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".

and they keep coming ... the Moll Family of Ranworth, Norfolk

I'm on a fresh family tree run.  Well, actually, this one I'm sort of restoring, after once trimming the branch out.  I found them a while ago, but then noticed that one baptism would have made the proposed mother around sixteen.  It can happen, but I don't see such young motherhood very often in my tree, so I cut a branch off.  When in doubt - cut it out.

The Moll family lived during the 18th century in Ranworth, and the neighbouring parish of South Walsham in glorious Norfolk.  Here's my Tracey on her phone earlier this year nearby at Ranworth Broad:

Isn't she lovely?  Getting back to the subject, a fresh look at the Moll Family using online genealogy, and I saw my mistake.  That early Moll baptism belonged to another mother / wife of the father, from an earlier marriage.  It all fit after all.

I descend from them through my maternal grandmother, born Ivy Tovell.  Let's start this time from the top, as far back as I can safely get on this line at the moment.

My 7th great grandfather Abraham Moll lived in the Norfolk parish of Ranworth.  Where was he born?  He couldn't have been the Abraham born at Hoveton, Norfolk in 1719.  He'd be too young.  He could have been the Abraham Moll born at Edingthorpe, Norfolk, in 1696.  Just the right age.  However, that's about 20 miles away.  Did people move that far back then?  Sure.  My Thacker family line for example, shifted around East Anglia.  But most in my experience did not.  Therefore I like more evidence before accepting an origin just like that.  When you go back much earlier than 1780, that extra quality evidence rapidly evaporates for the masses.  That is where many, many, online genealogists go wrong.  Particularly if they don't live locally, they just go for the nearest with the same name, and about the right date.  If I had done that, maybe I'd now be back to Charlemagne like they usually are.  But I wouldn't believe the pedigree.  They shouldn't either.

So the earliest record - the baptism of his, and his wife's son Abraham (junior) at Ranworth in 1728:

I then have baptisms at Ranworth for four more of their children, including my 6th great grandfather Solomon Moll.  The last record for Abraham (senior) though was his burial at Ranworth in 1745:

6th great grandfather Solomon Moll was quite interesting.  Born at Ranworth in 1731, rather than the usual agricultural labourer, he was a cordwainer (a shoe maker).  Over the years he apprenticed a number of young men in South Walsham, Norfolk, for example:

Solomon the shoe maker, married my 6th great grandmother Rebecca Johnson, in 1759 at South Walsham St Mary's:

and she was to give birth to my 5th great grandmother Elizabeth Moll at South Walsham in 1763.

I don't know when Rebecca died, but widower Solomon married a second time in 1805, to a widow named Elizabeth Ebbage.  He must have been about 74 years old.  Good on him.  Maybe it was love.  Companionship at least.

His daughter Elizabeth Moll married widower, Jacob Wymer at nearby Moulton St Mary in 1785.

Moulton St Mary.  One of my favourite local rural churches.  The walls, exposed by conservation work are covered with medieval murals.

My 4th great grandmother Mary Wymer was born at Moulton, Norfolk in 1789.  She married a local farm worker named William Springall at nearby Halvergate (on the edge of the marshes) in 1811.  They had at least seven children at Halvergate between then and 1834.  One of them was my 3rd great grandmother Elizabeth Springall.  She married local lad William Lawn over the marshes at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk during 1831.  They settled at Tunstall, next to the marshes close to Halvergate.  William was interesting.  Although a marshman and labourer, he served as the parish clerk at Tunstall for 33 years.

Their daughter, my great great grandmother, Eliza Lawn, was born at Tunstall in 1849.  She married George Tammas-Tovell at Tunstall in 1866.

Here she is, the old lady sitting on the right of the photo:

An interview with one of my late great aunts recalled that as an old lady, she'd sit long periods in front of a mirror, brushing her long grey hair.  In the above photo, she poses with her son, grandaughter, and great grandaughter, my mother's sister.  Probably taken at Halvergate or Reedham.

Stats Update

The boring stuff (last updated 20th Dec 2017)

My Ancestry tree currently contains the records of 2,924 family members.  Including 328 direct ancestors for myself and my siblings.

