1 Oct 2017

Poor law records at Leicester Record Office

Last week I visited Leicestershire and Rutland Record Office at Wigston Magna. This was the first time that I have been on a research visit there since the 1980s. In the company of my wife Di and my 3rd cousin once removed, Sandra Bates, who now lives at Barwell, we looked at the poor law registers for Earl Shilton from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

This was then the home of the members of the Swinfield family (Family 5). We are descended "on paper" from Thomas Swinfield and his wife Sarah (Hewitt) who married at Trowell in Nottinghamshire, her home parish, in 1829. You can refresh your memory of why he is not our "genetic ancestor" by reading Part 6 and Part 24 of this Blog from 2011 and 2012. In fact, Sarah was having her, apparently legitimate, children by the lodger, Thomas Brown, a lifelong bachelor.

Genetically, we are descended from his parents, Basil Brown and Martha Colver who married in Kirby Mallory church in 1797. Basil's parents were Richard Brown and Elizabeth Pougher whose marriage took place at Earl Shilton in 1764.

The Overseers of the Poor accounts for 1804 to 1818 (DE727/59) include tantalising references to both Richard and Basil Brown, each receiving regular small payments of a few shillings to see them through periods of need. Indeed Richard Brown was paid 2 shillings every week from 1st March to 12th April 1806. Was he ill and unable to work? This seems to be confirmed by a burial for him on 4th June 1806. His widow survived until 1811. Basil Brown died at the age of only 43, being buried from the church on 22nd December 1816. An entry of 20th December records that 2s was paid to "The Woman for laying Basil Brown out". Two days later, Widow Brown received 4 shillings.

Thomas Swinfield, our genealogical ancestor, was baptised at Earl Shilton church in 1808 as the son Thomas Swinfield (1770-1833) and Sarah (Toon). He may be the child who was apprenticed on 12th October 1817, the parish paying a little over £3 to cover the binding fee and his clothing and Swinfield Senior receiving one shilling for "loss of time" (DE727/62: Charity Papers and Accounts 1814-1878).

A card index in the record office provides access to a range of poor law records such as settlement certificates, removals, bastardy papers and apprenticeships. There is just one Swinfield card. Imagine our delight when it proved to be for John Swinfield (1738-1820), who genealogically is my 4xgreat-grandfather. Produced by the Overseers of the Poor for the parish of Ashby de la Zouch on 29th November 1769, it records the first 30 years of his life in intriguing and hitherto unknown detail. Confirming that he was born at Smisby in neighbouring Derbyshire (where he was indeed baptised) it informs us that he first went to work at the age of 10 or 11 and laboured around Leicestershire until he joined the 4th Regiment of Foot about 1755. He may have served for about 11 years until we learn of his last hiring at Netherseal in 1766.

John married Jane Radford at Ashby de la Zouch in 1768 and was clearly taking sensible precautions before settling in that parish. After having Thomas in 1770, they lived there until they were buried in that churchyard in 1820 and 1809 respectively.

What a great morning's research!     

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