Children's Home Records
Workhouse Children's Homes
From the 1840s onwards, the central Poor Law authorities encouraged local Boards of Guardians to provide separate accommodation for children away from their union workhouses. A number of different types of establishment were gradually developed including district schools (large buildings, usually serving urban unions), cottage homes (family-style house groups, often constructed as miniature rural 'villages'), and scattered homes (ordinary houses spread around city suburbs).
As well as the homes they ran themselves, Boards of Guardians also placed children in accommodation run by others. Some were boarded-out (fostered) with individual families. Some, especially Roman Catholics and children with special needs, were sent to Certified Schools.
Before being placed in one of the various types of home, children entering the poor relief system usually spent an initial period in a workhouse or central home and would appear in its admission records. The homes normally kept their own separate admission/discharge and other registers. Surviving union records are now usually located in the relevant county or metropolitan record office for the area — www.workhouses.org.uk has details for each union.
The Ancestry website has a large collection of London workhouse records:
- The London Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records (1764-1930) are searchable by name.
- The Poor Law and Board of Guardian Records (1738-1930) are only browsable page images.
After Boards of Guardians were abolished in 1930, many former workhouse children’s homes continued in operation run by county and county borough councils. Surviving records from this period may also be found in local record offices.
Please note that record offices usually restrict access to records containing personal information for a period of fifty years or more from the latest entry in any volume. Some offices will do look-ups of more recent records on your behalf. However, you may be required to prove that the person in question is now deceased and that you have a family connection with them.
Except where indicated, this page () © Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.