Discover your ancestors who were examined in Shoreditch under the Poor Law to determine their parish of settlement.
The information available depends upon the original record and whether the individual in the record is the subject of the settlement examination or another person (such as close family member) mentioned within the examination. However, you may expect to find:
Since the turn of the 17th century, the State recognised a need to cater for the destitute. The system, as initiated, was based on the notion that people were settled in - i.e. were the responsibility of - a given parish. Later, in the 19th century, parishes were grouped into poor law unions, although some urban parishes became poor law unions in their own right.
Although there were several considerable modifications made to the poor laws, the principle that each person was settled in a parish remained throughout; indeed, its vestiges were only abolished with the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948.
The parish officials quizzed new arrivals, or inhabitants who had fallen on hard times, to establish where they were settled. The rules of settlement changed very little over the centuries. Slightly oddly, birth only constituted settlement in the case of illegitimate children. The most common event to create a settlement was taking a job or being apprenticed in a parish for a year or more. The other most frequently come across is where the examinee rented a house or other premises at £10 p.a. or more. If an individual had not themselves gained a settlement, they inherited it from their father. The records of the official enquiries are known as settlement examinations.
Until the late 18th century, a person could be removed from a parish unless they could prove they had a settlement by means of a certificate from “their” parish taking responsibility for them if they needed relief.
Some parishioners gave problems. Scottish and Irish people had no automatic settlement. Others were very vague in their memory. However, these examinations are key records in tracing people arriving in London before the census returns allow most people’s origins outside the city to be traced.
Shoreditch was an urban parish just outside the City of London proper and has an excellent series of poor law records, preserved at London Metropolitan Archives. The index provided here is to the records for the period 1758-1802, comprising London Metropolitan Archives’ references P91/LEN/1200 to 1216.
The aim of the index is to provide a key to the main genealogical information contained within each examination. All the people mentioned are indexed and keyed to the examinant – called the “subject” in the index – whereby a researcher can reconstruct all the people in the examination of interest.
To give an example, Sophia Roach was examined on 4 August 1800. Not only are her current husband Michael and son Abraham mentioned (with Michael’s settlement) but also a former husband John Horne (with his settlement) and 3 children (all from Ridgmont, Bedfordshire) and the approximate dates of her two marriages with the ages of the children. Michael refuses to pay for the children of the former husband. These items can be found through the index to any of the names mentioned by looking on the same date.
These records are published on Findmypast courtesy of and with thanks to the genealogist Cliff Webb.