East Anglian Ancestors

Norfolk & Suffolk genealogy

July 31, 2018
by Jacqui Beard

Brick walls – Lydia WHITTLE married to John BIRD

Another week, another slow removal of bricks in the wall of my East Anglian Ancestors. But if I allow myself free rein, without the burden of complete proof and with an eye less on certainty & more on possibility, then a long-standing wall reduces to a heap of rubble. It’s not totally unfounded either. Some facts, some logic & a tiny DNA match suggest I’m on the right track in my search for the origins of my great x3 grandmother, Lydia Whittle. Let me explain.

Lydia Whittle, born circa 1808, mostly gave her place of birth as Maldon in Essex and once as Cockfield in Suffolk. I have spent several decades trying to find her in Maldon – not a Whittle in sight, and I assumed that Cockfield was somewhere she might have been in service.

A few months ago, I found a strong Whittle DNA match on Ancestry to a family called Hancock. Thomas Hancock married Mary Whittle in St George’s, Hanover Square in 1827. The census confirmed that Mary was born in Maldon in Essex. I researched her descendants & found good DNA matches to the ARROW & BONE families her daughters married into. I was confident that Mary was the sister of Lydia, but no father was named on either of their marriage certificate and there was still no sign of any Whittle births in Maldon. The only clue was a witness on Mary’s marriage certificate named Hannah Whittle, but I couldn’t find a birth or census record for Hannah.

I shelved the matter for a few months, too busy, truth be told, writing my new novel, but picked it up again this week. Like my fictional creation, Private Detective Lawrence Harpham, I ferreted away until I found something. Searching through the London marriage records I finally located an entry for Hannah Whittle that looked promising. When I checked the witnesses, there was no doubt. One witness was Jane Whittle and the other was Thomas Hancock, Mary’s husband. Better still, Hannah’s father was named on the marriage certificate. He was called George Whittle. I couldn’t find Hannah on the census, so I went looking for Jane Whittle – and found her. Jane married John Brand in Camberwell in 1850. There were no interesting witnesses this time, but her father was also named as George Whittle. So now I had four sisters, three evidenced as born in Maldon in Essex via census records but still no corresponding baptisms in Maldon.

I tried searching for George Whittle to no avail – through Ancestry, through FMP, Free BMD & Family Search. Nothing. Then, just as I was about to give up again, and go back to getting Lawrence out of a particularly tricky situation, I found an entry in the Essex assizes for 1820 – George Whittle alias WALKER was sentenced to death for sheep stealing. I immediately consulted free BMD for Maldon Parish records, and there they were – parish records for Mary, Hannah & Jane Walker born to George Walker & Sarah – no Lydia. And I still haven’t found her, but there’s more.

I couldn’t find mention of George in any execution or transportation records, so I looked to see if he was in a census, but I didn’t know how old he was or where he was from. I wondered if there was a logical reason why he might have chosen to take the name Walker and ran a check for Whittles married to Walkers. There was one. Edward Whittle married Mary Walker in Alpheton, Suffolk in 1760 and they settled in Long Melford.

A search of the Long Melford parish records revealed a baptism record for George Whittle born 1767. He married Sarah Parish in 1791. The names matched to George and Sarah Walker from Maldon, but their marriage was almost ten years before Mary was born in 1803. However, another search produced a son, George, born to George & Sarah in Long Melford in 1792 and a daughter, Sarah, born Cockfield in 1794. These were undeniably the right parents as Sarah’s maiden name of Parish forms part of the baptismal record. Maldon parish records show one burial record and one marriage record which imply that there may have been children before Mary born 1803, potentially closing the gap between Sarah & Mary.

