East Anglian Ancestry for far-away genealogists

User:Ras52, OpenStreetMap, Amitchell125 [CC BY-SA 1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This guide is really aimed at distant cousins with ancestry from the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. It's the perspective of a present day East Anglian from the ground.  My ancestors were the ones that usually stayed in East Anglia.

First - definitions of what constitutes East Anglia.  One modern governmental definition: "the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire".  Estate Agents, trying to sell properties in idyllic East Anglia, often go even further, also including Huntingdonshire, Rutland, parts of Lincolnshire, and Essex.  The ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia (see above image), didn't really include these add-ons.  I go with that, but include parts of northern-most Essex.  Why?  Because on the ground, those areas still feel (and sound) East Anglian.  Norfolk, Suffolk, eastern Cambridgeshire, and northern most Essex.  That feels East Anglian.  But it's heart remains the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.

East Anglia is situated on the North Sea coast of South-East England.  It is lowland.  A chalk bed lazily slopes down from west to east, with a layer of  boulder clay on top running through mid Norfolk and high Suffolk.  I say high, nowhere in East Anglia is high.  This is Low Country.  Our hills are in the main, very gradual, slight affairs.  To the west of the chalk bed, lays even lower country - the ultra-flat landscape of the East Anglian Fens.  Wetlands that have been drained for agriculture in rich peat and silt soils.

East Anglia is rural.  It is agricultural.  Largely arable, with favoured crops of wheat, barley, sugar beet, and oil seed rape.  Medium size agri-business fields of crops across a very gently rolling lowland landscape, with parish church towers around every corner, and a buzzard in every copse of trees.  Ancient narrow roads with bordering hedgerows, twist around long forgotten open fields and farmsteads.  Mixed farming enters the river valleys, where cattle are fattened on rich grasses.  Intensive pig and poultry broiler units also dot the landscape.

What about the East Anglians?  That is one of the subjects of this post.

East Anglia isn't on the road to anywhere, but East Anglia.  You don't pass through East Anglia on the way to the Industrial North, Scotland, Cardiff, Manchester, Birmingham, or London.  It's far out on the periphery of Hub.co.uk.  It's main urban centres are the small City of Norwich, and the towns of Ipswich, Kings Lynn and Bury St Edmunds.  They are all, 'small'. Norwich comes in at a lowly 48th in English town by population size.  You see, small.  Far more medieval towers than modern high rise towers.

After the urban centres, most modern East Anglians probably live in or near the market-towns.  These are really tiny "towns" some little more than villages.  Some are lovely, ancient, with unspoiled centres and market places.  Places such as Wymondham, Holt, Diss, Woodbridge, Swaffham, Beccles, Pulham Market, Laxfield, Long Melford, etc.  There must be dozens scattered across East Anglia.

Wymondham market-town centre.

The rest of the East Anglians live in the countryside, outside of the market-towns.  Trying to explain this to American genealogists where the old Roman ideal of planned city prevails, is difficult.  We have villages.  We have lots of them.  Most are early Medieval in origin.  They are set in ancient divisions known as parishes.  Many East Anglians now live in suburbs on the edges of towns - but until a century or two ago, most of them lived further out in the countryside, in these villages.

How many villages have we got in East Anglia?  Would you believe, somewhere around 1,300, with over 700 in the county of Norfolk alone.  They absolutely dot the East Anglian countryside.  Living in the countryside, in farmsteads and villages - that really is the Anglo-Saxon way of Life.  Look at the below snip of a part of south Norfolk.  See all of those red circles.  Villages.  The Blue circle is a market town on the old Roman road (A140).

© OpenStreetMap contributors

Until a few centuries ago, most East Anglians lived in the countryside.  Most of these villages will have a medieval church.  There are more than 600 of them in Norfolk.  They'll also often have a later non-conformist chapel as well.  Over 600 medieval religious buildings in Norfolk!  Possibly the highest density of medieval churches anywhere in the World.  This is because Medieval Norfolk was central.  It wasn't so peripheral before the Industrial Revolution.  The medieval City of Norwich was the second or third largest city in England after London.  All of those empty medieval churches.  Where did the populace go?  Some of them may have been your ancestors.

How about the origins of the East Anglians themselves?  Who are they?

There are very few "Celtic" place-names in East Anglia, other than the Ouse river system.  Most of the villages and place-names in East Anglia are of Anglo-Saxon origin, dating to between the 6th and 10th centuries AD, around 1,200 years ago.  In addition there are a number of place-names that are Anglo-Danish in origin, dating to the 9th - 11th centuries AD, with a cluster of them in eastern Norfolk.  See the map below, of the area called Flegg, an Anglo-Danish place-name in itself.  All of those -by place-names - they were most likely settled by "Viking" Danish immigrants during the 9th to 11th centuries.

