FindMyPast.co.uk boosts Suffolk baptism records by 141,500

FindMyPast.co.uk has added 450,000 more parish register entries to its collection – including 141,500 Suffolk baptisms.

Popular genealogy research site FindMyPast.co.uk has announced another tranche of 450,000 online parish records.

FindMyPast.co.uk logo

In a Press Release this morning, it was revealed that 141,525 ‘new’ parish baptisms from 1753-1911 have been added to the FindMyPast.co.uk website via a collaboration with the Suffolk Family History Society.

This is a fantastic boost for researchers of Suffolk ancestors, as well as for the FindMyPast site.

Amongst other records added at the same time were:

  • 244,309 Wiltshire Baptisms 1538-1867
  • 27,420 Northumberland & Durham Burials 1587-2009
  • 22,687 Sheffield Baptisms 1837-1968
  • 8,181 Sheffield Marriages 1824-1991
  • 7,113 Ryedale Baptisms, Marriages and Burials 1754-1999

The records are available to view online now for users with PayAsYouGo, Britain Full, or Worldwide subscription.

This is perfect timing for me, as I’ve been waiting for Suffolk parish records to help me solve some research hurdles.

My Top 5 Genealogy ‘to-dos’ for 2013

My top 5 genealogy things I hope to achieve in 2013 – a mixture of visits, writing and demolishing those research brick walls.

I don’t really go for New Year’s Resolutions, as I like to challenge myself on a daily basis, but I thought that I would put down 5 areas of my family tree research where I hope to make progress in 2013.

1. The Missing Bowers

If you use RootsChat.com, you may have spotted me trying to unravel the Bowers family of Burwell, Cambridgeshire. There’s quite a lot of them there during the 19th century, and amongst them i am sure, *should be* my Great Great Great Great Grandfather, Henry Bowers – yet there’s no sign of him in an appropriate part of the baptism registers, and unhelpfully he was born in about 1812 (so, well before that helpful 1st July 1837 date) and there’s no parents noted on his 1832 marriage entry in nearby Wicken. Henry’s children’s Burwell connections are frequent, yet he himself has yet to appear.

I feel that I’m beginning to make progress though, by researching all the Bowers in Burwell by cross-referencing the registers to census returns. Annoyingly, my favourite census – the 1851 for Burwell – is missing, and so this leaves a hole in the data.

I am determined to crack this one. Somehow.

2. My Time-traveling Great Great Great Great Great Grandmother

Elizabeth Yarrow‘s birth, death and burial dates and place of death is open to discussion as none of the key sources corroborate. A death in London, a burial in Stretham, a date of burial in Stretham differing from the date of burial (randomly) noted in the register for neighbouring hamlet Little Thetford, date of death and age different between burial registers and gravestone.

It’s all a mess… and with her 1837 death year, there’s also no suitable certificate to help iron it all out (the one i did excitedly find was for a small child). My 5x Great Grandmother’s life and death might be impossible to unravel unless I get my hands on some newspapers and some railway records.

3. Writing that book

So, for quite a while now I’ve been toying with writing up research into a book, but then the genealogist’s work is never ever finished – so at what point do I start and end the book? What do i include and omit? Having several friends who are published authors themselves helps, but I hope to be able to work out how, and start, to turn my years of research into something that can be shared in print and in eBook.

If you’re a published genealogy author – drop me a message – i’d love to hear about your experiences.

4. Visiting places familiar to my ancestors

I’m quite good at this, mainly because few strayed from Cambridgeshire. Top of my list is to find the building (or site) of my Great Grandmother’s birthplace – The Stables, Abercorn Place, Kilburn. I’ve meandered the streets via Google Streetview, and I’ve been in the neighbouring streets (including the famous Abbey Road) where the family lived and worked… but this place remains unvisited.

