Visit to Lowestoft Record Office

Image above taken yesterday of St Michael's Church, South Elmham Saints villages, Suffolk.

The Barber Family of St Michael, South Elmham, Suffolk

I recently found evidence that my ancestor, 3xgreat grandfather Robert Barber of St Michael, may have been the Robert Barber of Suffolk that was transported in 1844.

I also made contact via GEDmatch, with the owner of a sample that shares 56 centiMorgans of DNA with my sample, including a 27 centiMorgan segment.  It is all on my late father's side.  This is by far the most significant DNA match that I have yet encountered on GEDmatch.  Email correspondence with the owner (Margaret), revealed that we share a paper trail, with the Barber Family of St Michael.

The trail follows my father's maternal side.  His mother's mother, was born Emily Barber, at Hedenham, Norfolk in 1859.  Her father was George Barber, born at St Michael in 1830.  George was a son of Robert and Mary Ann Barber.  I thought that Robert was baptised nearby at Alburgh, Norfolk, the son of George and Hannah Barber (nee Blaxhall).  I thought that Mary Ann was baptised Maria Page, daughter of John and Mary Page (nee Brooks), and that she married Robert at All Saints, South Elmham, in 1828.

However, making contact with a DNA relative challenges an insecure tree.  Margaret pointed out a nearby Robert and Maria Barber family.  I started seeing more Robert Barbers, more Marys, More Marias.  Online digital records for Suffolk are not as good as they are for Norfolk. Confusion!  This is an example where Online Genealogy falls down.

So I checked with the Archive branch of the Suffolk Record Office had the original St Michael records - should no microfilms or fische be available.  They were over at Lowestoft.  Yesterday I drove over, to strike the iron while it was still hot.  I was quite pleased with the resources in the office.  I did not have an excuse to request the original registers - although digital is lacking, they have good copies on fische and film.  In addition, the Saints Villages of South Elmham had all been indexed and typed up by volunteers.  So what did I find?

The baptism font in St Michael's, South Elmham, Suffolk, yesterday.  This would have been used in the below baptisms of ancestors.

There were a LOT of Barber families in the area, since the parish registers start in 1559.  The very earliest reference is to a baptism at St Michael's, of a Robert, son of Robert and Brigett Barber xxxi Auguste 1589.  A lot of sons born in St Michael alone during the following century - this was going to be difficult.  Indeed, in the St Michael registers, Barber entries continue on a regular basis until 1713.  Then a break!  No doubt there were a lot of Barber families living in the surrounding parishes and district, but the next St Michael Barber entries start with our family in 1818:

Baptisms St Michael's, South Elmham

  • Lydia, daughter of Robert & Mary Barber (born Dec 11) Husbandman. Bap. 19 Dec 1818.
  • Emma, daughter of Robert & Mary Barber, husbandman. Bap. 28 Apr 1821.
  • Isaac, son of Robert & Mary Barber, husbandman.  Bap. 14 Jan 1823.
  • Maria, daughter of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer.  Bap. 3 Jun 1827.
  • Charlotte, daughter of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer.  Bap. 25 Nov 1827.
  • George, son of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer.  Bap. 11 Apr 1830.
  • Eliza, daughter of Robert & Marianne Barber, labourer.  Bap. 7 Apr 1833
  • Jacob, son of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer.  Bap. 6 Nov 1836
  • Jacob, son of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer.  Bap. 18 Sep 1843
  • Emily, daughter of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer.  Bap. 18 Sep 1843

Maria is Margaret's ancestor, George is my ancestor.  I am a little confused as to why there might be two Jacob's, perhaps the first died, but I'm not sure.  I did find a later burial of a Jacob Barber age 23, who died after falling from a moving horse pulled wagon.  However, the clumsy genealogist in me didn't record the date!  Note also that the last two baptisms were joint.

I could not locate the marriage of Robert Barber to Mary (Ann).  This was a disappointment.  I did look through the other Saints Villages of South Elmham.  Neither did I find or confirm Robert's birth.  I had previously online found a baptism at Alburgh, Norfolk - a close by parish, just over the river.  however, as Robert claimed that he was born in Suffolk on the 1841 census, I have deleted that link from my tree.  Another case, where I lost more ancestors from the tree, than I gained from this research.  however, the point of genealogy is to improve and refine, based on evidence.

