Every English person had a place where they belonged and where they were entitled to poor relief. This place was known as their ‘parish of legal settlement.’ While the economy was agrarian, people were not mobile, and the system worked reasonabIy well. When people wanted to move for a better job or better housing, trouble arose.
If a person was successful and had lived in the new parish a few years before needing help, the new parish was willing to give it, but if a person applied for assistance too soon, the overseers in the new parish were inclined to send them back to their former parish. A Removal Order was issued stating that a family or person was to be returned to their parish of legal settlement. It meant that they were physically taken from the new parish, at least over the boundary line, if not all the way to the legal parish.In 1662, a law was passed to give officials criteria to determine a person’s legal residence:
o Someone who held public office in the parish, or paid the parish poor rateo Someone who rented property in the parish over a certain value
o An unmarried person who lives in the parish more than one yearo A woman who had married a man of the parish.
o A legitimate child, under age 7, whose father lived in the parisho An illegitimate child born in the parish
o An apprentice to a master in the parisho A resident for 40 days who gave the authorities prior written notice of his intention to live in the parish.
From Mark Herber, Ancestral Trails, page 345Rules were strictly enforced. By 1800, laws softened somewhat and settlement was less an issue. People could no longer be removed if sick or if just poor, but not on relief. Parish officials or Justices of the Peace could question newcomers.
Records from a settlement examinations or disputes might include the person’s:n Place of birth
n Employment or apprenticeship details
n Places they have lived over a period of time
If these records exist, they are with the parish records or court records at the County Record Office.
©2012 Susan Lewis Well