Essex Poor Law Unions

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An Act of Parliament in the year 1834 took the responsibility of administering to the poor from the local parish church to the doorstep of civil government. The government grouped each civil parish into a union of parishes. There were nearly 600 such unions throughout England, each one comprising close to 20 or more parishes, and were specifically setup to meet the demands of the poor among their local populations, with a workhouse on the premises. The responsbility was transferred from local parishes to a Board of Guardians in each union. These groupings or unions were known as poor-law unions. Essex had the following poorlaw unions within its boundaries:

The Poor Law Unions[edit | edit source]

The Records[edit | edit source]

Records from the poorlaw unions, which were created from this time forward include the following:

  1. Guardianship
  2. Creed Registers
  3. Rate books
  4. Workhouse Lists of Inmates
  5. Register of Apprentices
  6. Register of Births
  7. Register of Deaths
  8. Vestry Rate Books
  9. Admission and Discharge Registers
  10. Board of Guardians' Records

Records at The Family History Library[edit | edit source]

To determine records availability for each poorlaw, search the FamilySearch Catalog under the name of the county (Essex), and then under the name of the poorlaw union, i.e. Colchester; then search under the term[s] "poorlaw" or "poorhouses".

As Parish pages are constructed to include film content descriptions it is hoped to avoid the need for searches in this way. It is intended that Essex Poor Law records will become available in future at FamilySearch Historical Records.

Records at Essex Record Office[edit | edit source]

The survival of records for Essex union varies but all deposited material is held at Essex Record Office. Since many Union Infimaries became Hospitals within the National Health Service and privacy rules operate for patient records the relevant Poor Law Union page will contain indications of such privacy restrictions on the release of data.

The Essex Record Office offers a research service (fee payable).

Online Transcriptions Relating to Poorlaw Records[edit | edit source]

1) For more information on the history of the workhouse, see Peter Higginbotham's web site: 

 2) Here's a general website providing data on approximately 10 percent of Essex's poor