I do believe however, that I have located Robert's death.  I have also eliminated him as the transported Robert Barber of Suffolk.  I found the below burials:

Burials St Michael's, South Elmham

  • Robert Barber, aged 8 days.  Bur. 19 Aug 1840
  • Robert Barber, aged 50 years.  Bur. 22 Feb 1846
  • George Barber, aged 20 weeks of St Peter's.  bur. 30 Dec 1860
  • Eliza Barber, aged 6 days.  Bur. 22 Jun 1862.

The baby Robert, could have been Robert and Mary's.  The fifty year old Robert Barber, does look like my 3xgreat grandfather.  Indeed, it explains where he went between the 1841 and 1851 census.  He was not transported.  Checking Suffolk criminal records at the Record Office, I found that the 1844 sentence of a Robert Barber was over in West Suffolk, at Bury St Edmunds Assize.

I had jumped the gun again - based on the very partial online record.  I keep learning this lesson, but it should also serve as a lesson to genealogists abroad, that rely only on digitalised or transcribed records of English ancestors online.  What you are seeing is a partial record.  There can be so many John Smiths, or even Robert Barbers, in a small area. A visit to the County Archive (Record Office) revealed so many more records of Barbers in the South Elmham area, that cannot be seen online at,, nor on  Beware!  I see awful, incorrect family trees (not just my own ha ha), whenever I view personal online trees at

The Tovell Family of Wrentham, Suffolk

While I was at Lowestoft, I thought that I would take a quick look at another ancestral family of mine, local to this Archive.  The Tovell Family that lived at Wrentham, Suffolk, during the late 18th Century, and fall on to my mother's side of my family tree.  Although members of a local Congregationalist chapel, for some services, they referred to the local parish church.  It was in a transcript of those parish registers, that I found a number of burials of the children of my 4xgreat grandparents Tovell:

Wrentham, Suffolk Burials

  • Thomas Tovell, an infant.  Bur. 29 Jan 1773
  • Elizabeth Tovel, an infant.  Bur. 29.Mar 1778
  • Sarah Tovel, infant.  Bur. 13 Jan 1780
  • Thomas Tovell, an infant.  Bur. 31 Dec 1782.

They went on to have a third son baptised Thomas Tovell in 1785, who was my ancestor.  Sometimes though, the infant mortality of those times can get to you.

Some Ancestral Churches, East Norfolk

I recently on one particularly sunny winter's afternoon, took a quick tour around a small selection of medieval churches within the dense geographical cluster in my mother's family tree.

Reedham St John the Baptist

My Ancestry Place report for Reedham, Norfolk.

1771-08-05 Marriage Maye, Judith (I0328) and Shepherd, James (I0327)

1793-01-28 Marriage Shepherd, Judith (I0323) and Goffen, Richard (I0320)

1793-10-11 Birth Goffen, Edward (I0324)

1793-10-11 Birth Goffen, Edward (I1321)

1795-10-26 Birth Goffen, Richard (I0314)

1795-11-01 Baptism Goffen, Richard (I0314)

1799-02-24 Birth Goffen, William (I1318)

1803-06-05 Birth Goffen, John (I1319)

1805-10-06 Birth Goffen, James (I1320)

1818-03-24 Death Goffen, William (I1318)

1841-06-06 Census Shepherd, Judith (I0323) Age 68, independent. Widow.

1851-03-30 Occupation Goffen, Richard (I0314) Inn keeper and master carpenter. Brick Kiln pub, Reedham riverside.

about 1852 Birth Goffen, Sarah Anne (I0302)

1861-04-07 Census Goffen, Richard (I0314) 65 year old carpenter with wife and children. By the river.

1861-11-04 Burial Goffen, Richard (I0314) Age 66

1863-04-04 Death Goffen, John (I1319)

1895-07-24 Death Goffen, James (I1320)

Freethorpe All Saints
My Ancestry Place Report for Freethorpe, Norfolk

calculated 1771 Birth Waters, Robert (I1378) 

calculated 1772 Birth Ransby, Elizabeth (I1379) 

calculated 1804 Birth Waters, Mary (I0307)

1804-01-29 Baptism Waters, Mary (I0307)

1808-06-26 Birth Waters, Judith (I1469)

1810-01-11 Birth Waters, Martha (I1470)

1813-01-03 Baptism Waters, Elizabeth (I1471)

1814-05-22 Baptism Waters, Elisa (I1472)

1823-07-23 Marriage Waters, Mary (I0307)

1823-07-23 Marriage Waters, Mary (I0307) and Key, William (I0306)

1826-06-11 Baptism Key, Maria (I1377)

