Two Fathers and more Online Genealogy

The above photograph is of my great great grandfather, William Bennett Baxter, born at Gressenhall Workhouse, Norfolk, England, in 1846.

Well, I've finally updated my Gramps genealogical database for the first time for months.  It's grown!  It now includes details for over 1,600 ancestors and family relatives.  I have to admit, a lot of the swell is down to online genealogical research, using Findmypast.co.uk, Ancestry.co.uk, Norfolk FHS, BMD, FamilySearch.org, etc.  I DON'T ever resort to copying off other people's trees, although I do at times, when I'm stuck, check them to see how other's think, as the hints that they should be.  To be honest though, I often don't agree with their conclusions.  

I do use Search.  I do use transcriptions - but whenever the original image is available (as it increasingly is now), I do verify with it.  Quite often, transcribers get it wrong.  I do also enjoy browsing through digitalised images of parish records, looking for siblings and clues.

Two Fathers

With traditional documentary-based genealogical research, we of course cannot prove a biological line.  We can rarely identify NPEs (Non-Parental Events).  All that we can do, is do our very best to track names through family interviews, documents and records.  Wherever possible, we should verify connections, check and record sources, look for correlations.  This isn't however always possible.  The genealogist has to then decide whether they have enough evidence to connect an ancestor.

For quite some time, I was proud that I had recorded all of my ancestors up to and including great great grandparent level.  However, at great great great grandparent level (Generation 6), I had three missing direct ancestors.  All three of them were the unrecorded father's of three great great grandparents, born illegitimate in Norfolk during the 19th Century.  I had 29 out of 32 biological ancestors recorded for Generation 6.

Then recently, I cracked two of them!  At least I have one evidence for their names.  Two of my illegitimate born great great grandparents, William Bennett Baxter, and Harriet Barber, were actually a married couple.  They were both illegitimate, and had both been born in Gressenhall Union Workhouse close to East Dereham in Norfolk.  William was base-born there  to a pauper named Eliza Baxter.  That she gave him the middle name "Bennett", and there had been Bennetts in the area, always made me suspect that his biological father was believed to have belonged to a Bennett Family, but which?

Then some research online, and it was a back to basics research that cracked it.  I was sure that I had seen their 1866 marriage certificate or entry, at nearby Swanton Morley before, probably years ago.  But if I had seen it before, and I now suspect that I hadn't, then I missed the key.  They BOTH named their alleged biological fathers in their marriage register entry!  How could I have not seen this before?

William Bennett Baxter claimed that he was the son of a labourer, by the name of ... William Bennett.  Harriet Baxter (nee Barber), claimed that her father was a labourer by the name of William Barker.  It's only their word, on their marriage entry - to their knowledge, but I've accepted that testimony, and have added ancestors on those lines.  I haven't yet found much about William Bennett. But I did quickly find more on my 4 x great grandfather William Barker.  He was a shoe maker in East Dereham, the son of a master boot maker.  Perhaps his family didn't approve.  Two years later he married an Elizabeth Wales.

My Fan Chart of Direct Ancestry, updated. I now have 234 direct ancestors named.

Other New Ancestors

The majority (but not all) of my newly claimed ancestors have been Norfolk ancestors on my Father's paternal side, balancing things up rather nicely.  Some of the newly discovered branches include a substantial number of new ancestors recorded both in Dereham, Norfolk, and in the nearby village of Swanton Morley.  They were two very ancestral homes in my tree.  I've recently extended the Baxter of Dereham line back safely to the 1760's.  I've also traced more of my great grandmother Faith Brooker's (nee Baxter) tree, including her direct maternal line to a Rachael Bradfield of Dereham.  Her daughter Elizabeth was baptised there in 1745.  In 1767, Elizabeth Bradfield married our 7 x great grandfather Solomon Harris at Swanton Morley.

I've also extended the line going back from my paternal grandmother (Doris Brooker nee Smith).  I've found more of her ancestors in the South Norfolk village of Hedenham, stretching back to a James Goodram, the son of John and Lydia Goodrum.  James was baptised at Hedenham in 1780.

Finally, I've tidied a few dates on my mother's side, and even started to reassess the ancestry of my children's mother.

Here is a count of direct ancestors from a Gramps report:

Generation 1 has 1 individual. (100.00%)

Generation 2 has 2 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 3 has 4 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 4 has 8 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 5 has 16 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 6 has 31 individuals. (96.88%)

Generation 7 has 55 individuals. (85.94%)

Generation 8 has 53 individuals. (41.41%)

Generation 9 has 44 individuals. (17.97%)

Generation 10 has 16 individuals. (3.52%)

Generation 11 has 6 individuals. (0.59%)

Total ancestors in generations 2 to 11 is 235. (11.68%)

That's enough genealogy for a while!  Living DNA report next.  Sample was activated and returned.