© OpenStreetMap contributors

Previous to the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons during the 5th century AD, the region that we know call East Anglia had for centuries,  been a part of the Western Roman Empire.  Even further back than that, at the turn of prehistory to written history, the northern parts of the region were the home of the Iceni tribal federation, and the southern part to the Trinovante.  These Late Iron Age peoples were descended from an immigration event from the Continent into the British Isles that took place some 2,000 years earlier.  Call their ancestors Bell Beaker, Celt, British Celt, or Ancient Briton - their DNA is still the most dominant aspect of the modern British, and even English gene pool.  The Roman occupation appears to have had little impact on their genetic make up.

Then the Anglo-Saxons arrived.  They came from what is now Northern Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands.  Early Anglo-Saxon artifacts found in East Anglia, have their closest correlation on the Continent with artifacts in Northern Germany, south of the Danish border.  This was the origin of the Angles - which the early kings of East Anglia clearly identified with.  Saxo-Frisians in what is now the Netherlands were well placed to migrate to the region, and contributed to this migrant community.

The most recent genetic studies suggest that rather than displace the Britons in the lowlands, that the Anglo-Saxons admixed with them in marriage.  Indeed, as I said, genetically, the DNA of the earlier Britons is still the majority component, even in England.  There was no genocide.  However, an Anglo Saxon identity, culture, and language was adopted by all during following centuries.

West Stow reconstructed Anglo-Saxon village in Suffolk.  The birth of the East Anglian village.

Not all of the Continental DNA in East Anglia arrived here during the 5th or 6th centuries AD.  Some may have already been here from the Empire, or earlier.  Some arrived during the 9th to 11th century settlement of Danes in the region.  Then the Normans.  The Medieval saw Angevins from Aquitaine, and other French arrive.  Then during the 16th century, there was a significant settlement of Elizabethan Strangers (protestant refugees) from what is now the Netherlands.  Huguenots followed.  Asides from these noteable immigration events, there would have been a drip-drip feed of foreigners into the region.  Dutch herring fishermen and engineers, Lithuanian timber and fur traders.  Drovers from the Midlands.  Indeed surname studies suggest that during the late medieval and following Tudor periods, there were a number of people moving into the Norfolk countryside - from the Continent, but also from other parts of England such as for example, Yorkshire.  East Anglia isn't on the way to any where, but neither is it totally isolated from ingress of new settlers.

The consequence of the location of East Anglia in the North Sea World, is that Genetic Genealogists looking at their DNA "Ethnicity Estimates" or "Ancestry Composition" results might see high levels of DNA matching the panels for the Continent, rather than for the British Isles.

How did the East Anglians live?

Many genealogists proudly brag of documented descent from early medieval kings and emperors (usually Charlemagne).  The lines that they trace in order to claim this must be those of the minority of the medieval European population - the titled and landed nobles, with their heraldic records.  This elite weren't really representative of the entire population.

East Anglians were mainly rural, untitled, and really didn't have a lot of wealth.  During the feudal Medieval, most East Anglians would have been within the ranks of the common peasantry, owing a range of fealties to their lords, in return for protection.  Not all were particularly free, although there were high percentages of freemen peasants in eastern Norfolk.  Others were tied in levels of servitude to their manors.  They tilled their strips in the communal open field systems.  They grazed their meagre livestock on the commons.  They also worked the lord's land, supplied him with sheep fencing, ale, fuel, and grains.  When called on, the men would have served the lord in wars against the Scottish, French or other houses.  Life was hard, brutal, and often too short.  However, the abundance of medieval churches across the region testify to the wealth that their labour actually created.  It testifies to the success of their medieval economy here in East Anglia.

Two men threshing sheaf - Luttrell Psalter c1325-1335 f74v - BL Add MS 42130

Two men threshing sheaf - Luttrell Psalter (c.1325-1335), f.74v  See page for author [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.  Originally published/produced in England [East Anglia].

Most peasant families didn't even adopt hereditary surnames until around the 13th to 15th centuries AD.  Except for brief mentions in manorial records, tithes, and polls, most don't even enter the records until 1538, when parish registers were introduced with the English Reformation.  So unless you tie into an aristocratic line - you are not going to trace your East Anglian ancestry much further back than 1550.  Indeed, many parish registers are damaged, lost, or destroyed.  Many records are illegible.  There is no guarantee of making it back that far.  I find it difficult to trace back rural East Anglian roots with a high degree of certainty much earlier than 1720, for the lack of correlative evidence from censuses, transcripts, etc.
Hoard of 12th century (Henry III) hammered silver coins recovered in Norfolk, and recorded by my late father.

