An Essex Quaker’s American Adventure 1711 – 1713

Julie Miller, a masters student from University of Essex, has taken up a research placement at the Essex Record Office, conducting an exploration into the story of John Farmer and his adventures, particularly in pre-revolutionary America, and has been jointly funded by the Friends of Historic Essex and University of Essex.  Julie will be publishing a series of updates from the 12-week project.

In this installment we will look at some of the encounters John Farmer had in pre-revolutionary America.

Having returned to Essex in England from his Irish adventures in May 1711, and not being one to stay in a place for long, by Autumn 1711 John Farmer was off on his travels again.  Before travelling John Farmer’s wife Mary, step daughter Mary Fulbigg and 10-year-old daughter Ann moved from Colchester where they had settled in 1708, back to Saffron Walden. John explained further in his journal:

“I staid at home a little with my wife & helped hur to remove to Saffron Walden. For shee thought it best for hur in my absence to bee there amongst hur relations with hur lame daughter whom she hoped there to help in to busness whereby shee might git hur a living: which shee could not doo at Colchester.  But Colchester is ye best place of ye 2 for my wifes nursing & my woolcoming.  Whereby wee earned good wages there untill my wife was taken from it by hur daughters sickness & I was taken from it by ye Lords sending mee to Ireland as aforesaid”.[i]

John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 51, p.46

After putting his affairs in order John Farmer set off from Gravesend on 1st November 1711 on a ship called the Thomas of London, captained by Master Benjamin Jerrum.  The voyage was uneventful, and John Farmer was allowed to hold meetings on board and landed in Maryland at the beginning of March 1711/12 having spent 4 months at sea.  Having been met of the ship by well-known Quaker Richard Johns Senior, John Farmer stayed with Mr Johns at his house ‘Clifts’, in Calvert County while he travelled within Maryland, and held several meetings along the Western Shore before travelling on to Virginia where he held a further eighteen meetings. 

In Virginia Farmer was troubled by reports that local Quakers had been imprisoned for refusing to help build garrisons or fortifications.  This reluctance was due to a key principle of the Quaker movement, the Peace Testimony declared by founder George Fox in 1660, which was a vow of pacifism that endures to this day.[ii]  Quakers refused to have any part in building fortifications and rejected all weapons of war. Farmer recounted stories of the harm done by the local Native American people to settlers who had been persuaded to take up arms, and the Quakers saved by tribespeople when they held no weapons: 

“For I have been cridditably Informed yt som friends hereaway for severall years (in obedience to Christ) have refused to make use of Garrisons & carnall weapons for their defence against Indians: & have Insteed thereof made use of faith in God  & prayer to God: & hee hath saved them from beeing destroyed by Indians …who did destroy their neighbours who did use weapons, particularly one man whom his neighbours perswaded to carry a gun, but the Indians seeing him with a gun shot him deadly and they afterwards said that it was his carrying a gun that caused them to kill him which otherwise they would not have done.”

Moving on to North Carolina John Farmer was troubled to hear of a recent massacre 20 miles away and reported in his journal that he heard a Quaker had forcibly taken land from the local native Americans, “whereas hee might have bought his land for an iron pottage pot.”

Herman Moll: New England, New York, New Jersey and Pensilvania, (sic)1729

Native American communities had suffered considerably at the hands of the new settlers who raided the villages and kidnapped the people to be sold into slavery and stole land. The tribes had also suffered substantial population decline after exposure to the infectious diseases endemic to Europeans. As a result, under the leadership of Chief Hancock, the southern Tuscarora allied with the Pamlico, the Cothechney, Coree, Woccon, Mattamuskeet and other tribes to attack the settlers in a series of coordinated strikes that took place in Bath County, North Carolina on 22nd September 1711 and which heralded the start of the Tuscarora War that lasted until 1715. [iii]

John Farmer described the suffering of that Quaker family in the Bath County Massacre though it is clear where he felt the fault lay.

“These Indians haveing been much wronged by English French & pallitins did at last come sudenly upon ym & kiled & took prisoners, as i was told 170 of them & plundered & burnt their houses. Amongst the rest ye said Friend was kiled as he lay sick in his bedd & his wife & 2 young children wer caried away captive & Induered much hardship.  But upon a peace made with ye Indians they were delivered & returned to Pensilvania.” [iv]

Travelling back to Virginia and then Maryland John Farmer attended the 1711 Yearly Meeting at West River on the Western Shore of Maryland but there he contracted ‘ague & feavor’ which made him too ill to travel for four weeks and began what he called a “sickly time for mee and others”.  This was almost certainly Malaria which was endemic at the time. Eventually he recovered, and travelled on to New York, Rhode Island and Nantucket Island before arriving in Dover, New England. He was not specific about the date, but it was sometime in 1712.  Farmer recorded that he held many meetings amongst Friends and others “notwithstanding the danger from the Indian Wars which had long been destructive in this part of New England.”[v]  

In the winter of 1712 Farmer was in Rhode Island where he nearly died after being injured in a fall from his horse.  But by May 1713 he was recovered enough to attend meetings at Long Island, East and West Jersey and back to Maryland where he spent some time working at wool combing again, presumably to increase his depleted funds. 

It was here that “I received fresh orders from Christ to have meetings amongst Indians in order to their conversation to Christ and to go to Virginia and Pensilvania and the West Indies in his service”.[vi]  And thus the next year’s travel was planned. 

And that is where we can leave John Farmer, planning his first expedition to take the Quaker message to the Native American people.  And those encounters will make up the content of the next article.