5. Killing off my wicked Great x4 Grandmother

My Great x4 Grandmother, Mary Clarke ended up in court and eventually prison for neglecting, abusing and playing the role of wicked step-mother to her husband’s children during the mid-1800s. She’d already bore my Great x3 Grandmother and a brother outside of marriage and before becoming the wife of William Bailey of Botesdale, Suffolk. This was to be to their advantage, as they went on to escape the miserable family life that followed. No wonder my Great x3 Grandmother Caroline Clarke changed her name and hid her parentage. Meanwhile, after a couple of stints in the workhouse, and one in prison, Mary vanishes after 1881… but I’ve yet to kill her off.

Mary, i’m coming to get you!

What genealogy brick walls are you hoping to demolish in 2013? Is there something special you hope to achieve in the coming year?  Let me know in the comments below.

Alternatively, join in the conversation over on LinkedIn.

Elveden and the Brightwells

One of the family trees that I am currently climbing has a bit of an evolutionary name. The most recent incarnations in the late-19th century are ‘Brightle’, ‘Brightley’ and ‘Brightly’ as found in Littleport and Little Downham fenland, Cambridgeshire.

The latter two are clearly pronounced ‘bright-lee’ as in, ‘well lit’, but the first version seems a little odd. Perhaps it still is ‘Bright-lee’ but with just one ‘e’. However, after stumbling across a note that my ancestor John Brightly was born in ‘Elden, Suffolk’, I decided to see what I could find. Not only did he have this changing surname that I wanted to follow, he was also from outside the county – which in my genealogy is quite rare.

I already had a hunch of where ‘Elden’ was but checked it out on Genuki, which confirmed my suspicions.

Much to my delight, my ancestors appeared to be from the same Suffolk village that I had grown up in, gone to school in, and enjoyed living immensely – Elveden, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. I havent’ lived there for more than 20 years now but this chance coincidence feels like a full circle! Do you ever get that sense of pride or excitement when you visit a place that your ancestor would have known well?

Fortunately, the village is in Suffolk and also classed as West Suffolk, which means that the parish records are deposited at the record office in Bury St Edmunds, so I knew I could easily pay them a visit to check up on the claim of John Brightly’s birthplace.

I found ‘Brightwell’ to be the chosen spelling, and several family members were listed in the births, marriages, and burials – including a Robert Brightwell noted as being a farmer in 1785. ‘Brightwell’ fits with the ‘Brightle’ spelling – if you think of it being pronounced as ‘Bright-all’ – not far from ‘Brightwell’ which with an accent could easily sound like ‘Bright-wall’.

The parish records are copied onto microfiche and it was easy to claim a reader for use. Unfortunately, the mid-late 1700’s registers were subject to some fading (or bad microfiching!) and some dreadfully wafty and artistic handwriting from George Burton the Rector. The earlier entries from the 1600s were immaculate though – clearly written, well organised, and the spelling was perfect.

After collecting up a few Brightwell entries that I could glean from the microfiche I departed, pleased to think that my Brightwell ancestors had lived in a place that I enjoyed living so much, and that I had re-trod their steps quite literally and obliviously by chance, some 200 years after them.

I was also interested to see in the 1700s, that the village was home to three family names that were there when I was a child and I think are still present there today: Harper, Turner and Gathercole – That’s more than 300 years of their family history!

There’s something about Mary…

A few weeks ago I wrote about my Clarke/Bailey family at Hartismere Union Workhouse. In that posting, I mentioned that whilst I had located the Bailey/Clarke family group, the wife (my gtx4 grandmother – Mary Bailey née Clarke) was missing from the group.

Well, thanks to a combination of help from Ann Berwick, who commented on that posting and gave me the first hint of her whereabouts, the good people at RootsChat.com, and the very helpful Steve at Ipswich Record Office, I have been able to locate Mary Bailey and an additional Bailey child called Emily.

Mary was in prison.

This is the first time that I have uncovered a relative in prison, let alone them being an ancestor. Naturally I wanted to know why they were serving time in Ipswich County Gaol.

After hearing from Ann that Mary may have been serving time for a crime, I checked the 1841 census and sure enough found Mary and a 6mth old Emily Bailey listed at Ipswich County Gaol and House of Correction. Ipswich Record Office was my next point of call to see what kind of records were available for the gaol. Shortly after emailing, I receive a reply from Searchroom Assistant, Steve, who provided me with the following information which not only proved that she was the correct Mary Bailey, but gave a hint at the crime she committed.

