Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: UK Poor Rate Books and Apprenticeships

Most genealogists agree that having a poor ancestor is better than having a rich one. With the exception of land records, people who were better off leave only birth, marriage and death records behind while the poor can be found in many ledgers and lists.

Two exceptions to this rule were the poor law rate or account books where the names of the rich who were assessed a tax to cover the costs of poor relief appeared, and records of apprenticeships paid for by the parish, which listed the masters and apprentices.
The ratepayers were listed in the parish account books with the amount they owed and the date the debt was settled. The rich were assessed the poor rate according to their relative wealth so it is easy to see how wealthy an ancestor was compared with his neighbors. The second part of the ledger lists all the relief paid and to whom.

The overseers were ratepayers and had a tendency to keep the rates low. Budgeting was done with an eye to what was being spent in the present year.  A supplementary rate could be charged in cases when a disaster like flood or fire happened. As you can imagine, overseers had a better attitude toward widows, deserted wives and orphans; men who had given good service in their younger days; and the sick. It seems that the concept of the ‘worthy poor’ has been with us a long time.
Overseers probably knew how close to the edge all the parishioners were living, including themselves. They had interesting ways to deal with some situations. A poor widow might be required to nurse someone in exchange for room and board. You will find these women in the census as 'nurse paupers.' In rural parishes, poor children might be placed in service or in farmers’ fields at no pay at an early age.

Apprenticeship was a system for young men to learn a trade, especially one controlled by a guild. It was illegal to practice a craft without serving an apprenticeship. A contract, called an indenture, was signed between a tradesman and the parents. It gave the tradesman money in turn for him providing training plus food, clothing, and shelter for at least seven years. After 1601, overseers and later, guardians were allowed to “put out” many pauper children, since it was cheaper to pay for an apprenticeship than to otherwise maintain a child. When trained, the person would no longer need poor relief.
During the arrangements, two copies of the contract were made- one for the parents or parish officers, and one for the master. Today, the county registry offices have the parish copies, if they exist.  Guild records also exist. The Society of Genealogists in London has a collection of indentures. sog.org.uk

The indentures are worth finding because they will have the apprentice’s name, the master’s name and trade, the apprentice’s father’s name, and sometimes the apprentice’s birth date and place. The father’s occupation and residence is given sometimes as well.
The indenture was usually drawn when child was seven years old for the required seven years but often until age 21. The poor parent of a young child might be against a parish-arranged apprenticeship, which were supposed to be to learn trades of husbandry or housewifery, but were just cheap labor for farms or factories, and as domestic servants.

©2012 Susan Lewis Well

No comments:

Post a Comment