Generation 3 (grandparents) has 4 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 4 (great grandparents) has 8 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 5 (2nd great grandparents) has 16 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 6 (3rd great grandparents) has 31 individuals. (96.88%)

Generation 7 (4th great grandparents) has 57 individuals. (89.06%)

Generation 8 (5th great grandparents) has 70 individuals. (54.69%)

Generation 9 (6th great grandparents) has 68 individuals. (27.34%)

Generation 10 (7th great grandparents) has 46 individuals. (9.34%)

Generation 11 (8th great grandparents) has 21 individuals. (2.15%)

Generation 12 (9th great grandparents) has 5 individuals. (0.24%)

I have 156 direct ancestors recorded for my father.

I have 170 direct ancestors recorded for my mother.

I have 490 direct ancestors recorded for my children.

And another breakthrough - more Wymondham ancestry

This one is on my mother's side, close to my maternal line.  The ancestor below is my mother's, mother's, mother (my 2nd great grandmother), Sarah Thacker of Rackheath, born as Sarah Ann Elizabeth Daines, at Besthorpe, Norfolk, in 1849.

Her parents were Reuben Daynes and his wife, born Sarah Quantrill.  3rd great grandfather Reuben had moved to Besthorpe from the nearby parish of Brandon Parva.  The Quantrill family were a Wymondham family.

Rueben Daynes (the junior) was the son of Rueben Daynes (the senior), my 4th great grandfather, and Sarah (nee Lake) of Brandon Parva. My 4th great grandfather Rueben had also been born at Brandon Parva, back in 1781.

The church at Brandon Parva on a bike ride last summer.

Rueben Daynes (senior) was the son of Abraham and Elizabeth Daynes of Brandon Parva, Norfolk.  That far I had discovered.  Now I have extended back on Elizabeth's ancestry.

I now know that my 5th great grandmother Elizabeth, was born Elizabeth Moore, and that the couple were married at Wicklewood, Norfolk back in 1764.  Rueben was a late child:

Quite clear, it states that she married Abraham Daynes of Brandon Parva.

Elizabeth herself was born at Wymondham, and was baptised there in 1748, the daughter of William and Abigail Moore:

My 6th great grandparents William Moore and Abigail Blasey, had been married a few years earlier, in Wymondham during 1745:

Abigail Blasey was local, and had been baptised at Wymondham, the daughter of Samuel and Bridget Blasey in 1724:

My 7th great grandparents, Samuel Blasey / Blazey and Bridget Lord, were married at Wymondham in 1722:

Samuel Blasey was baptised in Wymondham in 1700, the son of my 8th great grandfather, Charles Blasey.  The paper trail runs out.  I suspect that Charles Blasey / Blazey had also been born at Wymondham, around 1672, quite likely the son of a Robert Blazey.  But I haven't found that documentary evidence.

I will say that during the late 17th Century (1670's - 1701), there were Blasey, Quantrill, Moore, and Page families in Wymondham.  That might suggest that we have some pretty old Wymondham ancestry on mother's side of the tree.  Some of father's were not far off either, with some of his ancestors in nearby Attleborough, Coston, Great Hockham, Swanton Morley, and East Dereham.

I'm really pleased to find this breakthrough, the second in recent weeks, even after 29 years of researching family history.

It's also great to find such a strong ancestral link to a Norfolk market-town that I especially love.

Wymondham

Recent breakthroughs in Ancestry

I was stuck for months with 279 direct ancestors on record, when suddenly over the past few weeks, it's grown to 296, with a total of 2,806 family members in the whole tree.

Seymore

One recent breakthrough was on my father's line back to Oxfordshire.  I knew that my 4th great grandmother Brooker (nee Seymore) was born circa 1795 at Drayton, Oxfordshire.  Scanning through the digitally photographed parish registers of both Drayton St Peters, and then Drayton St Leonards, between 1780 and 1805, I had that eureka moment when I found this:

Actually, I found three baptisms of an Elizabeth to this couple, John and Phoebe (Faby) Seymour, as well as other children, and then their marriage in 1790:

So Phoebe (Faby), was a Godfrey before marriage, and a spinster.  I've traced some of the lines back a bit further:

It looks as though around 1720, the Seymore family moved from the area of West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, to the villages of Lewknor and Aston Rowant in Oxfordshire.  Not a dreadful distance, only around nine miles.  I'll have to investigate these new ancestral villages in Oxfordshire sometime.

