The Pettit Family 1823 - 2002

Susannah (Annah) Pettit b 18th May 1848 - d 2nd March 1910

Son - Horace    Son - John    Son - William






Census Year Copy Found Certificate Type Copy Found Other Information  
1851 Yes




Place of birth
1861 Yes




Residence (No map yet)
1871 Yes




Birth place of two children
1881 Yes        
1891 Yes        
1901 Yes        

Research Dates
11 Dec 02    15 Feb 04   
15 Jun 04    22 Jan 05        25 Sep 05        16 Nov 05        29 Nov 06

11 December 2002
Annah is the first member of the family who has presented me with a real challenge.   Two things struck me when she was initially discovered; the unusual spelling of her first name, although, according to all of the text books I have read, this may be a misspelling, and the fact that she only appears once in the rather limited search carried out so far.  I have tried all variations of the name I can think of with no result.   Marriage is always a possibility, but it seems much more likely that she died between the census of 1881 and 1901.   Annah was unmarried at the time of the census in 1881, she was already aged 30 at that time and may be considered too old for a prospective wife.   I must admit to feeling a slight twinge of sadness at the thought of her early demise, I hope to be able to find out what happened to her in future searches, hopefully something about her will turn up in the 1891 census.

At the time of the 1881 census Annah was living with her father George, in or around Boyton or Butley.   In the house with her were father George, mother Mary, brothers George, William, Herbert and nephews Horace and John.

15 February 2004
Throughout all of the research carried out so far, Susannah has given me the greatest challenge of all.   Her name was the initial problem, especially as another Susannah was born and living around the same time, and this Susannah was sometimes called Annah in official documents such as the census records.

Susannah has an extremely interesting life and may be considered a bit of a rebel for her time.   To date, I still cannot find a birth certificate for her.   Various books I have read tell me this is not unusual, especially as I cannot find a birth certificate for her younger sister Martha Anne, although I did locate Martha's death certificate.   The 1881 census provided the starting point, from which I was able to trawl the register of births, deaths and marriages to find not Susannah's birth certificate, but that of Horace whom I thought was Susannah's nephew, who was living in his grandfather's house at the time of the census.   At the house at the time was another possible nephew too, a four year old John Pettit.

The birth certificate provided some unexpected news, Susannah was in fact the mother of Horace, who was born in the Union workhouse in Nacton, Suffolk.   It would appear that it was common practice for parents to place their unmarried daughters in the workhouse during pregnancy, so it was there that Horace was born.   On a trip back to Felixstowe to visit my mother, who was in hospital at the time in Ipswich, I took a short diversion into Nacton to see if I could find the remnants of the workhouse.   Sadly, it is by now long gone, but research shows that on its site stands Amberfield School, which noted the presence of the workhouse by incorporating a date stone from the original House of Industry.

Some more surprising discoveries were made after examining the 1891 census.   After purchasing it on CD, I was able to browse in much more leisure than at the County Record Office.   Not finding any candidates in the expected parishes, I started to expand the search and struck lucky when looking in Woodbridge itself.   Susannah was shown as living at 69 Castle Street, with a boarder and two sons, Horace and an unknown son, William.  After some thought I have come to the conclusion that John, who was at grandfather George's house in the 1881 census, and again in the 1891 census working as an agricultural labourer, may also be a son of Susannah and so I have located the birth register entries for both John and William and await the receipt of the certificates to confirm my suspicions.

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5 June 04
A search on the internet revealed a wonderful and very informative site providing information on the Poor Law, pre and post 1834.   It an be found at   From the amount of information the site contains, it can be seen that Susannah faced a very daunting task being an unmarried mother in the time that she lived.   Such detail has made me question how long she stayed there, and what she was likely to be doing whilst in residence.   I intend to contact the Country Record office to find out if any records for the workhouse at Nacton still exist for the period in question, and, if so, to examine them.

22 January 2005
Susannah was found on the 1871 census, living with her father, mother, siblings George, Elizabeth, William, Herbert and her son Horace in Boyton Street, Boyton.   The census find was particularly helpful as it may have thrown some light on the mystery of why no birth certificate has yet been found for Susannah, as the census shows her birth year to be 1848, not 1851, as in the other census records.   A search of the register of births around that year has turned up a possible entry, it being Woodbridge, Q4 1847, v12 p449.   This entry is for an un-named female.   The certificate will be obtained to see if it can help clear up the mystery.

25 September 2005
At long last, the mystery of Susannah appears to have been solved.   After many months of trying to find information on her, she was found during a search of the FreeBMD website. The entry found related to her marriage, to Charles Clifford Seaman, who had shown as her boarder in the 1891 census records. The marriage certificate shows Susannah marrying Charles on the 28th April 1891, her age being given as 42 (although this is not entirely certain, as it does not tie in with other sources of information), and Charles' age as 45. Susannah is shown as a spinster, of Woodbridge, and her father is named as George Pettit, a Labourer. Charles was shown as a bachelor, of Woodbridge, son of James Seaman (deceased), a Coal Porter. The ceremony was conducted in the Register Office at Woodbridge, and was witnessed by Horace Pettit (son) and Louisa Diggins, a person not known as a member of the family. The Registrar was William John Andrews, and George E Walker was the Superintendent Registrar.

The end of Susannah's life is very sad, she died at the Suffolk District Asylum, Melton, which I believe was later to become St Audry's Hospital. The causes of death are listed as pulmonary tuberculosis and chronic mania, which must have lead to her being sent to the Asylum. Although St Audry's had a reputation as being a very progressive mental hospital for its time, life in the Asylum at the turn of the century cannot have been too pleasant. Further research must be carried out to see if any records are held for the Asylum, and an attempt will be made to try and find the site of Susannah's grave.