Not all East Anglians worked the soil.  There were skilled crafts people such as the cordwainers, potters, smiths, and weavers.  Some based in villages, others in the towns.  Protestant beliefs and practices spread across Eastern England following the Reformation, particularly in urban areas.  This was re-enforced during the late 16th century AD, when protestant refugees from the Roman-Catholic crown, in the Netherlands, were invited to settle in Norwich, Ipswich, and elsewhere across East Anglia and south east England.  One poll of Norwich at this time suggested that as much as one third of the City population consisted of these Dutch and French protestants.  They were invited not only as allies against Roman Catholic Europe, but to bring their valuable crafts and skills to East Anglia.

Their protestant vigour was infectious.  East Anglia became a hot bed of Protestantism.  As the Crown and Establishment turned down the Reformation, opting for keeping Conservative values in their Anglican Church, so the Protestants ... protested.  Some hopped back over the North Sea to the Netherlands, which had for the time being, repelled the Catholic powers.  However, some of these most puritan protestants then asked the English king for permission to set up their own colonies in New England.  Permission was readily granted.  The Puritans left Eastern England en mass.  The point though is that this particular chapter of East Anglians migrating away, was centred in main, on urban classes, skilled workers, and  those that could actually afford the voyage.

Norfolk saw little bloodshed during the 17th century English Civil War, as it was safely Parliamentarian. Except for a riot and explosion in Norwich when the Puritans tried banning Christmas. 

Back to the countryside...

Between the 16th and 19th centuries AD, the descendants of the old East Anglian peasantry had to adapt to a number of economic changes that were not in their interest.  The great land owning families were enclosing and renting out their lands to free tenant farmers, breaking up the old manorial estates.  Some fields were enclosed, and the peasants found themselves replaced by more profitable sheep.  Even the commons were enclosed and privatised.  While the more entrepreneurial freemen rented out land to farm themselves, as tenant farmers, many others found themselves surplus to requirement, and alienated from the soils that had fed their ancestors for generations.  They became farm hands, the great army of "ag labs" (agricultural labourers) of the 19th century censuses.  Not all  labourers were equal.  The more fortunate, loyal, and skilled might find themselves almost in full employment, with a regular wage and a tied cottage.  The less fortunate were the paupers.  Seasonal workers that had to constantly look for work, or beg for parish relief.  The rural poor didn't always accept these changes without resistance.  In 1381, Norfolk and Suffolk peasants joined in a rebellion that threatened London.  In 1549, Norfolk peasants rose into an army that captured the City of Norwich.  In 1830, East Anglia was a centre of the Swing Riots.

Many agricultural labourers and their families still married and baptised as Anglican at the Church of England, but although much of the puritanical fervour had by now swept away from East Anglia, many were increasingly turning to non-conformist chapels of the Baptists, Congregationalists, and Methodists.  The Primitive Methodists were particularly successful in East Anglia during the 19th Century.

If you had rural working class East Anglian ancestors during the 16th to 19th centuries, imagine them very poor.  Following the Agricultural Revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries, new machines and technologies replaced much seasonal and manual labour on the fields.  The commons, where the poor had grazed their animals had been taken away.  Poor relief was ceased, and the desperate were forced to enter prison-like workhouses, in order to be fed - families split into separate dormitories, the poor harshly penalised, and discouraged from asking for relief.

How the land owners, farmers, and parsons saw it - the East Anglian countryside simply had a large surplus of unwanted labour.  They were encouraged to leave.  Some to far away colonies - Australia and Canada.  Others to feed the factories and mills of the Industrial Revolution in places like Newcastle, Yorkshire, or London.  For many - the railways arrived just in time to escort them away.

Example of East Anglian Accent.

Researching rural East Anglian ancestry

Understand that:

