Source Information

Ancestry.com. Medway, Kent, England, Poor Law Union Records, 1836-1937 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors.
Original data: Poor Law Union Records. Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre, Chatham, Kent, England.

About Medway, Kent, England, Poor Law Union Records, 1836-1937

This collection contains Poor Law Union Records for Hoo, Medway and Strood ranging from 1836-1937. The source documents comprise 74 Poor Law Union registers and most are admission and discharge registers for institutions such as workhouses, schools, and hospitals, though there are some creed registers and birth and death records as well. Records with birth dates after 1916 have been excluded for privacy reasons.

Details vary depending on record type, but you might find facts such as:

  • name
  • date
  • admission parish
  • reason discharged
  • occupation
  • gender
  • marital status
  • religion
  • birth date
  • age
  • address
  • disease
  • name and address of person liable for maintenance

Historical Background

For centuries, the task of caring for the poor in England was left to the Church. Each parish was given an Overseer of the Poor to help with this cause in 1572. In 1601, the Poor Law Act empowered these overseers to collect a poor rate from wealthier members of the parish and distribute the funds among those needing relief.

The 1601 law remained in effect until 1834, when a new law, the Poor Law Amendment Act, took effect. Under this law, parishes were grouped into Unions. Each Union elected a Board of Guardians, which was responsible for care of the poor across all of the individual parishes.

Many of our ancestors received help through these Poor Laws, including the elderly, orphaned, abandoned, unemployed, and sick. Aid came as more than just money; the poor could also be provided food, clothing, and work. Children from poor families might be placed in apprenticeships or sent to schools and other institutions.