Edney

I've also made a little progress on another close by line, also on my father's Oxfordshire lines.  My 3rd great grandmother Brooker was born Mary Ann Edney in 1845 in Shiplake, Oxfordshire.  I've managed to extend that branch a little further back:

The Edney family has recently provided me with the furthest back DNA match on my paternal line.  DNA matching suggests with a moderate confidence level, that I and another British tester share identical by descent segments of DNA with a predicted relationship of 5th to 8th cousins.  Ancestry sees a relationship on our trees that it thinks is behind those segments:

I'm very keen to find these DNA matches, to biologically verify my research, where it can (over the most recent 8 - 10 generations).  However, I'm particularly concerned about proving or disproving my paternal line beyond Generation 3, as I had a slightly colourful great grandmother on that line.  The Edney match does indeed support, that my documented great grandfather, was indeed my biological great grandfather, but really I need more verification.  I'm looking for matches with common ancestry in Oxfordshire or Switzerland, in order to do just that - alternatively a Y-DNA match from another tester descended on the Y line from an Oxfordshire / Berkshire Brooker family.

Barber

I've been trying very hard to breakthrough on a Suffolk based branch on my father's side.  I have a brick wall above my 3rd great grandfather Robert Barber, born somewhere in Suffolk, around 1796.  I do have some good candidates, 

As you can see, a baptism of a Robert Barber of Halesworth, at a non-conformist chapel in Beccles during 1797.  Tempting to claim them as ancestors, if I could, then I could actually go back a few more generations on that line.  But I'm not convinced this is the right one.  There were a lot of Barbers in Suffolk at that time.  This is the thing about genealogy - you have to make that call, that decision to add, or not to add.  The further that we go back, the less the resources, and the more missing.  Then perhaps, we are forced to sometimes make slightly more generous decisions.  I do struggle with that though.

As a side note, I have ordered Robert's death certificate from the GRO.  He died quite young in 1846, and it smashed his young family apart, some ending up in the workhouse.  I'd like to know what happened.

His son George got out of Shipmeadow Workhouse and got work at a farm labourer in the Hedenham / Woodton area of Norfolk.  He married and settled there.  They had a number of children, including a daughter named Emily Barber.  When she was 11 years old, during the 1871 census, she was recorded as working as a "crow keeper" (children employed to scare birds from fields):

Emily later moved to Norwich, to work as a servant in a Solicitor's household.  There she met a young wheelwright from Attleborough, called Fred Smith.  They married at the bottom of Grapes Hill.  They were very congregationalist new chapel.  They raised their children in a terrace house in Suffolk Street, Norwich, including my father's mother, Doris Smith.

Here's Emily, with her son Sid Smith, who was a First World War veteran from the Western Front:

My Drover Ancestors - walking in footsteps

I've recently, through DNA matching, reinvestigated my Peach ancestors of the Maxey area of Northamptonshire.  The men of this family were usually recorded as drovers or shepherds.  Below for example, are some of my Peach drovers as they stayed for the night at an inn in Hoe, Norfolk during 1851. Young James there, walking livestock from the other side of the Fens, was the 20 year old younger brother of my 3rd great grandfather, David Peach.

The family lived for a number of generations, in the area of Stamford, Maxey, and Eye, in what was then the County of Northants, close to Peterborough.  It was the perfect base for the transportation of Welsh cattle, sheep, and other livestock, from the North and West, across the Fen droves, and down to the rich meadows, pastures, and marsh grasses of East Anglia, where livestock could be fattened, before then being driven down to markets including Smithfields in London. Before the railways, this livestock had to be transported the hard way - by foot along a number of trails and droves, that took in watering points, grazing, and were secure from gangs of rustlers.

Many drovers were young men, that later settled as shepherds and labourers.  They were travellers outside of their home areas.  Visitors to far away inns, markets, fairs, and parishes.  Maybe that was an attraction for some local girls, such as my 3rd great grandmother, Sarah Ann Riches, of the South West Norfolk parish of Great Hockham.  These lads from far away, with strange accents.  Did she walk back with my 3rd great grandfather David Peach, all the way back to Northamptonshire?  They married at Holywell Lincolnshire, in 1835.  Sarah must have been heavily pregnant, because she gave birth to their daughter Ann Peach a few months later at Etton, Northants.