[i] John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 51, p.44

[ii] To George Fox, this principle served a two-fold purpose, as a protest against the horrors of the English Civil Wars, and to try to mitigate the opportunity for violence to be done to Quakers, if they were perceived as peaceful, if rather disruptive, themselves.  For more information see M Rediker, The Fearless Benjamin Lay, 2017, Verso, London Ch 1, p.19

[iii] The Tuscarora War was fought in North Carolina from September 1711 until February 1715 between the British, Dutch, and German settlers and the Tuscarora Native Americans. The Europeans enlisted the Yamasee and Cherokee as Indian allies against the Tuscarora, who had amassed several allies themselves. Principal targets were the planters along the Roanoke, Neuse, and Trent rivers and the city of Bath. They mounted their first attacks on 22nd September 1711 and killed hundreds of settlers. One witness, a prisoner of the Tuscarora, recounted stories of women impaled on stakes, more than 80 infants slaughtered, and more than 130 settlers killed. The militia and approximately 500 Yamasee marched into Tuscarora territory and killed nearly 800, and after a second assault on the main village, King Hancock, the Tuscarora chief, signed a treaty. After a treaty violation by the English, war erupted again.  The militia and about 1,000 Indian allies travelled into Tuscarora territory. Approximately 400 Tuscarora were sold into slavery.  The remaining Tuscarora fled northward and joined the Iroquois League as the Sixth Nation.

For more information about these events see

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuscarora_War

https://northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/tuscarora-war/

https://tuscaroranationnc.com/tribal-history

[iv] John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 51, p.46

[v] John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 51, p.47

[vi] John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 51, p.50

An Essex Quaker Goes Into the World -The Scottish Journey 1707-08

Julie Miller, a masters student from University of Essex, has taken up a research placement at the Essex Record Office, conducting an exploration into the story of John Farmer and his adventures, particularly in pre-revolutionary America, and has been jointly funded by the Friends of Historic Essex and University of Essex.  Julie will be publishing a series of updates from the 12-week project.

Before looking at the next phase of John Farmer’s life I wanted to look first at the complexities associated with the diaries or journals of people living before the 1750s.

The Wool Comber. Image from The Book of English Trades 1827.

In 1751 England and her empire, including the American colonies, still adhered to the old Julian calendar, which was now eleven days ahead of the Gregorian calendar, introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII and in use in most of Catholic Europe. Years were counted from New Year’s Day being on March 25th, so for example 24th of March was in 1710 and March 25th was in 1711. In addition Quaker’s provided an extra difficulty as they refused to recognise the common names for days of the weeks, or months as they were associated with pagan deities or Roman emperors. So a Quaker would write a date as 1:2mo 1710 which was actually the 1st April 1710 as March was counted as the first month.

In 1751 this all changed when the British government decreed the Gregorian form of calendar was to be adopted and the year would be counted from 1st January 1752. At the 1751 London Meeting for Sufferings the Quakers issued a document advising Friends how to adjust to the new way of counting years but refused to acknowledge the naming of days and months as being based on ‘Popish Superstition’.i

London Meeting of the Sufferings Advice on Regulation Commencement of the Year, 1751, Essex Record Office – A13685 Box 53.

John Farmer’s Journal, stored at the Essex Record Office, is a handwritten account of one man’s travels in the eighteenth century taking the Quaker message to communities in Ireland, Scotland, America and even the Caribbean Islands. Because he was writing in the first quarter of the 18th Century he used old style dating , and the Quaker method for numbering days and months as described above. A first day is a Sunday, a first month is March, so I have calculated all dates into Common Era notation, and dual dated years for dates shown between January and March.

Farmer wrote the journal after he returned in 1714 from his first American journey. He was born in Somerset in 1667, brought up a Baptist, and almost immediately following his Baptism in 1684 he sought fellowship with the Quakers of Stogumber in Somerset and Cullompton in Devon and began work as an itinerant wool comber. He travelled throughout England with his trade before settling in Saffron Walden where he married a fellow Quaker, widow and nurse Mary Fulbigg in 1698 and started family life with his wife, her daughter Mary from her earlier marriage, and they were joined in 1701 by another daughter, Ann. However both John and his wife were also drawn to preaching the Quaker testimony and were prepared to travel many miles in the ministry.

John Farmer quotes numerous biblical tracts within his journal, but one resonates in particular as being his inspiration: “And he said unto ym go ye into all ye world & preach ye gospel to every creature.”ii Gospel of St. Mark, chapter 16, verse 15. And John Farmer certainly travelled far and wide to preach the gospel wherever he could.

The first section of his journal details his intention to have the book published, “for ye good of soules now and in future ages”. The second part details his religious testimony, his early life in Somerset before his conversion to Quakerism, and his struggles with keeping true to his faith. He goes on to describe his travels, alone or occasionally with his wife. He travelled throughout Britain and Ireland holding public meetings to preach his testimony, sometimes with disastrous and occasionally unwittingly humorous results.  The third section of the journal is an account of his journey through the eastern states of America, visiting Native American communities and travelling to the islands of the Caribbean, in an extraordinary expedition that lasted nearly 3 years. We will be looking at the various places he visited and the adventures he had in later posts.

In 1705 Farmer obtained a certificate giving the Thaxted Quaker Monthly Meeting’s blessing on his idea of travelling to ‘severall parts of England.”iii

Certificate for John Farmer to travel in the ministry, dated 24th of 2nd mo 1705 (24th April 1705) Essex Record Office – A13685 Box 47 Bundle F5.

However when he asked the Saffron Walden Friends to approve his revised plan which was to now include Scotland and Ireland in 1706 he reported there was some opposition to the scheme. A letter in the Essex Record Office archive gives us a clue to the possible attitude of the Thaxted Friends. Written by John Mascall of Finchingfield and dated 25th 2nd month 1707 (25th April 1707) Mascall tells the monthly meeting that “Reciting the case of the Talents Given; to some more, some lesse, which everyone is fitfull to and not go beyond it” he had advised John Farmer to “weight a while… to exercise his talents nearer to home…”iv which must have been very disappointing to a man so desperate to take his testimony out into the world.

This delay led to John Farmer suffering what he saw as God’s chastisement for the delay with a 4-month long bout of piles, an affliction he described as ‘Himrodicall paine’. Clearly this was not a condition beneficial to long expeditions on horseback.

Eventually a certificate was issued by the Thaxted meeting in May 1707 , interestingly signed by both Mary Farmer and the previously doubtful John Mascall, and so John Farmer began his travels in earnest. He and Mary went to Nottingham, and then John went on alone to Scotland.

