Cover for The Eighteenth Century Records of the Boston Overseers of the Poor
The Eighteenth Century Records of the Boston Overseers of the Poor
Eric G. Nellis and Anne Decker Cecere, eds.
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The Eighteenth-Century Records of the Boston Overseers of the Poor constitutes the collection of the earliest and most complete set of records pertaining to poor relief in early America. In a substantial introduction, the editor Eric Nellis describes the process by which the Overseers of the Poor, a board made up of generally wealthy merchants elected by the town meeting, attempted to distinguish between the "deserving" poor, eligible for "outdoor" relief in their homes, and the "undeserving" poor, who were remanded to the rigors of the workhouse. Because each Overseer knew personally the recipients of public charity, researchers will find here a wealth of detail about the nature of poverty and welfare in eighteenth-century America. This selection of records includes admissions records from 1758 to 1800, births and deaths from 1756 to 1771, a census and inventory of the almshouse, as well as fragmentary financial records from the period.

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