Where do we come from?

I can answer that now.  A set of maps that demonstrates the geographic spread of my direct ancestry back seven generations, to the early 18th Century.

I used a cropped relief map of England from Wikimedia Commons.  Attribution is: By Nilfanion [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.

The red dots mark the locations of each ancestor, preferably a birth or baptism place, if not, then the next best provenance.

Grandparent Generation

All four ancestors of this generation are represented on this map.  All four are located in the county of Norfolk, in the East of England.  These ancestors were born between 1900 and 1910 in England only.  They represent two generations back from myself or my siblings.

Great Grandparent Generation

All eight ancestors of this generation are represented on this map.  Seven are located in Norfolk, in the East of England.  These ancestors were born between 1859 and 1885 in England only.  They represent three generations back from myself or my siblings.

Great Great Grandparent Generation

All sixteen ancestors of this generation are represented on this map.  They are concentrated in Norfolk again, but with single representatives each in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, London, and Oxfordshire.  These ancestors were all born between 1830 and 1865 in England only.  They represent four generations back from myself or my siblings.


Great Great Great Grandparent Generation

Thirty of the thirty two ancestors of this generation are represented on this map.  The other two were undeclared fathers.  The main cluster is still in Norfolk, with a particularly dense cluster in the east of the county, around the River Yare.  Outside of East Anglia, I also had ancestors at this generation in Oxfordshire, London, and Lincolnshire.  These ancestors were all born between 1794 and 1837 in England.  They represent five generations back from myself or my siblings.

Great Great Great Great Grandparent Generation

Now the paper ancestry starts to fade away, with only 42 provenance ancestors out of 64 biological ancestors for this generation (seven generations back).  Therefore the map might lose some detail.  None-the-less, it seems to show the pattern settling, with most of my ancestry only deepening in Norfolk, and strongly clustering around the River Yare in East Norfolk.  Almost entirely restricted to East Anglia, except for a few emerging clusters in Wessex.

Surnames

The recorded surnames of my known direct ancestors are overwhelmingly of Medieval English form: 

Brooker, Curtis, Smith, Thacker, Tovell, Tammas, Hewitt, Lawn, Peach, Goffen, Norton, Barber, Baxter, Ellis, Hagon, Porter, Becket, Shawers, Key, Rose, Ford, Daynes, Quantrill, Crutchfield, Freeman, Larke, Waters, Ransby, Ling, Rose, Riches, Snelling, Merrison, Cossey, Shepherd, Durran, Edney, Hedges, Dove, Britiff, Harris, Tibnum, Mitchells.Briggs, Nicholes

The surnames Tovell, Thacker, Daynes, Ransby, and Hagon - all from my mother's Norfolk side, could hint at an Anglo-Danish influence.

Fan Chart up to most recent six generations:

Earlier Origins

The years and generations represented on the maps pretty much cover the past three hundred years of industrialisation and globalisation.  Much earlier, I'd expect less movement.  Therefore I feel that it would be safe to assume, that back to at least the medieval period, that my ancestry was concentrated in East Anglia, with a secondary patch in the Wessex area of England.  The recent POBA (People of the British Isles) 2015 study, suggested that the old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms continued to act as localised gene pools into the high medieval period.

Before that, we had a period of immigration waves into lowland Britain.  The POBI study, supported a number of other recent studies based on genetic profiling, archaeology, and place-name study, to suggest that Anglo-Saxon immigration accounted for no more than 30% to 40% of lowland British DNA, and that the majority of English heritage had existed in the British Isles previous - perhaps to influxes of genes during the Bronze Age or earlier.  Genetic profiling of human remains in Cambridgeshire, of people identified as 5th Century immigrant (Anglo-Saxon), suggests the closest present day profile as Dutch or / and Danish.  The kingdom of East Anglia identified with the Angles ethnicity, that historically provenance their origins to the region of Angeln, on the Danish and German borders on the Baltic coast.  However how elites identify their origin, is often not based in fact, neither is their origin always shared by their subjects.

East Anglia fell to the Danish army, and subsequently to Danelaw control periodically during the late 9th to early 11th centuries.  Some parts of East Norfolk such as Flegg, are particularly rich in Old Danish place-names.  POBA 2015 failed to identify a Danish presence with their genetic profiling, but the place-name evidence and historical sources contradict this finding.  The 7th to 9th centuries saw a slight reduction in sea levels, that enabled the draining of new lands in East Anglia for settlement.  The same districts are rich in Old Danish place-names, strongly suggesting immigrant settlement.

