Seaman’s Protection Certificates – An Unusual Source

In an earlier post I compared Ancestry’s then new “U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939” to draft registrations to answer the question of whether someone who registered for the draft actually went on to serve. I used as an example, the five Zimmerman brothers, who all registered for the draft but didn’t all end up serving. One of those brothers, Charles Stephen Zimmerman, was in training with the Merchant Marines in June 1918 and therefore exempt from military service. In the course of my research into Charles and his Merchant Marine service I came across an unusual and remarkable source. A source which not only gave a physical description of Charles, but also had his thumb print, his signature, date and place of birth and current age, and best of all, his photograph. The source was Charles’ application for a Seaman’s Protection Certificate made on 14 August 1918.1

Seaman Snip Photo

Seaman Snip thumb

What are Seaman’s Protection Certificates?

According to NARA (The National Archives and Records Administration) these documents were issued during the late 18th century through the early half of the 20th century, at all U.S. ocean and Great Lakes ports, and served as a seaman’s passport. Those applying had to be United States citizens and had to provide evidence of such in the form of a birth certificate, or an affidavit by a relative or friend, or a citation to naturalization proceedings. 2 Often those documents were appended to the application. In Charles’ case, no other documents are in his file but there is a note indicating he provided his birth certificate, from the parish priest at St. Mary’s church in Stockton, California.

Seaman Snip parish priest
“Affiant produced birth cert. from Parish Priest St. Mary’s Church Stockton showing place of birth as Stockton Cal.”

The history of the Seaman’s Protection Certificate

These certificates were first issued to American sailors to prevent them from being impressed into service by British warships in the period leading up to the War of 1812. Impressment was the forced recruitment of men, practiced most often by the British Navy, into service on their ships.

During the years of American slavery, free men of color who were sailors or seamen, were also issued these protection certificates to prove they were not slaves when stopped by officials or slave catchers. Frederick Douglass himself used the ‘protection papers’ of a free man of color, a sailor, to escape: 3

“It was the custom in the State of Maryland to require of the free colored people to have what were called free papers. This instrument they were required to renew very often, and by charging a fee for this writing, considerable sums from time to time were collected by the State. In these papers the name, age, color, height and form of the free man were described, together with any scars or other marks upon his person which could assist in his identification. This device of slaveholding ingenuity, like other devices of wickedness, in some measure defeated itself—since more than one man could be found to answer the same general description. Hence many slaves could escape by impersonating the owner of one set of papers; and this was often done as follows: A slave nearly or sufficiently answering the description set forth in the papers, would borrow or hire them till he could by their means escape to a free state, and then, by mail or otherwise, return them to the owner. The operation was a hazardous one for the lender as well as for the borrower. A failure on the part of the fugitive to send back the papers would imperil his benefactor, and the discovery of the papers in possession of the wrong man would imperil both the fugitive and his friend. It was therefore an act of supreme trust on the part of a freeman of color thus to put in jeopardy his own liberty that another might be free. It was, however, not infrequently bravely done, and was seldom discovered. I was not so fortunate as to sufficiently resemble any of my free acquaintances as to answer the description of their papers. But I had one friend—a sailor—who owned a sailor’s protection, which answered somewhat the purpose of free papers—describing his person and certifying to the fact that he was a free American sailor. The instrument had at its head the American eagle, which at once gave it the appearance of an authorized document. This protection did not, when in my hands, describe its bearer very accurately. Indeed, it called for a man much darker than myself, and close examination of it would have caused my arrest at the start.” 

douglass image
Example of Seaman’s Protection Certificate from 1854. Image credit: “Seaman’s Protection Certificate for Samuel Fox, August 12, 1854.” African American Odyssey: Free Blacks in the Antebellum Period, Documenting Freedom, Black History Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.

According to an article in Prologue, the magazine of the National Archives, almost a third of applications were for free men of color. 4 African American research can be difficult, these Seaman’s Protection certificates can be great value to those researchers. The Prologue article is excellent and worth reading to get further information on this unusual source.

The use of these certificates as a form of identification went on until just before the Civil War and then was reintroduced for a short period during the World War 1 time frame which is when Charles S. Zimmerman applied for one.

Besides giving Charles’ physical description and date and place of birth, the certificate also indicated where Charles had trained and the ship he was expected to join. For those seamen who were not born in the United States, their certificates may contain information on where and when they were naturalized, including the names of their parents. Those who witnessed the application were sometimes related to the applicant, providing further clues to follow.

