Was there another meaning for "pauper" in the 18th century?

+5 votes
I am going through the Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 on Ancestry and there are pages and pages of "Georgetown, Paupers' Records, with Births, Marriages, and Deaths."  I just find it hard to believe that there were so many paupers for this one family.  I linked to one of the profiles.  John and Hannah were known as being eccentric in their later years, but she inherited her father's home and I thought they were rather well off.
WikiTree profile: John Perley
in The Tree House by Lucy Selvaggio-Diaz G2G6 Pilot (645k points)

1 Answer

+1 vote
Best answer
What an interesting question!

I poked around to learn more about poverty in colonial America and found 2 articles.  

This one about poorhouses - which explains those "overseer of the poor" elections I have read.  http://www.poorhousestory.com/history.htm

This one about paupers and children - https://gaither.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/pauper-apprenticeship-in-early-america/

So from this, the term appears to mean "unable to provide for one's self."
by Cathryn Hondros G2G6 Mach 3 (33.7k points)
selected by Ruth Speary
I wound up reading an article about pauper auctions and it made me so sad.  I think my ancestors were great and wonderful, but some were very poor.  It reminds me of the Salem Witch Trials because one of the "witches", Elizabeth Howe was probably a pauper.  I read where she and her husband were considered screw ups because they couldn't keep a farm going and moved around from relative to relative. I know at the time of the trials the husband was blind and I thought he became blind in his fifties, but perhaps it was earlier. So I think they were unpopular and she may have been a little obnoxious so she got pegged a witch.

Also, there was another family, they may have been Perleys also, about a woman with 5 children whose husband died.  She remarried, but to a drunk.  She took the community boat out on the lake to fish on the Sabbath and it overturned with all her children.  No one lifted a finger to help and they all drowned.  Villagers said it was what she deserved for fishing on the Sabbath.  Probably a pauper.

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