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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree September 2018 > Tracing workhouse lives

Tracing workhouse lives

The workhouse casts a long shadow over The family histories of our Victorian ancestors, and only those in The direst need would wish to enter its forbidding doors. Read on to uncover The records that will help you piece togeTher The tale of your family in perhaps its bleakest hour, with researcher Gill Blanchard



Docking Union Workhouse c1920s

With family history, our intention is to track down The records and understand The lives of our ancestors better.

Investigating ancestors who ended up in The ‘care’ of The workhouse can be very moving, but neverTheless it certainly is a valuable avenue of research to follow, rich in historical workhouse records for you to investigate.

How The workhouses came about

Before 1834 poor relief was The responsibility of local parish officials, paid for out of local taxes. Parish poor houses began to appear from The 17th century. Spiralling costs and a rising population led to various reforms. A major initiative was Gilbert’s Act of 1782 whereby groups of parishes could save costs by setting up joint workhouses. In 1832, The Government set up a Royal Commission to investigate continuing problems.This resulted in The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, which organised English and Welsh parishes into Poor Law Unions. Each had Their own workhouse administered by elected Boards of Guardians. The Act also created a central body, The ‘Poor Law Commission for England and Wales’.

Workhouses in Scotland & Ireland

The systems in Scotland and Ireland were based on The same principles, but at diTherent dates. Scotland introduced its Poor Law Amendment Act in 1845, which set up parochial boards in each parish to administer poor relief. The National Archives of Scotland website has an excellent guide:

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About Family Tree

The wish to find out about your family history always begins with a question. That special something that you want to know about those who’ve come before you, that missing piece of the puzzle that you'd like to find about your own roots... So, because the internet is such a very valuable resource for hunting for these family history clues, this issue we’ve got a bumper guide to help your research. Read it and discover how to: 1. Search smarter and trace that family story. 2. Learn new search hacks and make new discoveries. 3. Get the low-down on searching the major family history websites. Lastly, you may notice something different this issue – our new look! Re-energised and packed as ever with know-how, advice and real-life tales, our revamp will provide you with fresh inspiration to find your family’s story.