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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Poor Law and Parish Chest Records by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
The first workhouses were intended principally to house the elderly, sick and orphans, but later took in many able but out-of-work men and their destitute families, increasingly so after 1834.
A distinction was made in the minds of the affluent regarding the idle poor, (the able who would not work), and the deserving poor, who for some legitimate reason were unable to support themselves. The change in 1834 to creating basic but unattractive conditions in the workhouse, and forcing all paupers to reside therein or lose benefits, was largely based on this ethic.
Workhouse Admissions and Discharges
The truthfulness of information, especially birthplace and recent residence, given by destitute persons needing a roof over their heads, food and clothing must never be taken completing at face value. It is a case of primary evidence given under stress for a definite purpose and thus may be less reliable than other primary evidence. Nevertheless, useful leads may be had from these documents.
There are often six-monthly summaries called indoor relief lists that can act as indexes to the admission and discharge registers. The lists state names and dates of birth as well as how long they have been in the workhouse.
St. George in The East, Middlesex Workhouse Admissions and Discharges 1807-1818 FHL film 0251924
|This is a huge book with entries covering a two-page spread having 12 main columns for Admissions and 4 for Discharges. The information included is:|
|Date of Admission||Age|
|Whether Inoculated or Vaccinated||[Smallpox]|
|Religious denomination||By whose order [admitted]|
|How Settled||Whether able to work|
|Remarks on admission|
|When discharged||Cause of discharge|
| A FEW EXAMPLES FROM THE MEN’S REGISTER:
James MOORE age 64 admitted 1815, born in Venice, inoculated, Catholic, settled by renting, ‘able to work but not willing, a troublesome man’, discharged at his request 24 Apr 1819.
John CLEGG age 55 admitted 1815, born St. Bride’s City of London, inoculated, pipe maker, Established Church, settled by renting, nearly blind, discharged to Royal Eye Infirmary, Westminster 1 Jan 1819
Michael McCOY age 37 admitted Aug 1816, born in Leinster, Ireland, inoculated, bricklayer, Catholic, settled by servitude, able to work ‘a very steady fellow’, discharged at his request 20 Mar 1819.
John SHROEDER, age 63 admitted 1816, born in Hanover, inoculated, sugar baker, Lutheran, casual, lame, died of natural decay 15 Apr 1820.
Cornelius MURPHY age 40 admitted for 5th time Nov 1818, born Munster, Ireland, inoculated, labourer, Catholic, casual, venereal, discharged at his request 11 Jan 1819.
Francis SHORT age 52 admitted for 3rd time Nov 1818, born St. John Southwark, inoculated, cooper, Established Church, settled by apprenticeship, able to work but ‘a lazy man’, discharged at his request 20 Sep 1819.
John SMITH age 30 admitted 2nd time Nov 1818, born Queenhithe, inoculated, labourer, Calvinist, on pass from Whitechapel, settled by renting, Able to work, ‘very respectable connections and from his .... Deserves a better lot’, discharged at his request 16 Apr 1819.
George CAMERON age 60 admitted 1814, born Ratcliffe Highway, inoculated, linen draper, Presbyterian, settled by parents, able but ‘discharged to prison for pawning’ 5 Feb 1819
Westminster Workhouse, Middlesex Admissions and Discharges 1824
| Admitted 1824
|| Discharged |
|Sep 16||Denny, Susannah||21||Dischd 16 Sep 1824 at the Office|
||Denny, John||2||Do with Mother Do|
|Sep 23||Davis, Catherine||20|| Removed to the Parish of Hentland in the County|
of Hereford 18 Jan 1825
|Sep 24||Donovan, Elizth||11½|| Dischd 7 Nov 1824 to Mr Martin at 19 Hanover Street,|
Long Acre as a Servant
|Oct 14||Drury, Drew||59||Died 23 Jan 1837|
|Oct 18||Davis, Helen||Born|| Removed to the Parish of Hentland in the County of|
Hereford 18 Jan 1825 with mother Vide above
|Nov 9||Dullman, Mary Ann||121/4|| Upon liking 12 Nov 1824 to John Buddes, 23 Popping|
Court, Fleet Street ........ Bound 27 Dec 1824
|Nov 9||Dallman, Thos Wm||91/4|| Ran away 12 Jun 1825. His Mother took him away from|
the Ranks when going to Church with the Boys on Sunday
|Nov 10||Dransfield, Cath||36||Died 15 Nov 1824|
Westminster Workhouse, Middlesex Admissions and Discharges 1835
| Admitted 1835
|| Discharged |
|Mar 14||Corgan, John||28||Died 28 May 1835|
|Mar 27||Cleghorn, James||50||Absconded 17 Apr 1835|
|Apr 18||Cleghorn, James||50||Discharged 27 Jun 1835|
|Apr 23||Cavendish, Margt||52||Absconded 9 Oct 1836 while on leave to attend the Catholic Chapel on Sunday|
|Jun 18||Cooper, James||54||Dischd 29 Jul 1835|
||Cooper, Makepeace||60||Do with Husband|
|Jun 22||Carter, Julia||60||Went out on leave of absence 7 Nov 1835 and on her return refused admittance by the Porter, she being Drunk|
|Jun 25||Cotterell, Willm||41||Sent to Messrs Warburton at Bethnal House, Bethnal Green, a private madhouse 25 Jun 1835|
|Jul 3||Cleghorn, James||50||Dischd 7 Jul 1835|
|Jul 7||Crump, Henry||6 m||Sent to Mr Aubin’s Infant Poor Establishment, Norwood 30 Jul 1835|
There are other columns indicating how many times admitted, and which ward they were placed in. James Cleghorn records his 14th, 15th, and 16th visits above.
History of Dashwood Family in Piccadilly Workhouse 1824-1828
|The family were passed from Marylebone parish and admitted in distress to the following wards in St. James Piccadilly workhouse on 4 November 1826, and consisted of:|
|William Dashwood, tailor||33||Ward 26|
|Wife Lucy||34||Ward 2|
|Child Lucy||9||Ward 2|
|Child Christian||7||Ward 5|
|Child William||6||Ward 5|
|Child Sophia||3||Ward 5|
|Child Joseph||11/2||Ward 5|
|They brought with them one decent set of linen each. Little Joseph died 28 Dec 1826 and William junior absconded on 6 Jan 1827. Lucy was delivered of a female child, Matilda, on 8 May 1827 and this baby died 25 July 1827. Lucy junior was discharged 27 Sep 1827 by Mr. Smith. The parents were discharged by Nurse Budd to Wimbledon 28 Feb 1828. The two oldest children, Lucy and Christian were discharged by the Master the next day.|
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Poor Law and Parish Chest Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at email@example.com
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