About Dorset, England, Poor Law Settlement and Removal Records, 1682-1862
Following the Act of Settlement in 1662, parishes were obliged to help those who were ‘legally settled'. The act allowed a person to be challenged within 40 days of arriving in a parish, if they occupied a property valued at less than £10 per year, and unless they could provide an indemnity (a Settlement Certificate). If they could not fulfil the required criteria, they could be removed by force and sent to their parish of legal settlement.
A right of settlement could be claimed by a person born in the parish, by serving as a parish officer for a year, by working in the parish for more than a year, by a woman marrying a legally settled man or upon serving an apprenticeship to a person legally settled in the parish. A person’s place of settlement could change over time.
Settlement Certificates were issued from 1697 and enabled the poor to move from parish to parish. The certificates certified that the family or individual would be accepted back by their ‘home parish’ and that any sums paid out to another parish would be reimbursed. The certificates record the names of those concerned, the parish from which the family has moved and the parish to which they are intending to go.
If challenged, an individual would be examined by the Overseers in an attempt to find out their last legal place of settlement. The examinations usually identify the parish of birth and any other parishes in which the examinant has lived. The examinations may also provide information concerning apprenticeships and employment, such as the names of masters and employers, the length or service and wages. In effect the examinations often provide a ‘potted biography’ of the examinant.
Removal Orders could be issued if the person or family had no right to settlement in the parish. The family would be escorted by the parish constable to the parish boundary where they would be passed to the constable of the neighbouring parish and so on, until they reached their place of legal settlement. Alternatively the constable could escort the family all the way to the parish of settlement. Removal Orders record the names of the paupers involved, the parish from which they were removed and the parish to which they were to be removed. The orders will usually be dated. Removal Orders sometimes list all the children in the family and give their ages.