Welcome to the inaugural issue of Branches, Twigs, & Roots!

Here is the first write-up of someone I have researched, and, in this particular case, the roadblocks I have encountered in researching him.

Some of my reports will be with respect to direct ancestors of mine or my husband; some will be collateral relatives; and others will be unrelated individuals used to illustrate techniques I have used in breaking through a brick wall.

I hope you enjoy reading it!

-- Sue, FamilyHistoryAlive.com


Francis Peckover

Francis Peckover first appears in the on-line records and documents in Shouldham, Norfolk, a pretty little town quite a ways off the beaten track, on December 6, 1805, when he married Mary Russell at the Shouldham All Saints parish church. Francis was listed as an agricultural laborer at that time.

Mary Russell was born in Marham, the next village over, on October 7, 1787. She was the daughter of John and Elizabeth Russell. Mary was working as a domestic servant in Shouldham at the time of her marriage.

Francis and Mary lived in Shouldham all of their married life. Francis continued working as an agricultural laborer, even as late as the 1861 census. They had twelve children, born between 1805 and 1825.

Of their 7 boys, the first-born, William, and the three last-born (Joseph – 1819; James – 1823; and James – 1825) all were stillborn or lived only a short time. Of the remaining three, one died while en route to Australia. The other two, John and Gregory, lived to found and raise large families of their own.

Their five daughters all lived to adulthood, married, and raised families.

Mary Russell Peckover died in May of 1825, and was buried on May 14, 1825, a day before her newborn son, James, was christened in the same Shouldham parish church from which she was buried. James followed his mother to the grave three months later, and was buried August 24, 1825 at the Shouldham parish church.

What a sad year that must have been for the family!

The ‘back way’ to the Shouldham church from the village. The well-worn path over the fields and up the hill is the result of people making their way to the church over the centuries for church services, weddings, christenings, and funerals. Speaking of funerals, a horse-drawn cart would carry the deceased up to the church on this path.

Francis Peckover continued living in Shouldham after Mary’s death. He and his daughter Mary, and later Mary’s husband, George Thompson (they married in 1847), lived together for many years. The 1841 and 1851 census documents show them as a family unit.

The 1861 census document, however, shows Francis living with his son Gregory and daughter-in-law Eliza, and their children, again in Shouldham. Whether this was a permanent arrangement, or a short-term visit while Mary and George were out of town, is unknown.

At some point between the 1861 UK census and his death on January 13, 1866, Francis moved to the neighbouring town of Downham Market, possibly to a care home for the elderly. He was buried in the churchyard of St. Edmond’s parish church in Downham Market.

The Brick Wall

Francis’ birth date, and the identity of his parents, both are a mystery. The census documents variously say that he was born either in Sandringham, Norfolk, or in Shouldham, and give his birth year as 1791 (age 50 – 1841 census), 1781 (age 70 – 1851 census), and 1783 (age 78 – 1861 census).

I have reviewed all of the parish records from Shouldham. (The parish records themselves have been scanned and are online on the www.familysearch.org website, and are available to be browsed). I have also reviewed the Sandringham parish church records, and those of the surrounding parish churches, to no avail.

A fellow researcher with many Peckover Quaker ancestors checked her Quaker records (see below as to why), but did not find Francis among them. Neither is he listed in the non-conformist records (including Quakers) in Norfolk which are on the FreeREG and FreeBMD websites.

In looking at the family naming patterns, I note that the first boy and girl were named William and Ann, and the second-born boy and girl were named John and Mary. This appears to be a modified form of the usual British naming pattern (see my page at http://www.familyhistoryalive.com/Naming-Conventions.html for more information).

In this case, it seems that the maternal parents were honored second, for both boys and girls, in the naming of the children.

That is, Mary Russell's parents were John and Mary. Francis and Mary named their children as follows:


William, John, William, Gregory, Joseph, James, James


Ann, Mary, Susan Hudson, Elizabeth, Eliza

Thus, John and Mary are represented among the grandchildren, but not quite in the usual order. (Normally, the first baby girl would be name after her mother’s mother. Here, the second-born girl was named Mary, rather than the first. The second son would be named after the mother’s father, which is what occurred for John).

If it is true that a modified naming pattern was followed, then Francis’ parents would have been named William and Ann. It does appear that they were anxious to honor someone named William, as they used the name again when the first William died. However, I have not yet been able to locate a William and Ann Peckover during the appropriate time period.

Photo of part of the village green. Note the old-fashioned telephone booth, which is rapidly disappearing from Britain's streets. In the mid-1800s, the Village Green had a number of businesses, including a blacksmith shop, a grocer and draper, a post office, and this building, then an inn, now the King's Arms Pub. This is the only remaining business on the green; the other buildings have been converted to private houses.

There were many Peckovers in the Norfolk area at this time, the majority of whom were Quakers. Joseph and Mary were Anglican.

Some Peckover researchers feel that Francis’ father was Joseph Peckover, a Quaker based in Norwich, who never married.

If that is true, it is possible that Francis’ birth was registered under his mother’s maiden name, and that he began using his biological father’s surname when he arrived in Shouldham.

Others think he was from Suffolk.

At this point, however, I have no evidence that Francis was related to Joseph Peckover, and all of the above is conjecture. I do, however, share DNA segments with a number of US-based individuals whose Quaker ancestors came to the US in the 1600s and 1700s. I have yet to find the link to any Quaker line.

An interesting conundrum!

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