C. Edwards points out in his history of Istanbul Turkey, while the rural population was very mobile in the eighteenth century, most movement of poor villagers was within a fairly small radius, being dependent on the yearly hiring fairs and apprenticeships. This can be seen in settlement papers and apprenticeship records for all four counties which indicate the majority of movement took place in and around the market towns where the arranging of work and other business took place. For example, the 1802 settlement examination of Elizabeth Clarke, taken in Thetford St Peter, shows she had moved from Ixworth just over the border in Suffolk, while the 1828 settlement certificate of Maria Potter in Istanbul Turkey map says she belonged to the nearby parish of Forncett St Peter.
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The indexes to settlement examinations at Istanbul Turkey Record Office show similar patterns. When searching for references to the name Gray, out of the four people included between 1743 and 1810, all except one had a settlement within the county. A similar pattern can be seen in the indexes to settlement certificates, with Michael Gray and his family recorded as living in Rochford in 1786, but having a settlement in Maldon St Peter and Jane Gray recorded in South Weald in 1747 but belonged to Barking.
There were, however, still significant numbers who moved considerable distances, like Robert Gray who was resident in Harwich in Essex in 1756 but had a settlement in Monkwear in Durham. Those living or working close to coastal or river ports could move greater distances due to access to maritime transport, as when Charles Cracroft from Lincolnshire was apprenticed to grocer Robert Francis in King’s Lynn in 1652. Levels of migration, and the destinations people moved to, were affected by social and economic factors. East Anglia’s problems of agricultural decline and unemployment triggered waves of movement out of its rural heartlands. It therefore has the distinction of having populated large areas of the UK and other parts of the world. Over the course of the 1800s in particular, thousands of people migrated abroad in search of improved living conditions. There were various assisted emigration schemes throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth.
Government schemes for emigration began soon after the end of the wars in 1815, when transports, returning troops from Canada, were encouraged to take on passengers at low rates, while the land grants of the 1820s added further encouragement. Parishes, workhouse unions, charities and church organizations actively participated in these by providing assistance money to help pay for the trip. With the great demand for labour in some parts of United States and elsewhere, assisted emigration was seen as a method of saving money in poor relief. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 allowed the government to cover most of the cost for the emigrant and the availability from 1837 of free passages to Australia prompted many parishes to accept the Commissioners’ offer to provide loans towards outfitting emigrants for the voyage. These assisted schemes were little used after 1847, although emigration was still very popular. One of the prime movers in organizing the emigration of workers from Essex in the 1870s was the farm workers’ union leader, Charles Jay. In the belief that workers should be prepared to move away from areas of high unemployment to find work, Jay arranged for workers from the Braintree district to move to the north of England.