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February 25, 2019

Don't Overlook Almshouse & Poorhouse Records

If you have not yet searched Almshouse records for an elusive ancestor, you're missing out on a great source of information. People were sent to the Almshouse (or Poorhouse) for reasons other than poverty. Children were sometimes sent if they were found living on the streets.


There are many sources for these records. Several years ago Olive Tree Genealogy transcribed various New York almshouse records. If you have an ancestor who settled in New York City 1819 or earlier, you may want to have a look at the transcribed names in  Alms House Admission Foreigners & Nativity Records with Ships Names 1819( New York City, NY) and New York Almshouse Records 1782-1813

page from the 1855 Almshouse Records New York City
There is a gap and then I found this lovely set of records:  Alms House Admission Foreigners & Nativity Records with Ships Names 1855-1858 (New York City, NY)

Of course as with all records on Olive Tree Genealogy, the three transcribed above are free to view.


Ancestry offers this set of almshouse records for 1830-1920 New York, Census of Inmates in Almshouses and Poorhouses 1830-1920 


A little known set of records are those created in England for the Poor Law Union.  Poor law unions were collections or groups of parishes brought together to administer poor relief. Earlier 'unions' were referred to as 'incorporations' and some of these existed until the 1860s. The Victorian poor law was predicated on the 'workhouse test'. This is where poor relief would be offered via the 'deterrent workhouse', designed to be an institution of last resort.

The records of the Poor Law Commission and the Poor Law Board are in The National Archives. They are not particularly easy to use, as the lists are very uninformative, so any search is likely to be lengthy, but it can be very rewarding. Olive Tree Genealogy has extracted the names of individuals who qualified for passage to Canada from England between the years 1836 to 1853 and in 1871. There is a gap from 1854-1870 inclusive.

See POOR LAW UNION IMMIGRANTS TO CANADA for names of those being sent to Canada so that their home parish would no longer have to support them

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