29 January 2008

Living the poor life

The latest in a series of podcasts from The National Archives, available here, is about the Poor Law and a project being proposed to digitize and index link documents at TNA relating to selected poor law unions.

The presentation is by TNA specialist Paul Carter. He gives background to what he characterizes as the "good detailed and intimate information in the records."

The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act created larger administrative units, termed Unions, than the previous parish-based system. This deterrent system, which Scrooge so favoured, was overseen by a Poor Law Commission, a central government body. The correspondence between the Commission and the local Unions comprises 16,700 volumes presently catalogued only by union and date range with no indication on the information within.

The results of a pilot project indexing and linking to images of original documents for the Southwell Union Workhouse in Nottinghamshire are available here.

Funding is being sought for similar projects on 20 other unions, named in the podcast, out of the more than 600 that existed in England and Wales. Carter gives examples of the type of information found in these records that may be helpful in researching the genealogy and life of an ancestor unfortunate enough to have been in the workhouse.

It would have been desirable to have the slides as well as the audio available. Nevertheless, TNA is to be congratulated on sharing this information on its web site.

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