Origins in England

For some time the origins of Samuel and Jane Atkins in England were still a point of conjecture. No marriage record had yet been found, nor had the births or christenings of their first two children. From this apparent lack of evidence however, an interesting scenario was developed by Shirley McKellar, an Atkins descendant.

Shirley records that although the native place of Samuel and Jane Atkins was recorded as Kenninghall, Norfolk, England, the parish itself inhabits the district of Suffolk as well. A Samuel Atkins was christened in Martlesham, Suffolk 21 August 1808 to Robert Atkins and Ann Markham. Samuel had an older brother Robert who was christened two years earlier 2 February 1806 in Martlesham and it is believed married Elizabeth Bloomfield 2 July 1825 at Snape, Suffolk.

Shirley's research revealed that Robert and Elizabeth Atkins christened two children: James 19 May 1833 at Friston, Suffolk, and Mary Ann 27 January 1833 at Martlesham, Suffolk, sharing the same names as Samuel's two eldest children. The implication is that for an unknown reason, Samuel and Jane Atkins adopted or acquired the children for the purpose of a new life in Tasmania.

We now know this not to be the case, although in the absence of anything else it was an appealing scenario. The true story however is just as interesting. Samuel Atkins was born in East Harling in the County of Norfolk in England on 24 February 1809. His parents baptised their son three days later on 27 February 1809, and were recorded as Samuel Atkins and his wife Elizabeth (late E. Smith).1 His parents had married over ten years earlier in Merton, Norfolk and Samuel was their fifth child, and fourth son, although Samuel's next eldest sibling Thomas had died the year before Samuel's birth.2

East Harling in Norfolk Englands

East Harling in Norfolk, England
Map Provided by Vision of Britain

Samuel's father was a blacksmith, and when Samuel was just three his family were removed from East Harling to Quiddenham under a Removal Order, as they had fallen on hard times and were required to return to their native place for support. Quiddenham and East Harling are less than five miles from other.3

If you or your family became or threatened to become reliant on parish relief and you could not satisfy the strict guidelines for legal settlement then you were liable to be removed to the place of your last legal settlement. If you were a certificate man the you would be carted back to your old parish at their expense but if no settlement certificate was in force then a removal order was applied for from the local Justices of the Peace. This would usually involve an Examination as to Settlement carried out before the local justice, overseers and another ratepayer in order to ascertain your place of last legal settlement . In tenuous cases others may have to be examined also, parents, grandparents and siblings, these examinations could run into many pages virtually the life story of the individuals family.4

It would appear Samuel did not receive an education, given his family tenuous status they probably couldn't afford any sort of tuition. We next find him in the historical records when he married Jane Ayres in Breckles, Norfolk. He signed the register with his mark while Jane signed the register with her name, witnesses were Henry and Mary Ann Pettitt, and Ann Mott:

Samuel Atkins, of Wretham, singleman, and Jane Ayres, of this parish, singlewoman, were married by banns, 16th April 1832.5

Marriage Registration of Samuel Atkins and Jane Ayres

Marriage Registration of Samuel Atkins and Jane Ayres
Image Provided by Margaret Nichols

How Samuel ended up living in Wretham is unknown, with his last known prior location as Quiddenham. Following their marriage in Breckles the couple's first child, James, was also baptised there on 14 October 1833.6 The baptism must have been held considerably later than his birth as a sister Mary Ann was born on 3 January 1834, in East Harling. Mary Ann was baptised on 2 February 1834.7

The family seem quite mobile as their next child Samuel was baptised on 21 October 1838 in Kenninghall, Norfolk.8 They settled here for a time as their fourth child, another daughter Jane, was also baptised in the same location on 20 December 1840.9

The family also appear in the 1841 census, taken on 12 June 1841 with Samuel Atkins, 30, described as an agricultural labourer, as the head of the house, along with Jane, 28, his wife, and their children James aged 8, Mary aged 7, Samuel aged 2 and Jane aged 7 months.10

Just one month after the census the family embarked on a life changing journey when they made their way to Plymouth to board the 'Emu' and depart England forever as part of a wave of indentured servants hired by the Van Diemen's Land Company.

  • 1. UK OPR Baptism Registration Norfolk East Harling
  • 2. UK BDM Marriage Registration Norfolk Merton
  • 3. UK OPR Removal Order Norfolk East Harling
  • 4. Martyn Parsons: The Poor Law;
  • 5. UK OPR Marriage Registration Norfolk Breckles
  • 6. UK OPR Baptism Registration Norfolk Wretham
  • 7. UK OPR Baptism Registration Norfolk East Harling
  • 8. UK OPR Baptism Registration Norfolk Kenninghall
  • 9. UK OPR Baptism Registration Norfolk Kenninghall
  • 10. UK Census 1841 Norfolk
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Interactive Map of East Harling

The following embedded Google Map provides you with zoom and scan controls to explore the area around East Harling in Norfolk. Use your mouse to drag the map around, and zoom out to get the larger context of the region.