Some workhouse housework

25 Apr

Today I have been going through the last of the data I gathered at the West Sussex Record Office last Saturday, typing up my notes and entering what I can in my family history software.

The research I did into the Cuckfield Workhouse has thrown up a couple of interesting issues which I wasn’t expecting. This is the first time I have really had to look into the Poor Law records for any of my family and the results were quite surprising.

Firstly there is my 3x great grandfather Thomas GASSON (1830-1914) who I found in the Cuckfield Workhouse in the 1911 census and started off this line of investigation. I had expected to see him admitted to the workhouse some time after 1901 and there he would stay until his death in 1914.

What I discovered however was that he was in and out of the workhouse quite frequently (a dozen times between 1904 and 1910). I am intrigued now as to what he was doing on these breaks from the workhouse? (Also how I am going to record all these admissions and discharges on my family tree without clogging it up?)

Sometimes he was out for as short as a week, sometimes as long as a month. Was he trying to live on his own or with one of his children? Was he given money to get out and find work and accommodation? Did he want to get out or was the master of the workhouse trying to get rid of him? Was he simply too old and not fit enough to live on his own?

It is quite interesting that his first admission to the workhouse was on the 23rd November 1904, just a couple of months after the death of his wife Harriet. This makes me think he was probably not healthy enough to cope on his own after she died and had to seek help from the Poor Law Union.

The second curiosity I discovered was that at the same that Thomas GASSON was in the workhouse so was his great granddaughter Lilian GASSON. She was admitted on the 24th January 1910 and discharged on the 30th January 1910.

The unusual thing is that she had just turned three years old when she was admitted. It appears that none of her other family were admitted at the same time,  so I suspect that for Lilian the workhouse was serving as a hospital rather than a poor house.

There are several other GASSONs in the workhouse records, but I haven’t been able to make any connections with my ancestors yet. I am sure given time they will all find a home on my family tree.

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