Land of Our Ancestors: Norfolk, England

by Owen Ashbaker

The opening words that my grandmother, Sarah Ann Trappett Daines, wrote in her diary were,

“We find ourselves in Etling Green, East Dereham, Norfolk, England.  James Trappett was born in 1790 and his wife Elizabeth Bone was born 1802.  To them was born several children, one of them was William Trappett.”

Gooches Cottages

William Trappett was a grandfather of my grandmother Sarah Ann.  His parents, James and Elizabeth (nee Bone), were married on 17th October 1819 in Swanton Morley, near Dereham, and that was where William, their oldest child, was born.

About thirty years later the 1851 census shows William and his wife Charlotte (nee Allenden) living in Gooches Cottages about two miles south of Swanton Morley, and to the north of Etling Green, with their two oldest children;

William was noted as being an agricultural labourer. By the time of the 1861 census James and Elizabeth had added twins John and James to their family but had lost three other children; they were still living in Etling Green.

In the summer of 2000, I had the opportunity to visit the area of Etling Green with my wife.  (We live in northern Utah.)  My wife had been invited to speak at an education conference in England.  The conference was originally planned for 1999, when my work schedule and other family circumstances would not allow me to accompany her.  But the conference was postponed until the following year, which made it possible for me to go.  

Our original plan was for her to present at the conference and then we would spend the rest of our time in the Birmingham and Matlock areas doing research on her family tree.  A colleague of my wife who lives in the area accompanied us on this adventure.  She and her family are very involved in family history research and because her father had access to electoral rolls and telephone directories, we asked him to check for any Trappetts still living in the Norfolk area.  He found one name, an Albert Trappett in East Dereham.  Albert did not have a phone and even though we were not planning to cross the country to Norfolk, we sent him a letter identifying ourselves and saying that if we travelled to East Dereham, we would like to meet with him.

After spending time in Birmingham and Matlock, my wife insisted we go to Norfolk.  Arriving in East Dereham, we went in search of Albert.  What we found far surpassed our wildest expectations.  We met an incredible man who we grew to love and appreciate.

Albert Trappett
Albert Trappett

Albert was 92 years old and lived alone.  His wife had died many years before, and they had no children.  We had no answer when we knocked on his door, but a neighbour assured us that Albert was home – probably digging up potatoes from his garden for his lunch!  And that is indeed where he was.  

He was very welcoming, and as we talked to Albert, we discovered some interesting things about him and his family.  Albert was raised in Gooches Cottages, living next to his grandfather, and he gave us directions to the cottages, which are still in use today.

We also determined that Albert and I were related:

  • My grandmother, Sarah Ann (b. 1877) was the daughter of John Trappett (b. 1855), the son of William Trappett (b. 1819), who was a son of James Trappett and Elizabeth Bone.  
  • Albert’s father, John Trappett (b. 1865) was the son of John Trappett (b. 1826), who was also a son of James Trappett and Elizabeth Bone.  
  • So, Albert and my grandmother were second cousins.  

We were delighted, while Albert was astounded to think that he had relations in America.

In about 1870, when my great grandfather John Trappett (Sarah Ann’s father) was just 14 years old, he met ‘Mormon’ missionaries who were preaching in the area, and soon asked to be baptised into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He became a member of the East Dereham branch.  His twin brother, two of his sisters and both their parents also joined the Church.  They emigrated to America – except for father William, who had died in 1870.

The missionary who taught John was an Elder Clark from Farmington in northern Utah, and he offered to pay the fare for John to emigrate.  By this time, Salt Lake City was well established, and the Transcontinental railroad had been completed, so John didn’t have to walk the Mormon Trail from the eastern states to Utah Territory, like so many thousand British converts had done before.  He went to live with Elder Clark’s family (Elder Clark meanwhile continued his missionary work in the British Isles) and stayed with them for about a year after Elder Clark had returned home.  John later married Mary Ladle, who was also a native of Norfolk, and they lived in another Utah settlement where their family grew up.

Grandmother Sarah Ann was their second child, and when she was six years old her mother died, so she spent the rest of her childhood living with different members of the family.  At 12 years of age she went out to earn her living.  When she was 14, however, she was taken very ill and for three days lay in a coma.  She later told how her mother had come to her as she lay there and shown her some of the things she would experience in her life.  She asked to stay with her mother, but was told that she had to return to her body, as she had work to do and children to raise.  She went on to marry and give birth to eleven children, nine of whom lived to old age.  She lived a life of hard work and in great poverty, especially in the early years of her marriage.  She died aged 86 in Grace, southern Idaho.

While in England, my wife Betty and I had the opportunity to visit many of the places identified in the records of our ancestors.  They included East Dereham, Swanton Morley, Etling Green, North Tuddenham and Elsing.  While in these locations, we reviewed many of the genealogical records that at the time were not available in Salt Lake City.

Owen and Betty Ashbaker with Albert
Owen and Betty Ashbaker with Albert

In 2003, we again visited Norfolk where we found that Albert had been admitted to hospital.  When we went through the doors of the hospital, Albert was being wheeled down the hall in a wheelchair.  He saw Betty, threw his hands in the air and exclaimed, “I can’t believe my family came all the way from America to see me!”

We were later informed that Albert had passed away on July 12th that year and was buried in the East Dereham Cemetery next to his wife Ivy.  Even though our ancestors separated generations ago – and were separated by the Atlantic and a whole continent – Albert feels like family