CharlesStephenZimmerman1897_military
Charles S. Zimmerman in uniform

Seaman’s Protection Certificates are definitely an unusual source for genealogists, with an interesting history. It’s worth your time to take a look and see if your ancestor may have applied for one.  Both Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org have collections of Seaman’s Certificates, search their catalogs using the keyword ‘Seaman’ or ‘Seaman’s Protection’.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 38 prompt: Unusual Source

 


  1. “U.S., Applications for Seaman’s Protection Certificates, 1916-1940”, database with images, Ancestry.com, (www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 September 2018), application for Charles S. Zimmerman, number 9882; citing NARA; Application for Seaman´s Protection Certificates; NAI: 2788575; Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation; Record Group Number: 41; Box Number: 112 – San Francisco. 
  2. “Applications for Seaman’s Protection Certificates, 1916-1940”, index, NARA (http://www.catalog.archives.gov : accessed 20 September 2018), Records of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation, 1774-1982, Record Group: 41. 
  3. Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (Hartford, Connecticut : Park Publishing Co., 1882), 223-224; digital images, Archive.org (https://archive.org/details/lifetimesoffrede1882doug : accessed 20 September 2018). 
  4. Ruth Priest Dixon, “Genealogical Fallout from the War of 1812”, Prologue. Spring 1992, Vol. 24, No. 1. National Archives (https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1992/spring/seamans-protection.html : accessed 20 September 2018). 

RootsTech 2019

RootsTech registration opens tomorrow, on 20 September 2018, and a tentative schedule has just gone up. It’s subject to change but take a look and see the incredible variety of classes that will be offered!

2019 will be my 5th year attending RootsTech and my first year as a RootsTech Ambassador. I’m excited to see what’s in store. A few weeks ago, RootsTech announced that they would be expanding to London in 2019! What an incredible opportunity for those who live in the UK and Europe to experience RootsTech for themselves. You can find more information here.

Have you attended RootsTech? Thinking about going in 2019?  Here are my Top 5 reasons to attend RootsTech:

 1.  Making connections. RootsTech 2019’s theme is “Connect. Belong.” There is nothing more exhilarating than being in a place with thousands of other people who share your passion for genealogy, and feeling like you are where you belong. But even more than that, RootsTech brings together family and friends…those you know, and those you discover. For the last three years, RootsTech has been the meeting place for myself and my good friend, Kandace. We met about 18 years ago in Colorado as new moms with baby boys. Our families grew and we moved to different states but stayed in touch. In 2016, I invited Kandace to attend RootsTech with me and a tradition was born. Every year since we have met in Salt Lake City to attend RootsTech together. Connecting is what RootsTech does so well.

RootsTech-us

2.  With over 300 classes to pick from, you will find one that suits you perfectly. From beginners to those who are advanced researchers, RootsTech offers a great variety of classes. Challenge yourself to learn something new.

rootstech-class
3.  The Expo Hall. Hundreds of vendors, offering just about everything you can think of to do with genealogy. Be sure to allow yourself a good chunk of time to visit the Expo Hall. There is so much to see, so many vendors to talk to, presentations to attend and swag to collect. It’s one of my favorite things about RootsTech!

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4.  Keynote Speakers. Be inspired by interesting and engaging keynote speakers. Two of my favorite speakers from 2018 were Scott Hamilton and Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. I look forward to hearing who the speakers will be for 2019!

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5.  Proximity to the Family History Library. RootsTech takes place at the Salt Palace Convention Center, only a block from the Family History Library. Spend some quality research time here among the thousands of records and books. Each year I fly into Salt Lake City a day or two before RootsTech starts so that I can work in the Library.

FHL-collage

I hope you’ll join me at RootsTech 2019!  Registration for RootsTech 2019 opens tomorrow, 20 September 2018. Register early to take advantage of early bird pricing! Look out for the free RootsTech pass I’ll be giving away on my blog.

And for more information on everything RootsTech, check out the Road to RootsTech 2019 here.

 

 

In the Parish Chest: Churchwarden & Poor Rate Records

ParishChestPoorLawIn the Parish Chest – Churchwarden and Poor Rate Records is the fourth and final post of the In the Parish Chest series. The other posts discussed Bastardy Bonds, Settlement Certificates, Examinations and Removal Orders and Apprenticeship records.

As early as 1572, Overseers of the Poor were appointed in each parish in England. Their job consisted of caring for the poor and keeping an account of the relief given. The Poor Law Act of 1601 gave Overseers the right to collect a poor rate from members of the parish who were considered wealthy and to disburse those funds to those needing help.

Churchwardens were expected to present any wrongdoings in the parish to the local magistrate or bishop. This would include such things as drunkenness, failure to provide for the poor or to attend church.  Those serving as Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor are mentioned by name in the records.

By 1834, when the Poor Law Amendment Act came into being, parishes were grouped into Unions. A Board of Guardians was elected and were responsible for the care of the poor across all the individual parishes.  It is through these Poor Laws that our ancestors received help. Often money would be given out but the relief also consisted of providing food, clothing and work.

Who will you find named in the Churchwarden/Poor Rate Records?