Conclusion

POBI 2015 suggests that I have ancestors that have lived in lowland Britain, since at least the Bronze Age, and most likely, much earlier.  That very likely ties me to lowland British ethnicities of the Bronze and Iron Ages.  The dominant power in East Anglia during the Later Iron Age was the Iceni federation, famous for the Boudiccan revolt against Rome.

POBI 2015 and other studies, suggests an Anglo-Saxon immigration that accounts for 30% - 40% of English ancestry.  My strongest cluster is concentrated in the river valleys of East Norfolk, exactly the sort of landscape that I would expect any North Sea immigrants during the 4th to 11th centuries to concentrate.  Therefore, I would expect a high probability of actual Anglo-Saxon immigrant ancestry (based on recent studies, from the Netherlands area, and perhaps North Germany / Denmark).  Based on place-name evidence the area was later heavily influenced by the Danish.

When I receive my 23andMe DNA results, based on their genetic profiling of Y chromosome, mtDNA, and on general autosomal calculators, in their ancestry results, I would expect to see overwhelming British & Irish percentage.  However, will their autosome crunchers also predict a percentage in the Scandinavian, French & German, and North-West European 23andMe categories?  As autosomal DNA is so random, what will the results display?

23andMe

Still waiting for the results.  23andMe are not giving a very rapid service.  For starters, I received a sample kit with a Netherlands return address.  That apparently was a holding depot, where they stockpile some of the European samples, so that they can ship them to the USA cheaper.  My sample reached a US lab, but continues to sit in a queue.  It has now been 37 days since I sent my registered sample off, and the box is still in a queue, waiting to be tested.  Other customers are reporting some long waits further down the process in quality control.  I expect a long wait.

A long time ago...

Yup, this is myself and the ex, in 1995.  I was in my early thirties, and somehow I became involved in local mainstream politics.  The red tie not so subtly betrays my party affiliation.

I don't really talk much about those days, or how I ended up as a mayor of a small English town for a term.  How and why does someone become political?  What is it in their nature or upbringing that drives them into that direction?  There was no hint of it at school age.  I wasn't really the most politically aware  kid on the block.  Neither did I grow up in poverty, desperate to climb out and to make my mark.  If I think deep, there was a sort of a sympathy with the underdog, and perhaps I was taught a sense of fair play.

If I'm to be honest with you, I pretty much discovered socialism and Marxism very suddenly and energetically in my early twenties, and became a born again revolutionary.  I spent a year or two playing at revolutionary politics, then did what society programmed me to: work more hours, pay tax, get married, raise children get a mortgage, die.  I skipped out on the dying bit when I hit a damaging mid-life crisis.  For the time being any way.

But somewhere in that process, I still craved a bit of political action.  I lived in a little town in Norfolk, there was no revolutionary presence.  So I instead joined the local branch of the Labour Party.  This was still in the days of Clause 4.  Full of zest, I took part in stupid games between cliques, knocked on doors, attended meeting after meeting, every working party of every sub committee.  I took office within the branch and constituency, levered support from my trade union.  Part of that progression involved standing for public office.  I indeed stood for a seat on the local town council.  Against all expectations, I lost to a Tory candidate.  The next day at the branch post mortem, someone looked at the mathematics, and it didn't add up.  There was a miscount.  An excuse for a political campaign, the branch took it to the High Court, then to the Old Bailey.  Ballet boxes were opened, and a gross but basic mistake spotted on the top, on a totting up note.  I was declared rightful councillor, and the poor Tory candidate booted out.

The above photograph was taken early into my second term as a councillor.  I had also won a seat on the District Council.  I was made the mayor of Thetford.  Maybe more on that experience, and my subsequent views on the state of local democracy in England in a later post.

Pardon my English

The 21st Century English are having an identity crisis.  No, I'm not likely to start raving some sort of nationalist or xenophobic agenda.  That isn't me.

Brexit may be taking us to the collapse not only of the European Union, but also to the collapse of the British Union.  I cant think of a time when it is more appropriate to consider, who are we?  Who are the English?

