Women picking oakum in a workhouse (Catalogue reference: PRO 30/69/1663/38)

This is a brief guide to help you find records of a workhouse inmate or member of staff. Local archives are the best source of information on workhouses. Few workhouse records are available online. Workhouse records at The National Archives usually relate to the general business of the workhouses rather than individual inmates or members of staff. Not all records survive.

  • What do I need to know before I start?

    • Try to find out:

      • the name of the inmate or member of staff
      • when they were in the workhouse
      • the name of the Poor Law Union that ran the workhouse (see 'Did you know?')
  • What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

    • Records held elsewhere

      Search our catalogue and refine your results using the filters.

  • What other resources will help me find information?

    • Websites

      Visit The Workhouse website to access extensive information about workhouses. The 'records and resources' section may help you find out which local archives hold workhouse records.

    • Publications

      Read the relevant booklet in the series Poor Law Union Records: vols 1-4, Jeremy Gibson and others (Family History Partnership), to find out what records have survived.

      Read The Victorian Workhouse by Trevor May (Shire, 2005).

Did you know?

Under the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 parishes were grouped into unions and each union had to build a workhouse if they did not already have one. To find out in which union a particular parish belonged, see Poor Law Union Records: 4. Gazetteer of England and Wales (2nd edition), by J Gibson and FA Youngs.

Where records survive you may find admission and discharge books or registers; creed registersregisters listing the religious faith of people admitted to institutions and registers of births; baptisms and deaths; details of staff appointments; and general correspondence.