  1. Most East Anglians were not titled, nor recorded in heraldic records.
  2. Parish registers online are incomplete.  Not all parishes or registers have even been digitally photographed.
  3. Some parish registers have been lost, destroyed, or are badly damaged.
  4. The transcriptions of the registers on some online genealogical services are sometimes incorrect.  Always if you can, try to see scans of the original registers online.  Because of these frequent errors, the databases often fail on searches.
  5. If your ancestor was rural, use OpenStreetMap.org and magnify down to get to really know the area that they lived in.  Appreciate distances by foot.  People did sometimes move more than several miles - but very often in East Anglia, didn't!  It's not unusual to see one family in the same small parish for several generations.  Sometimes marrying cousins.  It was the arrival of the railways, that sometimes allowed families to finally escape the rural poverty.
  6. You find Harry X marries Mary Z in a village.  You search the online databases for his baptism (and parentage).  You find a baptism of a Harry X in the same county.  You add him and his parents to your tree.  Problem is ... the baptism was 23 miles away, and you don't realise it, but there were a number of Harry X at the same time, several closer to the place of marriage - you have made an error.  You just saw the one on the database.  More research might have uncovered a more likely candidate, with siblings named like his children, in the village next to that in which he married Mary Z.  Getting to know the area really well may have made you search harder.
  7. Illegitimacy is a surprise to some.  You will see plenty of it in 18th and 19th century East Anglia.  It was generated by poverty, poor housing, poor education, and desperation.
  8. Most of your rural working class ancestors will be illiterate, and sign with an X.  Education of the labourers was discouraged.  However, now and then, you will find one that served as the parish clerk.  Some could read.
  9. Widows and widowers, with children in tow, would frequently remarry quickly.  Support for the children was vital to keep them out of the workhouse.
  10. Infant mortality can be very depressing or sobering.  Expect some high rates.
  11. Don't be surprised to find ancestors listed as paupers, or as inmates in workhouses, gaols, or even the asylum.
  12. Check non-conformist church records, as well as the Anglican.  The Methodists operated by "circuits".

Generation Eight. The great great great great great grandparents.


Above, the parish church of Strumpshaw in Norfolk.

5 x great grandparents (Generation 8)! Now that is difficult. My percentages really start to fall away at this generation - only 51% named (compared to 89% of Gen. 7). What a challenge.