Certificate for John Farmer to travel in the ministry, dated 29th of 3rd mo 1707 (29th May 1707) Essex Record Office – A13685 Box 47 Bundle F5.

Whilst in Durham on his way to Scotland John Farmer sent a loving letter to his wife Mary, dated 16th June 1707 where he asks her to send mail care of “Bartie Gibson the Blacksmith of Edinburgh”. He reminds Mary to keep the children reading the bible and “tell ym I would have them remember their creator & love him more than their Idolls”.vi

John made his first visit of six months to Ireland which he briefly covers in saying that he “attended all the meetings there and held several meeting at inns and on the street where people were attentive and civil.” He then headed back to Scotland again where he mentions preaching in Port Patrick, Stranraer, Govern, Ayr, Douglas and elsewhere. He complained some Scottish people were rude and in Penrith, Cumberland (Cumbria) he was assaulted at a Sunday meeting when: “the Divil raged & stired up a man to abuse mee by throwing dirt in my face & striking mee”vii

In Ormskirk John Farmer was imprisoned for a night by the Constable for holding a meeting in the street. From Lancashire where Mary met up again with her husband, the Farmers travelled homeward, stopping in London for the 1708 yearly meeting before going home to Colchester where they had now settled, and where they remained until January 1711 when the urge to travel struck John Farmer yet again.

In the next post we will look at Farmer’s 1711 visit to the West of Ireland, where he was not widely welcomed.


i London Meeting of Sufferings Advice on Regulating Commencement of the Year, 1751, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 52

ii John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 51, p1

iii Thaxted Monthly Meeting Minutes 1705, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 47 Bundle F5

iv Letter from John Mascall 1707, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 47 Bundle F5

v Certificate for John Farmer to travel in the ministry 1705, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 47 Bundle F5

vi Letter from John Farmer to Mary Farmer Durham 1707 Essex Record Office Cat D/NF 3 addl. A13685 Box 51

vii John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 51, p28 [1] John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 51, p28

Time for an Index: Essex Record Office in partnership with Ancestry.com

After a lot of work we are finally able to announce that the Essex Record Office, working alongside Ancestry.com have launched a new searchable index of the Essex parish registers. Searching for your Essex ancestors is now easier than ever!

In celebration of our new partnership with Ancestry.com, Edward Harris, Customer Service Team Lead, takes a look at some of the stories found in the pages of our parish registers. Read on for more information about what we have been working on with Ancestry.com.

D/P 94/1/1 – Parish register for St Mary the Virgin, Chelmsford.

The Parish Registers of England, containing as they do the records of baptisms, marriages and burials made by the Church of England are frequently the start and the backbone of a genealogist’s journey into family history. Prior to 1837 and the start of civil registration, they are essential for family history. Unfortunately they are all too often the end of that journey. When the next link cannot be made or one elusive great, great, great, great grandparent fails to materialise, it is usually normally the pages of a parish register that we are gazing at.

Despite the frustrations so many of us hardy researchers are well aware of, it cannot have escaped our notice that within this great national collection there are a countless stories. These stories provide snippets of the joys and sorrows of everyone, whether normal or extraordinary. They can be better than any soap opera but always tantalising because of what they often don’t tell us and the questions they can’t answer for us. We decided to take a retrospective look at some of the stories we have unearthed over the years at the Essex Record Office where a helpful curate or vicar has decided to provide us with a few extra snippits of information.

The parish burial register for St Mary the Virgin in Hatfield Broad Oak includes in its pages the sad and untimely death of 5 year old Betsy Rogers burnt to death, and two extraordinary marginal notes on that page give a clue as to how:

D/P 4/1/26 – The burial register for St Mary the Virgin, Hatfield Broad Oak showing the burial of Betsey Rogers.

Feb.y 7. A frost of 7 weeks broke up today. Temperature 12° below freezing point! Many persons frozen to death. One at Gt Canfield, one at Sawbridgeworth.

The seat of Lord Rendlesham (Rendlesham Hall, Suffolk) burnt to the ground, damage = 100,000£; The seat of Lord Sandwich (Hinchinbroke, Huntingdonshire) also destroyed by fire with title deeds, fine pictures, etc.; The Argyle Rooms, Regent St, London also destroyed by fire. Lyceam also…All in Jan.y in Feb.y arising from the unusual heating of flues etc. in consequence of the uncommon severity of the season.

The register for Little Clacton contains a very sad and somewhat mysterious story dating from 1592, when a bride, Prudence Lambert, hanged herself the morning after her wedding to Clement Fenn.

D/P 80/1/1 – Marriage register for Little Clacton showing the marriage of Clement Fenn and Prudence Lambert.

Clement Fenn singleman, and Prudence the late wife of Nycholas Lambert, wch dwelt in Little Clacton Lodge; were maryed uppon Teusdaye [six], the xvth day of August; but the (most accursed creature), did the verye next morning, desperatelie hang her selfe, to the intolerable grieffe of her new maryed husband, and the dreadfull horror and astonishment of all the countrye.

Prudence’s burial is recorded two days later in the same register.

D/P 80/1/1 – Burial register for Little Clacton showing the burial of Prudence Fenn.

Prudence Fen, now the wife of Clem[e]nt Fen, and late the wife of the above named Nicholas Lambert; was buried out of the compas of Christian burial; in ye furthest syde of the churchyard northward; uppon the xviith daye of August; for that shee most accursedlie hanged her selfe.

A slightly happier story is found in the parish register from Ugley (one of Essex’s more esoteric place names) in 1759 which records the baptism of:

Anne daughter of John Grimshaw, a Sailor in the Dreadnought Man of War, & Jane his wife found in Labour in the Road, & taken care of by the Parish, was born June 27th & baptized July 7th

D/P 373/1/2 – baptism register for Ugley including Anne’s birth.

From these stories of life and death, to the sort of story that leaves family historians pulling out their hair in frustration.

