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Source Information

Ancestry.com. Dorset, England, Vagrant Passes, 1739-1791 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
Original data: DHC Vagrants Passes 1739–1791. Dorchester, England: Dorset History Centre.

About Dorset, England, Vagrant Passes, 1739-1791

This database contains passes and other documents related to people accused of vagrancy in the county of Dorset.

Historical Background

Numerous laws impacted people accused of vagrancy in 18th-century England. These included settlement laws that regulated where people lived and Poor Laws that assigned responsibility for poor relief to parishes. These laws typically motivated parishes to keep potentially indigent people who didn’t belong to the parish out of the parish.

While vagrants could be subject to punishment, typically, parishes simply wanted to move them along to their home parish, or legal place of settlement. Passes would indicate where a vagrant was coming from, belonged, and was heading to and helped them navigate from parish to parish. People who were charged with vagrancy or thought to have no right to settle in a parish might be called to appear before a justice of the peace for a settlement examination to determine whether they had a right to remain in the parish.

What You May Find in These Records

There are several versions of passes in this database. Some originated in Dorset. Some were provided to vagrants passing through the county. Others list a location in Dorset as the destination for a vagrant. The database also includes examination forms, lists of vagrants to be transported out of a parish, and other documents. The details provided vary by document type—examination documents tended to provide more information than passes, for example—but you might find the following:

  • name
  • date
  • place of departure
  • place of destination
  • place of residence
  • birthplace
  • family members
  • parish of birth

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