Ever since the Middle Ages (after the Reformation and the time of the Monasteries) the churches took upon themselves the care of the poor within their individual parochial boundaries. Every parish established its own rules for carrying out these diaconal tasks. Revenues were, for the most part, derived from church goods and properties (pastoralia) and at times from donations. Until the end of the 18th century, the churches were essentially independent in their implementation of poverty relief. However, the time of Napoleon brought changes to this. It most certainly brought greater interference by the (local) authorities. The municipal councils began to appoint the guardians (usually three) to look after the poor of each village. From about 1809-1810 these local guardians had to give a yearly accounting to the “grietman” (mayor) and the municipal council, usually after these accounts had first been ratified by the taxpayers during a public meeting in the church.
The guardians, as well as the governors of the poorhouse – without exception belonging to the upper socio-economic strata (the elite) of the village – were expected to use their own socio-economic theories in their support the needy. Therefore, some of the poor received a weekly allowance, others were given support “in natura” (an amount of peat, payment of account at the baker’s, the cost of a midwife or doctor, and, when all else failed, their burial, etc.). At times they paid the rent for a house, or provided them a house(usually small) belonging to one of the guardians. Sometimes the guardians arranged for board and lodging for seniors and orphans in other people’s homes. And so the guardians were able to meddle intimately and forcefully in the life and wellbeing of the poor of the community, and since this was of necessity rather arbitrary at times, it in turn gave reason for complaints to the municipal council. The guardians and the deacons, for instance, decided on the amount of rent for guardian housing and deaconry dwellings amongst themselves, which, of course, could be expected to provide its own “argewaasje” (problems).Halfway through the 19th century (1854) each village set up a Board of Charities (armbestuur) with an extensive set of rules established by the municipal council. This set of rules contained, among other things, not only directives concerning the quantity of cod liver oil, meat, and other restoratives to be used in the event of illness or weakness, but also how the board should report on its activities. To supplement its income, the board was subsidized by the municipality. Most village boards were, from 1895 on, gradually abolished and replaced by a central Municipal Board of Charities, and although for a short while some of the village poorhouses continued to be managed by local deaconries most disappeared completely.
In the municipal archive of Ferwerderadeel old documents
by Klaas Leen of the various towns showing what the Guardianship of the
poor/Armvoogdij paid to or for the poor in a particular year:
Furthermore a number of overviews were traced showing the occupants of some poorhouses, and apart from their name, showing date of birth, occupation and date of death: