The Poor Law was an attempt to deal with some of the problems arising out of widespread poverty in Ireland in the early 19th century by providing institutional relief for the destitute. It was set up in 1839 under the Poor Law Union Act of 1838. The Act divided the country initially into 134 poor law unions with a workhouse at its centre.An additional 33 were added between 1848 and 1850.
Each Union had a Workhouse, financed by the payment of rates – taxes on property – on landholders in the Union and were run by a Board of Guardians, some of whom were elected and some appointed from the local magistracy. They were responsible for running the workhouses and dispensing outdoor relief which was assistance given to those not living in the workhouse.
The system was originally designed to accommodate 1% of the population or 80,000 people but, by March 1851, due to the famine almost 4% of the population were driven to the workhouse.
Each Union was funded through the poor rate and was levied on all owners and occupiers of land
The following record from Tipperary Studies shows that my 2 times great grandfather James Cass from the the townland of Leugh mór in the parish of Thurles paid £5 17 shillings and 6 pence per year to the Poor rates.
Details of my great-grandfather Edmund’s payment from the Thurles Rate books of 1868
The workhouse records for North and South Dublin Unions and Balrothery show that there were a few individuals named Cass who either were inmates or were listed as suppliers to these workhouses.
Among the items mentioned in the minutes of a meeting on 25th August 1841 of the Board of Guardians, Balrothery Union is a payment of £9 19 shillings and 9 pence paid to a James Cass for wooden shoes.The minutes of 12 October 1842 also has a payment of £24 1 shilling and six pence made to James also for shoes.
Found among the admission register for the North Dublin Union workhouse were James Cass, a tailor, born 1799 admitted February 1844 and discharged 5th March 1844. A further record for 1846 admissions show that James was admitted on 9th March 1846 and discharged on 13th March.Also on the admission register for the North Dublin Union workhouse is Martin Cass a labourer and single who was born approximately in 1876. Martin appears to have been in and out of the workhouse between 1913 and 1915.
Another Cass surname, I discovered on the admissions list for the North Dublin Union admissions register was William Cass, born 1877, occupation listed as labourer with an address 16 Temple Street.The records show that William was admitted in 1913, 1916 and 1917.Sadly, the records for 1917 list him as “died” 10 July 1917.
The South Dublin Union work house records also yield a few Casses. We discover Michael Cass, a boot maker, aged about 60 who was admitted in 1858 and died in 1859.The admissions list for 1883 shows that a Julie Cass and her 2 children were admitted on 21st June and discharged on 11th September. Julie is listed as been married to a “marble polisher” However, he appeared to have gone to America, as she made a declaration stating that she was deserted.