It all sounded promising, but not only was it highly speculative, but George & Sarah Whittle were still alive and dwelling in Cockfield at the time of the 1841 census. Sarah was also in the 1851 census making the theory less certain. First and foremost, George should have been dead given the death sentence that was passed in 1820. Some sheep-stealing death sentences were over-turned, but I would expect him to have been transported, at the very least. Perhaps he was, but I can’t find any record. Is it possible that he left Maldon as George Walker and returned to Cockfield as George Whittle? I’m not entirely convinced but one thing that has swayed me towards this idea. I have never found Lydia Whittle’s baptism – but as I mentioned earlier, she gave Cockfield as her parish of birth in the 1861 census. That makes perfect sense if she was born or brought up in Maldon and returned to Cockfield with her parents.

On that basis, I’ve decided to go public with this speculative tree. I’ll be uploading it to Ancestry shortly in the hope of getting better DNA matches in the fullness of time. It’s a win-win anyway. The theory will either stand up to scrutiny or someone will prove it wrong. It’s a gain whichever way you look at it.

November 5, 2017
by Jacqui Beard


Corvus corone aka the carrion crow appears throughout The Fressingfield Witch’. In fact, the book was nearly entitled ‘Crowfall.”  The crow featured in The Fressingfield Witch was  adopted as an unofficial family crest after the Witch Trials and was subsequently used to create terror amongst those of a superstitious nature.

Fear and prejudice has long been held against the crow and its poor reputation existed from ancient times.  A single crow is considered unlucky and unsurprisingly the collective name for these birds is a ‘murder’ of crows.  If a crow perches near or circles a house, it foretells a death. If it swoops over the paternal house, it is considered a sign of misfortune. A crow forsaking a flock indicates a famine.

Crows have often been used in literature.  Shakespeare prefaced some of his darker scenes with the introduction of crows or ravens; this below from Macbeth:

“Light thickens, and the crow

Makes wing to th’ rooky wood.

Good things of day begin to droop and drowse,

While night’s black agents to their prey do rouse.”  

Crows are intelligent animals.  They remember faces, particularly when they have experienced cruelty.  They possess the rare ability to problem solve.  Crows are smart enough to drop nuts from great heights to get at the kernel and, in this more modern age, have been seen tossing nuts in front of passing cars to take advantage of an easy nut-cracking facility.

The Fressingfield Witch begins with a quote from Hudibas.  This 17th century narrative poem by Samuel Butler satirised the Civil War.  It also features crows.

“Is it not ominous, in all countries

When crows and ravens croak on trees

The Roman senate, when within

The city walls, an owl was seen

Did cause their clergy with lestrations

(Our synod calls Humiliation)

The round face’d prodigy t’avert

From doing town or country hurt” 

October 28, 2017
by Jacqui Beard

Fressingfield Names

The Fressingfield Witch is my marmite book for genealogists.  It’s a good story (though I say so myself), but I’ve used some real historical figures and ordinary folk from the 1891 census.  I’m not keen on pigeon-holing books so blended genres get my vote every time, but genealogy is largely based on weeding fact from guess work and the blurring of boundaries may be divisive.

There’s something compelling about giving a voice to unknown ancestors.  Everyone has heard of Winston Churchill and Jane Austen, while long dead George Corbyn and Elijah Scoggins rest in eternal obscurity.  Well, not any more.  I would be interested to hear your opinions, though. Should ancestors be left to rest in literary peace, or is it reasonable to resurrect them at the risk of second-guessing their personalities?

For any genealogists out there with connections to Fressingfield in the 1890’s and Suffolk and Essex in the times of the Witch Trials, real surnames used in the book are below:




October 28, 2017
by Jacqui Beard

The Fressingfield Witch

… and it’s here courtesy of Publishnation who have helped me hit my target date of publication by the end of October.

The Fressingfield Witch is a work of fiction based on a series of factual events from the 1890’s. It takes place in Suffolk, England. As usual, one or two of the characters come from my own family tree and the crime is solved with a combination of sleuthing and genealogy.  The book blurb is below:

“During the 1645 Suffolk witch trials, hundreds of innocent women were convicted. Death and uncertainty stalked the land. 

