Poor Law Apprenticeship Indentures
Once you have explored your family history using certificates, census returns and parish registers there are many other collections of documents held in the archives which can be useful. For example, apprenticeship documents can be a valuable source.
There are three main types of apprenticeship indentures pre 1834.
Firstly, those for apprenticeships arranged by the family with a master craftsman. These documents tended to remain with the family although between 1710 and 1804 a tax was charged and records for that period are held by the National Archives.
Secondly, those for charity apprenticeships, where someone left an annual sum in their will for children to be apprenticed. These documents can be found in solicitors papers, municipal records and also within the parish chest collections, for example, Tamworth.
Thirdly are pauper apprenticeships arranged by parish officers who would place a child with a family or manufacturer so that they would not be a burden on the parish funds. These records can be found by consulting the catalogues of parish records at the various record offices within Staffordshire.
Before 1834 the parish was responsible for the governance of its own area setting up the various organisations and appointing the officials required. During this period the parish was responsible for the administration of the Poor Laws which were introduced in 1597 and 1601. After 1834 these responsibilities were taken over by Poor Law Unions which were repealed in 1928.
A large number of pauper children were placed as apprentices by parish officers, often within their own parishes, but also to persons of other parishes and in other counties. Not all were orphans and not all were very young. Once an apprentice had served and slept for more than forty days in his masters house, this parish became his place of legal settlement. The importance of poor law apprenticeship Indentures to the family historian is that information gained can supplement information already known and add to the bare bones of a family tree. For example, when an ancestor arrives within a parish, the document may give a clue to where he/she was born leading, in turn, to searches of other documents, for example, settlement examinations and removal orders.
Children could be apprenticed to a variety of trades but most are recorded as learning housewifery or husbandry, which was just a servant or labourer in a farmer's household. Many were retained within their own parishes but, depending upon which town they were sent to, others learned trades associated with, for example, corkscrew, tobacco box and spectacle makers, locksmiths, gunsmiths and cotton manufacturing in Cheshire, Lancashire and Warwickshire.
There would appear to be no usual age for a pauper apprentice nor period to be served. The youngest child I have found to date was 4 years old and the eldest 20 years, serving for periods between 3 and 17 years (or for females, until they married). If the master died or was unable to continue the apprenticeship the apprentice could be placed with another master. In this case the original certificate is amended, so it is always wise to look at both sides of the document.
In conclusion, some or all of the following information may be found in an indenture :
The names of the parish officials
The name and age of the child, details of the parents, change of mother's surname if she had remarried
The name of the master, his place of abode and occupation
The trade to be learned, not necessarily the same as the master if housewifery or husbandry
The period to be served
The signatures of the officials and masters
The conditions of apprenticeship, any fees paid and any amendments
Poor Law Apprenticeship information can also be found in other parish records, for example, churchwardens accounts, constables accounts, Vestry minutes and Quarter Sessions records. In addition, post 1834, Board of Guardian Minute Books and the Staffordshire Advertiser.
Other collections of apprenticeship indentures held by the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service are the Guild records. There is a large collection at Lichfield Record Office. Newcastle under Lyme also has collections held at the Borough Museum for which the Archive Service hold copies on microfilm. The Newcastle collection has been indexed.
Diana Grant, October 2006