Each record is a transcript of the original record. The information contained can vary but you can find out the following about your ancestor:
Date of removal
Age at removal
Place removed from
Place removed to
Additional notes which can include the names of immediate family
Whether the head of household
These records give the details of 20, 593 people removed from Wiltshire under the 1662 Poor Law Relief Act between 1670 and 1890.
The records show a person’s parish of settlement as well as the place they are being removed to in order to receive poor relief. These facts would have been ascertained through a Pauper Examination conducted by local justices of the peace. The place of settlement was generally considered the place where you were born or where you were best known. For a married woman this would be where her husband was from, for a child it would be the father’s. It was also noted whether the person was the head of household – if a woman is listed as such it would generally mean that she was either a widow or an unmarried mother.
People usually moved between parishes in the same county but some came from further afield. There are several families, for example, sent back to Ireland and to Wales. The Wiltshire removal orders also show those removed to Wiltshire from elsewhere.
Wiltshire is a largely agricultural, landlocked county in the south west of England. It is bordered by the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. It has been inhabited since Neolithic times. Salisbury Plain is known for being the location of both the Stonehenge and Avebury stone circles. The county is named after the former county town of Wilton, which itself is named after the River Wyle.
Transcriptions are the copyright of Wiltshire Family History Society.
The 1662 Poor Law Relief Act or Settlement Act established statutory “settlement certificates” for parish newcomers who could not afford to rent a property a minimum of £10 a year. Under the law any newcomer the local justices deemed likely to require the parish poor fund could be removed to their home parish.
Under the Settlement Act if a person who could not afford to rent for £10 a year left their settled parish he or she had to present a settlement certificate to clarify which parish would be responsible for them if they fell upon hard times. £10 a year was well beyond the wages of the average labourer at the time.
Settlement was granted in a parish on a number of terms. Birth carried an automatic right of settlement which led to pregnant women, likely to be categorised as paupers, being driven out of a parish before they gave birth. Since the baby would usually take on the father’s settled parish there was also a practice of paying men from another parish to marry the expectant mother as this down payment would cost less than the potential cost of the child over the course of its life.
People could also gain residency by living without incident or complaint in a parish for forty consecutive days, or by being hired within the parish for more than a year and a day. Parishes, however, were reluctant to issue settlement certificates so people usually stayed where they were. As England became more industrialised it was argued that the system stopped the free movement of workers. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 took the administration of aid for the poor away from the parish and into the hands of Poor Law Unions and led to the settling up of workhouses. The Settlement Act was not fully repealed until 1948.
The certificates guaranteed that the home parish would pay the costs of removal if the person became in need of poor relief. The costs of removal were often extremely high.