and occupations where found in the original documents. These records were compiled by genealogist Cliff Webb) (Westminster, Poor Law and Parish Administration. The database contains over 1.7 million records from the poor law and parish administration records. The records cover Parish apprentices, Bastardy bonds, Settlement examinations, Paupers outdoor relief, Land tax and valuations and Workhouse admission records) (Devon Social & Institutional Records. This collection of records has been gathered by the Devon Family History Society from a wide range of local records covering daily life in the 18th and 19th centuries. Search the of records to find paupers and vagrants, apprentices, peddlers and tradesmen. There are vaccination registers against smallpox for Brixham, Dartmouth, Exeter Heavitree and Exeter St Thomas, Haberton, Paignton, Topsham, Totnes and Woodbury for various dates between 1870 and 1905)
(Devon, Plymouth & West Devon Apprentices 1570-1910. The dataset contains details of over 5,000 apprentices and their masters)
(The Manchester Collection: Apprentice indentures dating from 1700-1849. The original records are held by Manchester Archives and Local Studies; Lincolnshire Parish Apprentice Indentures 1618-1925)
(Surrey, Southwark, Newington Apprentice Register 1891. The records show the details of Victorian apprentices who trained in the Newington district of Southwark then part of Surrey. The records are transcripts created by Peter Shilham from the original apprentice records held at the Southwark Local History Library)
(London Lives, Culture & Society 1680-1817. London Lives chronicles the lives of Londoners through the exploration of a variety of sources including criminal registers, session papers, ordinary’s accounts from Old Bailey, apprentice records, coroner inquests, workhouse minutes, Register of admissions to workhouse, clerks’ papers, Churchwarden's account books, Vestry minute books/vestry minutes, Register of removal orders, Pauper examination books/examination books, bastardy bonds and much more) (Tower Hamlets Archives Collection, Bow Parish Apprentice Register 1803) (Pauper and parish apprenticeship registers for the parishes of St Botolph, Aldgate; St Clement Danes, Westminster and the Bridewell Royal Hospital, City of London)
Hertfordshire Names Online (The site provides online access to the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies indexes including the Apprentices Index 1599-1903. Searching the indexes is free but a charge is made for copies of a document. The indexes could also be of use for those with ancestors in the neighbouring counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Middlesex) (Warwickshire Parish Poor Law, 1546-1904: Apprenticeship registers and indentures produced in association with Warwickshire County Record Office) (Warwickshire Poor Law Index) (SoG Data Online: Norwich St Margaret apprentices 1624-1862)
Gloucestershire Archives' Genealogical Database (Records of the Overseers of the Poor including settlement papers, pauper apprenticeships and bastardy documents. Also try searching for a named individual at the Gloucestershire Archives Online Catalogue which includes the General Personal Names Index and other specialist indexes) (Worcestershire Archive Online Indexes: Apprentices Indentures) (Hull History Centre: Persons bound apprentice to freemen, 1651-1886) (Yesterdays Journey; Transcriptions dealing primarily with Derbyshire) (Staffordshire Apprentices, 1600-1900) (Database of Poor Law records for West Sussex including Settlement and Removal 1662-1835, bastard children and of the apprenticing and boarding out of pauper children) (Online Parish Clerks: The project is run by volunteers who collect and transcribe parish records for a chosen Parish and make the data available for free online. The range of information covered includes Apprentice Indentures, Census Returns, Parish Registers, Bastardy Bonds, Settlement Certificates & Removal Orders, Militia/Muster records, Directories, Land Tax Assessments, Workhouse/Poor Law records, Churchwardens Accounts, Tithe Apportionments, Wills, Poor Rate Payers, Lay Subsidies, Protestation Returns, MIs, Church Memorials and Hearth Tax records. Old parish maps and photos are often included)

Many indexed at a local level.

CD Roms (Warwickshire Poor Law Index)
Devon Family History Society (Rich man, poor man beggar-man, thief; A collection of over 63,000 entries from records held at Devon Record Office)
Berkshire Family History Society (Berkshire Overseers' Papers: Abbreviated transcripts of all the documents relating to the administration of the Poor Laws of Berkshire from 1601 to 1834 developed as part of the Berkshire Overseers Project. The CD contains comprehensive indexes for personal names, place names and occupations)
Parish Register Transcription Society (Eastern Sussex Parish Apprentices 1575-1837)
Lincolnshire Family History Society
(Lincolnshire Masters and Apprentices, 1711-1808 extracted from the Inland Revenue Ledgers at The National Archives) (Warwickshire Parish Poor Law, 1546-1904: Apprenticeship registers and indentures produced in association with Warwickshire County Record Office)
Cambridgeshire Family History Society (Poor Law & Apprenticeship Papers. An index of all surnames and forenames listed in parish and church records and databases which CFHS has published is available at their Super Search)
East Surrey Family History Society (Battersea Poor Law Records: Index to Orders of Justices 1700-1772 [Settlement] and Index to Apprenticeship Records 1602-1902)

Many transcriptions have been produced at a local level by Family History Societies.