Settlement Papers


Include several categories: Examinations papers, Settlement Certificates and Removal Orders. Vagrancy Passes were issued to permit a pauper to travel across parishes, usually as part of a Removal Order. All these can date from 1601 to 1834.

Settlement Certificates:

In 1662 an Act of Settlement was passed to define which parish had responsibility for a poor person. A child's birthplace was its place of settlement, unless of course its mother had a settlement certificate from somewhere else stating that the unborn child was included on the certificate. However from the age of 7 upwards the child could have been apprenticed and gained a settlement for itself. Also, the child could have obtained a settlement for itself by service by the time it was 16.

Typically, a legitimate child would take it's father's place of settlement, and an illegitimate child would be settled in its place of birth until:

  1. He served an apprenticeship elsewhere, or
  2. He rented property worth over £10 per year in another parish, or
  3. He was unmarried and had worked a year in a parish.
  4. He held public office in a parish, or paid the parish poor rate.
  5. She married a man of the parish.
  6. He inhabited (slept in) the same parish for 40 consecutive days, and was bound as an apprentice by Indenture.

Beginning in 1665, the poor were allowed to enter any parish in search of work, so long as they had a Settlement Bond where they would agree to hold harmless a particular parish against any charges incurred by the person moving. These date from 1665 to 1697. Many people moved without bothering to obtain a Bond. Many considered it another form of government prying into their privacy.

After 1697, the poor were allowed to enter any parish in search of work, so long as they had a Settlement Certificate signed by the church wardens and overseers of their place of settlement and two magistrates guaranteeing to receive them back should they become chargeable.

No one was allowed to move from town to town without the appropriate documentation. If a person entered a parish in which he or she did not have official settlement, and seemed likely to become chargeable to the new parish, then an examination would be made by the justices (or parish overseers). From this examination on oath, the justices would determine if that person had the means to sustain himself and, if not, which was that person's parish of settlement. The results of the examination were documented in an Examination Paper, but few of these have survived. As a result of the examination the intruder would then either be allowed to stay, or would be removed by means of what was known as a Removal Order.

A married woman was normally settled with her husband (exeptions abound).

Complaints about someone had to be made by churchwardens and overseers within forty days before a magistrate. Settlement papers contain details of every event having a bearing on settlement, from cradle to present circumstances, age, parentage, birthplace, apprenticeship, employment, marriage, names, ages of children, etc. were all written down. They were kept by the parish (normally in the Parish Chest) as evidence of settlement someplace else.

Examinations Papers:

Not all Examinations were for Poorlaw entitlement. However, on this web page we will stick to those that were for Poorlaw purposes.

Some Examinations Papers still exist, but are organized by Riding or section of Lincolnshire. For example, the Kesteven Quarter Sessions Settlement Examinations from 1700 - 1847. The main towns in Kesteven are Sleaford, Bourne, Folkingham, Stamford and Grantham. Many examinants gave their age and place of birth, place and date of marriage, names of former husbands or wives, relatives and employers.

The Board of Guardians for a Poor Law Union might want the local parish to "show cause" for why someone was not "settled" in the parish. See our Overseer of Keelby file.

We have a sample Examination Report for you: Examination of Joshua Roberts.

Removal Orders:

If you were not granted a Settlement Certificate, one of two things could happen. You might be allowed to stay in the parish if your original parish ("parish of settlement") agreed to pay a fee, usually quarterly, to sustain you in your new parish. If not, you would receive a Removal Order, sometimes accompanied by a written pass to the parish of settlement showing the route to be taken. This would apply even within a city or town which consisted of more than one parish. Your parish of settlement was obliged to take you back.

Removal Orders would often take a person or a family back to a place of settlement miles across the country, sometimes to a parish they had only known briefly as a small child. It was not uncommon for a husband and wife to have their children taken from them, each being removed to separate scattered parishes. Children under seven were rarely removed to a different place from their natural parents as they would have had to gain a settlement of their own to be removed somewhere other than their father's place of settlement. Illegitimate babies and children could be removed away from their mothers in the 18th century if the child was not born in the mother's place of settlement (the settlement of illegitimate children was their place of birth) - but not always. Sometimes an agreement was made between the overseers of the child's place of settlement and the overseers of the parish where it was living so that it could be maintained by the former whilst living in the latter. Children whose mother had remarried a man with a different place of settlement from their father could be removed away from their mother as they would retain their father's settlement, but again agreements could be made between parishes as with illegitimate children above.

In 1732/3 an Act prevented the removal of pregnant women and women within the first month of giving birth. After 1834, the Union Workhouse (covering a group of parishes) came into being, but removal to the "appropriate" Workhouse continued.

The law appears to have changed in 1846. Instead of the parish of settlement paying for out relief, the length of residence in a particular parish was the new criteria. [Anne Cole - 26 Mar 2004]

Settle Certificates and Removal Orders are a valuable source for the family historian because they often list the entire family and the names of both parishes.

  • Please see the article: "A Place of Legal Settlement," published by Anne Cole in the Lincolnhsire Family History Society magazine.
  • Settlement Certificates for some parishes have survived, and many have been indexed by the Lincolnshire Family History Society. These are available via the Federation of Family History Societies Bookstore, which allows purchase by Credit Card. These are indexes and not copies of the documents. The Index published in 1987 gives: Surname, forename, age (if given in the certificate), the parish to which the person/family moved and the year. An Index published in 1995 gives: Surname, forename, age (as above), parish (as above) with the Lincolnshire Archives document reference and the year.
  • There appear to be NO settlement certificates existant for the Boston Poor Law Union. Neither are there any settlement examinations, removal orders or bastardy records at the Archives. There are many removal orders in the Boston Borough Council Records.
  • The Lincolnshire Family History Society has published some material on their PayPerView site. Anne Cole tells us: "About half of the settlement certificates (all parishes beginning A to M that have deposited certificates) are on the PPV site. The published fiche indexes to settlement certificates (volumes 1 and 11) do not represent complete coverage, but include more parishes than on the PPV site. The project to check and republish the settlement certificates has come to a complete halt as we are now concentrating on the settlement examinations. The books have almost sold out and we will be producing these on microfiche, rechecked, and in a different format with more information, as soon as possible." [Anne Cole - 17 Mar 2004].
  • "The Law of Settlement & Removal" by John F. Symonds, published by Butterworth in 1903.
  • "The Handy Book of Parish Law" (£4) first published 1859 as a guide to parish officers and "An Introduction to Poor Law Documents before 1834" 2nd Edition with illustrations of documents (£3.95) by Anne Cole available from the Federation of Family History Societies.
  • The definitive reference book on the Poor Law is "The Parish Chest" by W. E. Tate, 1983, 3rd edition, published by Phillimore & Co Ltd. (ISBN 0 85033 507 8), 400 pages for £20 that should be available at all good libraries.
  • There is a Social History Text which includes Liberal Reformism, poor laws, class structure etc.