An ancestor with a drink problem

Newspaper archives are one of my favourite genealogical resources.  Asides from scrolling through microfilm at local studies libraries, I also subscribe the the British Newspaper Archive at Findmypast.co.uk and I've used it to add a lot of meat to the bones.  However ... these reports, especially when pertaining to my poor ancestors, were as often as not, generated when they had gotten themselves into a little mischief or trouble.  Sometimes as victims, sometimes as guilty parties.

This one, on my mother's side.

15th September 1803.  Postwick, Norfolk.




I believe that poor guy, William Key, who's body was found in the river, was my 5th great grandfather, William Key.  It says "drowned himself".  He had married Sarah Wymer in 1778 (a very Norfolk surname, that appears a few times in my tree), and they had four children, one born in 1799.  I wonder what happened?  Non compos mentis.  Insane.  At least that was how they saw it in 1803.

Their descendants never moved far from the River Yare or that tributary, the Wensum.  That river flows through the family history.  Their grown son, William Key (II), had moved down the Yare a few miles, and lived in the village of Freethorpe.  He had married Susanna Flint in 1801.  However, Susanna (née Flint) died shortly after, and a few years later, William, a widower at age 24, stood in nearby Strumpshaw church, where he married would you believe, another Susanna, Susannah Briggs.  These sort of events can so confuse genealogists.  In a short time, he had married two Susannahs.  Easily missed.

By Susannah (née Briggs), he had five children.  Their mother's family must have held some sort of importance to them, as three of them had Briggs as a second forename. Both William, and Susannah's fathers - as most men were in Norfolk, worked as agricultural labourers, farm hands if you like.  As was also indeed, their first son, my 3rd great grandfather, William Key (III).  William the Third, married my 3rd great grandmother, Mary Waters at Freethorpe Church here in Norfolk, in 1823.



They had several children in Freethorpe, including in 1848, my 2nd great grandfather, George Key - and this is where my story is heading.

George married Sarah Ann Goffen at Freethorpe Church in 1870.  Sarah's family were involved in the Wherry trade along the River Yare.  Wherries were a particular Norfolk style of sailing boat, used for tranporting goods and people, along the waterways known as the Norfolk Broads:



Her father and his brothers were either wherrymen / watermen, boat carpenters, riverside innkeepers, or ran lime yards next to the river a couple of miles away at Reedham.  Her father was pretty much all of them, especially an inn keeper, and a carpenter.  Perhaps he introduced his daughter Sarah to George in the boatyard - as young George was a journeyman carpenter.

Here's a photo that includes Sarah - the little old lady right in the centre of my grandparent's wedding in 1932, behind bride and groom:




George and Sarah went on to have five children born at Freethorpe, including my great grandmother Florence Key.  In family lore, I knew nothing about her husband, my 2nd great grandfather George Key.  Then the British Newspaper Archives opened up an insight.  But perhaps it wasn't the best insight into George's character.

It appears that he had a drink problem.  So bad, that he kept being arrested by the local policeman:



Oh dear.  He's only been married to Sarah for eight years.  They have two daughters and a third on the way.  Charged with drunkeness on the highway, and fined 5 shillings with 11 shillings costs.  That must have hurt the family.  Was it a one off?

The following January:



Oh no!  I feel so sorry for my 2nd great grandmother.  Not only was her husband a drunk, but also a wife abuser.  But I'm proud that she had him charged for the "threatening language" that he used against her.  The little woman had guts.  She had three young kids to care for.  George was bound over for six months.  He had to stay good.

Maybe he did stay good for a while.  But not for ever.

1897:



Now he's nicked table cloths from a pub!  He gets a massive three quid fine, and a month's hard labour in prison.  He was on remand.  He hasn't been a good boy.  Poor Sarah.

Finally, 1899:



Twelve previous convictions for being out on the lash!  He never reformed.  He had a drink problem throughout his adult life.  He's now up to recieving punishments of a fine and 14 days of hard labour in the nick.

George passed away in 1912.  In this case, no family lore reached me.  Nothing indicated on the usual birth, death, marriages, certificates, etc.

The Buzzard

Photo above by Tom Lee at Flickr

The first wild buzzard that I ever saw was on Dartmoor.  That must have been during the 1980s.  A little later, I saw them in Scotland.  There were no buzzards in East Anglia when I was a kid.  The Victorian gamekeeper had shot and gin trapped them to extinction in SE England.

Move on to the 21st century, and you can see buzzards all over East Anglia.  Over fields, woodlands, even marshes.  They came back, and they came back in force.


My last post about biophillia wouldn't be complete without mentioning the buzzard.  I've seen and heard several individuals on a single day's hike across Norfolk.  You hear or see them, often in pairs, gliding along the headlands of fields, before settling in a copse of trees.  You witness a pair, and just as their calls start to fade, you hear more ahead.  I've found their feathers.  I've had several close encounters.  Magical moments, where I've spotted their silent flight from a spot only metres away.  Every time is magic 


The above woodlands provide one example, during a hike, along the Wherryman's Way, on a hot summers day earlier this year.  As I approached in the day's heat, I could hear buzzards in those trees, either side of the narrow path.


