Find out if your ancestor was granted a settlement certificate for a parish in Lincolnshire under the old Poor Law. Search the records of over 8.500 people who came to settle in the historic English county.
Each record contains a transcript of the original record. The information contains can vary but in general you could find out the following about your ancestor:
Parish of legal settlement
Date granted settlement certificate
Additional details about their circumstances including their marital status, children and their previous parish
The records contain details of 8,590 people who were granted permission to settle in a Lincolnshire parish under the 1662 Poor Law Relief Act between 1665 and 1865.
Certificates of settlement were granted to those on rents less than £10 a year who were entitled to claim on the parish’s poor relief if it became necessary. Some of those granted certificates were working. You could claim if you had been employed in the parish for more than a year and a day or if you had an apprenticeship of at least seven years from a settled person within the parish.
For those who were not employed and who qualified as “impotent poor” then you were entitled if you had been born in a parish or had lived there without anyone complaining about you, for a period of 40 uninterrupted days. Unmarried and expectant mothers were usually given certificates with the most reluctance as they were considered the most expensive to support if it became necessary.
In 1692 an amendment to the 1662 Act, “For supplying some Defects in the Laws for the Relief of the Poor” gave some protection for those with certificates, including newcomers to a parish who had the paperwork from their previous parish, as long as they didn’t need the poor rate. The same Act contained provision for the so-called “badging of the poor”. Those in receipt of poor relief would have to wear, in red or blue, on their right shoulder, the letter “P” preceded with the initial letter for the parish.
Lincolnshire is a historic county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire in the northwest and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. Northamptonshire is in the south. The county town is Lincoln.
In 1662 the Poor Relief Act or Settlement Act introduced statutory “settlement certificates” for parish newcomers who could not afford to rent a property for at least £10 a year. Under the law anyone the local justices deemed “likely to be chargeable” to the parish poor rates could be removed to their home parish. It was two years after the restoration of King Charles II after the English Civil War and the following Interregnum. The Cavalier Parliament (so-called because of the number of royalist members) came up with the Act for the Better Relief of the Poor of this Kingdom in response to the fear that better-off parishes would be overwhelmed by destitute ex-soldiers. The parliament had already introduced the controversial Hearth Tax, which had proved unpopular as it required tax collectors to enter people’s home to count the number of hearths.
Under the Settlement Act if a person who could not afford the £10 a year rental that exempted you from the act, left their settled parish he had to bring with him a settlement certificate to clarify which parish would be responsible for them if they fell upon hard times. £10 a year was well beyond the wages of the average labourer at the time.
Settlement was granted in a parish on a number of terms. Birth granted an automatic right of settlement. This led to pregnant women, likely to be categorised as paupers, being driven out of a parish before they gave birth. Since the baby would usually take on the father’s settled parish there was also a practice of paying men from another parish to marry the expectant mother as this down payment would cost less than the potential cost of the child over the course of its life.
It was also possible to gain residency by living in the parish for forty consecutive days without complaint or to be hired for over a year and a day within the parish. Parishes, however, were reluctant to settlement certificates so people usually stayed where they were. As England became more industrialised these parish based rules became less desirable. It was argued that the system stopped the free movement of workers. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 took the administration of aid for the poor away from the parish and into the hands of Poor Law Unions and set up workhouses. Settlement certificate largely died out after that but were still used in some parishes until the 1860. The Settlement Act was not fully repealed until 1948.
The certificates guaranteed that the home parish would pay the costs of removal if the person became in need of poor relief. Parish justices would deem someone not eligible for the relief fund. The first step in the removal process was usually an examination. The costs of removal were often extremely high.
A legally binding Pauper Examination was carried out by two justices of the peace. Once they were satisfied that a pauper’s settlement lay elsewhere a Removal Order would be issued and the removal would be carried out.