Age: 29
Father: William Clarke
Crime: Ill-using Children
Abode: Botesdale
Sentence: 6 calendar months
Year 1841

Further details can be found in the Gaol Book. Reference 609/31 page 277. A copy of this is held on microfiche.

I was pleased to see William Clarke and Botesdale mentioned, as I had not revealed this to the archivist… but “Ill-using children”?

I really wasn’t expecting that – I was expecting to read about how she’d stolen a loaf of bread to feed her growing brood and narrowly escaped transportation. I had to know more. However, whilst I’m about to employ a researcher to dig deeper in the Ipswich Archives to get the real nitty-gritty gaol details, I moved over to the exceptionally and eternally helpful folks at RootsChat.com (who have smashed so many of my brickwalls in the past) to ask for their thoughts on this ambiguously named crime.

Not long later, forum user “suffolk*sue” joined in the thread and through her own research found a newspaper article in the Ipswich Journal, dated 13th March 1841 relating to the crime. She warned me it was long and harrowing. She was right.

When reading the news article, it turns out that William Bailey (Mary’s husband) was also charged with the same crime –

William Bailey, 35, labourer, Botesdale, was charged with not having provided sufficient food and raiment for his children, Louisa Bailey, 5 years of age; Ellen Bailey, 8 years of age; and Emma Bailey, 11 years of age; whereby they had become sick, and ill, and emaciated. There was another count, containing a charge of assault.

The report goes on to explain how both Emma and Louisa were found bruised, hardly clothed, dirty and hungry in Botesdale and Stanton respectively.

Louisa was brought back to the house [Hartismere Union Workhouse] , nearly naked, and very much beaten about the head and face – she was a complete skeleton. There were three or four severe bruises to her head and her right eye was black. She was placed under the care of a surgeon, but could not bear any food in her stomach, until she had been in the house three days. There were two children by the second wife [that’s Mary’s children with William], who were fat and well clothed – the prisoner [William] having five children in all.

Emma Bailey explains to the jury how she and her sister Louisa would sleep on a sack with straw in it, whilst the younger children (of William and Mary) would sleep in a bed. She also explains how these younger children would be fed well and that food would be taken away from her and her sister. The prosecution and the witnesses also detail the public flogging that William would enact upon his children with sticks and belt straps.

William was charged with assault on his daughter Emma Bailey and sentenced to two months in Ipswich County Gaol, with the second month in solitary confinement.

Now it was the turn of Mary.

Mary Bailey, 29, the prisoner’s wife, was then charged with having, on the 15th October last, assaulted Emma Bailey her daughter-in-law [mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are old terms for step-mother and step-daughter].

The Bailey’s neighbour Elizabeth, wife of John Smith was called as a witness and described how she had regularly heard cries from the house nextdoor and how in the previous July she had tried to intervene but was told by Mary that she should mind her own business. Mary responded:

“It is all wrong. I only boxed her ears because she told me I was a liar. Mrs. Smith said if I did not leave off she would call the police. I told her she had no right to knock at my window, and that if she knocked at mine, I would knock at hers.”

The jury found Mary guilty.

Mary was then indicted for an assault upon her daughter-in-law, Louisa Bailey, on the 26th October last.

Mr John Thornton , governor of the Hartismere Union House,  said that Louisa was brought to the Union House on the 27th January last, very much marked by violence, Her eye was very black, and there were two distinct wounds upon her head.

“Her sister did that by shoving her down against the door” – Mary Bailey

Mr W. Miller, assistant to the Union’s surgeon said that there were bruises to her face, neck and shoulders, and that these would have been caused by a beating rather than a fall.

Emma Bailey then stood in the witness box and spoke out against Mary, saying that the bruises were caused when Mary had shoved Louisa “down upon the bricks when she took a piece of bread from her father”. She also added that one day, whilst their father was at work, that Louisa had gone to the pantry for some water, when Mary had knocked her against a post.