In 1862 the baptism register for St Mary Magdalene in Harlow recorded the reason for its early closure. The registers had been removed from the church by the curate Revd William Raymond Scott who took them to Hawaii (then known as the Sandwich Islands). The curate had travelled to accompany the new Bishop of Honolulu to the island, but also to chaperone 70 young women destined for a life in Australia.

The registers would survive a mutiny, make a brief stop at the Falkland islands and Australia before reaching Hawaii. Fortunately the registers did return to the church 2 years after leaving these shores and so are still available to researchers.

D/P 533/1/1 – parish register for Harlow with note explaining closure of registers.

Fortunately, provided the register in question isn’t on a voyage around the world, searching the Essex parish registers is now easier than ever!

Since 2011, the Record Office’s service Essex Archives Online (www.essexarchivesonline.co.uk) has been making Church of England parish registers – and some other documents – available as digital images. Off-site, this works as a subscription scheme, offering various lengths of subscription between 1 day and 1 year. Some documents on the system, such as wills, come with their own name indexes, but the parish registers do not. Subscribers looking for a particular baptism, marriage or burial have often had to work through a whole parish year by year.

The ERO has now teamed up with Ancestry, the world’s largest online commercial family history website, to offer a new way to access the data. Ancestry have created a name index to the parish register images, and Ancestry users can click straight through from the index to Essex Archives Online in order to buy a copy of the indexed image. Images are emailed out automatically on payment; each one costs £2.99 including VAT.

Essex Archives Online expands as new registers are deposited, but currently it holds about 600,000 images of Anglican parish registers deposited either in the ERO itself or in Waltham Forest Archives. The registers cover the whole of the present county of Essex, including Southend and Thurrock – and also including parts of north-east London that used to be in Essex. Depending on the parish and the event in question, they cover the whole period from 1538 almost up to the present day. Ancestry’s new index covers all the baptisms up to 100 years ago; all the marriages up to 84 years ago; and all deposited burial registers, whatever their date.

For those with large family trees to discover the subscription option is still available, but for anyone who needs an image now and again the new system is easier, quicker and cheaper!

Good and perfect memory: willing investigations

Is there something in our collection that you would love to investigate, but you aren’t able to visit us yourself? Or perhaps a document that contains vital information, but it’s just too tricky to decipher? Whether you are researching the history of your family, your house, or a vintage or classic vehicle, our Search Service might be able to help you.

One of the most frequent search requests we receive is to dig out information from the tens of thousands of wills in our collection. These date from around 1400 up to 1858, and contain all sorts of juicy nuggets of historical information.

One such will that our Search Service was recently asked to transcribe was left in 1615 by John Pease, who was a yeoman and lived in Great Baddow (D/ABW 30/235). Getting to look at a document in this amount of detail and delve into the lives of people long gone is always a treat, despite the trickiness of the handwriting.

The beginning of John Pease’s will, made on 11th January 1615. Just three days later his burial is recorded in the local churchyard.

Wills can be fabulously interesting documents and if you are particularly lucky you will find out the names of family and friends and details of property and this will is no exception. As is usual for a will of this period John Pease ensures that there is no doubt that while he is ‘weak in bodie’ he is ‘yet of good & p[er]fect memorie’. If there was any doubt as to his mental capacity then, just as now, his will would be invalid. He bequeaths his soul to God and his ‘Bodie I bequeath to the earth from where it came to be buryed in the Churchyard of Much [Great] Baddow’.

Interestingly there must have been some doubt in his mind as to if his wife Edee was pregnant or not for he goes on to describe what was to happen if, having three daughters already, his wife ‘be conceaved w[i]th a man child’ or ‘be conceaved with a woman child’. If it were a boy then he was to get certain land and property and if it were a girl then their inheritance was taken in to account along with his daughters Mary, Margaret & Edee. Reading between the lines you get the impression he was hoping for a boy!

John thought he was leaving his wife Edee expecting a child. He made various provisions in the case of the birth of a ‘man child’ and different provisions for a ‘woman child’

And what of John? Well his will is dated 11 January 1615. On examination of the relevant parish register for Great Baddow St Mary there is an entry made on the 14 January 1615 noting his burial (D/P 65/1/1, image 202) – he didn’t last long when he realised he had better make his will. Checking the baptism entries for Great Baddow for the months following his death there does not appear to be a record of a baptism of another Pease child so it seems that after all there was nothing to worry about.

So Edee, John’s wife, was now a widow and a quick check of the marriages for the few years after 1615 doesn’t show her getting re-married. However, there is an entry on August 11 1617 (D/P 65/1/1, image 123) for the marriage of Thomas Turner[?] and Margaret Pease. Could this possibly be John’s second daughter?

All documents tend to answer some questions and ask several more, which is one of the things that can make historical research such an addictive thing to do. If there’s a document you would like to see at ERO but you can’t visit, or you need some help understanding it, our Search Service is here to help – just get in touch on ero.searchroom@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500 for further details and prices.

Document of the Month, October 2018: Marriage of Captain James Cook and Elizabeth Batts, 1762

Lawrence Barker, Archivist

250 years ago, on 25 August 1768, Captain James Cook of the Endeavour embarked from Plymouth on his first voyage of discovery to the South Pacific to observe the transit of Venus. In so doing, he left behind Elizabeth his wife of nearly 6 years and their first 3 children. It has been calculated that the couple spent a total of just four years together out of 17 years of marriage.

Record of the marriage of Captain James Cook to Elizabeth Batts in 1762 in the Barking parish register (D/P 81/1/10). Both have signed their names; the fact that Elizabeth was literate enough to do so is an interesting detail.

This month’s document, a marriage register (D/P 81/1/10), records their marriage at St Margaret’s church, Barking on 21 December 1762. James Cook lived further up river at Shadwell and Elizabeth (née Batts) was the daughter of the inn-keeper of The Bell at Wapping. Cook was fourteen years older than Elizabeth who was aged just twenty. As neither of them belonged to the parish of Barking, they were married by licence of the Archbishop of Canterbury by George Downing, the vicar of Little Wakering in Essex (it is thought that Elizabeth Batts knew Downing who was also chaplain of Ilford Hospital).

The front cover of the register

Altogether, they had 6 children, three of whom died in infancy. Of the others, two went to sea like their father. Nathaniel was lost aged sixteen in 1780 in the Thunderer, which foundered with all hands in a hurricane in the West Indies, and their eldest James (a commander and the longest lived) was drowned in 1794 whilst trying to board his sloop in a storm. Meanwhile, their youngest, Hugh, died of scarlet fever in 1793 aged seventeen whilst he was a student at Cambridge. James Cook, of course, was murdered by enraged natives in Hawaii whilst on his third and last voyage in 1779.  Consequently, there are no direct descendants of James Cook.

So, Elizabeth Cook was not only a widow but had lost her whole family by 1794. And she was to outlive them by another 40 years as she died aged ninety three in 1835 and was buried alongside her sons, James and Hugh, in the church of St Andrew the Great in Cambridge which contains a monument to the whole family.

The register will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout October 2018.

If you are interested in finding out more about Captain Cook and Elizabeth Batts, you might want to take a look at another document in our collection – an essay by Derek Simmans entitled ‘The mystery of the marriage of Captain James Cook to Elizabeth Betts [Batts] on 21st December, 1762’ which is catalogued as T/G 437/3, and which you can search for on Essex Archives Online.

Top tips for starting out on your family history

Did conversation at your family get togethers over Christmas turn to your family history? Finding out about the lives of your ancestors can be an absorbing and rewarding hobby, and here at the Essex Record Office we can help you get started on your search, whether you visit us in person or use our records online.

 

Tip no. 1: Talk to your relatives and search family papers

Talk to your relatives – particularly older generations. Find out what they know and remember, and write it all down. You could even make a sound or video recording of your conversations.

Look out for any old photographs, birth, marriage and death certificates, military records, medals, or if you’re very lucky, letters or diaries that you or relatives might have.

Use what you find out to start to build your family tree. Write down everything you know so far about when and where people were born/married/died, and any other key information about them. This will help you work out what else you would like to find out.

family-history-photo

Talking to your relatives and searching family papers and photos can be an excellent way to start building your family tree

Tip no. 2: Record where you find your information

Wherever your research takes you, make a note of your sources. It will make life much easier if you ever need to double-check something, and helps you keep track of where you have already looked.

 

Tip no. 3: Birth, marriage and death indexes

Search the civil registration indexes – these are indexes of birth, marriage and death certificates which begin in 1837. The indexes are available on various websites – if you visit the ERO or your local Essex library, you can use www.ancestry.co.uk for free. The indexes will give you the basic information of when and where someone was born/married/died. You can find out more by ordering the full certificate, which you can do through the General Register Office, or for Essex certificates from us at ERO.

 

Tip no. 4: Search the census

Search the census records – census records are available for every ten years between 1841 and 1911. These fascinating records list all the people living in each household in the country, along with their ages and occupations and where they were born. Again, these are available on various websites, but you can search them for free at the ERO or your local Essex library on www.ancestry.co.uk

 

Tip no. 5: Move on to parish registers

Parish registers are church records which record baptisms, marriages and burials. In some cases these can date back to 1538, and so can be used to go back much further in time than censuses and birth/marriage/death records. Parish registers for the historic county of Essex (including parts of greater London which used to be in Essex such as West Ham and Stratford) are all kept at the Essex Record Office. We have digitised all of our parish registers and they are all available to view online at www.essexancestors.co.uk (with the exception of marriages after 1957). You can take out a subscription to view the images from home, or use the service for free in the ERO Searchroom. You can also view images of all 70,000 of our original wills, dating from the 1400s-1858. Double-check that the documents you want to view are available before taking out a subscription.

Parish registers record baptisms, marriages and burials and can date back to 1538. Essex parish registers are kept at ERO - digital images are available on Essex Archives Online

Parish registers record baptisms, marriages and burials and can date back to 1538. Essex parish registers are kept at ERO – digital images are available on Essex Archives Online

Tip no. 6: Ask for advice

If you want further advice or have specific questions about the kinds of records available, talk to our experts either in the Searchroom (find out how to visit us), e-mail us or give us a ring on 033301 32500.

Good luck and happy searching!

Essex Archives Online update – digitising our electoral registers

We have just begun the next big expansion of digitised records available through our subscription service on Essex Archives Online, with the beginning of our project to provide digital images of our electoral registers.

There are some 850 volumes in our collection of Essex electoral registers

There are some 850 volumes in our collection of Essex electoral registers

Ultimately we will be making available images of all the registers we hold from 1833-1974. The first phase of the project has just been completed, with digital images of our electoral registers from 1833-1868 now all available online. We will be releasing the images in batches, with a target completion date for the whole project of January 2018.

(There is a little caveat to this – the registers for 1918 and 1929 have been online for some time, and they will of course remain.)

While our set of Essex electoral registers is not 100% complete, it is the best surviving set of these records, and for some registers ours is the only surviving copy. This collection of some 850 volumes provides vital evidence of Essex people’s lives and locations over almost 150 years.

As with the images of Essex parish registers and wills already available online, the images of the electoral registers can be viewed free of charge in the ERO Searchroom, or as part of our online subscription packages. Information about how to find the records and how to subscribe can be found on our subscription home page.

Electoral register page for Bardfield Saling, 1851 (Q/RPr 1/10)

Electoral register page for Bardfield Saling, 1851 (Q/RPr 1/10)

 

Why digitise electoral registers?

There are two key drivers for digitising these records: 1, to make them more widely available, and 2, to preserve the originals. Electoral registers were not designed to have a long lifespan and can be somewhat fragile. As popular records they are frequently in demand, and digitisation allows us to make the information available while protecting the original documents.

 

How will the records be indexed?