  • Your ancestor if he/she was poor, elderly, orphaned, unemployed, sick or a trouble maker
  • Your ancestor if he was elected a Churchwarden or Overseer of the Poor.
  • Your ancestor if he/she was considered wealthy and was a rate payer

Examples of Poor Law records

Churchwarden Accounts – Muggleswick, County Durham.1

On Easter Monday of 1801, the inhabitants of the parish of Muggleswick, Durham, met together to elect the new Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor. This is a common entry in all Churchwarden accounts, followed by an accounting of the disbursement of funds to the poor. The outgoing and incoming Churchwardens were named as were the new Overseers and other principal inhabitants of the parish.

record-image_939N-F43C-SK(1)

Overseers of the Poor Account Book –  Helland, Cornwall.2

Thomas Pearce and William Brior were Overseers of the Poor in the parish of Helland, Cornwall in the year 1766 to 1767.  The page below shows an account of what was paid out that year. Included among the items like a pair of shoes or meat are the names of some members of the parish who received help.

record-image_S3HY-61PP-GNOverseers of the Poor – Grampound, Cornwall.3

If a person wanted to improve their property in a way which may affect the town or parish, there would have to be an agreement made between them and the Overseers of the parish. In the document below, Mr. Nicholls and Mr. Michael Croggon, Overseer of the Parish of Grampound, Cornwall, have come to an agreement regarding Mr. Nicholls request to build a drain that would go from his dwelling across town property to another garden. The request is approved subject to Mr. Nicholls paying sixpence annually to the Overseers and keeping the drain free of “any annoyance whatsoever on the property of the Town, in default of which refusal or neglect of payment of the annual sum…the drain shall and will be subject to be torn up or otherwise destroyed.” If Mr. Nicholls was your ancestor you have just been given a glimpse into his life!

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Relief Committee minute books 1832-1851, Norwich, Norfolk Poor Law Union.

On 6 October 1801, John Mordy of Saint Peter of Mancroft paid twelve pounds to the Poor Law Union, being his responsibility for the “female bastard child” of Susanna Baxter. He had previously been charged with a Bastardy Bond and this is the record of him settling that responsibility.4 More information on Bastardy Bonds can be found here.

JohnMordy

On the same day, the Mayor’s request for an arrest warrant for John Malster was granted. John had left his wife and family without support and they were now relying on the parish.5

JohnMalster

Orders for placing young boys in apprenticeships were common in these Poor Law records. Below, James Berry, 14-years old, was being apprenticed to Richard Cropley, a cordwainer, until he reached the age of 21. More on apprenticeship records can be found here.6

cordwainer

Details of daily life are reflected in the Poor Law records. Most of these records are not indexed so it helps to have an idea of which parish your ancestor lived in. However, even if you don’t know exactly where they may have lived, reading through the Poor Law records of any parish will give you valuable insight into what life was like in the parishes of England during this time period.


  1. Durham, Muggleswick, Parish chest records, Churchwardens Accounts, 1801-1858, Easter Monday 1801; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939N-F43C-SK?i=5&cat=978581 : accessed 11 September 2018), citing Family History film 004024471, image 6 of 1114. 
  2. Cornwall, Helland, Poor law records, 1753-1851, Easter 1766; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-61PP-GN?cat=502005 : accessed 11 September 2018), citing Family History film 004476779, image 1295 of 1679. 
  3. Cornwall, Grampound, Poor law records, 1671-1894, agreement between Mr. Nicholls and Mr. Croggon; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-61PL-NT?cat=502005 : accessed 11 September 2018), citing Family History film 004476779, image 993 of 1679. 
  4. Norfolk, Norwich, Poor Law Union Records, 1796-1900, Guardians’ minute books, 6 October 1801, John Mordy; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-D1DH-8S7?i=2228&cc=1824706&cat=495724 : accessed 12 September 2018), image 2229 of 3866; citing Norwich Record Office. 
  5. Norfolk, Norwich, Poor Law Union Records, 1796-1900, Guardians’ minute books, 6 October 1801, warrant for John Malster; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-D1DH-8S7?i=2228&cc=1824706&cat=495724 : accessed 12 September 2018), image 2229 of 3866; citing Norwich Record Office. 
  6. Norfolk, Norwich, Poor Law Union Records, 1796-1900, Guardians’ minute books, 6 October 1801, apprenticeship of James Berry ; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-D1DH-8G4?i=2229&cc=1824706&cat=495724 : accessed 12 September 2018), image 2230 of 3866; citing Norwich Record Office. 

James Box – Artificial Limb Maker

Did a serious injury prompt the start of a family business?

In 1861, James Box was a young boy of about 14 years old. He lived with his parents, John and Ann Box, and several siblings, in Surrey, England.1 By 1871, James was on his own, having moved from Surrey to West Ham, Essex.  James was now 25 years old, unmarried and noted on the 1871 census was his occupation “Anatomical Mechanician”. In the last column of the census, under the heading, “Whether Deaf and Dumb, Blind, Imbecile or Idiot, Lunatic” is the comment, “Leg amputated”.2

Box snip 1871

What did an Anatomical Mechanician do and was James’ injury the impetus for a family business in which his wife, two sons, a daughter, his younger brother, and two nephews would all work?

