England Delinquent Fathers, 1700s and 1800s (National Institute)

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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 ($).


Churchwardens and overseers of the poor put adverts in local newspapers, and from 1857-1903, in the Poor Law Unions’ Gazette (Wood 2002), offering rewards for apprehension of runaway fathers as shown below.

Runaway in Maidstone Journal 19 January 1802

On Wednesday, the 30th of December, 1801, and left his Wife chargeable to the parish of Thurnham,
RICHARD OBEE, Master Bricklayer; aged [blank] years. If he will return again to his said Wife and Parish, he will be duly received; and if he doth not by Monday, the 25th January instant, a warrant will be taken out against him, and advertised in next week’s Paper, with a reward for his being apprehended and treated according to law, by Samuel Jones, Churchwarden and Richard Ballard, Overseer of the said parish.
  • His affairs are in a much better state than was expected.

Runaways in Maidstone Journal 22 Nov 1791

 RUN AWAY, from the Parish of Horsemonden, and have left their families chargeable to the said parish   of Horsemonden.

Richard Cheeseman, by trade a Blacksmith, about forty years of age, about five feet six inches high, of a light complexion, he has at times resided at a place called Ore, near Faversham, and has carried on the business for a widow woman there, and since for her daughter, with whom he went some years ago and took the Salutation tavern, at Deptford, where he continued about six months, and has since been seen about his former residence, at Ore.
Also John Mace, by business a Sawyer, about forty years of age, about five feet six inches high, of a dark complexion, pale faced, and is very deaf, has been about Deptford following the business of sawing.
Also Abraham Ashdown, by business a labourer, about thirty-five years of age, about five feet three inches high, of a light complexion, and is a very thin person.
Whoever will bring the above-named persons to the parish officers of Horsemonden, so that they may be dealt with according to law, shall receive the following rewards from the Church-wardens and Overseers of the said parish of Horsemonden:
                 For Richard Cheeseman, Five Guineas
                 For John Mace, One Guinea

                 For Abraham Ashdown, One Guinea
As witness out hands, this 15th day of Nov. 1791.
         Wm Lavender, Andrew Froming Church-wardens
          Daniel Richardson, John Ashdown Overseers


Repayment Bond 1763 Tonbridge, Kent, FHL Film 1835473

I John Cox do hereby Deliver up to the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Tonbridge in Kent -
A Black Gelding with a snip on his face, being my property and also a flower’d Sattin Waistcoat by way of Satisfaction for the Charges the Parish of Tonbridge has been at in Maintaining my Children, and I do Admitt the said Gelding and Waistcoat to be of the value of Six pounds only and no more, and that the same shall be sett at that sum in my Account with the Parish, and I do also promise to pay the Officers of the said parish Four shillings a week from this time forward and until I have repaid the Parish the Whole Money due to them for the maintenance of my Children and I also promise to take my Children out of Tonbridge Workhouse immediately.
Witness my hand the 6th July 1763
                                                               John Cox

Magistrates Orders

Summaries of the orders relevant to the parish made by magistrates at Petty and Quarter Sessions are sometimes encountered in the parish chest material. Extracts from the typed one covering the period 1775-1825 for Frant in Sussex appear below . Although clearly not original documents, these act as finding aids for useful material concerning the inhabitants.

Extracts from Magistrates Orders for Frant, Sussex 1775-1825, FHL film 1364155

1787 18 Sep—Order of Lord Sheffield and Wm Board to John Gilbert of Frant, labourer, to pay to the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor 6s for the lying in of Sarah Card and 2s weekly for the maintenance of the child. The said Sarah Card to pay 6d a week in case she shall not nurse and take care of the child herself.

1814 7 Oct—Order to the Constable of Rotherfield to summons Samuel Reed of Frant, carpenter, on the complaint of Adam Jacob of Frant, yeoman, for having been drunk on Tuesday, 27 September, at Frant.

1814 11 Nov—Warrant for the apprehension of Ezekiah Dibly of Frant, labourer, for neglect to provide for his family and apply his earnings towards their maintenance.

1814 9 Dec—Order to the Constable of the Hundred of Rotherfield to summons the Parish Officers of Frant to answer a complaint of the Parish Officers of Mayfield to show cause why an order should not be made upon them for the maintenance of a bastard child of (blank) Eason, wife of Ephraim Eason, late (blank) Freeman before her marriage, the said child living in Mayfield as a nurse child.

1815 28 Apr—Warrant to the Constable of the Hundred of Rotherfield to apprehend Frances Featherston of Frant who had been legally removed to Speldhurst, for returning to Frant, being with child which is likely to be born a bastard and be chargeable to the parish.

1815 12 May—Warrant to the Constable of the Hundred of Rotherfield and to the Churchwardens and Overseers of Frant and also to the Churchwardens and Overseers of Wadhurst to apprehend Edward Batnup of Wadhurst, who frequently goeth at large in Frant disordered by Lunacy and dangerous, and to keep him locked up in the Poor House of Wadhurst so long as such Lunacy shall continue and no longer.

1815 14 Nov—Summons to Wm Francis Woodgate esq. of Tunbridge, Kent to show cause why he refused to pay £7.16s Poor Rate.

1817 24 Jan—Warrant to the Constable of the Hundred of Rotherfield and to the Keeper of the House of Correction at Lewes to carry James David otherwise Ashdown, convicted of being an idle and disorderly person, being a poor person and able to work and refusing to work and does not apply a proper proportion of the money earned by him towards the maintenance of his wife and children. And to the Keeper to receive him and keep him in the House of Correction for one month.

1823 2 Aug— Examination of Frances Russell of Frant widow, Sir John Hamilton, Harriet Talbot, Mary Pollington, and Robert Pollington about the charge by the said Frances Russell that Sir John Hamilton was the father of her child.

1823 9 Dec—Warrant by Dan. Rowland to the Constable of Frant, on the application of Edward Kine, Overseer, to arrest David Hickmott of Frant in respect of a child of Ruth Diplock of Frant.

1835 8 Nov— Order to the Churchwardens and Overseers of Tunbridge to pay to Frant Parish 2s weekly towards the support of a child of Sophia Everest born at Tunbridge and now chargeable to Frant Parish.
                                   [Most of the orders were of the latter two types]


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 wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.