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.
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.