From Norfolk Labourer to Yankee Gunner

Irstead Church, Norfolk.  The last recorded parish of the Shorten family in England

Union artillery.  American Civil War.

I could call this post "What My Norfolk-English Family did in the American Civil War".

Thomas Shorten marries Rebecca Rose

3rd January, 1838, Thomas Shorten, a local 20 year old, poor agricultural labourer, married 19 year old Rebecca Rose in her home parish of Strumpshaw in Norfolk, England.  Thomas himself was born nearby in the small parish of Southwood, where incidentally, my mother was born some 140 years later.  We don't move far in our family line.

Rebecca was the 4th great aunt of my mother.  Through my mother, I myself am descended not only from Rebecca's parents, John and Martha Rose (nee Rowland), but also from her uncle and aunt Henry and Margaret Rose (nee Ling).  I am descended from Rebecca's grandparents, Henry and Mary Rose (nee Gorll) of Loddon, Norfolk - twice over.

These were incredibly tough times for the agricultural working classes in East Anglia.  Enclosure had disenfranchised them from their ancestral land.  The land had become privatised.  The threshing machine and other new technologies then made even their labour surplus to requirement.  Poverty was made a crime through the Poor Laws.  My family line were the ones that stayed here - but as I research my family history, so I come across time after time, how many of their siblings and cousins were forced to leave East Anglia, to seek a new life in London, the North of England, or abroad in places such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or the USA.

This is the story of one of those families.

Looking for work - Barton Turf

The couple moved from Strumpshaw some fourteen miles north, to a similar Broadland water side landscape at Barton Turf - a small and old  parish adjacent to Barton Broad and to the River Ant in Norfolk.  Maybe Thomas had found precious employment there at a labour fair, or at a market.  There at Barton, it appears that Rebecca gave birth to at least four children between 1843 and 1849 - Rebecca, Thomas, George, and Sarah Ann.  Thomas supported his young family as best as he could - selling his labours and skills to local farmers.  Their children were baptised, not always immediately, at the local Anglican church, the medieval church of St Michael & all Angels.

Irstead Staithe

The growing family appear to have made a small move to the next parish of Irstead - south of Barton Broad.  They lived on the Low Road which I believe was near to the rectory and church at Irstead Staithe, alongside the small River Ant.  The photo of Irstead Church at the top of this post was taken late into the 19th Century from across that river.  A lovely medieval thatched roofed Norfolk church dedicated to St Michael.  Perhaps the family moved along that river on the sailing vessels that passed along, mastered by watermen or a little later, by the wherrymen of Norfolk fame.

At Irstead, Rebecca gave birth to at least four more sons between 1849 and 1854: Henry, Alfred, Robert, and John Shorten.  By the end of that period, they had to feed and to support a total of eight children.  The pressure must have been immense.  They most likely lived in a squalid tied cottage, with no running water.  The children would have been expected to contribute to income or house work as soon as they were old enough.  Boys were expected to earn money in simple agricultural work from around the age of six.

Emigration to New York and the USA

Around 1855 the entire family sailed from England to New York.  I have most of them on passenger lists arriving at New York.  Most of them on one voyage, paid with bonded labour.

New York Passenger List (for some reason the children here were being accompanied by a Mary - although this may have been their mother Rebecca Shorten?).

The family appear then to move westwards across New York State, to the township of Ridgeway in Niagara County.  They were now an East Anglian-American family.

In the 1860 US Census, Thomas and Rebecca, age 51 and 52, are living in the town of Hartland, Niagara, New York.  They have with them George, age 21, Sarah Ann, age 18, Henry, age 16, Frederick (Alfred), age 12, and John, age 7 - all recorded as born in England.  There is also a baby in the household - Priscilla, born in New York.

The American Civil War 1861-1865

Five years after the family arrived in the USA, the election of Abraham Lincoln, and threats to the slave economy of the Southern States, lead to the secession of a new Confederacy from the USA.  The Lincoln government reacted with force.

The Shorten family in Niagara County were not slow to come to the aid of the Unionist Government.  They were now "Yankees".  Their eldest son Thomas, age 24, enrolled in the Union army first - as soon as news reached Niagara - he joined the 28th Infantry Regiment of the New York Volunteers on the 11th May 1861.

