The Clarke family of Suffolk

My paternal Clarke family make their earliest recorded appearance so far in the village of Wattisfield in Suffolk, England, during the early 19th century.

In March 1809, my 5x Great Grandfather, William Clarke appears alongside his wife Susanna Rolf take their son Thomas Clarke to the Protestant Dissenters chapel.

The The Poll for the Knights of the Shire for the County of Suffolk (1784), shows a John Clarke listed at Wattisfield in that year. It is not clear whether this is William's father, uncle, or brother, or even just a coincidental appearance of the surname by someone un-related.

The couple would return to the chapel with their next 7 children for baptisms, which includes that of my 4x Great Grandmother, Mary Clarke in the February of 1811.

Mary's life would not be easy, and by the time that she was 25 she had given birth to the first of her two illegitimate children, and my 3x Great Grandmother, Caroline Clarke, and swiftly followed by the second, Edward Jarman Clarke in 1837.

Tracing a Criminal Ancestor

The tough life as a young unmarried mother of two illegitimate children would have been tough for her. She marries widower William Bailey of nearby Botsesdale, in Suffolk, England, who married my 4x Great Grandmother Mary Clarke after her two illegitimate children were born.

Their marriage was difficult. William already had four children from his first marriage, and with Mary, he would add another 7.

In 1841 though, she was missing. I eventually found Mary listed as an inmate at Ipswich Gaol, in Ipswich, Suffolk. Criminal records and newspaper reports would then later reveal that in 1841, both Mary and William had ended up in court and charged for the neglect and abuse of the children from his first marriage. Both were sentenced to prison, with Mary serving the longest term - 6 months, and with hard labour. Due to the infancy of youngest child Emily, she appears in prison alongside her mother.

The family would end up in and out of the workhouse over the next few years, with oldest daughter Caroline dodging this, instead going into service as a servant in Littleport in Cambridgeshire.

Caroline went on to marry Thomas Howlett, ending my Clarke ancestral line.

Mary Clarke goes missing

After William's death in the Hartismere Union Workhouse of Eye, Suffolk in 1869, Mary returns to Botesdale in 1871, and back to the Union Workhouse by 1881.

She goes missing after the 1881 census.

Clarke family connections

My Clarke family are linked to only a couple of known my ancestral families so far, including: