Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Brett Family and Non-Conformity, Part 1
At the beginning of the summer, I decided to explore the non-Anglican religions in Norfolk, England to see if my family in the market town of Swaffham might be involved. Because they were agricultural laborers and thus poor, they might have had a tendency to leave the Church of England (COE), either before or after they immigrated to the U.S. and Australia. In the chart below, I summarized the results by listing my GGGrandfather, Thomas BRETT, and his five daughters, including my great grandmother, Eliza BRETT LEWIS:

Baptisms & Marriages-
Norfolk, England
Religion as Older Adult-UK/USA/Australia
Thomas Brett, father
Church of England
Universalist (USA)
Sarah Brett Blyth
Church of England
Church of England (UK)
Rachel Brett Barker
Church of England
Universalist? (USA)
Hannah Brett Parsons
Church of England
Methodist (USA)
Susan Brett Griffin
Church of England/Particular Baptist
Church of England/ Wesleyan (Australia)
Eliza Brett Lewis
Church of England
Methodist (USA)

While living in England, all six family members were baptized and five were married in the COE. Susan BRETT was married in the Particular Baptist chapel. The five who left the UK were active and buried with rites of non-conformist denominations.
Thomas BRETT married Martha HAYLETT in Great Dunham, NFK on 8 Dec 1823 in the Church of England (COE) parish church. They lived in Swaffham, Thomas' home town, and had 7 children baptized in the COE parish church: Sarah (1824), Rachel (1826), Hannah (1829), Susan (1832), Thomas (1835), Eliza (1837), and James (1839). Martha HAYLETT BRETT died in 1850, and her burial is recorded in the COE register. The three eldest daughters married in the COE church in Swaffham. 

James’ birth, Martha’s death and the three girls weddings happened after 1837 when civil registration began so the fact that the events are recorded in the COE registers may be evidence that they were faithful COE members at those times. According to the 1851 Religious Census, there were non-conformist groups in the parish, if they had an inclination to participate.
On the other hand, between 1754 and 1837 all marriages had to occur in the COE to be recognized. This would include Thomas BRETT’s marriage to Martha HAYLETT in 1823. The COE was reluctant to marry people who had not been baptized in the church. The daughters may have been baptized in the COE to avoid future problems.

Then Susan BRETT married Allen GRIFFIN on 5 Mar 1854 at the Particular Baptist Chapel in Swaffham, the first documented evidence that I have found that anyone in the family had non-conformist tendencies. This couple emigrated to Australia in 1855, declaring themselves as Baptists on the ship’s manifest. However, the baptisms of their many children are recorded in the Wesleyan and two Anglican churches. The ministers at Susan and Allen’s funerals were listed as Wesleyan and Methodist respectively.
Who were the Particular Baptists: Baptists are set apart from other protestant groups because they believe in adult baptism by immersion. An Englishman founded this religion while in the Netherlands. One of his followers came back to London and established the first Baptist chapel there in 1612. About twenty years later, there was a split – one group was called the General Baptists and the other the Particular Baptists. The latter sect put a greater emphasis on predestination.

By 1851, the Particular Baptist Chapel in Swaffham, NFK was on White Cross Lane in its own separate building. Founded in 1823, it had Sunday Schools in two other locations.

Thomas Sr., Thomas Jr., Eliza, James, Hannah and her husband, John PARSONS, and her children arrived in the United States in 1854. Thomas Sr. died in upstate New York on 11 March 1875. The funeral was held two days later at the Universalist Church at North Ridge, Niagara, NY, and he was buried in a community cemetery behind the church, a second incidence of non-conformity.
It is in the lives of Thomas’ children, especially his five daughters that the religious diversity is further illustrated. His oldest daughter, Sarah BRETT, is the one exception. She married William BLYTH or BLIGH in Swaffham, remained in Ashill, Norfolk, England, and seemed to record events in the Church of England records throughout her life. Her first husband’s burial and her remarriage were recorded in the parish register also.

Note: This family’s immigration and religious beliefs are the subject of two future blog posts.
  ©2012, Susan Lewis Well

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