From the sixteenth century onwards many laws were enacted to provide support for the poor and needy, and some parishes established poor houses in which to look after their homeless. In 1834, with the creation of the Poor Law Commission, the whole of England and Wales was formed into Unions of parishes, and each Union built its own workhouse. The workhouses gained a reputation for cruelty in the eyes of the public, yet this system of social security was not abolished until the creation of the NHS in 1948. Being part of the government bureaucracy, detailed records were kept of everything: rate-payers, collectors of rates, workhouse overseers and the staff and inmates of workhouses, as well as poor people who were helped to move to the north of England to work in industry, those given assisted passage to Australia and children sent to Canada. David T. Hawkings, one of Britain's leading genealogists and the author of Criminal Ancestors and Railway Ancestors, here explains how these records can be used to discover details of your ancestry, providing an important, must-have resource for genealogists and family historians who want to make use of this comprehensive repository of information.