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Children and Families in the Workhouse Populations of the Antrim, Ballymena, and Ballymoney Poor Law Unions in the Mid Nineteenth Century

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This article is a workhouse population study of the Antrim, Ballymena, and Ballymoney Poor Law Unions in County Antrim, Ireland, in 1850–1851 and 1860–1861. Under the Irish Poor Law, the workhouse was the central institution for the welfare of the destitute poor during the nineteenth century. Beyond national trends and a broad regional framework, however, little is known of how workhouse populations varied at the local level or the place of poor relief within the economies of makeshifts of individuals and families. The article draws upon statistical returns to show that changes in the workhouse populations in this area of Ulster diverged from the national pattern as a consequence of local economic and social conditions. The familial circumstances of children in these workhouses are explored through analysis of the admission and discharge registers. Far from presenting a monolithic group, children were admitted to the workhouses in a wide variety of family forms which used the workhouses of this locality in multiple ways.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2017

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  • Local Population Studies was first published in 1968, and since then it has focused on presenting cutting-edge research in local, population and social history. It is published twice a year online and in print by the Local Population Studies Society, with the support of the University of Oxford. For information about how to become a member of the LPSS, and for freely available back issues from 1968 to 2010, please visit
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