“That is quite false. You did it yourself. You said you would murder her. You said if you went into the workhouse with her, you would cut her throat.” – Mary Bailey

“I always said my mother-in-law did it” – Emma Bailey

“Did you ever say that you would cut your sister’s throat?” – Mr Palmer (Prosecution)

“No Sir.” – Emma Bailey

The jury found the prisoner guilty and both were placed at the bar.

The Chairman (E. Godfrey Esq) concluded:

William Bailey, you and your wife have been found guilty of this abominable offence of half-starving and mal-treating, those children of your first marriage. There is no doubt in the world that the offence has been mainly committed by your wife; but you could have in some respects, controlled her, and indeed, in some respects, it appears that your conduct was better than hers, for you did give them bread. This cruelty and mal-treatment took place occasionally whilst you were at work; and it is considered in your favour that, until your second marriage you treated your children kindly, and that you were a respectable man.

The sentence of the Court us, that you, William Bailey be imprisoned for two calendar months, the last month solitary, and then discharged; and that your wife be imprisoned and kept to hard labour, as far as she is capable, for six months, first and last months solitary confinement.

This is just a selection of pieces from the article, which is very long and detailed, but it really shows Mary Bailey to be a ‘wicked step-mother’. I’ve always had pride in my ancestors so it was a shock to find that actually I really don’t like this person at all.

Her prison sentence certainly explains why she was absent from the family in 1841, with William having already served his sentence by the time of the census in June 1841. Mary was only half way through her sentence.

I am hoping that the Prison Gaol Book will give me further information about her time in prison, and perhaps also give me information that is hard to find elsewhere – like her hair colour, height, health….

As sources go, this newspaper report is very well written and highly details. It includes quotes from the children, both William and Mary, their neighbours, descriptions of their income, their clothing, their home set-up and really gives an insight into how the family lived and struggled. It’s a shame that it is such a harrowing account and I am unable to feel any respect for Mary or William for what they did.

I am only pleased that Mary’s eldest child Caroline Clarke escaped the family and started afresh.

The Workhouse

It’s unlikely that anyone would have wanted to go to the workhouse unless they’d lost all hope of finding support elsewhere.. but after two illegitimate children (Caroline and Edward Clarke), and an 1838 marriage to widower Mr William Bailey, Mary Ann Clarke and her family ended up in the Hartismere Union – which had workhouses at Eye and Wortham, Suffolk.

Mary is notably missing from the family nest in the 1841 census (no idea where she went!), but the rest of the new family are present and living together at Back Hills, Botesdale.

The family must have hit on hard times, as they are broken up by the time the 1851 census arrived. It’s unclear at the moment as to when the family entered the workhouse, but the births of a series of children may provide the clue as to the date after viewing their birth certificates. I’m assuming that at least one – Alfred – was born at the workhouse.

The 1851 census shows that Mary (39) and her youngest children Ameila (5), Francis (4), and Alfred (1) are living amongst the inmates of the Eye Workhouse. On another census folio, her husband William (45) appears. It was common practice to keep the men and women separate, although young children were often kept with their mothers until they were old enough to enter the houses of industry, or the boys were old enough to move into the mens part of the compound.

Over in Botesdale, and at the Ling House of Industry, was Mary Ann’s oldest (and illegitimate) son, Edward (14), having adopted the Bailey surname. He’s listed with other boys, some as young as 6yrs old. His step-sister, a daughter from William Bailey’s first marriage to Sarah named Louisa (18), is also in there too. The whole family is caught in the workhouse system… except for one – Caroline.

Caroline, my ancestor, and Mary Ann’s first illegitimate child, has escaped the workhouse. She’s the breadwinner in a way at the age of 17, although she’s far away from the family in Littleport, Cambridgeshire. She appears on the 1851 census at Mildenhall Road, Littleport, as a ‘House Servant’ at the home of Henry Flowers – a farmer of 250 acres and employer of 10 labourers. She too has adopted the Bailey name, and it’s this job as a servant that saved her.