In 1878, James and his younger brother, George, started their business in Manchester, Lancashire under the name, “J. Box and Co. Artificial Limb and Surgical Instrument Makers”.

leg
Artificial Leg, England, 1890-1950. Credits: Science Museum, London (broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk)

The job of an anatomical mechanician or artificial limb maker was described in 1855 as, “When from accident or disease it has become advisable to have the whole or a part of the natural leg removed…the first thought invariably arising in a patient’s mind is how he can possibly walk and pursue his usual avocation when minus a limb. Difficult as the matter appears, it is by no means too much so for human ingenuity to accomplish…It is therefore, clearly the part of the “mechanician” to render himself acquainted with the anatomical details of the limb he has to imitate…and also ascertain any peculiar action by which the various joints are brought into motion or sustained at rest.”3

James Box’s inclusion in the 1883 Manchester and Salford Directory:4

JamesBox1847_1883Directory_arrow

 

Unfortunately, in the same year, James Box died at the age of 37. His brother, George, took over the running of the business. George seemed to be a busy man, heavily involved with the community, his church and trips to the United States.5

GeorgeBox1855_bio snip

George, his son, George Percival Box and his nephew, Henry A. Box were all part of the business in 1911.6

GeorgeBox1855_1911Directory arrow

The last mention of various members of the Box family working as Artificial Limb Makers and/or Surgical Instrument Makers are in 1939:7

Annie J. Box, aged 67, occupation: Surgical Appliance Maker (child of James Box who started the business).
James Joseph Box, aged 65, Artificial Limb Maker (child of James Box who started the business).
George Percival Box, age 56, son of George Box (who took over the business when brother, John died).

From the early 1870s to approximately 1939, various members of the Box family worked in the Artificial Limb and Surgical Implement business started by James Box. Did the amputation of James’ leg prompt the start of a family business? It certainly seems possible.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 36 prompt: Work

 


  1. 1861 census of England, Surrey, Leatherhead, p. 42 (stamped), James Box; image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 February 2016); citing The National Archives, RG9, piece 420, folio 24; Epsom registration district, ED 1, household 293. 
  2. 1871 census of England, Essex, West Ham, p. 2 (stamped), James Box; image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 February 2016); citing The National Archives, RG10, piece 1629, folio 114; West Ham registration district, ED 10, household 9. 
  3. Henry Heather Bigg, On Artificial Limbs Their Construction and Application (London: John Churchill, New Burlington Street, 1855), chapter 1, part 1, B; digital images, Internet Archive (http://archive.org : accessed 6 September 2018). 
  4. Isaac Slater, ed., Slater’s Royal National Commercial Directory of Manchester and Salford (Manchester, England: Royal National Directory Offices, 1883), 44; digital images, University of Leicestershire (http://specialcollections.le.ac.uk/digital/collection/p16445coll4/id/149008 : accessed 9 September 2018). 
  5. Manchester Archives, digital images, Mr. G. Box (https://www.flickr.com/photos/manchesterarchiveplus/sets/ : accessed 9 September 2018). 
  6. Isaac Slater, ed., Slater’s Manchester, Salford & Suburban Directory (Manchester, England: Slater’s Directory Limited, 1911), 32; digital images, University of Leicestershire (http://specialcollections.le.ac.uk/digital/collection : accessed 8 September 2018). 
  7. 1939 Register, Lancashire, England, Manchester, RG 101/4469J Letter Code: NJKC, Schedule 49, George Percival Box; digital image, Ancestry (http://ancestry.com : accessed 9 September 2018), citing The National Archives, Kew, London, England. Also 1939 Register, Lancashire, England, Manchester, RG 101/4469J Letter Code: MJNT, Schedule 71-1, Annie J. Box and James Joseph Box; digital image, Ancestry(http://ancestry.com : accessed 9 September 2018), citing The National Archives, Kew, London, England. 

In the Parish Chest: Apprenticeship Records

ParishChestApprenticeship

This is the third post in my In the Parish Chest series. You can learn about bastardy bonds here and Settlement Examinations & Removal Orders here.

Was your English ancestor an apprentice? Apprenticeships date back to as early as the 16th century when young boys were formally bound to a master, usually a craftsman, who would teach the apprentice his trade. From 1563, the Statute of Apprentices made apprenticeships mandatory for anyone who wanted to take up a trade. This meant that no one could call themselves a Master of a trade without serving a 7-year apprenticeship.

Commonly, it was the child’s father who would put him up for an apprenticeship. It was more financially feasible for many poor families to apprentice out a child than to raise him.  In 1601, authority was given to the Overseers of the Poor for the parish, to locate an apprenticeship for any children who were orphaned or considered a pauper.

Although most apprenticeships were sought within the parish, there were times when the Overseers of the Poor would advertise in the local newspapers as seen below:1

Newspaper1

Overseers Apprenticeship Registers

Once an apprenticeship was secured for a child, the Overseers of the Poor would write down the details in an Apprenticeship Register. They would record details such as the date of the indenture, the name of the apprentice, their age, their parents’ names and abode, the name of the Master and his or her trade and residence, and the terms of the apprenticeship (in years). The register would be signed by the Overseers of the Poor and the Magistrate giving consent.

