Find your ancestors in Westminster, poor law and parish administration - Examinations

What can these records tell me?

This collection houses several types of records. The amount of available information will vary depending on record type. Both transcripts and images of the original documents are provided for you in results.

Examinations (settlement) – a poor person being examined by parish authorities to see if they are settled in a Westminster parish or can be removed to another parish for poor relief.

  • First name(s)
  • Last name
  • Age
  • Birth year
  • Year
  • Marital status
  • Spouse’s first name(s)
  • Spouse’s last name
  • Father’s first name(s)
  • Father’s last name
  • Mother’s first name(s)
  • Mother’s last name
  • Children’s names
  • Place
  • County

Images will be able to provide you with additional details.

The parishes included in the examination records are as follows, with year range in parentheses:

  • Precinct of Liberty of the Rolls (1685-1832)
  • St Clement Danes (1703-1742)
  • St Margaret (1689-1860)
  • St Martin-in-the-Fields (1514-1840)
  • St Paul, Covent Garden (1747-1898)

Discover more about these records

The Poor Law Act of 1601 included laws surrounding settlement, which constituted the place where individuals could receive poor relief. Under this law, an individual had to reside in a parish for at least one month to be eligible. In the Settlement Act of 1662, this was extended to allow individuals to receive settlement in any given parish through apprenticeship, marriage, over a year of domestic service, or living in a property worth more than £10 per year. If the eligibility criteria were not met, that individual could be removed to their previous parish; removals began in 1691.

A pauper was, therefore, an individual who was receiving aid under the poor laws. A settlement certificate was used by paupers who moved into new parishes to prove that their parish of legal settlement would receive the pauper if needed. Additionally, if a pauper requested relief from the parish, an examination would be held to determine in which parish the pauper’s legal right of settlement was. As such, examination books often contain a wealth of information about paupers.

One form of poor relief that a pauper might receive is called outdoor relief. This type of relief provided funds to supplement the income of the pauper. After 1834, this type of relief declined and utilization of workhouses became more prevalent, where the poor were sent to work off their relief. This was a common fate for unwed mothers.

A child born out of wedlock was legally considered illegitimate. If the father did not admit his responsibility, an examination was held to established paternity. During the examination, the mother usually was able to name the father. If the father could be identified and located, he was required to enter into a bastardy bond to support the child. This support would last until the child was of age to become an apprentice.

With the enactment the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the administration of poor law relief was taken away from the parishes and given to boards of guardians.