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Who Was Joseph Aldis? | Aldis Family History

Who Was Joseph Aldis?

For many years I have received requests for information on the ancestry of Joseph ALDIS who married Mary HORTH in Norwich in 1821. Other Aldis family historians have had similar requests, notably from Australia and from the descendants of James ALDIS, one of the 12 children of Joseph and Mary.

James ALDIS, baptised 25 March 1832 in Norwich St. Augustine, married Jane WILLETT, daughter of George and Sarah Maria WILLETT of Shenley, Buckinghamshire, England, in the parish of Moreton Bay and Warwick, County Stanley and Merivale, New South Wales, Australia, on the 12th of February 1855. They had 10 children between 1856 and 1879, including Eliza ALDIS who is the ancestor of my most recent correspondent.

Nobody has been able to get back beyond Joseph who lived all his life in Norwich, dying in 1863 at the age of 68. He worked as a cordspinner and rope maker. I assumed that the record of his birth would emerge as parish registers for Norwich and Norfolk were searched; but that has not happened, and I was inclining to the view that either his birth had not been registered or that the document was lost or destroyed.

Recently, however, I have changed my mind. Working on ‘How Horatio became Horace’ and ‘The Quaker Connection’ (now accessible with relevant pedigrees at my website), brought into focus the family of Francis ALDIS and Elizabeth TRIPP who married the 25th of March 1792 at Norwich St. Giles. I am now, if not entirely convinced at least very strongly persuaded, that Joseph ALDIS was the first child of Francis ALDIS and Elizabeth TRIPP. Other correspondents, family historians, and my local professional archivist who knows Norfolk and Norwich material better than most, all agree that this is the most likely possibility. It cannot be proved, unfortunately, because the documentation simply does not exist. The circumstantial evidence, however, is compelling.

We know from the 1861 census on Norwich (George Yard, Barrack Street) that Joseph was born in Dickleburgh; his given age in 1861 was 65, pointing to a birth c. 1795. Now Francis ALDIS and Elizabeth TRIPP, though married in 1792 (their marriage recorded in the Anglican register), did not have a child, apparently, until the 14th of February 1796 when their son Horatio was born in Heigham, Norwich. Horatio was not baptised, however, until the 16th of August 1818, by which time he had attained his majority and could make decisions for himself. So Francis and Elizabeth appear not to have had any children between 1792 and 1796 who were baptised in the Anglican church; and they were recorded as ‘Quaker parents’ when Horatio was baptised in 1818. To complicate matters further, neither Horatio nor any other early child born to the couple was recorded in the Norfolk and Norwich Society of Friends Digested Birth Register. Later I will return to a possible reason for this omission. There is no record of further children of Francis and Elizabeth until 1807 (twins Daniel and Eliza) followed by Edward in 1809 and the late addition of Sarah in 1815, all baptised, incidentally and conventionally, at the Anglican St Martin at Oak. This history of registered births is very patchy, therefore; and this very patchiness is a part of the contention that Joseph was born to Francis and Elizabeth between their marriage in 1792 and the birth of Horatio in 1796. So a projected birth for Joseph between 1793 and 1795 is well possible, and accords with the given ages on census returns.

The key is Dickleburgh where Joseph claimed to have been born. Note in passing, however, that Joseph named two of his sons, including his first born, Francis, suggesting that the name was important to him. The second Francis, born in 1837, was the first son born after the death of Joseph’s father Francis in 1834. The possible objection that Joseph would have been unlikely to give two of his sons the same name can be answered thus: firstly, the practice was by no means uncommon; secondly, the first Francis, born in 1821, apparently turns up in the 1841 census as William, aged 20, living next door to his parents with brothers Henry, James and Robert. Joseph and Mary also had daughters named Elizabeth and Eliza.

We know that Francis and Elizabeth were living in Dickleburgh in 1799, as Francis was ‘examined’ as to his legal settlement. We also know that Francis’ parents, Daniel ALDIS and Mary DIX, had very strong links with Dickleburgh. Daniel, born in Dickleburgh, died there on the 20th of June 1799, while his wife Mary remained in the parish until her death, aged 84, on the 9th of November 1823. Daniel was a highly respected surgeon, and testimonials to his skills have survived from several parishes, including Dickleburgh. It seems reasonable to assume that Daniel and Mary lived in retirement in Dickleburgh, lending credence to the supposition that Francis, who seems to have been in financial distress in the early years of his marriage, also lived there, certainly until 1799 and probably for some time thereafter; by 1807, we know, he was back in Norwich.

