Parishes were responsible for giving relief to those who resided in that parish from taxes raised within the parish. The issue then became ‘did everyone who resided in the parish have a right to obtain relief?’
The question was resolved in Parliament, where it was determined that everyone had a parish of ‘settlement’, a place where they belonged, usually through right of birth and they gave parishes the right to remove any newcomer to the parish, within forty days of arrival, if it looked as though they would be a charge on the parish.
People sometimes carried settlement papers with them if they were moving from parish to parish for work, an underwriting by their ‘home’ parish to support them if they needed relief. This would prevent them from being hounded out of parishes by ever vigilant overseers.
A search for settlement papers in parish archives can sometimes give a clue of parish of origin for family historians.
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