Isaac Emmerson, my great great great grandfather, was born on 14th March 1848 in Fornham All Saints, Suffolk, a small village just north of Bury St Edmunds. His parents were Joseph, a labourer, and Phoebe.
Using the census records, my Emmerson line was fairly simple to trace back to Joseph and Phoebe. However, in this case, Isaac’s marriage and death certificates revealed some interesting details about his life. I have also found Isaac mentioned in several articles in the British Newspaper Archive.
The 1861 census showed that Isaac lived with his parents and 7 siblings in Fornham All Saints, a village described as “wholly agricultural” in The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868). It’s perhaps not so surprising then, aged 13, he was working as an agricultural labourer. He had almost certainly worked from a younger age – his brothers George, 9, and Henry, 7, were also working as agricultural labourers. It appears this wasn’t the situation for all children living in the village. Looking through a few of the census pages there were a number of children, particularly girls, attending school.
I found the next mention of Isaac in the British Newspaper Archive. In the 30th August 1870 edition of The Bury and Norwich Post, and Suffolk Herald, an article under “Borough Petty Session, Bury” explain Isaac and his brother George were charged with assaulting Ambrose Nunn (who may well have been related to the Emmerson family, Nunn was Phoebe’s maiden name). In 1871 Isaac was charged with “damaging a certain willow tree” (in fact, it explains that the 13 foot bough was brought into court!). According to the article, he attempted to make a fishing rod, to “snare a pike with”.
By 1873 Isaac had left Fornham All Saints and during that year he married Jane Marshall in Brimington, Derbyshire. Jane had left Hoton, Leicestershire, where she was born, and moved to Brimington with her family. None of Isaac’s family moved to Derbyshire, quite why he moved there remains a mystery.
Their first child, Joseph, my great great grandfather, was born in Brimington on 19th September. Isaac and Jane’s marriage certificate revealed they married on 2nd September – less than three weeks before Joseph was born!
Isaac later moved back to Suffolk. In 1881 he lived with Jane and their two sons, Joseph and James, in Bury St Edmunds. Later that year he, and his brother George, were again in trouble with the law, this time for “using a gun for the purpose of taking game without a licence”. In the article they were described as “two old offenders”. In 1882 Isaac committed a similar crime, with a man named John East.
Last year I finally found Isaac and his family in the 1891 census. Isaac had given his name as “John Smith”, while his wife Jane and three sons were recorded with their correct forenames. What confirmed that this was the correct family was their ages and places of birth. Jane was born in Hoton, Leicestershire (though recorded as Leicester, Leicestershire on this census), Joseph was born in Brimington, Derbyshire, James in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk (on this census it was mistakenly recorded as Bury, Lancashire) and Walter in Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire. What the family they, or perhaps more likely Isaac, hiding from?
In 1894 Isaac was fined 5 shillings for not sending his children to school. In 1895 he was in court for the same reason, his 12 year old son Walter had refused to go to school. According to The Nottingham Evening post, Isaac was willing to send Walter to a reformatory and said he would pay what he could afford. Isaac explained he was earning just 16 shillings a week working full time, around £45-47 today. Walter did indeed leave Newark, in 1901 he was a servant for a farming family in Little Eccleston, Lancashire, where he worked as a Cattleman.
Isaac’s wife Jane died in 1904, and in the 1911 census he was recorded as living in Newark Union Workhouse, Bowbridge Road. He died of Influenza and Bronchopneumonia on 1st December 1922 in Bowbridge House, which seems to be the same workhouse, and had been “admitted from The Ship Inn”. Records from Deceased Online revealed he was buried in Newark-on-Trent Cemetery three days later.
At first glance Isaac Emmerson was “only” a labourer, but the various records have revealed much more about his character and the history of the Emmerson family. No doubt there are a few more stories out there I’ve yet to uncover…