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Losing Ancestors, Part 2

Apart for parish registers, there are other useful documents concerning a particular parish in England and Wales that are worth investigating.


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Resource: GenWeekly
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Word Count: 624 (approx.)
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The Poor Law Act decreed that assistance to paupers and the poor, could only be given in the parish of settlement. It caused a burden on parishes to support their poor. Each parish looked after its own finances and, consequently, with poverty just around the corner for a large amount of people, parishes didn't wan to be saddled with the cost of supporting someone who didn't come from that parish and had recently moved there. Hence there were rules on entitlement for support and these were strictly upheld.

What occurred was that if people had recently moved into the parish and were considered as maybe becoming a liability money-wise, these people or families were investigated and this was termed "Settlement Examinations." These documents are particularly useful if you have ancestors in a particular village and just can't find anything about them in the registers. It may mean they came from elsewhere, in which case these examination records will show where they were born and what occupation, plus other places they may have lived. These records can be found in the county record offices, if they do survive.

Sometimes a "removal order" was put into place, which is self-explanatory, removing the family back to where it came from to receive their support for that parish. The removal orders are other documents to be investigated.

Finally the "Overseer Rates Books." For each parish there was an overseer, a member of the parish council, who worked out the needs of the poor in that particular parish. Rates were set which everyone paid to cover the expected funds for the poor, and the rate books show really a lovely insight into the parish and all the inhabitants. Quite a lot of these survive.

You may often come across the term the "parish chest," this covers the above documents. To find out more about these and if they survived in your parish, contact the country archives for the county you are searching in.

So what other sources can you tap when you have hit the brick wall?

Monumental inscriptions can be very useful giving information on the persons dates of birth age at death; plus, maybe more family in the grave or the adjacent graves. Naturally, time and weather have eroded the stones, but due to the dilgence and thought many years ago and even now with ongoing projects, a lot of family history societies have indexed or recorded their inscriptions. The county of Bedfordshire, for instance, had a lovely chap called A. Weight Matthews who diligently visited each churchyard back in the early 1900's in Bedfordhsire and not only wrote down the inscriptions but actully drew the headstones. His notebooks clearly are worthy of priase. The Society of Genealogists have a large collection of Monuemental Inscriptions (MI's). You can borwse their catalogue form their web site Society of Genealogists, UK.

Other places to seek out information? If you have ancestors in the city of London, the Livery Company Records give details of where the apprentices come from.

The Boyd's Marriage Index, which can be searched at the Society of Genealogists is also available online as a pay as you go, but well worth the small fee. Percival Boyd began around the 1920s to index county to county marriages, using both groom and bride in the index. It was a mammoth task. It covers 1538 to 1837. It is worthwhile to find a marriage when you are completely lost. It is incomplete however. See British Origins, Marriage Records at

Pallots Index found on covers over one and a half million marriages, mainly all from London and Middlesex, but does have coverage for other parishes outside London. The period covered is 1780-1837, but is worthwhile to use if you have lost ancestors in and around London in that time zone.<.p>

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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