As with the parish registers already available in Essex Archives Online, we are not publishing a name index, but all of the registers in this batch are arranged alphabetically – that is, electors appear in each parish in alphabetical order of surname.  This makes tracing individuals fairly easy.  In addition, each register is indexed by parish or place, and they offer great opportunities not just for family historians but also for studies of local society and urban development.  An annual list of the main property owners and occupiers in each place is a valuable addition to the online record, particularly where the local rate books (the ultimate source of much of this information) fail to survive.

 

Why do the records start in 1833?

Modern electoral registers came into being with the Great Reform Act of 1832.  The Act did not hugely increase the electorate, but for the first time it required the Clerk of the Peace – the head of the county administration – to have the annual parish lists of electors’ names ‘fairly and truly copied … in a book to be by him provided’, and to give to each elector’s name ‘its proper number, beginning the numbers from the first name’.  That book would be the electoral register for the following year. The Clerk was not required to print the registers, or to preserve them once the year was out, and before the mid-1840s only two survive in Essex. After that matters steadily improve, and from the early 1860s until 2001 the Record Office’s collection is fairly complete.

 

Who will be included in these registers?

The 1832 Reform Act expanded the electorate to some extent, but it was still limited to men aged over 21 who owned a certain amount of property. In 1851 just 11,500 county electors spoke for an Essex population of almost 370,000.

By no means all the electors for a particular parish actually lived there, or even close by, and their actual places of residence can be revealing. In 1851 the divided freehold of the King’s Head Inn at Gosfield, in the northern division of Essex, provided the qualification for 6 of the parish’s 13 electors. One lived in Chelmsford, one in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, one in London and three in Surrey.

At Braintree, three brothers from the Buxton brewing family each held a vote in respect of Hyde Farm, the farm’s ownership being split between them. According to the register, however, Sir Edward North Buxton Bt. – who was in fact the MP for South Essex – lived in Upper Grosvenor Street, Mayfair; Charles Buxton lived near the brewery in Brick Lane, Spitalfields, Middlesex; and Thomas Fowell Buxton lived in Leytonstone (Leyton), which was at least in Essex at the time, although far away in the southern division.

At Leyton, the pattern was repeated and each of the brothers qualified once more, this time through the freehold of the Three Blackbirds inn – although Thomas Fowell Buxton had apparently forgotten that he lived in the parish and gave the Spitalfields address as his place of residence.  For researchers into Victorian society, and especially the connections between land and politics, electoral registers are a mine of information.

For family historians, the names of the electors will naturally be the focus of interest, although the electors themselves are not the only people named.  For example, William Wing of Bloomsbury in London had a vote in 1851 for his house in Braintree on ‘corner of square, Miss Wing, tenant’.  She, of course, had no vote at all – but the naming of such voteless tenants increases the registers’ value to historians.  Miss Wing is known from the 1851 census as Sarah Wing, a silversmith and watchmaker living and working in Great Square, and census users might well have wondered about a possible connection with William Wing, born in Braintree but working as a watchmaker in New Bond Street in London.  Despite the gap between New Bond Street and Braintree, the electoral register evidence makes their connection almost certain, and suggests something of Sarah and William’s family arrangements.  Linking the electoral registers to other sources makes the whole data set much more powerful.

 

How did elections take place in this period?

The process of electing MPs in the 1830s-1860s was quite different to today. There were two different kinds of constituencies – counties and boroughs. The theory was that county MPs would represent landholding interests, and borough MPs the interests of the mercantile and trading classes. Before 1832 Essex sent 8 MPs to Parliament – 2 from the county seat of Chelmsford, and 2 each from the ancient boroughs of Colchester, Maldon and Harwich.

Before 1832 there was enormous variety in the size of constituencies and in voting qualifications. Polling could last up to 40 days, and there was no secret ballot. The whole system was liable to corruption and domination by local elites.

The 1832 Reform Act went some way towards resolving some of these issues. Most rotten boroughs (boroughs with tiny electorates controlled by a wealthy patron) were abolished, and seats were redistributed to growing industrial towns. Polling was limited to two days, and the qualifications for the franchise were standardised.

Essex gained two more MPs as part of the changes as the county constituency was split into two divisions, north and south, each returning two MPs, in addition to the two each still returned from the three ancient boroughs.

Flyer by John Gurdon Rebow of Wivenhoe Park, who stood as an independent candidate for North Essex in the 1847 general election. The policies he outlines here include the protection of agriculture, and of the Church of England and individual liberty. He was not successful on this occasion, but was MP for Colchester between 1857 and 1859, and again from 1865 until his death in 1870. (T/P 68/38/9)

Flyer by John Gurdon Rebow of Wivenhoe Park, who stood as an independent candidate for North Essex in the 1847 general election. The policies he outlines here include the protection of agriculture, and of the Church of England and individual liberty. He was not successful on this occasion, but was MP for Colchester between 1857 and 1859, and again from 1865 until his death in 1870. (T/P 68/38/9)

Looking to the future…

Further reforms were, of course, to come, and successive electoral registers include more and more people, until finally all men and women over 21 were granted the vote in 1928. We will continue to post updates on the blog as the electoral register project progresses, and we hope you enjoy exploring the new images.

The battle babies of Essex

Hannah Salisbury, Engagement and Events Manager

Jessamy Carlson recently published a post on the National Archives’ blog about the First World War phenomenon of giving babies war-related names.

Jessamy found 1,634 babies with such names, with 1,229 babies named after battles. The most popular battle to name children after was Verdun, with 901 babies given this name in 1914-1919. Verdun was one of the longest battles in human history, fought over 303 days from February to December 1916. Recent estimates put casualty figures at 976,000.
By coincidence we recently came across an Essex baby born in 1916 named Nancy Verdun, christened in Goodmayes in 1917. She was the daughter of bus driver Harry Miles and his wife Anna Louise Miles, who lived at 17 Percy Road.

Nancy Verdun Miles

This got me wondering how many other babies were born in Essex with the sort of war-related names that Jessamy had found, so I took to FreeBMD to find out. (The search results for Essex included the registration districts of Edmonton, Royston, Risbridge and Sudbury, which are mostly in Hertfordshire or Suffolk but include some Essex parishes.)