1828-06-01 Baptism Key, Susan (I1376)

1846-02-06 Birth Key, Sarah Ann (I0309)

1848-02-20 Birth Key, George (I0301)

1848-03-13 Baptism Key, George (I0301)

1851 Census Key, William (I0306) Near the Green, age 47 born at Norwich, with wife Mary and two children including George age 3

1851 Occupation Key, William (I0306) Agricultural labourer

1851 Census Waters, Robert (I1378) Near the Green. Age 80 with wife Elizabeth.

1851 Census Ransby, Elizabeth (I1379) Age 79, living near the Green, with husband Robert, in Freethorpe. Place of birth - Freethorpe.

1855-01-16 Burial Waters, Robert (I1378) Age 86

1870-03-01 Marriage Goffen, Sarah Anne (I0302) and Key, George (I0301)

about 1885 Birth Key, Florence (I0070)

1891-04-05 Census Key, George (I0301) 43 year old carpenter, born Freethorpe, with wife Sarah and four children, including sarah, age 20, working as domestic servant

1891-04-05 Census Key, Florence (I0070) Age 6, with parents and siblings. Born Freethorpe. Father was a carpenter.

1901-03-31 Census Key, George (I0301) 53 year old carpenter with Sarah and son George.

1901-04-05 Census Goffen, Sarah Anne (I0302) Age 48 born at Reedham, with carpenter husband George Key.

1905-11-21 Birth Curtis, Ernest William (I0047)

1916-09-17 Marriage Turner, Mary Ann Elizabeth (I1259) and Curtis, Herbert Henry (I1250)