Below is an example of an Overseers Apprenticeship Register for Rothwell, West Yorkshire.2  On 12 October, 1802, 11-year old Sarah Fothergill was apprenticed out to Nathan Nichols, a farmer.  Her father was David Fothergill and her mother was noted as dead. The family’s residence was noted as ‘no settled place’. Sarah would be apprenticed to Nathan Nichols for 10 years, until her 21st birthday.

Apprenticeship-1

An Order of Indenture would then be created by the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor and presented to the Justices of the Peace for their approval. The proposed Master will have been interviewed as to his circumstances and character as well as the parents of the apprentice, if they were alive. The Overseers would recommend that the indenture be made.

In the example below dated 12 December 1818, a father, John Hollingrake has put up his son, William Hollingrake, as an apprentice. The order states that “William Hollingrake, a poor child, which its parents are not able to maintain” is proposed as an apprentice to Thomas Sutcliffe, a spinner, of the parish of Langfield, West Yorkshire. The Order of Indenture is signed by the Justices of the Peace and an Indenture is made.3

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The Apprenticeship Indenture was a legal document setting out the terms for the apprentice and the master.  The age of the apprentice is given and the length of the apprenticeship. William Hollingrake’s indenture states he was 12 years and four months old and would serve as an apprentice to Thomas Sutcliffe until he was 21 years old. Thomas Sutcliffe is to teach William a trade, and “find, provide for, and allow unto his said Apprentice, sufficient wholesome and competent Meat, Drink, Washing, Lodging, Apparel, and all other Necessaries…during all the said Term.” The indenture also states that should Thomas Sutcliffe die within the period of indenture, the agreement would terminate within three months of his death. For the apprentice, they were bound to serve their master and willingly perform his duties and be a “good and faithful Servant”.4

41440_1831101881_1912-00008

Interestingly enough, on the same day, 12 December 1818, William’s younger brother, John Hollingrake, only 9 years old, was also apprenticed out to John Baron, a weaver. Two years later, on 19 August 1820, Betty Hollingrake, just turned 9 years old, was apprenticed out to Abraham Sunderland, also a weaver. And four years later, Abraham Hollingrake, aged 9, was apprenticed out to James Barnes, a weaver.  All were children of John Hollingrake, living in the Parish of Langfield, West Yorkshire.

Some interesting facts on Apprenticeships:

  • An apprenticeship was for a period of seven years but many children were apprenticed at very young ages and often spent nine or ten years with their master. The 1563 Act determined that apprentices were bound until they were 24 years old, but this was later reduced to 21 in 1768.
  • During the Indenture period, the apprentice could not marry or start his own household. He could not gamble or visit a public house (a place selling alcoholic drinks).
  • The Stamp Act of 1709 put a tax on the Indenture and this practice lasted until 1808. Due to this practice, apprenticeship records were recorded more centrally. This is why it is often easier to find records in the period 1700s to early 1800s than after 1808. However, parishes were exempt from having to pay the tax with the result that their apprenticeship records were not recorded or accounted for in any central manner.
  • Persons aged 12-20 could not refuse an apprenticeship if a householder of sufficient means demands it, unless they are already apprenticed elsewhere. If they did refuse an apprenticeship, they could be imprisoned.
  • The Justice of the Peace was the only person who could break the agreement between apprentice and master. However, many apprentices ran away from masters who mistreated them. These masters advertised in the newspapers for the return of their apprentices. Many times a physical description of the apprentice can be found in the advertisement as seen below.

Below is an example of a newspaper advertisement asking for the return of two apprentices who left their master “without sufficient cause”.5

Abscond

The information you might find on your apprentice will vary from document to document. You may find the names of the parents enabling you to move back a generation in your research. You will often find an age given of an apprentice, allowing you to calculate an approximate year of birth. You will find the trade learned which may help in distinguishing your ancestor from someone else with the same name. You may learn, as in the Hollingrake example above, more about the family structure, including siblings.

Apprenticeship in the United States

There are several extant records for Indentures and Apprenticeships in the United States. A search on FamilySearch.org for ‘apprenticeship’ in the Keyword search box on the Catalog page will result in a list of over 1,400 hits for both the United States and England. You can refine your search further by entering a location. For example, “Apprenticeship Alabama” will result in 13 hits.  The same search terms can be used on the other genealogy research sites to locate records there.

An excellent article on the history of apprenticeship in the United States can be found at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.


