19 August 2010

Living the Poor Life: poor law correspondence online

New and free online at the (UK) National Archives are "thousands of pages of Victorian workhouse and poor law records made available online following the conclusion of a major project by The National Archives.

Living the Poor Life involved more than 200 volunteers, including local and family historians, researching and cataloguing 19th century records from the huge Ministry of Health archive (MH12).

The records comprise letters, reports and memos passed between local and national poor law authorities and help shed light on the lives and experiences of the Victorian poor. Dr Paul Carter, Project Director and Principal Modern Records Specialist, said: 'The importance of this series of records cannot be overestimated. The Poor Law Union correspondence is unrivalled in giving us that window in the archives to examine the lives of the Victorian poor."

All the records start at 1834, the year of the Poor Law Amendment Act, for the following Poor Law Unions:

  • Axminster Poor Law Union, Devon and Dorset, 1834- 1848
  • Basford Poor Law Union, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, 1834- 1845
  • Berwick upon Tweed Poor Law Union, Northumberland, 1834- 1852
  • Bishop’s Stortford Poor Law, Union Hertfordshire and Essex, 1834- 1852
  • Blything Poor Law Union, Suffolk, 1834-1840
  • Bromsgrove Poor Law Union, Worcestershire, 1834-1842
  • Cardiff Poor Law Union, Glamorganshire, 1834- 1853
  • Clutton Poor Law Union, Somerset, 1834- 1853
  • Keighley Poor Law Union, Yorkshire West Riding, 1834- 1855
  • Kidderminster Poor Law Union, Worcestershire, 1834- 1849
  • Liverpool Vestry (technically not a Poor Law Union, it retained vestry status throughout the 19th century), 1834- 1856
  • Llanfyllin Poor Law Union, Montgomeryshire and Denbighshire, 1834-1854
  • Mansfield Poor Law Union, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, 1834- 1849
  • Mitford and Launditch Poor Law Union, Norfolk, 1834- 1849
  • Newcastle under Lyme Poor Law Union, Staffordshire, 1834- 1856
  • Newport Pagnell Poor Law Union, Buckinghamshire, 1834- 1855
  • Reeth Poor Law Union, Yorkshire North Riding, 1834- 1871
  • Rye Poor Law Union, East Sussex and Kent, 1834- 1843
  • Southampton, Hampshire (technically not a Poor Law Union but an earlier incorporation), 1834- 1858
  • Southwell, Nottinghamshire, 1834- 1871
  • Truro Poor Law Union, Cornwall, 1834- 1849
  • Tynemouth Poor Law Union, Northumberland, 1834- 1855
  • Wolstanton and Burslem Poor Law Union, Staffordshire, 1834- 1851
You can search by entering any or all of the following into the 'content search' box:
  • First name
  • Last name
  • Place name, which could be a village, town or county
  • Occupation
  • Any other words mentioned in the document, for example 'Chartism’, ‘Strike’, ‘neglect’ or ‘death’
See search tips for more information.

The information above is taken from the TNA description. I searched some of the names in my family history but found none I could immediately identify as a relative. I did find correspondence in the file for the Mitford and Launditch Poor Law Union, Norfolk, from a Church of England minister, a relative of a man I`ve recently researched after whom an island in British Columbia is named.

Some of the documents include indexed lists of people under the care (a term used loosely) of the Union as well as of managers, overseers and employees of Union.

This is a very nice database for those with family in one of the areas covered, or for those interested in social history. It`s unfortunate the project did not receive funding to continue.

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