The mystery of Susannah's missing birth certificate also seems to have been cleared up.   The certificate which I hoped would confirm the birth of Susannah arrived on the 20 August 2005.  Unfortunately it is not conclusive evidence, but does provide enough information, I think, to say that it does relate to Susannah.  The mother is shown as Mary Pettitt, of Butley.  Susannah's mother Mary was born in Butley, but at the time of Susannah's birth Mary had not yet married husband George, and wouldn't until a month later, on the 12th May 1845. Officially then, the mother's name on the certificate should be Ling, but due to the impending marriage, did Mary give her new name to the Registrar a little early to save embarrassment? To compound the mystery a little more, the father's name was not given on the certificate, perhaps to protect George from any bonds required of him by the parish to ensure he provided for the upkeep of the baby. In any case, and whatever the facts behind the certificate, which will probably never be known, I think that Susannah was brought into the world on the 20th April 1845, under the given name of Hannah, with the birth being reported by mother Mary Pettit on the 29th May 1845 (after the marriage, hence the married surname!), and registered by Richard Wigg, Registrar.   See 16 November 2005 below.

16 November 2005
Complications with Susannah occur once more!   Searching the 1861 census has thrown up another Hannah Pettit, who better fits the details shown on the birth certificate that I though belonged to Susannah.   As doubt now exists about the birth certificate being Susannah's, I have reverted back to the next most likely birth year of 1848.   If the 1851 census shows her as aged 3, I might just have to accept that as her birth year, and the fact that her birth was just not registered.

29 November 2006
At long last, success!   The correct entry for Susanna's birth (note the spelling!) has at last been found, and the certificate obtained.   This now means a full set of certificates are held, at one time something I thought would not happen.    As an extra bonus, I now have permission to search through all records pertaining to Susanna and her stay in the Suffolk District Asylum.   This should provide information as to when she was admitted, why she was there, her treatment, and perhaps who visited her during her stay.   Further details will be posted as and when they are found.

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Birth Certificate
The long searched for birth certificate shows Susanna Pettit being born on the 18th May 1848, to parents George and Mary Pettitt (Ling).   At the time of the birth George was a labourer.   The informant was Mary, who signed her mark on the certificate.  The birth was registered on the 21st June 1848 by Miles Cutting, Registrar.

Marriage Certificate

The marriage certificate shows that Susannah married her lodger named in the 1891 census, in fact very soon after that census was taken.   The date of the marriage was the 28th April 1891, and the ceremony was carried out at Woodbridge Register Office, a location that was to be used for eldest son Horace's wedding some six years later.   The certificate shows the groom as Charles Clifford Seaman, aged 45 years, a bachelor from Woodbridge.   At the time of the marriage Charles was a Labourer.   His father's name was given as James Seaman (deceased), who was a Coal Porter.   Susannah is shown as being aged 42, a spinster of Woodbridge.   Her father was shown as George Pettit (perhaps a belated admission of Susannah's parentage?), a Labourer.   The witnesses at the wedding were Horace Pettit, probably her son, and Louisa Diggins, a person not known as being part of the family.   The Registrar was William John Andrews, and George E Walker was the Superintendent Registrar.

Death Certificate

This death certificate brings to an end the rather colourful life of someone who must rank as one of the great characters of the family.   To  have lived the life that Susannah did must have taken great courage, and she must have had a great personal strength.   To discover the manner and whereabouts of her death was another surprise, but it really should not have been as nothing about Susannah ever appears to have been straightforward and uncomplicated.

After having her eldest son Horace in an institution, Susannah ended up dying in another, which must have been at least as unpleasant as the workhouse at Nacton.  At the age of 64, Susannah succumbed to Pulmonary Tuberculosis and Chronic Mania at the Suffolk District Asylum, Melton, on the 2nd March 1910.   Other information on the certificate shows her as being the wife of Charles Clifford Seaman, Army pensioner, of 2 Castle Street, Woodbridge.   The cause of death was certified by Stephen G Longworth, with John Waters, Deputy Superintendent, Suffolk District Asylum, as the informant.   The death was registered on the 8th March 1910 by Arthur Hayward, Registrar.

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1891 Census

Susannah is living with first son Horace and third son William and a boarder, Charles Seaman, and her occupation is shown as a housekeeper. Second son John was staying with his grandfather George at the time of the census, working as an agricultural labourer. There is a conflict with the age that Susannah has given in this census. If the age given in the 1871 census is correct, then she should be aged 43, not 41.

1901 Census

Susannah is found in this census under her married name, as expected. By this time she has left Woodbridge and moved to Crown Lane in Wickham Market. Unfortunately, as has always been the case with Susannah, the census record throws up questions. Charles is not with her on census night. Susannah is shown as being the only occupant of the property, with no occupation, but still married as she is shown as Wife. Charles cannot be found anywhere on the 1901 census, all searches on the National Archive site turn up blanks. Where was he? At the moment, that question cannot be answered.  A quick check of the Register of Deaths on the FreeBMD site doesn't show an entry for Charles, but this may have to be investigated further.   What is certain is that sometime between this entry in the 1901 census and March 1910, Susannah is admitted to St Audry's, or the Suffolk County Asylum as it was then.


The reason for Susannah being in Pettistree is not yet known, other than she was there for the birth of her two younger sons.   A picture of the local church is shown below.

Pettistree Church

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