Illustration of Andover Union Workhouse, 1844 (Catalogue reference: ZPER 34/9)

This is a brief guide to help you with your research into workhouse policy and administration. To find records of individuals in workhouses see Looking for records of a workhouse inmate or member of staff.

  • What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

    • Records held locally

      The National Archives' catalogue has details of collections held by over 2500 archives across the UK. Search our catalogue and refine your results using the filters.

  • What other resources will help me find information?

    • Websites

      Visit for extensive and varied information relating to workhouses and poor law unions.

      Use the familysearch map site to help identify poor law unions.

    • Books

      Search The National Archives' bookshop to see whether any of the publications below may be available to buy. Alternatively, look in The National Archives' Library catalogue to see what is available to consult at Kew.

      Poor Law Union records by Jeremy Gibson and others (Family History Partnership, 4 volumes)

      Workhouse by Simon Fowler (The National Archives, 2009)

Did you know?

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 combined small numbers of parishes to form Poor Law UnionsPoor Law Union - a union of parishes responsible for enacting the Poor Law in their local area, each with its own workhouse. The Poor Law Unions continued until 1930.

Workhouses were designed to be as repulsive as possible, in order to put people off from applying for help.

The records of the Poor Law Commission and the Poor Law Board are in The National Archives under department code MH. They are not particularly easy to use, as the file descriptions are very uninformative, so any search may be lengthy.

To find out in which union a particular parish was, read Poor Law Union Records: 4 Gazetteer of England and Wales by Gibson and Young.