Born at sea brickwall

+4 votes
120 views
I have a tricky brickwall I'm trying to get through with William Starling, who was born at sea in around 1813.

He married Mary Ann Scott in 1843 in Hilgay, Norfolk, when he was around 30. This revealed that his father's name was John and that he was widowed.

There are lots of Starlings who lived in Norfolk. The 1851 census listed at least 384 of them, including significant numbers in the port parish of Blakeney, as well the towns of Norwich and Great Yarmouth. At least 474 are recorded in Norfolk parish records going back to the 1500s.[http://doun.org/transcriptions/surnames.php?surname=STARLING]

However, I haven't been able to locate anything about his first marriage - which I imagine must be between 1800-1843 - or the death of his first wife - in the same time period. All the parish entries I can find can be ruled out one way or another.

Can anyone suggest a way forward?
WikiTree profile: William Starling
in Genealogy Help by Andrew Turvey G2G6 Mach 3 (34.0k points)

I'm not able to help on your brickwall born at sea but this may be of use for your Scott surname and other Norfolk Ancestors at Norfolk Baptism project http://tinstaafl.co.uk/nbp/#H

Thanks for the link, Maureen. I've been through the TINSTAAFL website and confirmed there aren't any matching records for baptisms in Norfolk for a William Starling, son of John, baptised before 1820.

The site only goes back to 1813 and it's possible (although unlikely) that he was born just earlier than this. It also only covers at present around 600 parishes - about half of the total.

FreeREG gives a similar result. The only match for William son of John Starling is one born 31 Oct and baptised 1 Nov 1812 in Shouldham. Given the closeness of the dates I think it's unlikely this is the William who was born at sea. There are around 800 parishes covered by FreeREG and I note they also have all the TINSTAAFL transcriptions on the FreeREG site as well.

I think you should take another look at the Shouldham baptism. I don't know if you have access to the image, I can post it if you don't, but there's something very odd about the baptism date of 1st Nov. The previous entry was baptised on 7th November and all the other entries are in chronological baptism order. I suspect it's a mistake for 1st December.

Edit: OK completely scratch that theory. Looking at the parish register "William the son of John Starling and Maria his wife was buried Dec 7 1812 An Infant"
Thanks Matthew!

3 Answers

+6 votes
If you are looking for his baptism then you might try either St. Dunstan's in Stepney or one of the Greenwich churches. It was quite common for children born at sea to be baptised in one of these locations as port of call when the ship hit land.
by Lynda Crackett G2G6 Pilot (630k points)
Thanks Lynda - I'll give it a go! Does this also apply if the home port for the ship was in Norfolk?
Andrew, I have no idea whether Norfolk folks might have done it, but I have found some of my seafaring Northumbrians baptising their children at St. Dunstan's in Stepney. Knowing about this practice certainly knocked down a couple of brick walls for me.
+2 votes

Thanks all for your helpful tips on this.

Since posting this, I've managed to make some progress. In particular, I've found the best candidate for William Starling in 1841 was actually living 20 miles south of Hilgay in Worlington, Suffolk (rather than the Norfolk coast 45 miles northeast which I had been focussed on!). The 1841 return also describes him as a "waterman" and Hilgay (specifically Ten Miles Bank where William lived within Hilgay parish) is 20 miles north of Worlington along the rivers Lark and Great Ouse. He was living with a family of "Stebbings".


Looking deeper, this William had married a Lydia Copsey 5 years previously, who had died 3 years into the marriage. There are other Worlington Copseys (presumably relatives) who had married into a Stebbing.

I'm pretty confident I've got my man. Although his christening is still a challenge, but at least I have more clues now...

by Andrew Turvey G2G6 Mach 3 (34.0k points)
+3 votes

Six weeks on, I have made more progress and have a potential breakthough. Can I ask the opinion of anyone following this thread?

My William Starling's father John might be Starling-1020, a John Starling from Isleham who was described as a "waterman" in an Isleham christening record of 1816 but then "labourer" in four subsequent records from 1819 to 1829. 

That matches to my William Starling - the son of Starling-613 - who was born "on the sea" and whose father was described as a "labourer" on the 1836 marriage record in Worlington, Suffolk.

Worlington is 5 miles downstream from Isleham on the River Lark, 20 miles upstream of Ten Mile Bank in Hilgay where William later lived with his second wife.

by Andrew Turvey G2G6 Mach 3 (34.0k points)

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