English identity has become entwined with the British Union for so long, and so deeply, that it has submerged.  Our nationality is British.  So what is English?  Living on a Thetford council estate several years ago during an International football tournament, I could see the red crossed flags all around me, with gangs of youths shouting out Inger-lund!  Yet the St George doesn't even have any official recognition within the United Kingdom.  When Scotland leaves the Union following Brexit, we might need to consider that.  Football fans seemed to connect with their version of Englishness increasingly from the nineteen nineties on.  In politics, this has transferred to a newly emerged English right wing "nationalism", as expressed by groups such as the English Defence League.  The term Little Englander can be employed to belittle such a stance.  English pride emerges decades after the collapse of the Old British Empire.  Like a cargo cult, perhaps driven on by some sort of fear.


Six Generation Ancestral Fan Chart

Its not going to get any more complete than that.  The only two missing ancestors were unrecorded fathers.  That should pretty much reflect the paper background to my autosomal DNA.  It also illustrates quite well, how a complete ancestry fans out, doubliing in number each generation.  Of course, over enough generations, it starts to reduce again, as common ancestors shared by more than one line, start to appear.  Hence the homogeneous nature for example, of the English.

It is also not a proportional representation of where my autosomal DNA comes from.  At meiosis, I recieve 50% of my DNA from my mother, and 50% from my father.  However, before that, randomness creeps in, along with chromosome exchange, so that it's quite possible that I have inherited no DNA at all from some of my G.G.G grandparents for example, while others may be over-represented in my DNA.

I created the Fan Chart using the Open Source Gramps genealogy database software.  I'm really enjoying that program.

I do wish that 23andMe would hurry up.  Thirty four days since sending my sample, and so far it's reached a queue for testing in an American lab.  Judging by the moans and groans on their forums, I might have to wait for a total of three months in order to see results.

Car Boot Sale Cameras

There is something very satisfying about making pleasant images using cheap old film cameras.  I took the above photograph of our young lurcher, a little over three years ago, when I returned to film.  I was using a 1959 Kodak Retinette IIa camera, that cost me two quid from a car boot sale, loaded with Poundland film.  This is why I became hooked on film.



18th February 2016

Photography

I took the above photograph using Ilford Delta Professional 400 film, loaded in the Bronica SQ-A, fitted with a PS 150mm f/4 lens.  I developed the film in Kodak D-76 t 1:1.

I've fallen into such a bad state with my photography.  I feel as though I have lost my ability to take interesting photos any more.  I've hardly touched medium format for a while.  When I do photograph, it's mainly using 35mm film compacts.  I do have a couple of cassettes of Rollei Retro 400S to develop some time.  Mainly shot on a recent day trip to York.  I don't expect any of my shots to be particularly magic though.

Running with dogs

The running is going well.  I still struggle to stop the lurcher from pissing at every tree, lamppost, hedge, but our times have improved something closer to my old running times.  My weight loss haltered for a while - stuck at the 11 stone 8 pounds mark for too long.  However, weight loss is not my object so much as health and fitness.  Still, I was pleased when I stood on the scales today and saw 11 stone 5 pounds.  Cool.  That's a healthy BMI of 24.  It was a very unhealthy 29 back in November.

The blender is cool.  I'm glad that I went for the 1200 W monster.  It chews and spits everything in it's path.  I've found it handy not only for making smoothies, but equally, healthy quick soups.  I simply load it with whatever vegetables are at hand, add some stock - and blend it just like a smoothie - but then I put it into a pan and cook it for a little while on the stove.

Genealogy

My paper ancestry continues to expand, thanks mainly to searchable indexes online.  I now have no less than thirty of my thirty two G.G.G grandparents named.  The only two that are still missing on the fan chart are unlikely to ever surface, as in both cases, the ancestors were illegitimate.  I think that I've done well since recovering my old .gedcom file from the Internet. How many people can name thirty of their great great great grandparents?  Five generations back no less.

One challenge was breaking through an old block with my great great grandmother Ann Smith of Attleborough, Norfolk.  Years ago, I hit a block.  I knew her 1835 birth date from her headstone in Attleborough.  I knew that her maiden name was Peach - not a local name.  I knew on 19th Century censuses that she stated her place of birth to be Eaton, Lincolnshire.  That was a bit odd for my Norfolk ancestors.  I had found her on one census, living in the same household as a Sarah Peach that appeared old enough to be her mother, or maybe an aunt.  Only that Sarah Peach was a washer woman that had been born in Hockwold, Norfolk.

