Source Information London, England, Poor Law and Board of Guardian Records, 1738-1926 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Images produced by permission of London Metropolitan Archives (City of London Corporation). The City of London gives no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for the purpose of the information provided. Images may be used only for purposes of research, private study or education. Applications for any other use should be made to London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB via – Infringement of the above condition may result in legal action.

About London, England, Poor Law and Board of Guardian Records, 1738-1926

Historical Background:

For many centuries, the task of caring for the poor was left to the Church. Each parish was given an Overseer of the Poor to help with this cause in 1572. Then, in 1601, the Poor Law Act empowered these Overseers to collect a poor rate from wealthier members of the parish, and distribute the funds among the poor.

The 1601 law remained in effect until 1834 when a new law, the Poor Law Amendment Act took over. This collected parishes into groups called Unions. Each Union elected a Board of Guardians, which was then responsible for the care of the poor across all the individual parishes.

Many of our ancestors received help through these Poor Laws. These included the elderly, orphaned, unemployed, sick and afflicted. It wasn’t just money they were given – they also received other daily necessities such as food, clothing and work. Children from poor families were placed in apprenticeships, or sent to particular schools and other institutions.

What’s Included in This Database:

This collection includes a huge variety of different records created as a result of the Poor Laws in London. They’ll help you identify which members of your family were considered poor, find out what help they received, and discover details of their everyday lives.

It’s possible to piece together the complete story of a relative’s life, from their placement at a school as a child, through their time in a workhouse, up to their final fate – be it their eventual passing, or an uplifting escape from poverty.

This is a large collection of images of original records. You can read all your ancestors’ details as they were recorded centuries ago, and pick out the personal remarks of each individual administrator.

Examples of the types of records found in this collection include:

  • Admission and discharge books of workhouses

  • Registers of individuals in the infirmary

  • Creed registers

  • School registers

  • Registers of children boarded out or sent to various other institutions

  • Registers of apprentices

  • Registers of lunatics

  • Registers of servants

  • Registers of children

  • Registers of relief to wives and children

  • Registers of inmates

  • Registers of indoor poor

  • Registers of deserted children

The exact information you can find about your ancestors varies according to what type of record you’re looking at. For example, on an admission and discharge register you may see the person’s name, their date of admission, age, religious persuasion, and date of discharge. On an apprentice register you can find the apprentice’s name, their gender, age, the name of the person they were bound to, date of indenture, parents’ names, trade, and residence.

London Imagery

The London Metropolitan Archives image website - Collage - The London Picture Archive provides access to over 250,000 historical prints, maps and photographs of London. The images date from 1450 to the 1980s and include all aspects of life in the capital, from the Crystal Palace to Second World War air raid damage.