Verdun was by far the most popular battle baby name, with a peak in the second quarter of 1916 as the battle raged.

Jessamy also identified two other categories of war-related baby names – ‘hero babies’ and ‘end of war babies’. Hero babies are those named after significant First World War figures, such as Edith Cavell, Field Marshall Haig, and Lord Kitchener. End of war babies were those with names such as Peace and Victory.

Nationally, 25 babies were named Cavell in 1914-1919, and 3 of them were in Essex. Of 11 babies nationally named Haig, 2 were born in Essex, strangely enough both in the Romford district.

I can find only two babies named Peace (both registered in Edmonton so potentially actually in Hertfordshire), but 11 babies named Victory – including Victory D Tipple, born in Romford in the third quarter of 1919.

One wartime name which as far as I know is unique to Essex is Zeppelina. Zeppelina Clarke was born in the early hours of the morning of 24 September 1916, the night that two Zeppelins crash-landed in Essex. Zeppelin L32 crashed in Great Burstead, with no survivors, and L33 crashed in Little Wigborough, narrowly missing some farm cottages. The crew of L33 walked away largely unharmed. In nearby Great Wigborough, Mr and Mrs Clarke welcomed a baby girl, and their doctor suggested naming her Zeppelina, to mark the extraordinary circumstances of the night of her birth.

Zeppelin at Little Wigborough - Essex Record Office

The wreck of Zeppelin L33, after which baby Zeppelina was named

It is hard to understand today why people might have named their children after such terrible events as wartime battles, perhaps battles in which close relatives may have been lost. It would be fascinating to know how the babies given these names felt about them as they grew up – if anyone has any insights do leave a comment below.

Who is more Essex? Stuart Bingham vs Ali Carter

There are many things for us Essexians to be proud of, and it seems that one of them is our county’s tendency to produce incredibly talented snooker players, most famously Ronnie O’Sullivan.

In more recent years two more top-ranked players have come out of our county – Basildon-born Stuart Bingham and Colchester-born Ali Carter. Bingham is the current World Snooker Champion, and as the 2016 competition gets underway tomorrow he will be defending his title in his first match of the competition – against Carter.

As these two Essex giants of snooker go head-to-head, we thought we would see which of them has the best Essex credentials.

Stuart Bingham

Stuart Bingham at the 2013 German Masters

Current World Snooker Champion Stuart was born in Basildon – but how far back can his ancestral roots be traced in Essex?

ERO specialist Sarah Ensor has traced his family back over 200 years in the county, to his 5x great-grandfather Thomas Moules. The Moules family lived and worked in the rural villages of Marks Tey and Little Tey, and their baptisms, marriages and burials can be found in the parish registers we look after at ERO.

Marriage of Stuart Bingham's 5x great-grandparents, Thomas Moule (here recorded as Mole) and Mary Smith, in Great Tey in 1803 (D/DP 305/1/4)

Marriage of Stuart Bingham’s 5x great-grandparents, Thomas Moule (here recorded as Mole) and Mary Smith, in Great Tey in 1803 (D/DP 305/1/4)

Outside the towns Essex was very rural and the Moules lived in a farming community; until the latter part of the nineteenth century they worked as labourers on the land but later described themselves as horsemen – no doubt a step up the farming ladder.

The tradition of agricultural work was broken by Stuart’s great-great-grandfather Walter Moules (b.1869 in Great Tey), who started his working life as a labourer but joined the Royal Artillery, serving in India and Aden.

So far we have traced Stuart’s family back over 7 generations in Essex. A ‘widow Moule’ of Great Tey is named to in a deed of 1773 (D.DAt 45), so it is likely that Stuart’s roots in the parish reach back even further. With such deep roots in the county, Stuart can definitely claim to be a true Essex man.

 

Ali Carter

Ali Carter at the 2013 German Masters

Ali was born in Colchester and now lives near Chelmsford. He has twice been runner-up in the World Championship, losing to Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2008 and 2012. According to BBC Sport, he is ‘one of the sport’s best-loved and most-respected players, having twice overcome cancer and still been able to maintain his place among the world’s best despite a constant battle with Crohn’s disease.

Ali’s Essex ancestry can also be traced back to the nineteenth century and beyond. Two of his great-great grandparents, William Hawdon and Emma Long, were both born in Loughton. Their daughter Aimee, Ali’s great-grandmother, was baptised in St Mary’s church in Loughton on 9 December 1898. William’s profession was given as a commercial clerk.

Baptism of Aimee Hawdown (D/P 571/1/1)

Baptism of Aimee Hawdon, Ali’s great-grandmother, in 1898 in Loughton (D/P 571/1/1)

Another branch of Ali’s family tree takes us back to his four-times-great-grandfather James Piper, who was born in Colchester in about 1796. James is described in the 1841 and 1851 census returns as a labourer, but in 1861 he is recorded as an ‘itinerant bookseller’.

James and his wife Sarah had a daughter, Priscilla, born in Colchester in about 1826, who married Thomas Stoton, another Colchester man and a tailor by trade. In 1871 Thomas and Priscilla were living at 42 St Botolph’s Street, and Thomas employed 1 man and 2 women in his business.

Their daughter, another Priscilla Stoton, married William Waigh, originally from Bethnal Green, but he had moved his family to Woodfood by the time of the 1901 census, when he was recorded as a builder and rent collector.

The verdict

In terms of the depth of their Essex roots, these two giants of snooker are very closely matched. Will they be as closely matched when they step up to the green baize tomorrow?

If you would like to discover how far back you can trace your Essex roots, contact us or visit our Searchroom to start your journey.

Married by Licence

Whether you are tracing your ancestors or researching social or demographic trends, marriage records can provide valuable information. A project we are currently undertaking at ERO is making some of these records easier to find than ever before.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, couples could be married either by Banns or by Licence. Most couples married by Banns. As today, the Banns would be read on three consecutive Sundays in the parish in which the couple intend to marry, and in both of their home parishes if these were different. When the Banns were read, members of these communities were invited to reveal any impediment which would prevent the couple from legally marrying.

