Settlement Papers include several categories: Settlement Certificates, Settlement Examinations and Removal Orders. Vagrancy Passes were issued to permit a pauper to travel across parishes, and a large number of Removal Orders, many with Examinations, of rogues and vagabonds survive in the Quarter Sessions records. All were designed to specify which parish was to support a poor individual or family. These date from 1601 to 1865.
Settlement Certificates were first issued in 1696/7 as a result of an amendment to the 1601 Poor Law Act. Before then, settlement bonds could be issued to parishes unwilling to accept paupers from other parishes without some form of indemnity, and the courts issued settlement orders stating where a pauper’s place of settlement was deemed to be. The purpose of a settlement certificate was to state clearly where the bearer’s place of settlement was with a promise that he would be accepted back to his place of settlement if he or his family became a financial burden on his current place of abode. A settlement certificate is not therefore designed to inform family history researchers of places of birth, or even previous abodes. However many certificates, particularly those in the early 18th century that were not printed forms, do give extra information.
Many people moved from parish to parish without a certificate, but once a single man acquired a wife, and once that wife acquired a noticeable bulge, a settlement certificate may have been requested from the man’s parish of settlement. That this happened is clear from entries in overseers’ accounts where one shilling or a similar amount is paid for acquiring a settlement certificate for a parishioner already living elsewhere.
Settlement certificates were usually signed by the churchwarden(s) and overseer(s) of the parish of settlement, and were further signed by two magistrates. Many certificates were written some time before they were presented to the magistrates, as dates often differ between the two occurrences.
It should not be thought that everyone who had a settlement certificate was a pauper. Most people, excluding those with substantial means, were required to present one to the parish officers of the parish to which they moved, including tradesmen and craftsmen, and even farmers and yeomen, as shown by the occupations given on the settlement certificates.
Most people who did move probably did so for purposes of employment, and this may be stated on the certificate. There were other reasons why people wished to move, perhaps temporarily. In 1743 Frances SANDALL who was pregnant moved as her mother was “desirous her daughter should lay in at her house in Rippingale”. [Horbling parish 13/38/15].
Interpreting Settlement Certificates
Assume nothing that is not actually stated on the certificate.
The parish stated as the parish of settlement may not be the previous abode of the bearer. A number of certificates are addressed to a different parish to that in whose parish chest the certificate ended up. Settlement certificates may have been re-used many times for as long as they were valid. A certificate became invalid when the bearer gained a new settlement in a place other than that given on the certificate.
A certificate issued to a man automatically included a wife and dependent children. Do not therefore assume that “and his wife and family/child/children” indicated that he actually had a wife and family. Only where a specific number of children are given, or the wife and children are actually named, can you be sure that they exist.
Legitimate children gained their father’s place of settlement at birth, and a married woman or widow’s place of settlement was the same as that of her current or deceased husband. Illegitimate children took their settlement from their place of birth, unless they were included on a settlement certificate issued to their mother before they were born.
Do not assume that all the children of a couple should be included on a certificate. From the age of 7 children could be apprenticed and so (usually after a long apprenticeship) gain a settlement of their own. A child so apprenticed would not live with its family. Only children still dependent on their father should be mentioned on a settlement certificate.
Abstracts of over 8,500 settlement certificates, including some bonds dating from 1688 to 1834 from Lincolnshire Parishes have been published on CD Rom by the LFHS. Details may be found on the LFHS Website Publications pages at www.lincolnshirefhs.org.uk