A Day at the Record Office

I took the above photograph of Besthorpe church graveyard, a few weeks ago on Rollei Retro 400S film, that was loaded in an Olympus XA2 camera, then developed in Ilford LC29 chemistry.

Well that was fun.  Five hours in a stuffy archive centre, wheeling through microfilms, with not much to show for it other than sore eyes.

I'm still concentrating solely on that mtDNA line - my strict maternal line.  I had got back to my G.G.G Grandmother, Sarah Daynes (nee Quantrill).  She stated on several censuses that she was born around 1827 at Wymondham, Norfolk.  She most likely was the thirteen year old family servant, Sarah Quantrill, employed during the 1841 census in the Long household at Wymondham.  It looks like she had to look after forty year old James Long, a farmer, and several of his children, some a similar age to her.  She went on to marry Reuben Daynes at Besthorpe, Norfolk on the 26th April 1849.  She appears to have remained at Besthorpe for most if not all of her remaining life.  Turnpike Road Cottages, to be precise, which I believe to be close to Morley and Wymondham.  Her husband Reuben, was a labourer, still employed in at the age of seventy.  He lived to a good old age, although by the age of 78, he was forced to turn to parish relief.  They were still living at Turnpike cottages in 1901.

So, we know by census that mtDNA G.G.G Grannie Sarah was born circa 1827, at Wymondham, and that her father was a labourer named Robert Quantrill.  I slowly scanned through the Wymondham baptism registers from 1813 until nearly the late 1830s.  Wymondham had a lot of babies.  Surely, by reason of thought, I should find the baptism of Sarah, and perhaps some siblings?  That would be the normal next step.

Nope, nada.  I wasted hours.  Although I know that there are splashes of the Quantrell/Quantrill/Quantrele surname around mid Norfolk (Bunwell and sometimes Norwich crop up on searches), it didn't crop up much in the Wymondham parish registers.  Which can also be a good thing.However, in this case, I found a mere five of them, and none particularly helpful.

  • One daughter of a Richard Kett and Sarah (nee Quantrill) in 1822
  • One daughter of a William Quantrele and his wife Ann (nee Blake) in 1824
  • Two daughters in 1826 and 1827 of a John Starling and his wife Maria (nee Quantril).

So where the hell were their children, or at least mtDNA Sarah, baptised?  I can immediately think of three top options to research, but they are not easy:

  • Nonconformist.  I have a hunch though, that they were not.
  • A nearby parish - but so many possibilities!  I could be looking for months or years.
  • Something happened to the family, such as moving far away for years, or death / break up - hence Sarah working as a servant at thirteen years of age.

Then, just before I had to go and walk a mile to move the car before I got a ticket, I quickly glanced through the Wymondham Marriage Register, and I found:

Robert Quantrill bachelor of this parish & Mary Page of this parish by banns 12th October 1818.

G.G.G mtDNA Grannie Sarah, born nine years after that marriage, claimed that she was born in Wymondham, and also claimed that her father was a Robert Quantrill.  They fit, it is so tempting, that I have provisionally claimed Mary Quantrill (nee Page) to be my next generation back, my G.G.G.G mtDNA Grannie.  However, it's not good paper genealogy.  Really I need to verify her as a direct ancestor.  I could have the wrong couple, or it could have been the right Robert Quantrill (the only Robert Quantrill so far spotted in Wymondham), but an earlier marriage.  I at least need to see Sarah named as the daughter of a Robert & Mary Quantrill, born of them around 1827, perhaps in Wymondham or nearby.  This would be pre-state birth registration, and before anything I can find on a census.  I can't find her or any siblings in the Wymondham baptism registers, so where next?  I need her baptism.

On the positive, I'm making some progress.  Before my recent campaign, all of my mother's recorded ancestors had been very much East or Broadland Norfolk.  That is where her autosomal DNA would largely originate for I suspect, many centuries.  Quite interesting, because the Far East of East Anglia is where some researchers such as Stephen Oppenheimer, have suggested the strongest genetic evidence of Anglo-Saxon admixture.  Place-name evidence there also strongly suggests Danish Viking  settlement.  The shores of East Anglia were the places where immigrants were most likely to beach.  I have also previously read that the sea levels dropped very slightly around the eighth century AD, making areas such as Norfolk Flegg, easier to drain for settlement by immigrants from across the North Sea.

And yet, my mtDNA line skips away from that Eastern fringe, into South Norfolk.  I didn't expect that.  In Besthorpe, it is only a parish away from some of my father's autosomal ancestors at Attleborough, and not so far away from his mtDNA at Hedenham in South Norfolk.  My parents grew up in very different districts of Norfolk, at least thirty miles apart, with the City of Norwich in between.  Yet follow the genes back, and you can start to see how earlier admixture between their ancestors could well have taken place within the past five hundred years.  The recent POBI (People of the British Isles) genetic survey (2015) suggested that despite admixture from many waves of immigration going back over thousands of years, that the present day English are very homogeneous.  The same survey also said that the patterns of the old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms still show on their genetic map.

I've only followed the mtDNA line back five or six generations so far.  However, I can't help noticing that it is swirling around South and East Norfolk.  It is more mobile than many of the autosomal lines.  Perhaps women were more likely to move over the past few centuries to new parishes, to their husbands?

I say swirling - I have got back so far to Wymondham.  That is the same South Norfolk market town that my parents retired to.  I even lived there for a while.  My mother, my sister, my niece, who all share my mtDNA, still live there.  Yet no-one was aware that we had ancestors there in the town.