Fast forward to 1890 and two mysterious deaths in the village of Fressingfield stir up rumours of witchcraft again. Lawrence Harpham is dispatched from Bury St Edmunds to investigate. But Lawrence is still tormented by the tragic loss of his family in a house fire. Can he overcome his own demons and discover who is behind the flurry of deaths? 

The Fressingfield Witch is a fictional murder mystery based on true events. Two of Suffolk’s darkest cases of witchcraft are weaved together in one compelling story.”

The Fressingfield Witch can be purchased through the Amazon Kindle Store or  Lulu Publishing

October 23, 2017
by Jacqui Beard

Coming soon – The Fressingfield Witch

It’s the first day of a week away from work. The weather is disgusting. My dog is sullenly pacing round the house eyeing me with disapproval. It’s so foul outside, that today we are going nowhere.

I like a walk. It keeps the dog happy and my Fitbit from nagging. Today my Fitbit sits redundantly on my arm while I contemplate the pile of books I have been looking forward to reading, but have lain gathering dust on my bedside table while other things take priority.

The Fressingfield Witch, is one of those other things. My latest novel is a Victorian murder mystery set in Suffolk and based on a real news item that hit the local headlines in 1890. It was an allegation of witchcraft. The news item was only short, but had an immediate impact on me. For starters, it involved one of my very distant relatives. That’s always a good lure to a genealogist. And it involved death and witchcraft, so my inner writer pricked up her ears. Before I knew it, we had conjured up a novel from this tiny eleven-lined piece of inspiration.

I’ve taken a risk with this book. The real village of Fressingfield has been populated with actual people from the 1891 census. This will be like marmite to some. They will either appreciate the idea of real people living on in print, or they will disapprove of the merging together of fact and fiction. I hope it is the former.

The final cover and finished drafts are with Publishnation and should be ready for purchase very soon. All of which gives me the rest of the week to catch up with a little light reading of my own. Unless the rain lifts and the dog demands a walk. Doing a little rain dance now…..

December 17, 2016
by Jacqui Beard

Vote for Murder .99p until 20th December

Treat yourself to a historic novel set in Suffolk and based on a true crime. Vote For Murder is just 99p on Kindle Countdown until 20th December or free with Kindle Unlimited.  5* reviews – “a real page turner”


November 30, 2016
by Jacqui Beard

Overstrand in the Great War – Publish Date 9th December 2016


This new book, published by Poppyland Publishing with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Overstrand Parish Council, tells the story of all the soldiers, sailors and airmen of Overstrand and Suffield Park who died in the First World War. It also gives accounts of those who returned to the village after the conflict.

With 208 pages & colour throughout, ‘Overstrand in the Great War’ provides a fitting tribute to the young – and sometimes not so young – men and women of Overstrand and Suffield Park from a century ago.  General the Lord Dannatt kindly contributes a foreword and puts their sacrifice and service into the context of the continuing commitment required of our armed services.

Author – Tim Bennett

Military Research – Martin Dennis

November 22, 2015
by Jacqui Beard

A fatal fall – Shireoaks Colliery

Shireoaks CollieryMy great grandmother’s first husband died young, but new records from ancestry have revealed how he died.

Charles Inman was born in North Anston in 1874.  He married my great grandmother, Harriet Herrington, in 1905 but by the time of the 1911 census, she was shown as a widow with 4 young children to support.

The Ancestry link to the Coal Mining History Resource centre reveals that Charles Inman was killed in a mining accident at Shireoaks Colliery.  On 4th June 1910 he set off for work in his occupation as Dataler. This job involved service work and the construction and maintenance of mine roadways.  The work was casual and a dataler was paid by the day.  Regrettably, on this particular day Charles was setting up a prop on the overhanging side of a road way when a large stone fell & killed him.  The accident was reported in the Sheffield Telegraph:

Early on Saturday morning during driving operations necessary for the installation of a compressed air engine in the more distant workings of the Shireoaks Colliery.  Charles Inman, of Lindrick Dale, was killed.  He was engaged in driving a wedge, when, without any warning, a piece of stone, about a tone weight, became dislodged from the roof, and struck him on the head, killing him instantaneously.  His fellow workmen escaped injury.  Deceased, who was 36 years of age, leaves a widow and four children.