In 1861, things are on the up. William and Mary appear on the census at Botesdale Street, aged 56 and 46 respectively. William is noted as an ‘Agricultural Labourer’, as is his 18 year old son Philip. Included in the household are Fanny (13), Alfred (11) and Charles (9). Living next door is son Ellis Bailey (21).

By 1871, William Bailey has died, leaving Mary Bailey as the head of the household. She appears on the 1871 Botesdale census as a 60yr old widow with her sons Philip, Alfred and Charles.

But by 1881, Mary, noted as a 68 year old widow and working as a housekeeper… is back at the Union Workhouse in Eye, Suffolk.

Today, the site of the Eye Workhouse, which was built in 1835 on Castle Hill (see map 1904 map below), shows no sign of its former workhouse architecture. In fact, modern development has hidden this piece of history with a number of houses.

Map showing location of Hartismere Union Workhouse at Eye, Suffolk in 1904.
Map showing location of Hartismere Union Workhouse at Eye, Suffolk in 1904.

The only slightly positive thing was that the family eventually left the workhouse and were able to support themselves for a few years before Mary returned there some 30 years after she had first arrived.

The workhouse had a purpose, and whilst conditions were undoubtedly grim for anyone that entered through their doors, they provide some basic conditions – food, clothes, a roof, and basic healthcare that would certainly have helped to keep the Bailey family alive.

I hope to visit a Norfolk workhouse at Gressenhall soon, and to delve further into what life may have been like for the Bailey family 150+ years ago.

Can’t see the Woods for the trees

PatMatMatMat Great Great Grandmother, Caroline
Caroline Coe (née Clarke, formerly Howlett)

Caroline Clarke, my paternal great, great, great grandmother, had presented me a problem for many years, but 2009 appears to have ended the mystery of who she was and where she came from.

After deciding to unravel the mystery of where ‘Watchfield’ might be, I posted a message to RootsChat.com and was soon replied to by ‘DebbieG’ who gave me information from the 1841 census of Botesdale.

Now, I had often searched the 1841 census, in which Caroline would have only been 5-6 years old (if her marriage certificates were reliable). The 1841 census gave me the following:

William Bailey 35
Emma Bailey 10
Ellen Bailey 7
Louisa Bailey 5
Ellis Bailey 2
Caroline Clarke 6
Edmund Clarke 4

At first glance, I noticed that the two Clarke children were motherless and therefore wondered how they could possibly be the right ones. Having said that, in 1859, at Caroline’s second marriage to Robert Coe, an ‘Edward Clarke’ is one of the witnesses. So, so far, there was one connection.

Next up, Botesdale (Suffolk) is close to Wattisfield – a place I’d been meaning to check out due to its similarity to ‘Watchfield’.

I decided that I needed to try and find some baptisms for the Bailey children and this soon threw up a marriage on 8th November for William Bailey and Mary Clarke.

I then found baptisms on Ancestry.co.uk for Caroline Clarke (1835) and Edward Jarman Clarke (1837) with the mother named as Mary Clarke (no father named). I then found that William had been married to a Sarah (and found several of their children in baptism records). This left Ellis Bailey as the child that Mary Clarke had with William Bailey.

The lack of Mary on the census suggests that she had died between 1839 and 1841 but her exact death date currently remains a mystery.

I’d often looked at the census search results for 1851, looking for Caroline Clarke, just 4 years before she married my Gt Gt Gt Grandfather Thomas Howlett at Mildenhall, Suffolk… yet found nothing. Again, RootsChat.com found a solution for me when a ‘Caroline Bailey’ born in ‘Watchfield, Suffolk’ appears on Mildenhall as a house servant to Mr Flowers.

Looking to Botesdale in 1851, seems to show that Mr Bailey may have died, and finds his daughter Louisa in the workhouse with Edward Clarke.

As for Caroline, well, in 1855 and 1859 she names her father as “Alfred Woods”. In 1855 he is ‘deceased’ but by 1859 he’s become a publican (how’s that for ‘serving spirits’??!). Question is, did Caroline know who her father was and was unashamedly naming him… or was the name just made up? Did her mother know?

That’s something I’ll never know too.