Find out if your ancestor was wanted to settle in Lincolnshire under the old Poor Law. Search the records of over 3,600 people who were examined by justices of the peace to see if they could stay in the historic English country.
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:
Year of birth
Place of birth
Date of examination
Other information including marital status, names and ages of children and circumstances
The records contain details of 3661 people who were examined by justices of the peace under the 1662 Poor Relief Act to determine whether they could settle in Lincolnshire.
Under the 1662 Act, those with rents of less than £10 a year had to have a certificate of settlement which acted as a guarantee to poor relief from the issuing parish should it become necessary. If a newcomer to a parish wanted a settlement certificate he had to fulfil certain criteria. Chief among these was residence in the parish for 40 days or more without complaints or employment in the parish for a year and a day or longer.
Examinations were generally the legally binding Pauper Examinations. These were carried out by two justices of the peace and sought to determine a person’s settled residence. They were generally the first step in removal from the parish. The examination sought to discover where someone’s place of settlement was, usually their place of birth or the place where they were best known. Children generally took their father’s parish and wives their husband’s. Those accused of vagrancy, being able - bodied and unwilling to work, were often removed from a parish and sent back to their previous settled parish or place of birth. Those the parish authorities considered undesirable elements were also removed.
Most of those being examined come from Lincolnshire or the neighbouring counties but there are some who come from further afield. A number of Irish people appear in the records, from all over across the country. The years around the end of the 18th century were turbulent and those who arrived in 1816, would have been fleeing the disastrous famine that had decimated crops that year.
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 Law 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 whom 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 homes 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, they had to bring with them 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 issue 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, made up of several parishes who would then set up workhouses. Settlement certificates largely died out after that, but were still used in some parishes until the 1860s. 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.