Recovered Genealogy

The above portrait is of my great great grandfather Billy Baxter (William Bennet Baxter), who was born in Gressenhall workhouse, Norfolk, in 1846.

Now that I've submitted a DNA sample to 23andMe, while waiting for the results, I keep thinking, and wanting to write about my heritage and ancestry.  Hence maybe the recent posts on my past archaeology work, my interest in our Anglo-Saxon heritage, and now more directly, my past and recent experience with genealogy.

I first became interested in the family tree around the late 1980s.  I was a young married guy, on the brink of rearing my own family, so maybe there was a desire to find out where we came from, entwined with where we were going.  I can remember as a boy being interested in any tales about my alleged ancestors.  As I said in a recent post, I was always fascinated by the past.

I'm probably lucky in some ways.  Genealogy can be so Internet and computer databased these days.  I conducted most of my research before all of that.  I would visit county record offices and archives around England & Wales, and wearing white cotton gloves in reading rooms, sift through the original registers and documents - some of which were in the original handwriting of my ancestors.  Two of my ancestors had been long serving parish clerks in Norfolk.  I'd also visit archives in London, search through indexes of birth, marriage, and death (BMD).  If I wanted to order a BMD certificate, I'd write to a detective or genealogist, that would fetch bundles of certificates from the archives at a cheaper price than I could do it first hand.

With my wife, I'd also travel around the churches, cemeteries, and grave yards.  We'd interview elderly relatives, ask to see any family photographs or certificates.  Most were eager to tell their tales.

A nicer way of researching than sitting at home and paying to see transcript records in an internet database.  However, I made a mistake.  Computers were coming along.  I recorded too much onto obsolete system and using obsolete software.  Then I hit middle age.  I let go of too much, all of my notes, charts, and records.  My marriage collapsed, I moved on.  Holding onto things seemed futile when I have only one life.  I lost much of my genealogy.

Then a few days ago when I was looking at my old archaeology website on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, I spotted a few pages on my old genealogy.  There was a link to a .gedcom file that included a lot of the data that I had accumulated years ago.  It worked, the Wayback Machine had captured my .gedcom file!  Data on over 1200 ancestors and relatives from both mine, and the ex's family.  I looked for some Open Source software and found the Gramps program.  I downloaded it and the .gedcom file onto both my Windows 7 PC, and onto my Linux netbook.  After fiddling for a little while, the software opened my old gedcom file - there was all of the data, or at least a lot of it.  Charts, resources, BMDs, baptisms, burials, etc.  Retrieved from an Internet Archive, and saved in a format that still works.

The above group photograph is of four generations.  The baby is my Aunt Gladys, the mother is my maternal grandmother, the man is her father, my great grandfather Sam Tammas-Tovell, and the old lady is my great great grandmother Eliza Tammas-Tovell (nee Lawn).  Probably taken in the Halvergate or Tunstall area of Norfolk around 1936

My Genealogy and 23andMe

Most of my recorded ancestry, and most likely, most of my actual ancestry, lived in the English county of my birth - Norfolk.  Seven of my eight grandparents were born in Norfolk. My autosomal data should be pretty typical for a Norfolk born East Anglian.  The exception was my paternal great grandfather, who was born in Victorian London, of mainly Oxfordshire descent.  On the 23andMe results, he should have passed down my Y chromosome haplogroup.  On paper I can go back another three generations, to a John Brooker, who fathered some children between 1815 and 1836 in the parish of Rotherfield Peppard in Oxfordshire.  All that I currently know of his origins, is that he stated that he himself was born outside of Oxfordshire.  He lived close to the county border with Berkshire, and I suspect that he may have originated from there.

My maternal line, which should represent my mtDNA haplogroup, as with most of my recorded ancestry, is very Norfolk.  I can trace it back to Sarah Daynes (nee Quantrill), born at Wymondham, Norfolk circa 1827.  I don't think that it would be too far fetched to suggest that my ancestors most likely lived in the Norfolk area since at least as far back as the old East Anglian Kingdom, and perhaps many of them much back further, perhaps thousands of years.  Some of them however were very likely to have been part of that Anglo-Saxon immigrant Third, and to have arrived from across the North Sea.  Some of them may have arrived a bit later.  East Anglia was very much a part of the Danelaw.  Many villages in East Norfolk - as in parts of Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire, are regarded as having names that were Old Danish in origin.  Apparently even one of my family surnames - Tovell, has been identified as Old Danish, coming from Tofi-son-of-Hilda.  Another family surname Thacker has also been suggested as a Scandinavian form of thatcher.

I'll be interested to see how 23andMe analyse the Ancestry.  In all of my ancestry, I have not found any evidence of anyone coming from outside of England.  It's all Norfolk, London, and Oxfordshire - English surnames.  Therefore I'd expect the 23andMe autosomal results to come out pretty much under the British & Irish group.  However, should we ethnic English, because of our more distant history, expect elements of Scandinavian, French & German, and North West European?  My understanding is that autosomal data mainly relates to the most recent several generations.  My Y chromosome should belong to a common British male haplogroup.  It most likely passed through Oxfordshire in SW Britain.  My mtDNA should belong to a very East English haplogroup.  It might have arrived in Britain in late prehistory, or it might have arrived during the Anglo-Saxon or Viking period.

Too much speculation, I must expect my DNA results to take weeks to process.