Charles was the only fatality at Shireoaks Colliery in 1910 although road maintenance must have been nearly as hazardous as mining itself as there was another fall in the roadway in 1908 that took the life of Thomas Barrowcliffe and a previous accident in 1904 killing Henry Marrison.

A subsequent tragedy in 1912 involved my relative, John Cuff, who was also killed in Shireoaks Colliery.  John was recorded in the 1911 census as a coal miner hewer working underground in the mines.   At the time of the accident his occupation was listed as Stallman.  On 27th September 1912 he was walking along the gate road to his stall with 3 other men when he found the roof was ‘biting’ slightly.  As he was examining it, a large stone fell from the roof and buried him. Another man suffered a dislocated ankle, but Cuff was the only fatality that year.

From the time the colliery was sunk in 1856 to the time it finally closed in 1990, there were 75 fatal accidents.  A statistic indicative of the dangerous trade of the coal miner.

October 28, 2015
by Jacqui Beard

The 1939 register and other expenses

Great.  The long awaited 1939 register has arrived, containing detailed historical family records that anyone with the vaguest interest in family history will be delighted to see. And it’s available on Monday.  I should be in seventh heaven and clearing my diary for a few evenings of pleasant research.

But not at that price, Find My Past!!!  

I have been a subscriber of FMP for many years.  It is a great site and a worthy rival to Ancestry. The variety of records on FMP is fantastic (although I prefer Ancestry’s search facility), but I already pay an annual subscription, so the thought of an additional £6.95 per family when my working database contains 44,888 individuals, is not a comfortable financial place to be.  I would have to sell my house to afford a fraction of what’s on my wish list.  I appreciate how long it takes to transcribe all these records and how time consuming and how costly it is to do so – but really – £6.95 per family!

Which brings me to this website – a labour of love going back more years than I care to mention, freely given to public.  Nowadays I find my own research bandied all over ancestry, intermingled with records that have nothing to do with my family; freely given research ending up in ‘private’ records or behind pay walls.  My days are spent un-spamming the website or, worse still, trying to rescue the thing from hackers.  See previous blog rant – a week of my life I will never get back again.

The hours of research I have spent, together with the costs incurred in running the site, not to mention to the ever-increasing money spent on subscriptions, can seem worthwhile sometimes.  On a good month, kind folk offer a wealth of information and advise me of errors and corrections, for which I am always very grateful.  On a bad month, I get complaint emails, people expecting changes to be made instantaneously (if they only knew how long it takes to upload a site this size) and demands for information that I cannot provide.  On a bad month, I get emails from paid genealogists, not only using my free records and my data to further their own billed research, but asking for more information besides. And on a bad month, I find out that Find My Past want to relieve me of an additional £6.95 per record on top of my standard subscription.

I am at a crossroads.  Do I continue providing all this information free of charge?  Is it ethical for me to dish out free information, when there are genealogists out there trying to make a living? Should I crowd fund the site?  Or just remove it?  Would people miss it if it wasn’t there? Would I?

East Anglian Ancestors currently has 31652 individuals.  If I update the site, there will be another 13,236 to add – and counting.  It’s a massive job and will take hours and hours of time and yet more money. It might be time to let it go and concentrate on my writing.  Funny that it’s taken the 1939 register costs to focus my mind on this disparity.  Thanks FMP.  I shall have to give it much thought.   In the meantime, if you want to support East Anglian Ancestors, why not download one of my books from the kindle store?

My Books

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