Discover your Irish ancestry through searching the Waterford board of guardian minute books. Findmypast has digitised the poor law union board of guardians minute books from the Waterford union and more records from other unions across the Irish county will be added to this collection.
With each result, you will be able to view a transcript of the vital details and an image of the original minute book. The amount of detail in each transcript will vary depending on the context of the record. You will find a combination of the following:
Age and birth year
Union – denotes the poor law union within County Waterford
County and country
Archive and reference
Date range, series, page, and line – all refer to the original records held with the archive
We highly recommend that you take the time to view the images and the pages on either side by selecting the previous and next options. The image will provide you with more information about why your ancestor’s name was recorded in the board of guardians’ minute books. There are a number of reasons that your ancestor’s name would appear in the books including,
A member of staff or a guardian
Received outdoor relief for work such as breaking stones
Paid or collected the poor rates
A request for assistance with emigration
Marriage announcements of inmates
Orphaned or deserted child
An inmate of the workhouse with special circumstances
The Waterford poor law union board of guardian minute books have been digitised by Findmypast and the original books are held by the Waterford County Archives. At this time, you can only search the minute books for the Waterford union. Findmypast will be added more minute books from other unions across the Irish county.
The board of guardians were responsible for the administration and operation of the workhouse and poor relief. The minutes of each weekly meeting recorded how many men and women were housed in the workhouse, how many were discharged or died, and the number of births. They would have also recorded the expenditures of the workhouse along with the names of the workhouse suppliers. Outdoor relief was also noted in the weekly minutes.
Ireland’s Poor Law unions were set up in 1839 under the Irish Poor Law Act of 1838. The Act itself was a divisive one. Not a single Irish MP voted for it, those of a more liberal frame of mind were concerned that the law as it stood would not provide aid for the most vulnerable poor who desperately needed it and the conservatives, understanding the levels of poverty afflicting Irish society, were not willing to foot the bill to deal with them.
Up to this point, all relief for the poor was provided on a charitable basis. Unlike England and Wales, Ireland had no existing poor law to build on. When the Westminster government had been looking at revamping the poor laws in Great Britain there was some consternation about how the problem would be dealt with in Ireland because of the far higher levels of poverty. In 1833 Dublin Church of Ireland Archbishop Richard Whately was put in charge of the Royal Commission on the Poorer Classes in Ireland. Whately ignored the suggestion that he make sure his report tallied with the plans that Westminster had in mind and started a comprehensive survey of the levels of poverty in Ireland. By interviewing people from all over the country, of all social classes, he formed a detailed picture of the causes of such endemic poverty. In a series of reports between 1835 and 1839, he concluded that Irish poverty was caused by a lack of access to jobs and recommended that rather than bringing in a copy of the English poor laws there was a comprehensive drive to create employment.
Whatley’s suggestions were ignored and instead the English Poor Law Commissioner Sir George Nicholls was brought in to work out how to fit the existing laws into an Irish context. Nicholls took six weeks travelling around Ireland before writing his report and subsequently helping to draft the contentious bill and oversee the setting up of the Poor Law Unions.
There were 162 Poor Law Unions, which would later correspond to the civil registration districts. Dublin was divided into two unions, North and South. Each union was overseen by a Board of Guardians whose job it was to set up workhouses and make sure they were maintained. They also had to collect the tax to pay for the poor law relief. Guardians were elected by those who paid their cess tax, which was similar to rates for property owners or leaseholders of a certain income. Elections were often contentious. One Dublin meeting to elect candidates descended into a brawl over concerns about Orange influence on the Board. The first Dublin elections, held in June 1839, were held “with great vehemence and no little acrimony”.
As the 19th Century progressed, the work of the Board of Guardians was far more tightly regulated. Later minute books follow a strict format to ensure that suitable care was taken about health provisions and deserted children. For the poor, the Union provided the only social security available. Without a public health system, the workhouse hospitals were often the only health care that they had access to.
Guardians also hired staff for the workhouses, teachers for the school and medical staff for the infirmary. They hired foster mothers and wet nurses for deserted children and, in later years, oversaw “outdoor” relief for those within the community. They also granted new clothing for inmates leaving the workhouse to go to work.