Strumpshaw St Peter My Ancestry Place Report for Strumpshaw, Norfolk

1747-11-24 Marriage Rowland, John (I0291) and Dawes, Sarah (I0292)
before 1773-03-16 Birth Rose, Robert (I0256)
1774-04-10 Marriage Cossey, Martha (I0346) and Norton, David (I0345)
before 1774-12-04 Birth Norton, Lydia (I0340)
before 1775-03-18 Birth Rose, John (I0248)
1777-01-00 Death Norton, David (I0345)
1777-10-19 Marriage
Briggs, John (I1526) and Jacobs, Elizabeth (I1557) Both single, of Strumpshaw
1779-01-05 Marriage Rowland, Joseph (I0281) and Symonds, Ann (I0282)
before 1779-03-17 Birth Rose, Henry (I0242)
before 1779-11-15 Birth Rowland, Martha (I0249)
calculated 1781 Birth Briggs, Susanna (I0311)
before 1782-03-28 Birth Rose, Susannah (I1034)
before 1784-10-28 Birth Rose, Mary (I1035)
1785-08-05 Baptism Dingle, Robert (I1448)
1787-01-04 Baptism Dingle, William (I1449)
1788-07-10 Baptism Dingle, Anna Maria (I1450)
1790-06-29 Burial Rose, Henry (I0242) Pauper
1790-06-29 Burial Rose, Henry (I0254) Age 43. A married man and a pauper
1790-10-06 Baptism Dingle, Mary (I1451)
1792 Baptism Dingle, George (I1452)
1794-02-00 Death Gorll, Mary (I0255)
1795-08-11 Baptism Dingle, Elizabeth (I0258)
1801-10-27 Marriage Rose, John (I0248) and Rowland, Martha (I0249)
1802-03-02 Marriage Rose, Henry (I0242) and Ling, Margaret (I0243)
before 1802-06-15 Birth Rose, Margaret (I0244)
1802-08-02 Marriage Rose, Robert (I0256) and Nicholls, Ann (I0825)
1803-05-09 Marriage Briggs, Susanna (I0311) and Key, William (I0310)
before 1804-04-01 Birth Rose, John (I0251)
before 1804-10-10 Birth Rose, Fitt (I0827)
before 1805-06-16 Birth Rose, James (I0252)
before 1807-10-27 Birth Rose, Charlotte (I0828)
before 1809-05-12 Birth Rose, Rebecca (I0253)
before 1810-07-28 Birth Rose, Henry (I0829)
1819-01-27 Marriage Merrison, Lydia (I0342) To William King
1819-04-00 Death Symonds, Ann (I0282)
before 1823-12-07 Birth Rose, James (I0887)
before 1825-05-08 Death Rose, Amelia (I0886)
before 1826-10-22 Birth Rose, Amelia (I0888)
1827-01-09 Marriage Wilson, Ruth (I0944) and Rose, James (I0252)
1827-11-06 Marriage Curtis, William (I0209) and Rose, Mary Anne (I0210)
1828-01-03 Marriage Shorten, Thomas (I1019) and Rose, Rebecca (I0253)
1828-02-07 Marriage Tungate, James (I0847) and Rose, Charlotte (I0828)
before 1828-05-26 Birth Rose, William (I0889)
before 1830-09-03 Birth Curtis, William (I0199)
before 1831-05-02 Birth Rose, John (I0890)
1831-07-01 Marriage Wigg, George (I1031) and Rose, Martha (I0883)
1832-10-04 Marriage Rose, Susanna (I0832) and Rose, Henry (I0829)
before 1834-12-07 Birth Rose, Robert (I0891)
before 1836-02-07 Birth Rose, John (I0834)
before 1837-07-23 Birth Rose, Edward (I0892)
before 1838-04-14 Birth Rose, Samuel (I1022)
about 1839 Birth Tungate, George (I0852)
1839-06-03 Marriage Griffin, Jemima (I1033) and Rose, Richard (I0885)
before 1840-07-12 Birth Rose, Maria (I0893)
1841-08-15 Marriage Rose, Fitt (I0827) and Tungate,
Maria (I0830)
1841-12-06 Burial Briggs, John (I1526) Living at Wickhampton. Age 90
before 1842-06-18 Birth Rose, Maria (I0837)
before 1843-09-03 Birth Rose, Samuel (I0894)
1843-10-05 Burial Dingle, Thomas (I1446)
1845-10-00 Death Rose, John (I0248)
1847-04-08 Marriage Rose, James (I0887) and Gymer, Mary (I0895)
before 1848-09-10 Birth Rose, Hannah (I0897)
1850-02-18 Marriage Rose, John (I0890) and Hendry, Agnes (I0920)
before 1850-04-07 Birth Rose, Elizabeth (I0898)
before 1850-06-09 Birth Rose, Emma (I0842)
before 1852-01-04 Birth Rose, Mary Ann (I0899)
before 1852-08-08 Birth Rose, George (I1009)
before 1854-05-16 Birth Rose, James (I0900)
1854-08-13 Baptism Rose, Robert (I0230)
before 1854-11-05 Birth Rose, Frederic (I1002)
before 1854-12-31 Birth Rose, Sarah (I0844)
before 1855-05-27 Death Rose, Emma (I0842)
before 1855-06-25 Death Rose, Sarah (I0844)
1857-02-00 Death Rose, John (I0834)
before 1857-03-30 Death Rose, Hannah (I0897)
before 1858-06-06 Birth Rose, William (I0845)
1859-05-26 Marriage Hendry, Margaret (I0915) and Rose, William (I0889)
before 1860-01-26 Birth Rose, John Henry (I1006)
before 1861-01-12 Birth Rose, Rachel (I1025)
1861-12-04 Burial Rowland, Martha (I0249)
1862-03-00 Death Rose, Susanna (I0832)
before 1864-02-24 Death Rose, Mary Ann (I0838)
before 1864-03-18 Birth Rose, Rachel (I1027)
1864-10-19 Marriage Mitchell, Richard (I0938) and Rose, Maria (I0893)
before 1864-11-16 Death Rose, John (I0890)
before 1865-08-06 Death Rose, Rachel (I1025)
before 1865-08-06 Death Rose, Rachel (I1027)
1872-02-20 Marriage Rose, Mary Ann (I0899) and Alexander, Frederick (I0906)
before 1873-01-05 Death Rose, John (I0251)
1876-01-01 Marriage Rose, George (I1009) and Broom, Alice (I1010)
1876-04-18 Marriage Rose, Elizabeth (I0898) and Thompson, George (I0905)
before 1876-07-02 Birth Rose, William (I0930)
before 1878-05-26 Birth Rose, Herbert (I0932)
before 1879-05-04 Death Marshall, Elizabeth (I0881)
before 1879-07-13 Birth Rose, Laura (I1013)
before 1882-03-12 Birth Rose, Alice Maude (I1015)
before 1882-10-15 Birth Rose, Anna (I0934)
before 1884-12-16 Birth Rose, Henry Herbert (I1008)
before 1884-12-21 Death Rose, Henry Herbert (I1008)
before 1886-03-21 Birth Rose, Henry (I0935)
1886-10-18 Marriage Rose, James (I0887) and Manthorpe, Mary Ann (I0896)
1887-07-07 Marriage Scott, Sarah Elizabeth (I0846)
and Rose, William (I0845)
before 1891-01-22 Death Rose, Anna (I0934)
1891-02-00 Death Rose, Fitt (I0827)
1895-03-30 Marriage Thrower, George Frederick
Cooper (I1012) and Rose, Edith
1895-04-00 Death Rose, Henry (I0829)
before 1895-05-03 Death Rose, George (I1009)
1900-04-21 Marriage Rose, Laura (I1013) and Benns, Clement Claude (I1014)
1901-04-27 Marriage Rose, William (I0930) and Nobbs, Mary Elizabeth (I0931)
1902-11-29 Marriage Rose, Alice Maude (I0933) and Rose, Herbert (I0932)
1902-11-29 Marriage Rose, Alice Maude (I1015) and Rose, Herbert (I1016)
before 1903-10-23 Death Rose, Edward (I0892)
before 1926-06-19 Death Susanna (I0923)
before 1943-12-24 Death Rose, James (I0900)
before 1949-04-23 Death Rose, Mary Mendham (I0907)

