Saturday, August 8, 2009

William Hart Laws Born in Weeting with Broomhill, Norfolk, England

The following is an excerpt from A Story of William Hart and Jennie Ann Johnson Laws by Donna Laws Hemingway, a granddaughter. Clink on “Donna Laws Hemingway” in the labels links to read more about Donna and this now out-of-print book. She wrote the findings of her research in first person; so “I” refers to Donna.


William Hart Laws was born 16 September 1850, at Weeting with Broomhill, Norfolk, England, the son of Benjamin Laws and Mary Hart. His parents were not married at the time he was born.

They were both farm workers in the little village of Weeting with Broomhill. Benjamin said he went out in the fields to work and Mary did not come. He went back to the living quarters and found that she had given birth to their son. On the 3 November 1850, they had him christened or baptized into the Church of England in the Brandon, Suffolk, England, Parish Church. He was given the name William Laws Hart. When I found this I knew why I had never been able to find the marriage of this couple.

You need to know a little about the living conditions and the area where they lived. Weeting with Broomhill had a population of 303 people in 1845, It was a farm area where they grew turnips, barley, seeds for hay, wheat and rye. Barley was made into malt which is the staple commodity of the county. There were lots of cattle, sheep and turkeys raised and sent to market. Basically this was a farm industry with many hired men and women to work. The pay was very low and they struggled to make a living. Having to pay only a few cents for a marriage was more than many could afford and many lived a common law marriage.

This was the situation at the time the Mormon missionaries came to Norfolk and Suffolk, England to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many listened and joined the church, Benjamin and Mary being two who were converted, Benjamin being baptized 27 March 1851. Mary could not be baptized without being married since she had their child. They were married 24 October 1851 at Thetford, Norfolk, England. Mary was baptized 30 December 1851, into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

These little villages are all within a five mile radius even though they are in two counties. In Utah we think of villages at that time being miles and miles apart like 10 to 50 miles. However, in England they are very close together, and the Parish churches were close enough together that everyone could easily walk to church. The Church was the center of their living. That is why we find the christening in one parish and the marriages in another, and the deaths in another. They just went where it was convenient, or where they felt the most comfortable in their situation.

Brandon where Grandpa William always said he was born is a good sized town of 2,000 people at that time. There was a marketplace and a shopping area. I am sure that is why it is the place he remembered in his growing up. He was christened in Brandon.

The Laws ancestors have been families that have moved and been rather difficult to find. They moved nearly every generation. In England they do not have a record in the Parishes of the moving in and out. William's father and mother must not have known their Grandparents, because they did the temple work, in the Endowment House and the St George Temple, for Grandma and Grandpa Laws, Grandma and Grandpa Hart, Grandpa and Grandma Norton and Grandpa and Grandma Bowers. This is all we knew of their ancestors.

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