His younger brothers followed in 1862.  George Shorten, age 23, Henry Shorten, age 18, and William Shorten, age 17 - all joined the same 25th independent battery, New York Volunteers Light Artillery in the August of that year.  Four sons of Thomas and Rebecca were now fighting on the Union side in the American Civil War - four Norfolk sons.  They grew up in sleepy quiet Irstead, Norfolk, next to the little River Ant.  Now here they were, engaged in a terrible modern war thousands of miles away.  Their Norfolk accents must have still been noticeable.  But their patriotism to their new country undeniable.

All four brothers would have seen substantial action throughout the following years of the Civil War.  In the 28th Infantry of the New York Volunteers, Thomas Shorten (Junior) would have witnessed a number of conflicts with the Confederates during his four years of active service in the Unionist infantry:

His three younger brothers, George, Henry, and William Shorten spent the War together in the same battery of the New York Volunteers Light Artillery:

The death toll of the American Civil War is estimated at 620,000.  The Shorten family were incredibly lucky.  All four brothers came back alive and apparently with no serious physical injuries.  With the victory, they were discharged from their army duties in July 1865.  They could all go home.  Thomas (Junior) after more than four years service, was mustered in South Dakota.  His three brothers all still together in the Light Artillery were discharged in New York State:

Their parents Thomas (senior) and Rebecca were living in Hartland, Niagara County, New York State at the end of the Civil War.  The brothers returned there.  However, five years later, the US 1870 Census records that Thomas (senior) and Rebecca Shorten, now in their early sixties, had moved far to the west, to their own farm in Clinton County, Illinois.  Their youngest sons, Alfred and John still with them.  The poor labourer from Southwood parish had moved a long way.

As for their older sons, I lose track of George after he appears at Hartland, County Niagara in 1865 - but Henry, and William all marry, and go on to father children in New York State.  Thomas (junior) appears in the 1890 Civil War Veterans census in South Dakota, where he had been mustered.

That's what my family did in the American Civil war.

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
Banns
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
(I1011)
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)

More Places with Family History

I recently had another little bash at Internet Genealogy, principally using the NORS online database at the Norfolk FHS website, and FamilySearch.org.  I think that the ancestors will soon dry up from these resources, but I clutched several new families, and a few new ancestral locations.

All of this new batch are on my mother's side of my Norfolk ancestry.  I'm pleased that some of my recent additions have centred on Moulton St Mary's.  It's my favourite church in that area.  I took the above photo of it years ago.  I discovered that one of my ancestors, Thomas Barker, was born there around 1801.  I've seen Moulton a few times recently.  During the same research, I discovered that two other ancestors - Robert Waters, and Elizabeth Ransby were also married at that church, in 1795.  Otherwise, the Waters appear to have been a Freethorpe family.  Both were born at Freethorpe around 1771.  Their children were all to be baptised at Freethorpe.  I think that a nice idea for a series of future posts, would to be to focus on one ancestral parish or location at a time.  Associate it with my ancestors that lived there or passed through, see what Internet local history and any photographs that I can dig up.

Blofield has cropped up a few times as well.  My ancestors Thomas Dingle and Mary Ginby for example, were married there in 1782.  Thomas Dingle was from "Bradiston", which I eventually ascertained was Brayderston, a hamlet on the Blofield side of Strumpshaw.  Mary Ginby on the other hand, came from a family of Gynby, in a new village for the tree.  Several miles to the north, from the village of Woodbastwick, close to Salhouse. 

Most of my mother's paper ancestors lived on the loam soils north of the River Yare in East Norfolk.  However, sometimes I find lineages that have crossed the river from the south.  I found that this was the case with my ancestor Mary Gorll.  It turns out that she was born during 1741 in the small town of Loddon.  Spellings of her family surname in Loddon, varied from Gorll to Gall, Gaull, and Gaul.  She went on to marry my ancestor Henry Rose, at Loddon in 1768, and later they crossed the river to settle in Strumpshaw.

Finally, I also got a bit lucky with my Merrison / Morrison ancestors.  Benjamin Merrison married my ancestor Lydia Norton at Lingwood in 1796.  They raised their children at Lingwood, including my ancestor Hopeful Barker (nee Morrison).  However, I didn't know where Benjamin Merrison originated from.  Without transcripts and online indexing, I'd have been very lucky to find stray ancestors like Benjamin - people that move from more than one or two parishes away.  It turns out that he was baptised as Benjamin Marison in 1759 at the hamlet of Repps-with-Bastwick, between Thurne and Bastwick, near to the River Thurne.

There you are.  New families on my mother's side - Gaul, Ransby, Morrison, Gynby.  New ancestral parishes in Norfolk - Loddon, Braydeston, Woodbastwick, and Repps-with-Bastwick