As I pass through, I see large brown wings launching from branches.  I can't describe the feeling that these sightings give me, except that it's as close to anything that this atheist experiences to spiritual.

A buzzard above the Wherryman's Way in Norfolk, being mobbed by a hobby.

I've seen them launch from nearby foliage, as I cross the footbridge over a stream.  I've seen one sitting on a dead rabbit in a field.  I've seen one land on the road in front of our car, before launching up again, providing a magical spectacle.  I've seen them among the back headed gulls following a plough for worms and bugs.  I've seen many of them being mobbed on the wing by rooks and carrion crows, that clearly regard them as a threat to the rookery.  I've seen them soaring over medieval churches, on fence posts by busy roads, over marshes, flying over the suburbs of Norwich, on the ground in horse paddocks.

Now red kites, another raptor that has returned to East Anglia, are a wonderful sight.  But for myself, it's the common buzzard.


Buzzard over the Boadica Way, Norfolk.

Biophillia and other things

Waterloo Plantation, Hainford.

An attraction to woodlands.

I've not posted much recently, because I've spent my online time doing other things, including reviving a blog dedicated to bikejoring and other dog activities.  I'd abandoned it eight years ago, and forgotten all about it.  The Bikejoring Blog.

I don't really have any news on population genetics or genetic genealogy, except to say, that I'm growing bored with some aspects of it, and have lost a lot of faith in general DNA testing for ancestry.

On documentary genealogy, yes I still pursue from time to time, and I'm sure that I'll be posting more family history and discoveries soon.  I'm still that time traveller.  In archaeology - I need to plan and book a place on a dig next year.

I've spent a lot of time training and playing with my pup, Byker:

Indeed exercising the dogs appear to take up an awful lot of my time these days.

When I was age, around 10 - 11 years, I would often visit a private commercial woodland near to where I then lived in Thorpe St Andrews.  It was rich in bird-life.  I'd see nuthatches, great spotted woodpeckers, treecreepers, long tailed titmice, and blackcaps.  The forester would catch me and politely turf me out.  He'd explain to me, that he knew that my pursuits were innocent enough - but it would be opening the gates to other kids, including those with lighters and matches.

The photo at the top of this photo was taken in Waterloo Plantation, Hainford.  When I was age 13 - 15 years, during the 1970s, I lived nearby.  And again for a while age 18 - 24 years.  Only a small patch of woodland, but I'd always be attracted to it.  Dog walking, bird watching, hunting rabbits with ferrets, hunting insects to feed avairy birds, collecting moss and lichen to decorate my bird's show cages. 

Later, for several years, I lived in the Thetford area.  I'd use the surrounding forest so much.  Dog walking, deer spotting, bikejoring, canicross, archaeological surveying, mushroom foraging, and offroad cycling.

I recognised back then, that I was a biophilliac.  I don't state that as a matter of fact, or as some sort of special gift, or hocus pocus.  Just a fact.  I seem to get something a little bit more than other people do, from being out in what might be described as Nature.  In contact with dogs.  Alert to wild-life.  Surrounded by greenery and perhaps a bit of wilderness. On my own, sure, sometimes.  It's something that I acknowledge about myself.  It is one of the drives behind my hikes.  It's no accident that I've been attracted to woodlands all of my life.  It brings me calm.  I seem to need it.  My meditation. Time in the woods, forests, fields, marshes, or walking ancient green lanes.  It's as though I sometimes need a top up to keep me sane.  I think that reflects in my photography, that has become far more about how I feel, than about the art, or popularity that I once sought through the medium of black and white film.  Now I see more in colour.

Horsford Woods.

The Sleeve Tattoo - first phase.

My latest tattoo.  Black and grey realism work by Ross Lee of Ink Addiction tattoo studio in Norwich.  This is the first phase of a full sleeve project on my right arm and shoulder.  Hopefully complete by Summer 2019. If you can't see it - then you're not a NW European prehistorian.  It's a British landscape scene, with boulder rocks in the foreground.  On those rocks are a series of carvings pecked into rock, during the Later Neolithic and Earlier Bronze Age.  They consist of a class of Rock Art markings known as cups and rings, or cup and ring markings.

No-one really knows what they symbolised.  I can't think of a more worthy tattoo for a time traveller.

My right arm will eventually be covered with a series of panels displaying cup and ring marks in British landscapes.

Genetic Genealogy Updated October 2018

My current (2018-10-07) Pedigree chart by recorded genealogy:

Verified by DNA matches:


The yellow shaded areas are on my father's side - but contentious, small segment matches (6 cM and 8 cM), through my paternnal line great grandfather, that I'm investigating.