Under the laws of settlement which were introduced by the Poor Law Act of 1601, people were only entitled to claim poor relief in their legal place of settlement, ie the parish where they had been living for at least one month.
After the Settlement Act of 1662, people could obtain a settlement in any parish through marriage, apprenticeship, domestic service for over a year or by occupying property worth more than £10 per annum. Anyone not fulfilling these criteria was liable to be removed to their original parish.
After 1697, poorer people had to carry a settlement certificate with them to show that their parish of legal settlement would take them back if necessary. If they requested poor relief, the parish they had moved to would examine them to see where their legal right of settlement lay. The resulting settlement examination books are a rich source for researchers. The examination books of several of the Westminster parishes have survived.
The examination entries might include details of a person's birthplace and working career as well as the names and ages of dependent children. Entries can also include details of their recent whereabouts and other incidental details of a person's life story. This index allows you to search for a person or family by surname, and then gives you a volume and page number reference so that you can contact the Archives Centre for a copy of the entry. A copy can be supplied for £4; cheques should be made payable to the City of Westminster.
Westminster Archives holds settlement examination books for this large parish for the years 1708 to 1795 and 1816 to 1827. These books are being indexed by a group of dedicated volunteers at the Archives Centre. The index is available to search online and covers volumes dating from 1732 to 1775.