A recent search online, bit by bit, placed all of the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together.  Sarah was the mother of Ann.  Sarah Peach was one of my G.G.G grandparents.  But Peach was her married name.  Despite being described on censuses as unmarried, she had briefly been married in the East Midlands.  Something happened to that marriage.  She was born in Hockwold, Norfolk in 1812, and christened as Sarah Riches.   Her parents were Benjamin Riches, a labourer who himself had been born c.1779 at Old Buckenham, Norfolk, and Elizabeth Riches (nee Snelling) who had been born at Banham, Norfolk.  Something later took Sarah Riches out of Norfolk, all the way to the Lincolnshire area.  In 1835 at Holywell in the East Midlands, she married a David Peach. Five months later, their daughter Ann Peach was born not at Eaton in Lincolnshire, but at Etton in what is now Cambridgeshire.  I never see David Peach again.  Instead, Sarah and her daughter Ann turned up six years later in Attleborough, Norfolk, living there with her parents who had moved there from nearby Hockham. 

Ann went on to marry my great great grandfather in 1857.  They settled in Attleborough, where they went on to run a builders business, a beerhouse, and a builders supply yard - all from the Grapes in the town.

Her mother Sarah didn't disappear.  She never married again, but she did give birth to two more children.  She worked throughout as a char woman or laundress in Attleborough.

Another mystery solved, and another pair of G.G.G grandparents into the bag.

Now when I eventually get my DNA results from 23andMe (33 days so far), I'll have a good idea of where that autosomal DNA came from.

Gramps software

I'm a big fan of Open Source.  I do run Linux on my netbook, but I do use Microsoft 7 64 bit on a desktop for various reasons.  When I need some software, I like to see what Open Source software is available first.  I needed a program to open that .gedcom, and downloaded GRAMPS both onto my Linux netbook, and onto my Windows PC.

What a cracking program!  The controls and depth of the database can be a little intimidating.  I can see that it is one of those applications that needs a bit of skill.  However, so much depth to it, so many ways of logging sources, citations, places, and relationships.  Brilliant software, who needs to buy an end user license?  More on Gramps here.

Ancestry - progress via free online records

My direct ancestry fan chart looked a little bit too uneven (the above chart is the improved chart, after the following research).  I had compiled no ancestry for one of my great grandparents - my father's maternal grandmother, Emily Smith (nee Barber).  All that I knew of her origin, was that although she married and settled with my great grandfather, in Norwich, that she was born in 1859 in the South Norfolk village of Hedenham.  For some reason, perhaps a lack of resources back then (I conducted most of my family history 20 - 15 years ago pre-Internet), I had never traced any further back on her line.  My Ancestry Fan Chart highlighted this Gap of data.

I haven't really got the time to travel over to Norfolk Record Office at the moment, but I did have the recent opportunity to spend several hours online.  Internet Genealogy can be a bit pricey though.  Someone has to gain access to records, digitalise them, index them.  This service is provided by a number of commercial website companies, but of course, they have paid subscriptions.  I guess that if I was to start genealogy afresh, that I might be tempted to invest in an annual subscription with one of those companies.  If I didn't live in the country of my ancestry, then even more so.  As it is, I'm lucky, as the vast majority of my ancestry over the past three or four hundred years appears to be quite local, so that I can easily visit local archives and church yards.

So how did I get on with my Free Internet Genealogy Experiment with great grandmother Emily Smith (nee Barber)?

Conclusion - the story that I uncovered

This is a story of three generations of rural working class families, in South Norfolk, and just over the border in NE Suffolk.

On the 16th September, 1794, John Ellis married Elizabeth Beckett at the parish of Tasburgh in South Norfolk.  They were G.G.G.G grandparents of myself.  Tasburgh is a small village that straddles an old Roman road.  The couple then settled in the neighbouring parish of Saxlingham-Nethergate.  Their first two children, John, and Elizabeth, were baptised there.

Sometime around 1796, they moved slightly to the south, to the parish of Hempnall, Norfolk.  They settled there for may years, and Elizabeth gave birth to a further nine children by 1818, at Hempnall.  One of those was my G.G.G grandfather, James Ellis, who was born on the 16th April 1812, and was baptised shortly after at the parish church of Hempnall. At least one of the baptisms recorded that the father, John Ellis, was employed as a labourer - as with most rural working class men, he was an agricultural labourer.