In certain cases, however, couples did not qualify to be married by Banns and had to apply for a marriage licence from the local Archdeacon instead. This would be the case if either party was under 21 years of age, if the marriage needed to be formalised quickly, or where the couple was marrying away from their home parish(es).

There are several thousand of these records surviving in ERO’s collections. They are grouped by which Archdeaconry they were issued by, and then by year. A typical catalogue entry at the moment looks like this one for licences issued by the Archdeaconry of Colchester in 1800, a bundle of 54 licences:

Seax screenshot

There is a paper index to these records in the ERO Searchroom, but we are currently working on a project to make all of these records searchable by name on our online catalogue, Seax. This will make them much easier for researchers to find.

The records comprise three different kinds of documents – Allegations, Bonds, and the licence itself:

  • Allegations – the couple, or just the groom, would have to swear that there was no just cause or impediment to them marrying
  • Bonds – a bond for a sum of money would accompany the Allegation. The money would be payable if it turned out that the marriage was contrary to church law
  • The Bond and Allegation were retained by the Archdeacon who issued the actual licence to the groom. The groom would then present it at the church where the couple was to be married

The licences themselves do not often survive, but the Bonds and Allegations mostly do.

D/ACL 1807/28 - All marriage license bonds and allegations are individually wrapped so that you can quickly access the pair that you need.

All marriage licence bonds and allegations are individually wrapped and labelled with the name of the couple they relate to (D/ACL 1807/28)

To show how marriage licence records can help to tell someone’s story, we have been looking into one of the more interesting characters who appears in them, Captain Samuel McDouall. He and his fiancée, Elizabeth Ann Tregent, were granted a licence to marry on 27 April 1807. The couple needed a licence because Elizabeth was only 19, and needed the consent of her father to marry.

D/ACL 1807/28 - The marriage allegation of Captain Samuel McDouall and Elizabeth Ann Tredger.

The marriage allegation of Captain Samuel McDouall and Elizabeth Ann Tregent. The allegation states that there is nothing to stop the couple legally marrying (D/ACL 1807/28)

D/ACL 1807/28 - The marriage bond is for £100.00

The bond which accompanies the allegation, pledging £100 if any just cause was later found which would prevent a later marriage. It is signed by Samuel McDouall and the bride’s father, Abraham James Tregent, and by William Whirfield, who was present at the couple’s wedding (D/ACL 1807/28)

The marriage took place at All Saints church in Dovercourt the very next day after the issue of the licence.

Record of Samuel and Elizabeth's marriage at All Saints church in Dovercourt (D/P 174/1/3)

Record of Samuel and Elizabeth’s marriage at All Saints church in Dovercourt (D/P 174/1/3)

The 1807 date places the marriage in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars. McDouall’s profession is recorded as a Captain in the 79th Regiment of Foot, otherwise known as Cameron’s Highlanders. The first Battalion of the regiment was at this point stationed at Weeley, Elizabeth’s home parish. McDouall is said to be living at Dovercourt, probably the site of the officers’ billets. Elizabeth’s father was a military man himself – he is described as a Deputy Barrack Master, and a former Royal Marine.

The information in these records gives us several interesting avenues to pursue to find out more. The regiment’s military history tells us that McDouall served with the camerons during a turbulent period. His age is not given in their marriage record but he must have been some years older than her.

He was appointed as a lieutenant in 1795 before the regiment was posted to Martinique on garrison duty. The posting was to prove disastrous for them; fever swept through the 79th and only a skeleton of the regiment returned in Britain in 1797. The regiment was swiftly made up to strength and Captain McDouall would go on to serve in Holland in 1799, during which year he was made Captain, and in Egypt in 1801, where he was injured in fighting at Rhamanieh. He would later receive a Gold Medal from Sultan Selim III for his part in this action. One of the witnesses to McDouall’s marriage to Elizabeth was William Imlach, who was also a Captain in the 79th Regiment, and who received the same gold medal as Captain McDouall.

The regiment and Captain McDouall spent some considerable time stationed in Ireland on garrison duty before marching for London in 1806 to form part of the procession for Admiral Lord Nelson’s funeral. They were then posted to Colchester and then to Weeley where Captain McDouall would meet Elizabeth. Shortly after their marriage, in April 1807, another tragedy struck the regiment when a boat carrying several men of the 79th from Landguard Fort in Felixstowe to Harwich sunk. More than 70 of their men were lost as several women and children, as described in the Chelmsford Chronicle:

Chelmsford Chronicle 1807 crop

I/Mb 170/1/32 - Prattent Sculptor, published. March 1st 1788 by G. Robinson & Co Paternoster Row, extracted from Ladies Magazine.

Prattent Sculptor, published. March 1st 1788 by G. Robinson & Co Paternoster Row, extracted from Ladies Magazine (I/Mb 170/1/32)

In July 1807 the regiment embarked for Denmark and be engaged in the Battle of Copenhagen during which the French were deprived of the valuable prize of the Danish fleet. The regiment would go on to be involved in the Peninsular War in Portugal and Spain, being part of Sir John Moore’s disastrous retreat to Corunna during which many of the regiment were struck down by fever both during the campaign and on their return to England in 1809. Many of the regiment who were left behind during the retreat went on to form part of a regiment of detachments which was engaged at the battle of Talavera at which the first of the French Eagles was captured. However, it is likely that Captain McDouall was part of the contingent which had returned to England, as he retired his commission in July 1809. He is believed to have died in 1812 in the West Indies.

What we do not know is what happened to Elizabeth. It is likely that as a wife of an officer she would have been able to travel to Europe with the regiment, but we do not know whether she did so.

There is a story behind every single one of our marriage licences – including stories that might be part of your family history. The licences are currently searchable on a paper index in the ERO Searchroom, and as we continue to add more names to Seax they will become even easier to find. What stories might they help you discover?