Bedfordshire Poor Law Unions

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An Act of Parliament in the year 1834 took the responsibility of administering to the poor from the church porch to the doorstep of civil government. The government grouped each civil parish into a union of parishes. There were nearly 600 such unions throughout England, each one comprising close to 20 or more parishes, and were specifically setup to meet the demands of the poor among their local populations, with a workhouse on the premises. The responsbility was transferred from local parishes to a Board of Guardians in each union. These groupings or unions were known as poor-law unions. Bedfordshire had the following poorlaw unions within its boundaries:

  • Ampthill
  • Bedford
  • Biggleswade
  • Leighton Buzzard
  • Luton
  • Woburn


Records from the poorlaw unions, which were created from this time forward include the following:

  • Guardianship
  • Creed Registers
  • Rate books
  • Workhouse Lists of Inmates
  • Register of Apprentices
  • Register of Births
  • Register of Deaths
  • Vestry Rate Books
  • Admission and Discharge Registers
  • Board of Guardians' Records

To determine records availability for each poorlaw, search the FamilySearch Catalog under the name of the county (Bedfordshire), and then under the name of the poorlaw union, i.e. Ampthill.

Pre-1834[edit | edit source]

Poor law papers from 1622 to 1834 have been indexed by the Bedfordshire Family History Society:

  • Bedfordshire parish poor law papers, 1622-1834 : an index to personal names mentioned in poor law documents (largely relating to settlement) contained in the archives of Bedfordshire ecclesiastical parishes. FHL book 942.565 B4bf no. 2