  1. “Parish Apprentices,” Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, Yorkshire, 28 November 1801, page 2, col. 3; The British Newspaper Archive, (http://BritishNewspaperArchive.co.uk : accessed 4 September 2018). 
  2. West Yorkshire, England, Rothwell Parish, Parish and Township Records Register of Apprentices, 1802-1809, unpaginated; images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 September 2018), images 7 & 8 of 11, line 3, entry for Sarah Fothergill, 12 October 1802. 
  3. West Riding, Yorkshire, England, Langfield Township, Apprenticeship Indentures; images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 September 2018), order of indenture for William Hollingrake, 12 December 1818. 
  4. West Riding, Yorkshire, England, Langfield Township, Apprenticeship Indentures; images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 September 2018), indenture of William Hollingrake, 12 December 1818. 
  5. “Apprentices Absconded,” Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, Yorkshire, 12 September 1801, page 1, col. 2; The British Newspaper Archive, (http://britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk : accessed 4 September 2018). 

In the Parish Chest: Settlement Examinations, Settlement Certificates, Removal Orders

ParishChestSettlement

As we learned in my last post on bastardy bonds, parishes in England did not want to be financially liable for the support of individuals or families settling within their boundaries who could not provide for themselves.

In England, the Poor Relief Act of 1662, also known as the Settlement and Removal Act came into being.1 The Act established the parish to which a person belonged. This was his ‘place of settlement’ and would indicate which parish was responsible should he at some point need to rely on the parish for help.  Many of the poorer individuals and families moved from parish to parish to find work which was acceptable only if they had a Settlement Certificate that stated that their parish of settlement would take them back should they have no means of support.

Below is an example of a Settlement Certificate issued by the Churchwarden and Overseers of the Poor in the Parish of Ashurst, Sussex for John Pollard and Sarah his wife on 22 November 1786.2 The certificate states that the Pollard’s are legally settled in the Parish. This allowed John and Sarah to move to a different parish in search of work. Should they not find employment and become ‘chargeable to the new parish’ (meaning they needed poor relief) the certificate assured the new parish officials that their parish of settlement would take them back and support them.

record-image_S3HY-6XG3-VSH

Should an individual or family move into a parish without a settlement certificate and then need to rely on their new parish for support, a Removal Order would be prepared. What is great for genealogists is that the family is usually named, sometimes even ages given, as well as the name of the parish they had come from or to which they legally belonged.  In the example below, William Aldridge, his wife Elizabeth and their son, Elisha, have become or are deemed likely to become ‘chargeable to the Parish’ of Sherringham, Norfolk, where they are currently living. The Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Sherringham have reported the family to the Justices of the Peace for Norfolk county. The Removal Order states that William Aldridge’s last legal Settlement was in the Parish of Blickling, Norfolk and that the family is to be returned there. Further, the Removal Order reminds the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Blickling that they are to receive and provide for the Aldridge family who are legal inhabitants of that Parish.3

Aldridge

As part of the process of determining whether an individual or family had a legal right to settle in a parish, an examination by the Churchwarden or the Justices of the Peace often occurred. During the examination the individual would have to provide evidence of their claim to legal settlement in the parish. They were asked where they were born, about their parentage, their work history and their movements around the country.

So, what were the terms under which someone could settle in a parish?4

  • Be born into the parish.
  • Have lived in the parish for forty consecutive days without complaint.
  • Be hired for over a year and a day that takes place within the parish – (this led to short lengths of employment so that settlement was not obtained).
  • Hold an office in the parish.
  • Rent a property worth £10 per year or pay the same in taxes.
  • Have married into the parish.
  • Gained poor relief in that parish previously.
  • Have a seven-year apprenticeship with a settled resident

Settlement Examinations vary greatly but they often contain information that is of great value to a genealogist.  Take the incredibly informative settlement examination of Mrs. Mary Bird on 7 March 1825.5

The Settlement Examination of Mrs. Mary Bird

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Mary Bird was living in the Parish of Sherringham, Norfolk in 1825 when she became in need of financial help from the parish. The resulting examination before the Justices of the Peace is full of information on her very interesting background.  Take a look at the genealogical gems found in Mary’s examination:

  • She states she is about 32 years old, giving a clue to her year of birth
  • She was born in Bombay, East Indies where her father was stationed as a soldier in the Bombay Artillery
  • At age 14, she went into service for a Mrs. Monroe in Bombay. She was with Mrs. Monroe for between two and three years
  • She was married at about age 16 to William Neal, a private in the 17 Regiment of Light Dragoons stationed at Bombay
  • Two years into the marriage William died
  • Mary lived in Bombay for another year before marrying again, to Thomas Bird, a corporal in the 17 Regiment of Light Dragoons
  • Mary and her second husband Thomas Bird returned to England about six years ago
  • Thomas Bird was discharged at Chatham in Kent
  • Six months later, Thomas Bird reenlisted with the 19th Regiment of Foot. Mary and Thomas resided together, moving around England and Ireland to wherever the 19th Regiment of Foot was stationed
  • On 1 January 1825, Thomas Bird was discharged at Limerick, Ireland at his own request
  • Thomas Bird left Mary in Limerick, Ireland for an undisclosed period of time after which Mary stated she joined him in Dublin for about a week, after which Thomas again left her
  • Mary stated that Thomas told her she should go to ‘the place he belonged’ which was Sherringham in the county of Norfolk and that she has not seen him since that time
  • She stated she traveled from Dublin to Sherringham arriving on the past Tuesday, having with her a child between the ages of 8 and 9 years who was born in Bombay about a year into her marriage to Thomas Bird

After giving this testimony and making her mark, it seems that the Justices of the Peace wanted further evidence of her claims. The next document found is an extract from the Registry of Marriages 19th Regiment of Foot.6

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More genealogical gems here!

