6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 11 March 2013
This book has been written by an author who is an expert on Poor Law records, both in local archives and at The National Archives in London. It deals with both the Old Poor Law, based on parish relief, and the New Poor Law, based on Poor Law Unions, workhouses and Boards of Guardians, and includes many examples of the relevant documents. It is therefore of potential interest not only to family history researchers who wish to understand the documents that they may encounter, but to anyone interested in social history who wishes to understand how the Poor Law operated.
The book occupies 500 pages and contains indexes of the places and people mentioned, but there is no subject index. There is always a chance that a person or place you are interested in could be mentioned in the examples that the author quotes. The book consists largely of transcribed examples of original documents, with some explanation of the sources, but from the perspective of the family history researcher encountering Poor Law documents for the first time, I feel that more could have been said about the documents themselves, where local records might be found (which is not necessarily the same repository as the relevant parish registers are held, particularly in urban areas), how they are arranged in archives, what finding-aids are available, and the usefulness of the various types of document in family history research. For example, settlement examinations are a key resource in family history research, and often the only tool available for breaking down a 'brick wall'. Their survival from parish to parish is very variable: many parishes have none but a few have them in profusion. The way they are indexed in record offices varies. Some are listed in the archive's online catalogue, some are listed in printed or card indexes available on-site, and some are not indexed at all. I feel that a book of this nature should have given more specific information on issues such as these, so have therefore only given this book four stars.