Right, what I do have:
  1. Edward Brucker. b.1757 Long Wittenham, Berkshire, England.
  2. Elizabeth Brucker (nee Gregory). b.1761 Long Wittenham, Berkshire, England.
  3. brickwall
  4. brickwall
  5. John Edney. b.1743 Whitchurch, Oxfordshire, England
  6. Mary Edney (nee Crutchfield). b.1740 Whitchurch, Oxfordshire, England.
  7. brickwall
  8. brickwall
  9. brickwall
  10. brickwall
  11. David Durran. b.1782 Steeple Ashton, Oxfordshire, England.
  12. Ann Durran (nee Lardner). b.1782. Lived Deddington, Oxfordshire, England.
  13. William Waine. b.1770. Lived Tadmarton, Oxfordshire, England.
  14. Elizabeth Waine (nee ?). Lived Tadmarton, Oxfordshire, England.
  15. brickwall
  16. brickwall
  17. brickwall
  18. brickwall
  19. Henry Baxter. b.1763 Dereham, Norfolk, England.
  20. Mary Baxter (nee Bennett) b.1763 Norfolk, England.
  21. brickwall
  22. brickwall
  23. brickwall
  24. Jane Barker. Norfolk, England
  25. brickwall
  26. brickwall
  27. brickwall
  28. Sarah Barber. b.1782 East Tuddenham, Norfolk, England.
  29. brickwall
  30. Elizabeth Harris. b.1768 Swanton Morley, Norfolk, England.
  31. John Smith. b.1731 Attleborough, Norfolk, England.
  32. Judith Smith (nee Dennis). b.1745 Coston, Norfolk, England.
  33. Richard Smith. b.1775 Attleborough, Norfolk, England.
  34. Mary Smith (nee ?). Lived Attleborough, Norfolk, England.
  35. William Hewitt. Lived Attleborough, Norfolk, England.
  36. Elizabeth Hewitt (nee ?). Lived Attleborough, Norfolk, England.
  37. John Freeman. Lived Attleborough, Norfolk, England.
  38. Anne Freeman (nee ?). Lived at Attleborough, Norfolk, England.
  39. Peter Peach. b.1730. Maxey, Northants, England.
  40. Mary Peach (nee Rippon). b.1734 Maxey, Northants, England.
  41. brickwall
  42. brickwall
  43. Peter Riches. b.1755 Old Buckenham, Norfolk, England.
  44. Mary Riches (nee Harrison). b.1756 Old Buckenham, Norfolk, England.
  45. William Snelling. Lived Carlton Rode, Norfolk, England.
  46. Mary Snelling (nee Lewell). b.1753 Kenninghall, Norfolk, England.
  47. brickwall
  48. brickwall
  49. brickwall
  50. brickwall 
  51. brickwall
  52. brickwall
  53. brickwall
  54. brickwall
  55. brickwall
  56. brickwall
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  60. brickwall
  61. John Goodram. Lived Morningthorpe, Norfolk, England.
  62. Lydia Goodram (nee Hammond). b.1749 Morningthorpe, Norfolk, England.
  63. brickwall
  64. brickwall
  65. John Curtis. Lived Hassingham, Norfolk, England.
  66. Ann Curtis (nee Annison). Lived Hassingham, Norfolk, England.
  67. John Rose. b.1775 Strumpshaw, Norfolk, England.
  68. Martha Rose (nee Rowland). b.1779 Strumpshaw, Norfolk, England.
  69. Benjamin Larke. b.1751 Cantley, Norfolk, England.
  70. Mary Larke (nee Marsh). b.1769 Norfolk, England.
  71. Thomas Dingle. b.1757 Moulton St Mary, Norfolk, England.
  72. Mary Dingle (nee Ginby). Lived Strumpshaw, Norfolk, England.
  73. Henry Rose. b.1779 Strumpshaw, Norfolk, England.
  74. Margaret Rose (nee Ling). b.1781 Acle, Norfolk, England.
  75. brickwall
  76. brickwall
  77. brickwall
  78. brickwall
  79. Benjamin Merrison. b.1759 Repps-with-Bastwick, Norfolk, England.
  80. Lydia Merrison (nee Norton). b.1774 Strumpshaw, Norfolk, England.
  81. brickwall
  82. brickwall
  83. John Briggs. b.1753 North Burlingham, Norfolk, England.
  84. Elizabeth Briggs (nee Jacobs). Lived Strumpshaw, Norfolk, England.
  85. brickwall
  86. brickwall
  87. brickwall
  88. brickwall
  89. Alexander Goffen. b.1705. Lived Rollesby, Norfolk, England.
  90. Anna Goffen (nee ?). Lived Strumpshaw, Norfolk, England.
  91. James Shepherd. Lived Reedham, Norfolk, England.
  92. Judith Shepherd (nee Maye). b.1749. Lived Reedham, Norfolk, England.
  93. William Nichols. Lived Halvergate, Norfolk, England.
  94. Elizabeth Nichols (nee Thurkettle). lived Halvergate, Norfolk, England.
  95. brickwall
  96. brickwall
  97. Thomas Tovel. Lived Wrentham, Suffolk, England.
  98. Hannah Tovel (nee Brown). Lived Wrentham, Suffolk, England.
  99. George Smith. Lived Toft Monks, Norfolk, England.
  100. Elizabeth Smith (nee Wittham). Lived Toft Monks, Norfolk, England.
  101. brickwall
  102. brickwall
  103. brickwall
  104. brickwall
  105. brickwall
  106. brickwall
  107. James Porter. b.1727. Lived at Blofield and Limpenhoe, Norfolk, England.
  108. Elizabeth Porter (nee Mollett). Lived at Blofield and Limpenhoe, Norfolk, England.
  109. William Springall. Lived at Strumpshaw, Norfolk, England.
  110. Susanna Springall (nee Mingay). Lived at Strumpshaw, Norfolk, England.
  111. Jacob Wymer. b.1756 Moulton St Mary, Norfolk, England.
  112. Elisabeth Wymer (nee Moll). Lived at Moulton St Mary, Norfolk, England.
  113. brickwall
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  116. brickwall
  117. John Thacker. b.1764 Woodbastwick, Norfolk, England.
  118. Ann Thacker (nee Hewitt). b.1774 Salhouse, Norfolk, England.
  119. brickwall
  120. brickwall
  121. Abraham Daynes. Lived at Wicklewood, Norfolk, England.
  122. Elizabeth Daynes (nee Moore). b. 1748 Wymondham, Norfolk, England.
  123. brickwall
  124. brickwall
  125. brickwall
  126. brickwall
  127. Robert Page. b.1752 Wymondham, Norfolk, England.
  128. Elizabeth Page (nee Hardment). b.1751 Bunwell, Norfolk, England.


Who were my great great great great grandmothers? Generation 7 Female ancestors

Above.  One of my daughters posing in workhouse pauper attire, in the very workhouse that some of her own ancestors lived.  Gressenhall Rural-Life Museum, Norfolk.

Here I will attempt to list as many of my 4 x great grandmothers, who they were, where they lived, and something about them.

