London Records of the Poor

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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. City of London had the following poorlaw union within its boundary:

The Poor Law Union

Starting in 1834, a single poor law union had responsibility over the City of London called The City of London Poor Law Union.

The Records

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

Guides to London Poor Law Records

  • Webb, Cliff. London, Middlesex and Surrey Workhouse Records: A Guide to Their Nature and Location. West Surrey Family History Society, c1991. FHL Book 942.21 H25w no. 31.
  • Webb, Cliff. A Provisional List of City of London Poor Law Records. West Surrey Family History Society, c1992. FHL Book 942.21 H25w no. 28 1992.

Records at the Family History Library

To determine records availability for each poorlaw union, search the Family History Library Catalog under the name of the county (London), and then under the name of the poorlaw union, i.e. City of London; then search under the term[s] "poorlaw" or "poorhouses".

Online Poor Law Records has the largest collection of online London poor law records:

Other sites include:

  1. The Pauper Biographies Project provides detailed information including maps and working papers.
  1. For more information on the history of the workhouse, see Peter Higginbotham's web site:
  1. Here's a general website providing data on approximately 10 percent of the county's poor


Wikipedia has more about this subject: Foundling Hospital
Foundlings were abandoned babies. Abandoning babies has been a common phenomena in urban areas.


The London Foundling Hospital opened in 1741. The Hospital created many records on infants turned over to their care. For tips on finding foundling records, see Research Resources (The Foundling Museum website).


Before 1741, the care of foundlings fell to the parishes where they were discovered. Individuals who raised these children were supported by parish rates.

A few guides and databases have been prepared about pre-1741 London foundlings.


  • Webb, Cliff. An Index to London Hospitals and Their Records. London: Society of Genealogists, c2008. FHL Book 942.1/L1 J43w.