G.G.G grandfather James Ellis, grew up to marry a woman named Esther.  They eventually settled in Esther's parish of birth - a few miles to the east of Hempnall, in the village of Hedenham, Norfolk.  However, at first, they may have spent some time even further east, in the village of Ditchingham, Norfolk.  They first had two daughters, including my G.G grandmother, Maria Ellis, who was baptised at Hedenham on 29th September 1834.  But in 1838, they had a son named Benjamin, who was baptised at nearby Ditchingham.  All later children - six of them, between 1841 and 1850, were born at Hedenham again.  During both the 1841 and 1851 censuses, the Ellis family were recorded as living in Hedenham.  James was recorded as working as an agricultural labourer in 1851, as was his twelve year old son Benjamin.

Now let's just step away from the Ellis family for a moment, and look at another ancestral family, the Barbers, living at this time, just over the county border to the south, in a little hamlet of South Elmham, named St Michaels.

G.G.G grandparents Robert and Mary Ann Barber, were both born in the county of Suffolk sometime around 1794.  They were raising a family in St Michaels, Suffolk.  Between 1818, and 1841, I found records of at least eight of their children, all born in St Michaels, S.Elmham.  One of them was my G.G grandfather George Barber, who was born in 1830.  During the 1841 census, eleven year old George was living with his parents and siblings in St Michaels.

Then something went wrong.  Perhaps the father, Robert Barber, died.  Perhaps they fell into extreme poverty, or even an illness struck the family.  With very little welfare, such events were often a tragedy to 19th Century rural working class families.  After 1841, the family disappear.  I lose trace of Robert and Mary Ann Barber.  Instead, in 1851, I find my twenty year old G.G grandfather, George Barber, is humiliated as an inmate of Shipmeadow Workhouse - the Union workhouse of the Wangford Poor Law Union.  Meanwhile, his thirteen year old younger brother, and nine year old younger sister are recorded as lodging with the Wigg family household in St Michaels.

Back over with the Ellis's, also in 1851, my G.G grandmother Maria Ellis was recorded as working as a live in servant in a household of the Buck family in Hedenham, Norfolk.

Seven years later, in 1858, George Barber married Maria Ellis, somewhere in the Wangford district of Suffolk.

G.G Grandparents George and Maria Barber (nee Ellis) settled in the brides home parish of Hedenham, Norfolk, where between 1858 and 1868, they reared four daughters, including my great grandmother Emily Barber, who was born at Hedenham in 1859.  George's occupation was recorded again, as agricultural labourer.

During the 1861 census, the family are living at Old Gravel Pit, in Woodton, Norfolk - close to Hedenham.  Emily was aged one.

During the 1871 census, Emily, age now eleven, had a recorded occupation - Crow Keeper, which I understand to mean that she earned money for scaring birds from the fields.

However, by 1881, Emily had left her family, and had moved to the City.  She was now recorded as living at The Chantry, St Stephens, Norwich where she worked as a domestic servant for a John Rayner (a solicitor's clerk), and his family.  Emily most likely met my great grandfather Frederick Smith in Norwich, where they married sometime between 1881 and 1884, and proceeded to raise their own family, including my paternal grandmother, Doris Smith.

Methods

So how did I piece that together from free online research?  I added three generations to Emily's line, and extended that section of my ancestry fan chart without even leaving home, or paying a penny.  I made a story, I found probable tragedy, encountered some large families, identified their class, added new locations to my ancestry, such as Tasburgh - and even my first ever discovered ancestors from over the county border into Suffolk.  I found that my great grandmother (I'll borrow a photograph to scan later) Emily Smith, earned money as a girl, working as a Crow Keeper!

The main source was Family Search, the genealogical website hosted by the Church of the Latter Day Saints.  This is a cracking free website.  On it I could find and search a database of UK censuses from between 1841 and 1911.  This enabled me for example, to locate a few ancestors locations when otherwise they would have been missing.  The website also has an impressive database of transcribed parish registers and Bishops transcripts.  In some cases, the original documents were also available as digitilised images.  The search facility for all of their documents took a little getting use to, in order to get the best out of it, but what a free service!

Another useful website was FreeBMD.  This database was critical in tracing and confirming the marriage of George Barber to Maria Ellis in 1858. Although it only gives access to the indexes of state birth, marriages, and deaths, that along with correlations through the search facility of FamilySearch.org gave me enough information for that event.

Finally, in a search like this - you have to use Google Maps, in order to get a picture of where your ancestors lived, use Street View to see them, and the maps to see exactly where the parishes are in relation to each other.