  1. Elizabeth Brooker (nee Seymore).  b.1797 Drayton, Oxon. England.  Mother to seven children.  Wife of an agricultural labourer.
  2. Hannah Edney (nee Hedges)  b. 1784 Enstone, Oxon, England.  Wife of a thatcher.
  3. Brickwall.  Switzerland.  Wife of a copper smith.
  4. Susannah Durran (nee Waine) b. 1809 Tadmarton, Oxon, England.  Wife of a tailor, mother of seven.
  5. Anne Bennett (nee Neale).  b. 1786 Norfolk, England.  Farmer's wife.
  6. Frances Baxter (nee Shilling). b. 1778 Gressenhall, Norfolk, England.  Bricklayer's wife and mother of four.
  7. Mary Barker (nee Bligh). b. 1797 Scarning, Norfolk, England.  A shoe maker's wife.
  8. Jemima Barber (nee Harris).  b. 1800 Swanton Morley, Norfolk, England, an agricultural labourer's wife, and mother of eight.
  9. Mary Smith (nee Smith).  b. 1775 Attleborough, Norfolk, England.  An agricultural labourer's wife, and mother of seven.
  10. Elizabeth Hewitt (nee Freeman).  b. 1779 Attleborough, Norfolk, England.  An agricultural labourer's wife, and mother of five children.
  11. Ann Peach (nee ?)  b. 1779. Northants, England.  Wife of a Shepherd, mother of four.
  12. Elizabeth Riches (nee Snelling) b.1781 Banham, Norfolk, England.  Wife of an agricultural labourer, mother of nine children.
  13. Elizabeth Barber (nee ?) Lived at Halesworth, Suffolk, England.
  14. Brickwall
  15. Elizabeth Beckett (nee ?)  b.1770.  Lived at Tasburgh, Norfolk, England.  Wife of an agricultural labourer, mother of seven.
  16. Frances Gooderham (nee ?) b.1790 Saham Toney, Norfolk, England.  Wife of an agricultural labourer, mother of eight.
  17. Mary Ann Curtis (nee Rose) b.1806 Buckenham Ferry, Norfolk, England.  Wife of a marshman and agricultural labourer, mother of nine.
  18. Elizabeth Larke (nee Dingle)  b.1795 Strumpshaw, Norfolk, England.  Wife of an agricultural labourer. Only two children found.
  19. Elizabeth Rose (nee Brooks) b.1806 Postwick, Norfolk, England.  Wife of agricultural labourer, mother of nine.
  20. Hopeful Barker (nee Morrison) b.1804 Lingwood, Norfolk, England.  Wife of an agricultural labourer, mother of eight. 
  21. Susanna Key (nee Briggs) b.1781 Strumpshaw, Norfolk, England.  Wife of an agricultural labourer, mother of four.
  22. Elizabeth Waters (nee Ransby) b.1772 Freethorpe, Norfolk, England.  Wife of a mole catcher, mother of four.
  23. Judith Goffen (nee Shepherd) b.1772 Reedham, Norfolk, England.  Wife of a carpenter, mother of six.
  24. Emily Nichols (nee Beck) b. 1795 Halvergate, Norfolk, England.  Wife of an agricultural labourer, mother of only two known.
  25. Elizabeth Tovell (nee Smith) b.1795 Toft Monks, Norfolk, England.  Wife of an agricultural labourer, mother of six.
  26. Ann Tammas (nee Dove) b.1786 Norfolk, England.  Wife of an agricultural labourer, mother of five.
  27. Ann Lawn (nee Porter) b.1763 Limpenhoe, Norfolk, England.  Wife of an agricultural labourer, mother of four.
  28. Mary Springall (nee Wymer) b.1789 Mouton St Mary, Norfolk, England.  Wife of an agricultural labourer, mother of seven.
  29. Brickwall
  30. Catharine Thacker (nee Hagon) b.1797 Shipdham, Norfolk, England.  Wife of an agricultural labourer, mother of three (died 1832, husband remarried).
  31. Sarah Daynes (nee ?) b.1783 Witchingham, Norfolk, England.  Wife of an agricultural labourer, mother of ten.
  32. Mary Quantrill (nee Page) b.1791 Wymondham, Norfolk, England.  Wife of a weaver, mother of four

What I will also say, is that these ancestors could have had more children, that I have not found baptism records for.  Also, that in addition to looking after the household, and rearing so many children, they would have to contribute to income whenever they could, be it by laundering for others, tailoring, and seasonal casual work on the fields.

Who my great great great great grandfathers were, and what they did. Generation 7. Male ancestors.

Just who were my Generation 7 direct male ancestors - my 4 x great grandfathers?  What were their occupations?  Where were they, and how did they support themselves and their families?

