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Settlement Certificates/Examinations and Removal Orders (Parish & Poor Law)

Nature of Source

Records generated from The Act of Settlement and Removal (1662) which established the need to prove entitlement to poor relief by the issuing of Settlement Certificates. The certificates proved which parish a family belonged to and therefore which parish had the legal responsibility to provide poor relief if needed. The certificate gave the right of a person to live and receive welfare in their parish of legal settlement. Settlement certificates, although issued by the Overseers of the Poor, were not issued exclusively to paupers. It may be incorrect to assume that a person's parish of settlement was the same as their parish of birth, especially for women as on marriage they acquired settlement rights in the husband’s parish.

In the event of the parish authorities discovering that a person was likely to become a financial burden and become chargeable to the parish such as illegitimacy cases, those taken ill, suspected illegal immigrants or vagrants, the parish authorities undertook a Settlement Examination. The examination took place under the auspices of the Overseer of the Poor and a Justice of the Peace and was carried out to determine whether the person had a legitimate right to residency in the parish. The results of an examination are found in Examination Papers.

Following the findings, a guilty person would be served a Removal Order and then, forcibly if necessary, removed from the parish. These procedures were part of what is known as the Old Poor Law.

A person gained the right of settlement under the following conditions:

§  A new born child took the father's settlement regardless of the place of birth.

§  A parish apprentice from the age of seven who served and lived in the same parish for 40 consecutive days.

§  A married trader or person renting a smallholding or farm who had stayed for 12 months, paid parish rates and rented property over £10 per year.

§  An unmarried man who had worked for a year in the parish.

§  A woman took the settlement of the man she married and a widow who remarried took the husband's settlement.

§  Servants who stayed one year from date of hiring, and left with full wages.

§  A person who inherited an estate of land and lived on the estate for more than 40 days could.

The survival rate of these papers is patchy. Removal orders were often issued to single pregnant women, so the examination and removal papers might state the putative father. The itself certificate provides little direct genealogical information but does place a man and his wife in a particular location at a particular time. This could be useful if the wife's name was not known. The certificate will probably indicate that the marriage took place in their parish of settlement as well as the baptism of one or both partners.

The Quarter Sessions dealt with disputed settlement cases. The vestry minutes and other parish officials' accounts also dealt with settlement issues. Occasionally baptism and marriage certificates might be attached to the records. Vagrants were also forced to undergo settlement examinations and where these records exist, provide a thorough biography of the individual.

In 1834 a New Poor Law was enacted which removed the provision of poor relief from the parish and saw the construction of a workhouse in every poor law union.

Also see
Apprenticeship Indentures, Parish
Bastardy Bonds & Documents
Overseers of the Poor Accounts
Workhouse Records (Poor Law Unions)

Where Found

County Record Offices (Poor Law papers and Quarter Session papers for those subject to a Removal Order)
City of Westminster Archives Centre (Named indexes)
Society of Genealogists (Transcripts and images of the original settlement and removal documents on microfilm arranged in county order with Wales and Ireland included in the lists)

Period Covered

1662 - 1834

Genealogical Value

Settlement Certificates
Name of husband and wife and their address.
Examination Papers
Name, age, place of birth and parentage of examinee. The examinee’s apprenticeship, occupation, place and date of marriage, former and present address. Names of former husbands or wives, relatives and employers. Names and ages of children.
Removal Orders
Name and the name of the person’s parish of settlement.

