Bedford Settlement Examinations
A project to list and index a series of settlement examination and removal order books held here in the Bedford Poor Law Union archive [ref.PUBZ3/1-12] is nearing completion. Between 1792 and 1843 more than 1730 individuals were examined by Magistrates as to their origins. Earlier settlement papers are also found in parish church and Quarter Sessions collections, but these are particularly interesting because they include the period after the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. This series of 12 volumes provide not only valuable genealogical information which can lead the researcher to other documents, but are also a fascinating glimpse of life at the time. They include people who had been away serving in the armed forces, militia men stationed in the town, migrants from elsewhere in Britain and Europe, bastardy cases, and details of employment, wages, charities and apprenticeships. They illustrate how poverty, the economy, illness and crime affected families and individuals. The records are often quite formulaic in structure as they seem to follow a set series of questions.
The examination of Ann Bastfield on 30 January 1835 [ref.PUBZ3/12/9] is one of the more comprehensive entries:
Ann Bastfield, singlewoman. Removal Order from St Paul, Bedford to Meppershall. Examination:
"I am the daughter of George Bastfield and Martha his wife, and was born in Danes Lane in St Paul, Bedford. I do not remember my father, but have been informed and believe that he was convicted of felony at Bedford Assizes March 1819 and transported for fourteen years*. My mother continued to reside in Bedford after my father's transportation until about six years ago when she went with her second husband to live in London. She married again to Joseph Chettles seven or eight years after my father was transported, but my father was heard of about three years ago when his sister Ann Bosworth of Shefford received a letter from him to say he was coming home shortly, but I have not heard of him since and suppose he is now dead. I was living at my Grandmother Sarah Cooper's at the time my father was transported. She did then and still does occupy one of the Harpur Street Almshouses. I have lived entirely with my Grandmother to the present time except about a year and a half when I lived with my mother in London. My mother died in London about three years ago. I once went for a month upon liking as a servant to Mrs Adams of New Town, Bedford but did not stay and have not been to service anywhere else except two or three months for two or three hours in the day with Mr E T Palmer, and I have done no other act to gain any settlement in my own right. I have heard that my father belonged to the parish of Meppershall but I do not know how he gained his settlement there, but from the time he was transported the parish officers of Meppershall paid to my mother and to my sister and myself half a crown a week for our maintenance whilst we were living in Bedford. I almost always used to meet the Shefford carrier to fetch the money. I used to pay a shilling of it to my grandmother for keeping me and the remainder I paid to my mother. The payment was continued weekly I think until I removed with my mother to London. I have had nothing of that parish since. I remember Mr Pestell one of the Overseers of Meppershall once going to my grandmothers but I did not see him I only heard so. I am now actually chargeable to the parish of St Paul."
* The Bedford Gaol Database —now containing over 38,500 entries- confirms that George Baskerfield aged 25 was committed of being accessory to a felony in 1819 and was transported for 14 years.
These settlement records are available via the Search our Catalogues page of our website, and you can find out more about settlement papers and other documents relating to the Poor Law Acts in the archives in the Guides to Collections pages.