  1. John Brooker. b.1788, Long Wittenham, Berkshire, England. Agricultural labourer.
  2. Thomas Edney. b.1785 Whitchurch, Oxfordshire, England. Thatcher.
  3. John Shawers (Shuarze?). b. circa 1800 Switzerland. Copper smith.
  4. Benjamin Durran. b.1810 North Aston, Oxfordshire, England. Tailor.
  5. John Bennett. Lived Norfolk, England. b.1788. Farmer.
  6. Samuel Baxter. b.1787 Dereham, Norfolk, England. Brick layer.
  7. Charles Barker. b.1795 Dereham, Norfolk, England. Shoe maker.
  8. James Alderton Barber. b.1803 Swanton Morley, Norfolk, England. Agricultural labourer.
  9. Raphael Smith. b.1775 Attleborough, Norfolk, England. Agricultural labourer.
  10. Robert Hewitt. b.1782 Attleborough, Norfolk, England. Agricultural labourer.
  11. John Peach. b.1770 Maxey, Northants, England. Shepherd.
  12. Benjamin Riches. b.1779 Old Buckenham, Norfolk. Agricultural labourer.
  13. Benjamin Barber. b. circa 1772. Lived Halesworth, Suffolk, England. No trade found in records.
  14. Brick wall
  15. John Ellis. b. 1773 Lived in Tasburgh, Norfolk, England. Agricultural labourer.
  16. James Gooderham. b.1786 Hempnall, Norfolk, England. Agricultural labourer.
  17. William Curtis. b.1808 Hassingham, Norfolk, England. Marshman, agricultural labourer, and steam engine driver.
  18. Samuel Larke. b.1795 Cantley, Norfolk, England. Agricultural labourer.
  19. William Rose. b.1804 Brundall, Norfolk, England. Agricultural labourer.
  20. Thomas Barker. b.1801 Moulton St Mary, Norfolk, England. Agricultural labourer.
  21. William Key. b.1778 Postwick, Norfolk, England. Agricultural labourer.
  22. Robert Waters. b.1771 Freethorpe, Norfolk, England. Mole catcher.
  23. Richard Goffen. b.1731 Strumpshaw, Norfolk, England. Carpenter.
  24. John Nichols. b.1786 Halvergate, Norfolk, England. Agricultural labourer.
  25. Thomas Tovell. b.1785 Wrentham, Suffolk, England. Agricultural labourer.
  26. Edward Tammas. b.1774 Langley, Norfolk, England. Agricultural labourer.
  27. William Lawn. b.1761 Norfolk. Lived at Halvergate, Norfolk, England. Agricultural labourer.
  28. William Springall. b.1788 Halvergate, Norfolk, England. Agricultural labourer.
  29. Brick wall
  30. William Thacker. b.1796 Salhouse, Norfolk, England. Agricultural labourer.
  31. Reuben Daynes. b.1781 Brandon Parva, Norfolk, England. Agricultural labourer.
  32. Robert Quantrill. b.1797 Norfolk, Lived Wymondham, Norfolk, England. Weaver.


Genetic Genealogy - verifying the family tree with shared DNA segments

This is an aspect of Genetic Genealogy that I'm sure is well known to some researchers, but that, I'm only just starting to appreciate.  I've been DNA testing for ancestry heavily for a year or two, but my prime interest has been older ancestry, admixture, and population genetics.  All of my early attempts to contact matches through 23andme and GedMatch, resulted in frustrated conversations with North American testers, that had no paper trail back before their ancestors emigrated.  Today, I matched on AncestryDNA with a third cousin.  The DNA prediction was fourth cousin, but the relationship on paper is third cousin.  This was my third match, confirmed by both shared DNA segments, and by a shared paper trail to common direct ancestors.  How cool is that?  Finding that yourself, and other researchers, share segments of the same DNA that appear to have been inherited through recent common descent.  Finding each other through the code of Life that is in our cells, and being able to see where that DNA came from in our family trees!

The image at the top of this post represents the biologically verified tree, as represented by colour shaded areas of my pedigree fan.  This is based on descent from shared ancestry found in DNA matches.  There is always the slight possibility that we share DNA from other unknown or unrecorded routes.  But the probabilities are high, that these shared segments of DNA do come from the known common ancestral roots in our trees.  The stronger the verification, perhaps through multiple matches, the darker the shade.

This discovery of a third cousin on AncestryDNA, combined with my mapping of the correlations between paper trail and DNA matches serves as an incentive to work harder on finding and contacting matches.  I've also spotted common DNA segments with someone that flags up as a fourth cousin ... but according to our shared paper trails, and family lore, should be a second cousin.  I'm trying to get a response from the tester.  But have I uncovered another family secret?

Total Genealogy

I'm certainly not descended from the bonobos in the above photograph (Credit: W. H. Calvin Ape Bonobo San Diego Zoo.  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0).  However, at some point, perhaps around seven million years ago, we do share common ancestry.  That is a link in the inter-connectivity of Life on Earth.  Also an excuse to post a photo of those wonderful beings.

