Workhouse: the people, the places, the life behind doors, by Simon Fowler

Starving families, orphans, the sick, the elderly and single mothers – for over 200 years the workhouse was the last resort of the desperate.

This book provides a full history of the workhouse from 1698 to 1948 and explains why workhouses were established and what life was like for the inmates; from their daily food allowances and the uniform they were required to wear, to the amount of labour each inmate was expected to perform each day. It also looks at the guardians who managed the institutions and the critics of the system who set about reforming the official regime.

This book is well researched and easy to read and includes numerous sources of use to those researching their pauper ancestors.

Pauper ancestors: a guide to the records created by the poor laws in England and Wales, by David T. Hawkings

Many books have been written about the cruelty and bleakness of life in a nineteenth century British workhouse but few have provided such detailed information on the  extensive range of records and documents that are held in British government agencies.

This book is an excellent guide to the resources available and gives many examples of the type of documents to be found – including settlement examinations and certificates, removal orders, correspondence, dietary and sickness details, education, and assisted emigration to Canada, Australia and NZ. Of particular interest is the complete list of Poor Law Unions files available at the National Archives (UK) and a list of websites for record offices in England and Wales.

Tracing your pauper ancestors: a guide for family historians by Robert Burlison

This guide examines the broad range of documents and records from medieval times to the 20th century that can help researchers trace their ancestors. It includes information on the causes of poverty, state intervention, welfare charities, the creation of the poor laws and the introduction of the welfare state. Burlison identifies relevant records, indicates where to find them and also offers advice on how to use and evaluate this information. The detailed appendix includes hints on how to trace poor law records, parliamentary papers, admissions registers, newspaper articles, charity records etc.

If you are interested in researching English and Welsh  workhouses you might also like to look at  The Workhouse website. This site contains locations of workhouses, timelines, illustrations and links to archives and records centres.

 Ann Copeland

Genealogy Team

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