Monday, June 27, 2016

Poor Law Union Board of Guardians Minutes

My Rothwells and Mulvaneys lived in Kells, County Meath, Ireland, and immigrated to Brooklyn, NY, sometime in the early 1850s. In an effort to learn more about their story, I ordered the microfilm of the Board of Guardians Minute Books for 1851.

I had no idea what I was going to find. I don't actually know if the Mulvanys or Rothwells were in the workhouse, but I know they were poor, and that sometimes people ended up there until they could immigrate. I also didn't know whether there was much if any chance that they would actually be mentioned in the minutes if they were.

So far, having spent only a couple hours on these records, I haven't found my ancestors. But I thought I'd share a few of the things I have come across, so you know what kinds of gems may be found in these records.

By far the vast majority of inmates of the workhouse are not included in the minutes by name. Every week's meeting begins with an accounting of the number of inmates. The week ending Saturday, 31 May 1851, there were about 1300. Most weeks pass without any naming of inmates, but occasionally, there are notes like these:

"The master reported that a pauper named Betsy Gearty fell into a boiler of hot water in the laundry on the 29th Instant and was severely burned."

"Letter from the Clerk of Trim Union noting that the Board of Guardians discharged Margt Soraghan from Trim Workhouse as they assert she belongs to Kells Union."

"Moved by Mr. Dyas
Seconded by Mr. Arthur Radcliff
That James Hopkins Shoemaker, get a suit of Clothes on his going out of the Workhouse . . . . . . .Passed."
"Moved by Mr. John Christie
Seconded by Mr. John Radcliff
Resolved That John Brady, Edward Brady, and Catharine Brady, Inmates of this House, be allowed a suit of Clothes each to enable them to proceed to America, as their passage has been paid by their Mother . . . . Passed."

There's even some follow up on the Bradys: letters from the Poor Law Commissioners asked how much was spent on their clothes, and then expressed approval of the amount, and finally an order approving spending a sum of money to defray the cost of their travel.

"The Clerk was directed to write to the Commss. to call their attention to the case of Paupers named Plunkett from Oldcastle Union, and also to the case of Soragham from Trim Union, and the request they will give directions to the Guardians of these Unions to admit these paupers."

"Letter from the Poor Law Commissioners [???], 28th June '51, stating with reference to a case of a Pauper named Thomas Divine from [???] Union, that the Attorney General has given it as his opinion that an Indictment by [???] a Board of Guardians for causing Pauper to be removed from said Union to another."

"Letter from the Poor Law Commissioners No. 40,518/57 - 1st August 1851 stating with reference to a pauper named Sarah Soraghan that according to the minutes of Proceedings of the Trim Board of Guardians on the 5th Ultimo, this Pauper was residing four years with her mother in the town of Kells."

If you determine that your ancestors were in the workhouse, these minutes have plenty of information about their lives, even if they're not mentioned by name. In Kells in 1851, the minutes talk about a scarcity of water due to broken pipes, about the Master's absence from the schoolroom due to travel and illness, about where the dead are going to be buried, and list what food and other provisions were purchased. You may also be able to find your ancestors here if they weren't in the workhouse, as the Board of Guardians is listed by name, and everyone who won a contract to provide food or fuel or build a storehouse was named. 


Nicole Dyer said...

This is fascinating. Thank you for sharing. I have considered ordering the microfilm for the poorhouse union in Boston, Linconlnshire, England where my ancestors were inmates of the workhouse.

Kathleen Scarlett O'Hara Naylor said...

They're so interesting, I would definitely do it if you have the time to spend on them!