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
Burlison, Robert. Tracing Your Pauper Ancestors: Pen and Sword Books, 2009  
Cohen, Deborah, Family Secrets: Living with Shame from the Victorians to the Present Day: Viking, 2013  Buy Now on Amazon
Cole, Anne. Poor Law Documents Before 1834: Federation of Family History Societies, 2000  Buy Now on Amazon
Englander, David. Poverty and Poor Law Reform in 19th Century Britain, 1834-1914: From Chadwick to Booth: Longman, 1998  Buy Now on Amazon
Fitzgerald, Michael. Ragged London: The Life of London's Poor: The History Press, 2011 Buy Now on Amazon
Fowler, Simon. Poor Law Records for Family Historians: Family History Partnership, 2011  Buy Now on Amazon
Gibson, Jeremy & Hampson, Elizabeth. Specialist Indexes for Family Historians: Federation of Family History Societies, 2000 (Preview available from Google Books) 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
Hitchcock, Tim & Black, John. Chelsea Settlement and Bastardy Examinations, 1733-1766: London Record Society, 1999  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
Paley, Ruth. My Ancestor Was a Bastard: A Family Historian's Guide to Sources for Illegitimacy in England and Wales: Society of Genealogists, 2004  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
Tate, William Edward. The Parish Chest: Phillimore, 1983 (Preview available from Google Books)  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
Wise, Sarah. The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum: Vintage, 2009 Buy Now on Amazon

TNA Research Guide: Poverty and the Poor Laws

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

Websites (A Place of Legal Settlement, by Anne Cole) (Victorian Web: The 1662 Settlement Act) (Manchester Archives and Local Studies:Poor Law and Workhouse Records) (London Lives Historical Background: Settlement) (London Lives Historical Background: Researching Poverty) (London Lives Historical Background: The Poor Law and Charity: An Overview) (London Lives Historical Background: The Parish Poor) (London Lives Historical Background: Workhouses) (Settlement Certificates and Settlement Examinations) (A Brief Explanation of the Poor Law in respect of Rural Communities 1601-1834)

Online Databases

Online Catalogues (Listing of online catalogues for the partial whereabouts of records including Access to Archives [A2A]) (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)
(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)
(Devon, Plymouth & West Devon Parish Chest Records 1556-1950. Records from the parish chests of Plymouth and West Devon including: Examinations, Jury Lists, Settlement Papers, Bastardy Papers and Overseers and Churchwardens’ Accounts) (London Poor Law Records, 1430-1973 provided in association with the London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library Manuscripts) (London, England, Selected Poor Law Removal and Settlement Records, 1828-1930. This database contains Poor Law records relating to settlement and removals for the unions of Bethnal Green, Hackney, Poplar, Shoreditch, and Stepney) (London Lives: Settlement/Bastardy Examinations, Pauper Removal Orders including St Martin in the Fields Settlement Examinations, 1725-1793)
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) (Wiltshire Removal Orders, 1670-1890; Lincolnshire Settlement Certificates)
Hertfordshire Names Online (The site provides online access to the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies indexes including Removal Orders & Settlement Certificates. 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 & Middlesex) (Warwickshire, Miscellaneous Parish Records including orders of removal produced in association with Warwickshire County Record Office) (Warwickshire Parish Poor Law, 1546-1904: Removal orders; Settlement examinations and certificates produced in association with Warwickshire County Record Office) (Bath Record Office: Bath Ancestors Database: Settlement Examinations, 1816-1866) (Warwickshire Poor Law Index) (Yesterdays Journey: Transcriptions dealing primarily with Derbyshire) (Transcribed data covering 40 square miles around Wirksworth and Matlock, Derbyshire. Data sets include Parish Records 1600-1900, Derbyshire Wills 1525-1928, census returns, Petty sessions, Memorial Inscriptions, Board of Guardians, Hearth Tax and others)
(Pickard's Pink Pages for Warwickshire: Warwickshire removals & settlements including Settlement Certificates for Kenilworth, Warwickshire 1695-1790)
(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)
(Kent Family History Research: East & West Kent Settlement and Removal Index lookup service) (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)

Transcriptions and indexes can be found at a local level.

CD Roms

Archive CD Books (St Martin in the Fields Settlement Examinations Books, 1705-1795; St Martin in the Fields Settlement Examinations Index 1732-1775)
Midlands Historical Data (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)
Parish Register Transcription Society (Indexes and transcriptions of Eastern Sussex Settlement Certificates & Bonds 1651-1837; East Sussex Removal Orders 1662-1862, compiled & edited by Michael J. Burchall)
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)
Lincolnshire Family History Society (Lincolnshire Poor Law Index)
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)

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