The Dog Runner, and some new genealogy

I took the above photograph of myself on a recent run with the dogs,, using the self-timer function on my thirty five year old Olympus XA2 compact camera.  Taken on Rollei Retro 400S film, that I then developed in LC29

Genealogy - the Barbers of Swanton Morley, Norfolk

I did consider an alternative title for the post, following some more paper genealogical research ... something along the lines of From a long line of bastards.  However, not all family might share my amusement of such a title.  What prompted that thought was some online ancestor-chasing in one particular root of my father's ancestry.  The Barbers of Swanton Morley, Norfolk.

I recently reported on an ancestral root from my father's side of the family, with the surname Barber.  I traced them through my crow-keeper great grandmother to villages in South Norfolk.  However, I'm now on the trail of a totally different Barber family, also on my father's side, but this time from Mid Norfolk.

My great great grandfather, William Bennet Baxter (photograph below), married my great great grandmother Harriet Barber, at Swanton Morley, Norfolk, in 1866.  Both of them had been born illegitimate at the nearby Gressenhall Union Workhouse.  Their connections with that workhouse didn't end there.  Their first two child Jemima, was also born there illegitimately.  Later family members also had connections with that workhouse, that now houses Norfolk Rural-Life Museum.  I often like to think of that building, as the Family Home.  I knew that William Baxter's mother in 1846 was an Eliza Baxter.  She must have had to face the shame of wearing a yellow jacket in the workhouse, to signify that she was an unmarried mother.  She may have also been excluded from the workhouse Christmas dinner, as another shaming.  I've recently discovered that her parents (my G.G.G grandparents) were a Samuel and Frances Baxter (nee Shilling), of nearby East Dereham, Norfolk.

Moving back to the Barbers, starting with Harriet Baxter (nee Barber).  She was born at Swanton Morley circa 1847.  She appeared on one census in Swanton Morley as a young girl, with her grandparents, James and Jemima Barber (nee Harris).  She is named there as a granddaughter of James.  However, who was her mother?  I'm missing a generation.  She was born at the Union Workhouse, and I'm fairly certain that she was illegitimate, and that with the census information, suggests to me that her mother was a daughter of at least James Barber.

So I start searching parish registers for Swanton Morley.  It turned out that G.G.G granddaddy Barber, was born as James Alderton Barber in April 1803 at Swanton Morley.  He married at least three times.  The first marriage I can't find.  The second was my ancestral, he married G.G.G Grannie Jemima Harris at Swanton Morley on 6th December 1825.  She gave him at least seven kids, although at least four of them died young.  Then at the age of 58 years, she died.  He married again before 1861.  Later he had a wife called Amelia.

James had seven children by Jemima.  One of them must have been the parent of my Harriet.  Which one?  I believe that she was illegitimate but carried the Barber surname until married.  That suggests a daughter of James and Jemima.  They had at least four daughters - Hannah, Frances, Jemima (twin of James junior), and Mary Ann.  On checking the burial register of Swanton Morley, things narrowed down.  Hannah had died as an infant.  Jemima died age four (her twin brother died age seven).  Mary Ann died as an infant.  That only leaves Frances, born 1830 at Swanton Morley.  However, it's bad to assume too much in genealogy, so I've decided to pay out for Harriet's birth certificate from the GRO in London.  I should have my answer in a few weeks time.

All of the child deaths that you see in these 19th century families.  It does sometimes knock you back as you uncover them.  The poor health, lack of welfare, and shear poverty that families had to endure then.

I've got to wait for that certificate to arrive, in order to verify which of James's children was the parent of my Harriet.  However, I went back on the lineage a bit further, and it gets interesting.  G.G.G Grandad James Alderton Barber was born illegitimately in Swanton Morley on the 28th April 1803, to a Sarah Barber.  He was not alone.  Between 1803 and 1818, my G.G.G.G Grannie Sarah apparently had at least six children, all baptised and recorded as illegitimate!  I'll never know the full story, but somehow she survived unmarried.  The first two children carried the middle name Alderton, perhaps suggesting that was the name of their biological father.  A later child carried the middle name Maris, and another was named Sissons Barber.  All could suggest a number of biological fathers.  All were born in Swanton Morley.

I feel a little embarrassed talking about illegitimacy as a subject.  It is no longer seen as something shameful, nor should it be - but it was seen as sinful and irresponsible for a very long time.  The status no longer exists in the 21st Century, with the changes in family structures and a shift away from religion.  That it was treated as so shameful now sounds outrageous.  A side effect of a religious and hypocritical society - taking it out on children, and on mothers.  So when I see an ancestor living in a small Norfolk village during the Napoleonic period, I wonder how she lived, what happened, how was she seen, did her children survive?  She may well have been a colourful ancestor, and the talk of the village.  Or she could have been the tragic victim of abuse?

The illegitimacy wasn't restricted just to her generation.  As I said, her great granddaughter Harriet was also most likely (waiting for that certificate to confirm) illegitimate and born in a workhouse - as was Harriet's husband, and their first child.

Poverty, hypocrisy, and infant mortality.  The great Nineteenth Century.