The livestock that these drovers were paid to walk many miles were often highly valuable, their monetary value far in excess of the personal value of a poor drover.  They had to be trusted to take care of them, and to behave with honesty.  It would be so easy to sell an animal on the journey, and to claim that it had died of natural causes.  Some drovers broke that trust.  In 1837, my 3rd great grandfather, David Peach, was convicted at Lincoln Assizes of stealing two cattle.  He was taken to a prison hulk ship moored into the Thames.  A few months later, he was transported for Life.  His convict ship stopped off at Norfolk Island, before then moving him to Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania) in 1838.  He was sent to the notorious hard labour Port Arthur convict settlement.  Some years later he was pardoned, but he was not granted licence to return to Britain.

Meanwhile, his young family suffered.  His wife Sarah Ann, with their young daughter, Ann Peach, returned to her family in Norfolk.  A wife of a convict, even if transported for Life, could not remarry.  She had to find means to survive and to raise Ann on her own.  She lived many years in the Norfolk market town of Attleborough, where she scraped a livelihood as a charwoman.  She had two further children.  One, she named David Wilson Peach.  Wilson, most likely the biological father - but she gave him her husband's first name.  Did she still harbour strong feelings for her far away husband?

Other male Peach's in the family continued to drove, as the above 1851 census reveals.  David was literally in another world.  Two of Sarah's siblings, Henry Riches and Maria Hudson (nee Riches), also migrated to Tasmania, albeit during the 1850s as volunteer settlers to the north of the Island.

Walking in footsteps

I had one of those time-traveller moments today.  It occurred to me, as I found a DNA match supporting my descent from these drovers, when I visited a website about them, how I on a personal level, have always been a long distance walker.  From sponsored long distance walks as a kid, until walking the Marriot's Way, and Boudicca Way in Norfolk only this year.  I absolutely love walking through the countryside.  Testing my endurance.  With a dog or two even better.  I've walked the Peddars Way twice, the Fen Rivers Way, the North Norfolk Coast Path, and the Weavers Way.  In 2016, I walked a part of the Pennine Way.  But all of those walks, some of them would have even crossed where my drover ancestors crossed.  With their dogs.  It's almost as though we have that hereditary link.  I'm the descendant of drovers and I walk.  Without knowing it, I have walked in their footsteps.

Here are some of my photos from my 2017 walks.  Perhaps some of these landscapes may not have been too dissimilar to the green lanes and landscapes that they knew (albeit without the huge open fields).

So maybe, just maybe, there is a link there.  The guy that just loves to walk through the East Anglian countryside all day, and those drovers of the Nineteenth Century.  The desire to walk and to explore.

Father to Son documented genealogy V LDNA test results

I received my son Edward's Living DNA results yesterday, 26 days before the deadline (albeit second sample as first failed. Edward was born severely disabled with severe development delay and doesn't always want to give a swab sample). Here I review all of the Living DNA results against what I believe ancestry is based solely on documented genealogical sources. These documented sources are supported only by family history, interviews, thirty years of documentary research - much of it very local, photographs (likenesses), social background (mainly rural working class, many very localised), local social history, and also in my case by DNA cousin matching:



NPEs and genealogical mistakes (particularly over six generations ago) are possible. However, bearing in mind the above factors, I feel that I have a reasonably good documented record to compare DNA-tests-for-ancestry against.

The two tests in the table below, are my son Edward (left), and myself (right). We are both British by nationality and English by ethnicity. We live in East Anglia, home of many of our documented ancestors. I am mainly of East Anglian ancestry, but with some Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Northants, and Swiss lines. Edward's mother by ancestry is half English (Berks, Wilts, East Anglia, Beds, Somerset) and half Irish.

The "actual documented ancestry" are percentages divided into LDNA sub regions, based on Generation 6 (32 x 3rd great grandparents) with some references to Generation 7 when noteworthy.



Discussion.