Bunwell, Norfolk - ancestral parish

I took a little local bicycle ride today, along the extremes of my recorded maternal line - that which should carry my mt-DNA.  23andMe tested it as H6a1.  WeGene and mthap analyser both suggest H6a1a8.  I'm looking forward to see what Living DNA make of it.  The haplogroup, based on current evidence, most likely originated on the Pontic and Caspian Steppes, before spreading into Western Europe during the Early Bronze Age.  However, on documentary record, I've traced it back to Generation 9 - my maternal G.G.G.G.G.G Grandmother, Susannah Briting (Brighten, Brighton) who married my ancestor John Hardyman (Hardiment, Hardimend, Hardiman), in the Norfolk parish of Bunwell in 1747.  According to the Bunwell Parish Registers, between 1748 and 1754, John and Susannah had four children baptised at the local church of Bunwell St Michael & Angels: John, Martha, Elizabeth, and Thomas Hardyman.  My G.G.G.G.G Grandmother Elizabeth Hardyman, went on to marry my ancestor Robert Page at nearby Wymondham in 1779, and continued my maternal line down to my Mother.

Bunwell, Norfolk, East Anglia

Bunwell is a parish of scattered settlement and hamlets, located above the Tas Valley, on the high boulder-clay soils of South Norfolk.  These heavy soils encouraged a pattern of dispersed settlement during the Late Medieval, with occupation often taking place along the edges of common land.  This could suggest limited manorial control.

I took this photo of the local landscape.  Large medieval open fields were divided into smaller enclosed fields during the 17th to 19th centuries.  These small parceled and enclosed fields were then opened up again into larger fields, with the removal of many hedgerows, during the 20th century.  Main land uses today are arable agriculture - modern crops include sugar beet, wheat, oil seed rape, etc.

Counting the number of plant species within a designated length of hedgerow has been used as a dating process.  The number of species increasing across the centuries.

Vernacular tradition includes many classic South Norfolk farmhouses, of which the following example is a striking example:

The owner has been renovating it from many years, having inherited it from his father.  Aside from the chimney (which was replaced following a lightening strike), the newest sections of the house date to the 1740's.  The eldest have not been dated, but perhaps extend to the Late Medieval.

The Church building is of the Perpendicular tradition, and dates to circa the 1450's, although it was most likely built on the site of an earlier church.  It is dedicated to St Michael and All Angels.

It is very much still an active church.  A knitting club were busy at work on my visit.  The church warden also called in.  The locals told me that there were, or still are Hardiment and Britings living in the parish.  I had a look around the surrounding graves.

This headstone is a good example of 18th century headstones in East Anglia.  Sadly, not one of my known ancestors.  Note the extra information Late of Starston.

I didn't spot any Britings, but I did find a cluster of Hardyman graves, including this example:

Not one of my direct ancestors, but most likely, a cousin.

My mtDNA ancestor Elizabeth, moved away from Bunwell, marrying nearby at Wymondham. From there, my mtDNA line moved through other nearby villages, including Bestthorpe.  Another generation on, it made an unusual leap (my Norfolk ancestors rarely moved far) to the opposite side of Norwich, to the parish of Rackheath in Broadland.  It then moved further East, to the parishes of Tunstall and Reedham.  On to Hassingham and my mother carried it back west to the Norwich area. We've ironically both  carried it back to the Wymondham area.