Children in the workhouse

Children born out of wedlock were a particular drain on parish resources, since any child born in the parish might legally be entitled to settlement there. As a consequence, it was not unheard of for officials to forcibly move heavily pregnant women on with a Removal Order.

From the 16th century, parish officials could hold Bastardy Examinations, interviewing the mother of an illegitimate baby to ascertain the identity of the father.

Men were obliged to sign a Bastardy Bond agreeing to pay the parish for the child’s maintenance, and court records may be found amongst Quarter Sessions and Petty Sessions, particularly when fathers attempted to evade the authorities.

If your ancestor was born or died in the workhouse then their name may have been entered in the institution’s baptism or burial register. has transcripts from a selection of parishes, including entries from workhouses. Most people who died in a workhouse were buried in an unmarked ‘paupers’ grave’, so finding an exact burial plot will be difficult.

Children in the workhouse who survived the first years of infancy may have been sent out to schools run by the Poor Law Union, and apprenticeships were often arranged for teenage boys so they could learn a trade and become less of a burden to the rate payers.

Some County Record Offices have catalogued apprenticeship records and Bastardy Bonds by name on the Access to Archives database.

Workhouse registers
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