Family History

A Lucky Strike in the Poor Law Records

For a long time I have been researching my family history, doing my own Who Do You Think You Are, writes Mike Pettigrew.  There have been some exciting moments, but none to match the time I found that my ancestors were involved with something you find in the history books, namely, the Andover Union Workhouse.

I was reminded of this by a recent article by Barry Shurlock in the Hampshire Chronicle (December 19, 2019). He pointed out that lurking in record offices are poor law records which are a valuable source of information for family historians . And this was exactly my experience, when I found Settlement Papers dating from December 1851.

They vividly told me how the Poor Law was actually administered, as shown in the links to them below.

At the Andover Union Workhouse on 20 December 1851, the Guardians made out a preprinted Certificate of Chargeability, intended to resettle the family in Chute, a few miles northwest of Andover, just over the border in Wiltshire. Two days later they carried out an Examination of Thomas and his family. to support this charge This is the key document about the early life of Thomas Truman and his family and was obviously written by someone else, who put Thomas’s words into a sort of legal English.

Above all, it gives the sort of detail that is gold-dust to any family historian. The two other documents which make up this collection of papers [show how the authorities sought to pass on the burden of support. On 26 December 1851, Thomas and family were made the subject of an Order of Removal signed by two JPs from Everleigh (spelled Everley in the document) near Collingbourne Ducis, intended to ensure that the latter parish, rather than Chute, took on the responsibility for their care. On the next day a Notice of Chargeability was made out by Chute to inform the churchwardens of Collingbourne Ducis of the JPs’ judgement.

What finally happened to the family is not entirely clear, but they probably had to endure Christmas in Andover and were then transported to Collingbourne Ducis, perhaps to the workhouse at Mewsey. The 1861 census shows that by then Thomas was working in Sussex, but Harriet had died of ‘general dropsy’ two years earlier.

I wonder how many other family historians could learn as much as I have from the Poor Law Records?

Contributed by Mike Pettigrew