Living DNA has made great commercial headway through the use of the POBI dataset, that had been acclaimed by the original team, as demonstrating a distinguishable pattern that aligned well with the Anglo-Saxon period British kingdoms. The reference samples were well chosen, with geographically local born grandparents, and a bias to rural testers over urban (that see more mobility). However, LDNA, we know, have made lot's of alterations with their sub regions.

In both the case of Edward's and my documented East Anglian ancestry, the LDNA saw less than 50% of what I'd expect. I believe that some of our EA went elsewhere - Lincs, SE England, Germanic, Scandinavian, etc.

Edward got a big chunk of Lincs and SE England that I just do not think is real.

I got 10% Tuscan that I don't believe. Something could however correlate to a Swiss 3 x great grandparent. But that percentage? I know it is possible. Edward got no Tuscany.

Edward, with his 25% actual Irish ancestry received 98% GB & Ireland. His father, myself, although 97% actual, received only 70% GB & Ireland. I think that rather like with other test companies - Ireland, Scotland, and Wales look more "British" than do the English on tests. Yet Edward only received a mere 2% Irish on the test! That is an even more serious underscore.

Before I tested with Living DNA, I really was starting to lose faith in autosomal DNA testing for general ancestry. When Living DNA launched, my hopes were raised that with the right references, computing power, and chips, that one day, they could be much more accurate and meaningful than they have been up to now.

After Edward's results, I'm starting to lose a bit of faith again. I feel that these tests are good for pin pointing a corner of Europe at best. Beyond that, there may be average PCA plots, but they are far too fuzzy to base "ancestry composition", my origins", or "ethnicity estimate" percentages on with any degree of certainty or accuracy. Fun yes. Useful to build a personal DNA "ancestral population flavour and PCA plot" yes. But that's all. Beyond that is a roll of the dice. Too many testers take their results far too literally. Too many testers also display brand loyalty.

As for haplogroups, Edward's results were disappointingly basic.

Y-DNA L1

mtDNA H (only 4 mutations listed on the csv file).

Genetic Genealogy - DNA Relative Matches

I have new DNA cousin "matches".  This is a very important avenue of DNA testing for genealogy and ancestry that I have simply missed until recently.  Up to now, I've concentrated on DNA testing for general ancestry (or ethnicity as some businesses will call it).  The problem was that I first tested with 23andme, and simply, using their heavy USA customer base, and user unfriendly "experiences", I couldn't find any DNA relatives that actually had paper trails that could correlate to my own.

One of the problems is I feel, is that an awful lot of Eastern English migration to the Atlantic Coast of North America, occurred very early - late 16th to early 18th centuries AD.  As a result, although some generous matching systems (such as 23andme's) suggests much more recent shared ancestry, in reality, our links to our distant USA cousins are so old, that all they do is reflect that my distant cousins have Puritan, New England, and Virginian ancestry from Eastern England.  Even for those that do claim to trace ancestry to those pilgrim fathers - I can't.  Certainly not for the thousands of my direct ancestors for Generations 11 - 14.  I don't think any of us can.  Chuck in a bit of genetic folding, and all that these distant relationships is really telling us is, that we both have some ancestry from south east England between 300 and 600 years ago.

Then I tested with Ancestry.com, Ancestry.co.uk, AncestryDNA or whatever you want to call that genealogy mega-business.  Their matching system is dumbed down to the frustrating level.  No chromosome locations or chromosome browsers for painting.  Instead however, they have the fattest database of testers and customers - some of whom, will like myself, be subscription slaves to their family tree and documentary genealogical services.  Their matching systems may cut out chromosome data - but on the flip side, you can browse trees, surnames, ancestral locations, of your DNA matches.  As a consequence, I've found 14 matches that share DNA, with predicted relationships - that correlate to a paper trail relationship.

In addition I am now scouring GEDmatch, 23andme, and FT-DNA Family Finder for more relative DNA matches.  I'm recording everything (including chromosome locations when available) onto a spreadsheet.  The image at the top of this page demonstrates my DNA matches where they share ancestry so far.  The darker the shade, the stronger the verification.

I'm starting to see how this is a better tool to understanding, or verifying ancestry, than any stupid ethnicity / ancestry composition by DNA.  Family isn't always biological.  However, finding a genetic correlation is the ultimate evidence to strengthen a tree.  It's fascinating to see actual paper research turning up as segments of inherited DNA on matches.