While conducting a free online ancestry search, we will often use Census Reports as a way of finding our family members. But if our relatives were poor or down on their luck, they might not have been living in the family home. This may lead us to searching ancestors in Workhouse Records, and the fact is, not everyone living in them was poor or destitute. One example I found while conducting my own free online ancestry search was of the wife of a successful English businessman. She sought admission as her husband simply did not provide for her and her children. He was in turn taken to court by the local authorities, and ended up in the workhouse himself.
Charlie Chaplin was probably one of the most famous people to ever spend time in a workhouse, so if your ancestor might have resided in one, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Another scenario is that your ancestor may have been employed in a Workhouse as a cook, nurse, cleaner or teacher. The reasons people ended up in workhouses is not always clear, but one thing is; there will be plenty of free ancestry records to help you learn about and understand their lives. Let’s answer some questions about where and what you might find in Workhouse Records uncovered during your free online ancestry search.
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Although there are few Workhouse Records available online, the ones that are should not be overlooked if conducting a free online ancestry search. It would help to know the name of the person you’re looking for but not critical, you can browse documents looking for them. If you ancestor could not be located in a Census Report however, then Workhouse Records should be your next port of call. Surviving Workhouse Records will contain;
If while conducting a free online ancestry search of Workhouse Records you cannot find your relative in the admissions or discharge registers, don’t dismay. The free ancestry records of the Workhouses include communications among the unions and the authorities, and these from time to time contain particulars of individual inmates or workhouse employees.
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There are several websites at which you can find online Workhouse Records with a free online ancestry search. Some of these are dedicated to specific workhouses, so if you have a geographical location on your ancestor, you may want to consider searching ancestors on one of those. Many of these sites also contain a listing of residents, which may include the name of your relative. The best way to search a locality specific site is to enter the workhouse name followed by the word workhouse i.e. "Falmouth Workhouse".
Alternatively, an excellent website for conducting a free online ancestry search of workhouse records Institutions. The website also hosts links to local records, names of staff and officials, inmate lists, commissioner’s reports and many photographs. It is definitely the most comprehensive website on the subject of Workhouse Records. Use it in combination with the records and archival database, Workhouses, which will provide you with all the resources required to carry out a free online ancestry search on this topic.
If you are fortunate enough to uncover the name of your ancestor, look for other vital information on them such as; if they had any infirmity or character flaws such as promiscuity or drunkenness. Not pleasant subjects I know, but don’t forget our ancestors were human, and these were tough times. This type of information though can be valuable in providing leads to other resources like local newspapers; which reported often on incidents and court cases involving workhouse residents.
A final genealogical secret we’d like to share with you regarding your free online ancestry search of Workhouse Records is; look for evidence of links to other towns or villages. For example, the listing of a distant birthplace for a person’s children could indicate a move for an employer or a breakdown in family ties for a resident. Workhouse records are an invaluable asset to a free online ancestry search and should not be overlooked when searching ancestors.
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