The complicating factor, of course, is Francis’ Quaker background. The son of Quaker parents, he married in the Anglican church; his first known child, Horatio, was not baptised conventionally until 1818, and it seems reasonable to assume that any other children born to the couple while they were still in Dickleburgh would have been raised as Quakers, especially if Francis was living with or near his parents. Surviving parish books for Dickleburgh date only from 1795, the following entries indicating the level of parish support being given to Francis:

31 March 1798 - Francis Aldis £1-6-6
5 April to 5 July 1800 - Francis Aldis £1

It should be noted that, in addition to Francis’ father Daniel, his older brother, George, also a surgeon, was living in Dickleburgh and in receipt of payments for medical treatments, eg. ‘Dr. Aldis £7-7-0’, ‘Dr. Aldis’ bill, for the girl Warns 9shillings’, and ‘To him for his brother Francis 7 weeks pay £2-2-0’. Payments continue throughout 1802, 1803, 1804, even when Francis is in Norwich, 1805, 1806, 1807, 1808, 1809 (‘To Mr Dix for Francis Aldis’s…..wife’s laying in £0-17-6’. Note: their son Edward was born in 1809).

The impression is given that, for whatever reason, Francis was more or less on permanent support by the parish of Dickleburgh; and these are substantial sums of money, not bits and pieces for wood or clothing but single payments to last several weeks. Daniel having died in 1799, Francis was ‘examined’ in December of that year and clearly found to be the legal responsibility of Dickleburgh. He appears to have moved between Dickleburgh and Norwich before settling permanently in Norwich, with Mr Dix, surely a relative of his mother, taking his regular payments. The timing, moreover, cannot be coincidental: prior to his father’s death, Francis and his family were living with and being supported by Daniel. Later parish books confirm continuing payments until, at least, 1820.

A significant entry appears in the Tivetshall Quaker Monthly Meeting Minute Book for 16 August 1792: ‘The meeting was informed that Francis Aldis has lately married contrary to the good order of the Friends. Two Friends were appointed to treat with him and report at the next meeting.’ The minute for 18 October 1792 confirms that ‘Francis Aldis….acknowledged that he had married contrary to good order’ and was threatened with ‘a testimony of disunity’. The minute for 13 December 1792 confirms the procedure: ‘Francis Aldis formerly of Dickleburgh (now removed to Norwich) a member of this meeting having so far deviated from our religious principles as to suffer himself to be married by a priest to a person of another profession….we do not consider him as a member of our religious society…’. On the 17th of January 1793 ‘Francis Aldis was handed his minute of disunity’. Unlike his brother Robert who, also threatened with disunity, reunited with the Friends and registered his children’s births in the Quaker records, Francis was not reunited. This might well be the explanation as to why we have no record of the births or baptisms of the early children of Francis and Elizabeth until the retrospective record of Horatio. We cannot be sure, of course, of the exact scenario, but it seems possible, even likely, that, whereas Robert’s wife, Elizabeth Lines, whom he married in 1791, was willing to do what was required to join the Friends, Elizabeth TRIPP was not. Francis would have considered himself a good Quaker at heart, having been brought up within the Daniel and Mary family; but the situation with his wife left him in limbo. To have his children baptised in the Anglican church would have seemed alien to him, and perhaps he hoped that Elizabeth would come round to his way of thinking and join the Friends as did Robert’s wife. As the years passed, Francis’ siblings moved away from Dickleburgh, his father had died, and he was spending more time in Norwich. Eventually he was persuaded, perhaps by Elizabeth, perhaps of his own volition, to have the later children baptised into the Anglican church.

So it seems highly probable that the first child of Francis and Elizabeth was not baptised officially. I believe this child to have been Joseph ALDIS, born c.1794. Like his father and brother he was a rope maker and cordspinner. Were there other children, born to them between 1792 and 1807, whose births were not recorded in the Anglican registers or in the Quaker Births Register? None that we know of at the present time. Personally I am not ruling out the possibility of another unknown turning out to be a possible child of Francis ALDIS and Elizabeth TRIPP.

George Aldis
May 2014