  • Confirmation of Mary’s married name (from her first marriage) and that she was a widow
  • A more exact place of marriage as Kaira, Bombay, India
  • An exact date of marriage of 19 May 1816
  • The names of two witnesses to the marriage

The marriage extract is not an original document but it gives many clues to aid in a hunt for the original.

And finally, Thomas Bird’s birth in the parish registers for Sherringham was located. An extract of that entry is noted with remarks by the Vicar that certifies it to be a true and correct extract from the Registry of Baptisms in the Parish of Sherringham in the County of Norfolk.7

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It would appear that Mary Bird satisfied the terms for being able to legally settle in the Parish of Sherringham by her marriage to Thomas Bird, who was born in the parish.

What a treasure trove of genealogical information available in one Settlement Examination!

Where to find Settlement Certificates, Settlement Examinations and Removal Orders

They are always found on the county level in England in Parish Chest records.

In FamilySearch.org, the search term ‘Settlement Certificates’ will result in a long list of records containing settlement certificates, removal orders and settlement examinations. Adding in a location such as ‘Settlement Certificates Durham England’ will bring up a list of those records in that geographic area.  FamilySearch.org seems to have the best collection of these parish chest records although Ancestry.com and Findmypast.com also have several record sets containing parish chest records. Use search terms such as ‘settlement certificate’, ‘removal orders’, ‘parish chest’, ‘settlement examinations’ and/or ‘poor relief’.

Searching directly on a county record office website is also a good way to find these types of records as can be seen in the screenshot below of the Durham County Record Office. However, most of these are not digitized and will mean either a visit to the individual record office or ordering a copy of the record online.

Screenshot 2018-08-29 14.48.30

 


  1. Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org), “Poor Relief Act 1662,” rev. 14.39, 30 July 2017. 
  2. Parish of Ashurst, Sussex, Settlement Certificate, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org : accessed 29 August 2018), 22 November 1786, John Pollard and wife. 
  3. Norfolk County, Sherringham Parish, Parish Chest Records, 1300-1900, Removal Order for William Aldridge and family, 13 February 1755; images, Findmypast (www.findmypast.com : accessed 28 August 2018). 
  4. Marjie Bloy, Ph.D., The Victorian Web (http://www.victorianweb.org/history/poorlaw/settle.html : accessed 29 August 2018), “The 1662 Settlement Act.” 
  5. Norfolk County, Sherringham Parish, Parish Chest Records, 1300-1900, Examination of Mrs. Mary Bird, 7 March 1825; images, Findmypast (www.findmypast.com : accessed 28 August 2018). 
  6. Norfolk County, Sherringham Parish, Parish Chest Records, 1300-1900, Examination of Mrs. Mary Bird, 7 March 1825, containing marriage register extract for Thomas Bird and Mary Neal on 19 May 1816; images, Findmypast (www.findmypast.com : accessed 28 August 2018). 
  7. Norfolk County, Sherringham Parish, Parish Chest Records, 1300-1900, Examination of Mrs. Mary Bird, 7 March 1825, containing birth register extract for Thomas Bird on 19 March 1793; images, Findmypast (www.findmypast.com : accessed 28 August 2018). 

In the Parish Chest: Bastardy Bonds

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Bastardy Bonds can be a great resource when trying to locate a birth date and place when vital records may not exist or in placing someone in a specific area at a specific time. In England, these records were created on a parish level before 1834 and on county and poor law union levels beginning in 1834. They are part of a collection of records falling under the title of Parish Chest records. Parish chests were literally chests where the parish kept their records. Ranging from Vestry Minutes to Churchwarden and Poor Rate accounts, to Bastardy Bonds and Apprentice records, these documents recorded the daily workings of the local parish.

Parishes were concerned with not being held financially liable for the birth and upbringing of a child born to an unmarried woman. By the laws of the time, that child, born to an unmarried woman, was considered illegitimate. An unmarried mother faced substantial social stigma in addition to financial hardship. Through a prescribed path, the parish ensured that the financial responsibility for the child would fall on the father. This was especially so in cases where the putative father did not or would not take responsibility.

Bastardy Examinations

When a father would not step forward, the parish would often put pressure on the mother to name the child’s father. This was done under oath and carried out by the Churchwarden or Overseer of the Poor. Their authority came to them from the Bastardy Act of 1575 which allowed them to question an unmarried mother in order to get her to reveal the name of the father.