I recently attended a lecture on Total Genealogy, but I was disappointed that the subject was surname study.  I had hoped that it would relate more to my own concept of the term.  A genealogy that doesn't just embrace documentary research of recorded ancestors over the past 500 years or so, but a more general interest in heritage, that overlaps with DNA, genetics, population genetics, anthropology, physical anthropology, archaeology, local history, national and regional history, cultural and social history, prehistory, linguistics, human evolution, and yes, even our shared ancestry with those bonobo cousins.  Everything ancestral, how we came to be how we are, and above all, time travel in our imaginations.  That is what I mean by Total Genealogy.

Researching the written record, following names is great fun.  Why should the fun stop there though?  Where were my ancestors 12,000 years ago?  Actually, DNA and population studies gives my imagination some good answers to that question.  What did my ancestors 500,000 years look like?  How did they live?  If I could time travel, what would I see?

Total genealogy leads you to bridges, the concept of genetic folding, and of bottlenecks.  You start to relate closer to all humans, and see everyone as a distant cousin.  It embraces a love of heritage, of people, and of the Natural World.  It leaves me in awe.

Medieval Mobility, DNA tests, and the East Anglian

Two men threshing sheaf - Luttrell Psalter c1325-1335 f74v - BL Add MS 42130

Two men threshing sheaf - Luttrell Psalter (c.1325-1335), f.74v  See page for author [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.  Originally published/produced in England [East Anglia].

My last post on the Norfolk 16th century surname study has made me look at my medieval East Anglian roots a little differently.  It suggests that there may have been a fair amount of mobility and migration in East Anglia, and from outside, from both Northern England, and from the nearby Continent.  Although current commercial autosomal DNA tests for ancestry are clearly contradictory, behind them lays a common pattern.  My auDNA is little bit more similar to people living on the Continent, in places like France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and also further to the south - than it is for most British testers.  This is despite my known English family history and recorded ancestry.  These commercial DNA tests usually claim to investigate your family ancestry over the past 250 - 500 years only.  I'm convinced that is untrue.  I can't help but see population background, and shared patterns from testers that have no known, or little known migration or admixture in places such as England, and Northern France.  These appear to represent older migration and population admixture events that are shared across local genomes.

However, maybe there is something that these tests are telling me - but only after taking into account to the results of other British testers.  I now believe that I may have underestimated mobility around East Anglia and England between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries - that precedes any of my recorded ancestry.  I also feel the need to reassess Continental migration to East Anglia.  It appears it was not all urban or bourgeois.  The Anglo-Saxon fifth century AD may have marked the most significant migration event to south east Britain, but I know believe that I have underestimated how much migration and exchange has occurred across the North Sea ever since.

Focusing first on movements within East Anglia, and England, I have in my last post,  Norfolk surnames in the sixteenth century, provided locative surname evidence.

Let's look at some more historical research.

"Considerable personal mobility existed from the later Middle Ages.  From the mid fourteenth century the loosening of seigneurial bonds allowed English people to become even more mobile.  Landlords complained that tenants were deserting their holdings for better land elsewhere and that servants and labourers were seeking higher wages from other employers.".

"From the sixteenth century, migration and personal mobility becomes better documented.  A study of tax records for Towcester in Northamptonshire showed a considerable turnover of the population between consecutive years.  In 1525 47 of the 278 men taxed in the previous year had left.  This unusually full source shows that six of the 47 had died and 41 had migrated.  This represents a turnover rate of 16.9 per cent a year - higher than any other communities in pre-industrial England.".

The continuity (and discontinuity) of surnames over a period of time indicates the movement of individuals and families with the same surname in and out of the community.  The small 'close' village of Glynde (population 216 in the 1801 census) lies three miles from the East Sussex county town of Lewes.  Between 1558 and 1812 out of 444 different surnames that appeared in the parish register (excluding people whose only connection with the village was to marry in its church) 261 surnames (58.8 per cent) occurred only once and 71 per cent were found only during a period of 25 years or less.".

Source: The English Rural Community: Image and Analysis. Brian short. 1992.

So, maybe I need to discard ideas of my mother's tight cluster of recorded ancestry as having been so localised for so long.  Although, the density of the cluster does suggest that she probably have some direct ancestry in the Reedham area of East Norfolk for a very long time, perhaps back to the early medieval, there is also a good probability that her medieval ancestry stretched much further across the region, England, and to the Continent.  Indeed, her known ancestral proximity to the coast and a tidal navigable river makes that Continental ancestry more likely.  For my father's ancestry - the majority recorded East Anglian, but with known ancestry going back to Oxfordshire, Berkshire, London, and the East Midlands, this might be even more the case.