No, this is not a blog post about Hobbits, although you can be forgiven for thinking you might have stumbled upon a lost chapter of the Silmarillion. Indeed JRR Tolkein would have felt at home here, As a Professor of Anglo-Saxon he was well-aware of the history and language of the Angles and borrowed many Anglo-Saxon terms for Middle Earth. I even think the Tooks of Tookland would also have felt at home here in among the forests and heathlands. This post is about my Tuck ancestors from the Breckland area of East Anglia.
Before we hit the genealogy it’s useful to delve a little into the Entymology of the landscape around this part of the world. We start with the Hundreds. They are a division of land, possibly from an area required to provide 100 men under arms. The term comes from the Germanic tradition and was used in Anglo-Saxon Norfolk until the Nineteenth century. (In the Danelaw parts of England it was replaced by a Wapentake, such as the Wapentake of Langbaugh where I grew up).
The Grimshoe Hundred (pronounced “Grim’s Ho”) is one of thirty three hundreds in Norfolk (or see this map). By the Nineteenth Century it consisted of 16 parishes (also see below), down from 19 at the time of the Doomsday book in 1086.
The origin of the name Grimshoe is a little unclear. According to “White’s History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Norfolk 1845” shown above the name comes from a “Danish or Saxon general, who possessed and gave name to this Hundred”. However within the Hundred is the similarly-named Neolithic flint mines of Grimes Graves. Wikipedia identifies the origin of Grime as an Anglo-Saxon one named “after their god Grim (literally the masked, or hooded one, a euphemism for Woden)“.
I’ve tried to find a map for the Grimshoe hundred, however it seems the most-commonly referenced one is copyrighted, so instead here’s one I’ve prepared on Google Maps. Quite a bit has changed since White’s History was published in 1845.
An alternative mapping site I found whilst researching the Grimshoe Hundred is from the folks at familysearch.org. The Print/Save function doesn’t work very well (at least not whilst using the Google Chrome browser), nevertheless this screenshot gives you a good overview of the parishes. By the nineteenth century not all parishes had a working church.
You can see from the first map four of the parishes are now in the Stanford Training Area. This was set up in 1942 to allow the British Army to perform live-ammunition training. Out of necessity it involved evacuating the villages of Buckenham Tofts, Langford, Stanford, Sturston, Tottington and West Tofts. There was a promise to return the villagers to their property after the war, but this never happened. I guess the Stanford Training Area would warrant it’s own blog post, although the BBC have already posted a in-depth article, which includes this wonderful quote “They were poor, hard working unsophisticated souls, some of whom it was claimed could trace their families back 500 years in the same community …Sex before marriage was common. One sympathetic local clergyman explained children were so important as future household earners that men wanted to be sure their bride was fertile! “.
Fortunately the old churches of the area, which include the graves of my ancestors, have been well protected by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). As with all things to do with the churches of Norfolk there is a great write-up of the churches of the Stanford Battle Area by Simon Knott. These days access to these churches can only be obtained through the MoD. Maybe one day I’ll get the chance.
Finally on the Parishes of Norfolk, I should mention that Norfolk County Council has produced a rather useful website with details of all the archaeology and historic buildings of Norfolk, listed by parish.
Now it’s really time to return to the Genealogy. The Tucks come into my family tree as Sarah Tuck (1780-1854) was my GGG-Grandmother. For many years I only knew her as Sarah Whittle the wife of John Whittle and the mother of Charlotte Whittle (1820-1895, my GG-Grandmother). I did see some family trees on ancestry.com that showed her as Sarah Tuck, but without any proof.
Over the last couple of years I’ve taken autosomal DNA tests with the three major testing companies. As a result I seem to have many thousands of distant relatives, very few of whom I can find the connection. One reason for this is the the surnames of my female ancestors are lost every generation as they married. To broaden my list of ancestors I thought it’s worthwhile to spend some time researching my female ancestors and their lineage.
For Sarah I’m very lucky. She was born in Norfolk and familysearch.org has many of the records for Norfolk available, for free, online. As you may have gathered I like free (although many of the records are also available indexed via the Norfolk Online Record Search – NORS from the Norfolk Family History Society). I’ve been mainly using the Norfolk Parish Registers collection for my work. Whilst some of these records are indexed, i.e. searchable, most aren’t, however the records are browsable by parish, which is what I’ve been doing.
Going back to Sarah, we first need to trace her daughter Charlotte. Luckily for me, Charlotte married after compulsory registration occurred in 1837. Thanks to this, and the census records, her life is very easy to follow. From the Census records we know she was born in Mundford and was the daughter of John Whittle. The only record that listed her mother was the familysearch.org indicies which had her mother listed as Sarah.
A couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to re-examine her records. Having bashed away at the search functions in the Norfolk Parish Registers I found nothing, but once I went to browse the images I realised there was a whole world of non-indexed records to look at. Charlotte’s baptism record was my first finding:
I found that by working through the records I found all her siblings, Harriet (b.1826), Charlotte (1817-1819), John (b.1815), Deborah (b.1815), Mary (b.1810), John (1806-1810) Anne (b.1804), Sarah (b.1802) and finally the first-born William (b.1799). Importantly the baptisms before 1813 include additional information, for example this one for Ann Whittle. As you can see it includes Sarah’s maiden name, Tuck.
Finally I managed to work back far enough to find the marriage record for Sarah and John in Mundford.
I’ve done some research on Sarah’s sibling. It seems most the girls (the exceptions being Charlotte’s eponymous sister and Deborah) survived to adulthood and married, typically aged around 20.
With this information I decided it was worth searching further back for Sarah’s Baptism records, as well as the records of any siblings. At this point I admit I am also less confident that we have the correct family. It is always possible that some other Tucks lived in Mundford at the time Sarah may have been born.
As I mentioned the people around here got married aged around 20, so it’s no surprise to find her baptism certificate nineteen year earlier in 1780. The good news is this date also (roughly) fits with her census records, which have her born around 1781 in Mundford.
Rummaging around I found at least some of Sarah’s siblings, Mary (b.1778), Elizabeth (b.1782), Frances (b.1784), Ann (b.1787) and James (b.1790). As you can see from this list there was only one son to carry on the family name. Sadly I’ve yet to figure out what happened to him. I’m pleased to say that all the daughters appear to have reached adulthood and married (aged 21,21,21 and 23).
As with the generation after them, we are lucky that this Sarah’s Maiden Name is recorded in some of the baptism records. Here is the record for Frances Tuck:
Now we have the Maiden Name for Sarah (senior) – She’s an Arnold. Logically the next step back would be the marriage of John Tuck and his wife Sarah. Here I have to admit I had some help from ancestry.com’s trusty shaky leaves. Although John and Sarah had all their children baptised in Mundford, they actually married in the adjoining parish of Ickburgh. I’m guessing this is because they followed tradition and married in the home parish of the bride. As an aside here I should just warn people that Ickburgh has an annoying habit of changing it’s name. So you may also see it spelt as Igburgh, Ickborough or Igborough.
Fortunately we can go a little further back with the Tucks (providing we all agree on the usual caveats with old records). Moving back a couple of decades I found John Tuck’s baptism record, still in Mundford. As you see his mother is another Sarah.
At this point our trail of Tucks goes cold. I’ve managed to trace three siblings from John, namely Ann (b.1738), Marian (b.1743) and Richard (1745-1788). Unfortunately, the earlier records are in quite poor condition (see Ann Tuck’s baptism record below). So far I haven’t found any earlier records of the Tucks. The records for Ickburgh stop in 1767, so I suspect I won’t be able to find anything more about my Arnold ancestors either.
I achieved what I set out to i.e. two generations of my maternal ancestors. I’ve two more surnames that I can use to match with all my DNA relatives. I must admit I find shared location, rather than shared surname, is a much more reliable indicator of shared ancestor.
The work took much longer than planned. In part because I was fully documenting all my sources, but also because I got distracted by other family lines from the same area. On the plus side at least I’m learning how to document my sources, and since they are shared on ancestry.com they are available for other researchers,
Like all genealogy, this a “work in progress”. If you are interested in these records they can be found on my online public family tree at ancestry.com. Otherwise please contact me via the Comments section for this post.
Whilst it’s been fun and useful to work through all the original handwritten documents I will admit it would have been better to invest in the Norfolk Online Record Search from the Norfolk FHS. At least reading the original records gives you a feel for the local names, including the rather wonderful families the Drakes, Ducklings and, my personal favourite, the Glasscocks.
The Tucks themselves, like many Norfolk families, are scattered throughout East Anglia (such as these Tucks in Great and Little Snoring). The challenge is to connect them. I hope this article helps in some small way to do that.
To finish this blog I thought it’s worth adding another quote from the BBC article on the Breckland Exodus:
“It could also be very boring , especially for the young. Kath Reeve’s father Claude was a warrener. She remembered with glee the look of consternation that appeared on the face of a young woman researcher from the British Museum who was working on a rural life project. She asked Claude about his diet.
“What do you have for breakfast?”
“Rabbit”came Claude’s monosyllabic reply.