Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Settlement records for Bromley

Bromley Archives record of the month for May 2014 feature settlement records. These often neglected record sources can be very useful in researching seventeenth century persons onwards as despite repeal of the Settlement Act in 1834 the principle of settement remained until 1876.
Settlement can be defined as a legal right to Poor Relief arising out of a settled place of abode. The 1601 Poor Law Act laid out that a person was legally a settled inhabitant of a parish after abode for one month, so that Parish vestries began to operate an unofficial system of refusing relief to paupers who had settlement elsewhere.
In the 1662 Settlement Act the principle was established  that anyone entering a township and occupying a tenement worth less then £10 per annum may be removed by parochial Overseers of the Poor acting on the authority of an order made by two Justices of the Peace who had examined the individual on oath. Under such orders constables would escort the person to his original place of abode. If a person managed to stay for forty days he obtained settlement at the new abode.
From 1685  the person was required to submit written notice of residence to the Overseers. However in 1691 the forty days were made to commence from publication of  the notice in the parish church. It is from 1691 therefore that most surviving records of removal begin.
The main records relating to Settlement are:

  • An Indemnity Certificate given to a pauper by his own churchwardens
  • The Examination of a pauper by church wardens or magistrate prior to a Removal Order. This refers to family and circumstances and can contain a great deal of useful biography.
  • The Removal Order,made out in duplicate a copy  for each parish the application made by the Overseer to two Justices of the Peace.
  • Quarter Sessions Records of appeals against removal order,sometimes with a counsels opinion on the matter.
  • Vestry minutes and accounts or correspondence of overseers and constables. 
The Bromley records on display are Examinations of John Barton and William Costin before Justices of the Peace from a volume of Bromley Petty Sessional Division Examinations dating from 1770-1777 which is coincidentally the period of Baptismal Register I am completing as part of my work to publish the complete Parish Register series for Bromley. Settlement records are a useful resource for some ambiguous entries in the Parish Register.
In part I have blogged on these records as a an email enquiry sought to understand what record a catalogue reference referred to. Bromley Archive has various records relating to Settlement including Vestry records for several parishes affected by an individual's Settlement examination and The Justices decisions.