Is there some unwritten law that says that you are bound to make your most interesting discovery at any archival repository in the last few minutes before closing time? Is that your experience too?
We do like Norfolk, and this year’s summer holiday there was a chilled mixture of family history and touristy things. Staying just outside Norwich made accessing the city centre easy, but was also a great base from which to travel to the North Norfolk coast. And on the one day when it was properly hot I did indeed swim in the sea.
Early in the holiday we spent a day at Kirby Hall, the research base of the Norfolk Family History Society. This time I systematically looked at monumental inscriptions (MIs) and graveyard plans for some of the villages surrounding East Dereham: Yaxham, Scarning, East Bilney, Gressenhall, Wendling, Swaffham, Ovington, Watton, Carbrooke and Shipdham.
For most of these there was no one with the surname George at all, but I was pleased to find an MI for Eliza George, the wife of Francis, at Gressenhall, who died in 1898, though it was strange that there was no mention of Francis himself, nor of his older sister Mary. There were a few Georges at Wendling, who turn out to have hailed from Great Massingham, so they’re not mine. I was surprised to find none at Ovington, but the name did crop up in Watton and Carbrooke.
Looking at a number of Parish Register transcripts enabled me to see that there were loads of George baptisms, marriages and burials at Watton. I was particularly interested to find the marriage of David George and Ann Tennant (of West Bradenham) on 9 March 1717. This is a David George I’ve not come across before and as the Christian name David does not seem that common, it’s an entry I will endeavour to follow up.
The Carbrooke parish register transcript is not indexed, but it contains masses of entries for George. I ran out of time, so I just hope they are on NORS!
You never know who you will meet at these places, and a fellow researcher at Kirby Hall, on enquiring of my line of research, told me that a Douggie George used to keep the Duke of Wellington pub in Dereham. I’ll file that bit of information away for future reference!
Following our visit to Kirby Hall we were able to do a village tour to take photos and look for graves. We were lucky at Carbrooke that cleaning was taking place, so we were able to see inside the lovely church. Others were all shut up with no clue as to when they might be open or how to obtain a key (Ovington, Watton and Wendling). At Gressenhall there was a notice to say the key could be obtained from the shop in the village. Scarning Church is open on Fridays, so we timed that just right. Eliza George’s grave at Gressenhall was interesting as the headstone quite clearly showed the name of Francis’ sister Mary as well, who died in 1897, so I’m not sure how that had been missed in the transcription.
The staff at Norfolk Record Office were pleasant and helpful, as they had been two years previously. I have been well and truly stuck at the top of my George tree for some years now, since I have failed to find a baptism for David George, who was probably born around 1786 in East Dereham. That being the case, I wanted to broaden the type of documents I looked at, in an attempt to find other mention of the surname. The Vestry Minutes 1778 – 1806 and 1837 – 1863 were not particularly name-rich. The Alphabetical Account of Proprietors and tenements 1765 for East Dereham did not yield any Georges, and neither did the East Dereham Apprenticehsip papers 1705 – 1851; unfortunately the records of Scarning School were predominantly of a much later date. The East Dereham Rate Books were more fruitful than the title had suggested: In July 1856 James, David, Widow, Ann and Frederick George were all mentioned, with the owner of the property, its location and the rate payment collected. This appears to be an Assessment for the Relief of the Poor. In 1822 David, John senior and John George were all mentioned and two John Georges in 1819. None of this was massively helpful, but at this stage of the research anything is worth a try! My George research is fast becoming a bit of a mid Norfolk One Name Study.
So why is it, I wonder, that there appears to be some law that you make your most interesting discovery in the last few minutes before closing time? In this instance I stumbled upon the Archdeacon’s copies of the East Dereham parish records. Are these the same as Bishop’s Trancripts? I’m not sure, to be honest. But what was interesting was that there seems to be a gap in the recorded baptisms between 1777 and 1789. Is this the same in the original set? If so, it could well explain the missing baptism of David George. But, alas, I was out of time to check this out.
Which can only mean one thing. We’ll just have to go back to Norfolk. It’s a tough life.