My great great-grandfather, Samuel Roberts, was born in the Workhouse as recorded in the All Saints Parish Registers in Leicester, Leicestershire, England. Samuel was the second child of seven children to Robert and Esther (Curry) Roberts, and the only one christened where the abode is named “Workhouse.” In the christenings, Robert is always shown as a “FWK”, meaning Framework Knitter. It seems the Roberts family must have come on hard times just for a short period of time.
In my previous post, The Value of Parish Records, I promised to explore more of my discoveries as I researched my family. This is what I have found so far.
I decided that I wanted to find out more about the Workhouses in Leicester. I went to the web site www.workhouses.org and was able to locate some detailed information, but there were no records on the inmates. To find more details, I knew I needed to explore the Parish Chest Records. The Parish Chest was just that; a chest locked and housed in the church that could only be opened by the Vicar and two officers of the parish. As the chest filled up with records, the oldest papers at the bottom were disposed of to make room for new documents. And so these records don’t always exist. Some parishes didn’t keep good records, and others were destroyed either purposefully or accidentally through carelessness, fire, mold, bugs or animals. Consequently, when they can be found for your parish, you ALWAYS want to take a look at them.
The officers of the parish, the Church Warden and the clerk were required to keep records on everything. They were to track every penny that came in or left the parish, whether it was to pay for the sacramental wine, new bell ropes, coal for the church stove, or the cost of parchment. Some of the ledgers are tedious and hard to read, but intermingled in these papers are some valuable insights into our ancestors.
I decided to explore the parish chest records for Leicester. The only one I could locate either at the Family History Library or the Leicester Record Office was a film on St. Martin’s parish, the cathedral church for the city. In hopes of finding some information on my Roberts family, I began to crank the film. Here are some of the interesting documents that I found:
- Parish Papers – Records tracking money spent on the poor, naming the person; itemized furniture and clothing expenses for individuals; lists of various parish expenditures and Pew Rents, listing the number of pews, how many could sit in a pew and its annual rate. Minutes of Vestry meetings were also included.
- Parish Lists – Naming those who had served as parish officers and their date of tenure.
- Rent Books – Listing by quarter who by name was assisted with rent monies and how much.
- Care of the Poor – Ledgers naming a child, the mother and sometimes the father with a dated list describing cash expenditures and what it was for.
- Settlement Certificates – On a typed form, a certificate guaranteeing that a person/persons were inhabitants “legally settled in the parish of St. Martin’s.”
- Orders of Removal – Dated entries giving monies received from other named parishes to either maintain or remove a person/persons living in St. Martin’s parish, naming the person.
- Apprenticeship Papers – Entries naming a tradesman and his occupation; identifying a child by the parent’s name with an apprentice contract giving the cash terms of the arrangement. Actual apprenticeship ledgers, giving a date, apprentice’s name, sex, age, parents’ names (if any), their resident parish, the name to whom the apprentice was bound, that person’s trade and resident parish, the term and fee of the contract, and the signatures of the parish officers and local magistrates.
Although I was unable to find anything on my Samuel Roberts or his parents, my search was a fascinating exploration into the private lives of the St. Martin’s parishioners. Always search these records for your family, if they are available. Happy Hunting!