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In the example above, Mary Wells, a single woman, declares upon her oath before the Justices of the Peace on the 29th Day of November 1777 regarding her pregnancy. She states that she is with child and names John Daniels, as having carnal knowledge of her body, on or near the 5th day of July and that she is now pregnant and the child likely to be born in bastardy.  She leaves her mark at the bottom of the page.1

With the father so named, the Churchwardens or Overseers of the Poor would exert considerable pressure on the father to take financial responsibility for the child in the form of a Bastardy Bond.

Bastardy Bonds

This bond of indemnification or bastardy bond ensured that the father was responsible for the child. The bond indemnified or compensated the parish against any future costs until the child was thirteen years of age or had been apprenticed out.  Few men could afford to pay the bond from their own resources, therefore most would have friends or relatives sign as surety on the bond.

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In the above example, dated 5 August 1817, Elizabeth Leavers, single woman, of the parish of Radford, has sworn by oath that she is now pregnant with a child by Thomas Greenwood. Thomas Greenwood, and two other men, James Greenwood and William Burrey, all of the town of Nottingham, have signed this bond, indicating Thomas’ acceptance of the charge and his assurance that he will maintain the child. The men have, under oath, sworn that a bond of £100.00 would be payable to the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Radford in the County of Nottingham, should Thomas Greenwood fail to take care of the child.2

Bastardy Bond recorded in the Petty Sessions

After the New Poor Law of 1834, the parish authorities lessened their role in bastardy cases leaving the woman the option of applying herself for the bond from the Petty Sessions.

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In this example, Mary Berry, a single woman, has appeared before the Justices of the Peace in the County of the Borough and Town of Berwick-upon-Tweed on 14 March 1850. The bond states that Mary Berry was delivered of a female bastard child within the twelve months previous. She names James Mills Taylor of the Parish of Bamburgh in the County of Northumberland, a laborer, as the father. A summons was issued for James Mills Taylor to appear at the Petty Session. Towards the bottom of the page, an exact date of birth is given for the child, 22 January 1850.  Mary Berry has provided enough evidence that the Justices of the Peace declare they are satisfied and they declare James Mills Taylor the putative father. He is ordered to pay Mary Berry an amount of 5 shillings weekly for the first six weeks from the birth of the child. He is further ordered to pay the sum of one shilling and sixpence to Mary Berry until the child is 13 years of age. There were some conditions to this: should Mary Berry be of unsound mind, or in jail or under sentence of transportation or should she remarry, the payment would go to whoever was declared the child’s custodian. Should the child die before his thirteenth birthday, Mary Berry would no longer receive any monies.  Further, the father, James Mills Taylor, was also to pay Mary Berry, 19 shillings and sixpence, the costs incurred in obtaining the order.3

Where to find Bastardy Bonds

For England records:

Parish chest records are listed in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:

  • England, [county name], [parish name] – Church records
  • England, [county name], [parish name] – Poorhouses, Poor Law
  • England, [county name], [parish name] – Taxation

Most bastardy bonds are kept on the county level in England and are not online. Many county record offices have an online presence that may allow you to determine if they hold such records and what the cost may be in accessing them.

For US records:

  • If you are lucky enough to be researching in North Carolina, they have extensive records for each county.
  • Other states have bastardy bonds, but they are not as extensive. To see what is available on the FamilySearch Catalog, a keyword search of “bastardy bonds” can be used to indicate which counties kept these records. To narrow down the search even more, include the state or the state and county that you are researching in to see what is available. These bonds are not yet indexed.
  • The bastardy bonds are not likely online for every county. They may be found in person at the county courthouses, if still preserved.
  • For FindmyPast.com a search in the A-Z of Record Sets with the keywords ‘bastardy bonds’, ‘parish chest’ or ‘Poor Law’ will locate records.
  • For Ancestry.com search the Card Catalog with the terms ‘bastardy’, ‘poor law’ or ‘quarter sessions’.

Have you used bastardy bonds in your research?

This is the first post in a series on Parish Chest records.
Coming up next: In the Parish Chest: Settlement and Removal Certificates

 


  1. Norfolk County, North Elmham Parish, Bastardy Examinations, 1765-1811, Examination of Mary Wells, 29 November 1777; images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-62T7-ZZL?cat=1013166 : accessed 20 August 2018). 
  2.  Nottinghamshire County, Court of Quarter Sessions of the Peace, Bastardy Bonds, 1817-1818, 5 August 1817, Elizabeth Leavers to Thomas Greenwood on bastardy charge; images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSNW-C3Z8?cat=635885 : accessed 20 August 2018, images 719 & 729 of 1934). 
  3. “England, Northumberland, Cumberland, Durham, Miscellaneous Records, 969-2007,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L93Y-2HHN?cc=1918635&wc=7VZB-7V7%3A209394801%2C210421601%2C210422501 : 20 May 2014 : accessed 21 August 2018), Northumberland > Berwick-upon-Tweed > Bastardy bonds, 1850-1859, image 2 of 214; Northumberland Archives Service, Ashington.