The Church of England parish register for Wattisham records this marriage:
Bride: Hannah Whiting, of Wattisham parish, a single woman
Groom: Abraham Stiff, of Wattisham parish, batchelor
Date: 29 November 1811
Location: St Nicholas, Wattisham, Suffolk – the parish Church of England church for Wattisham
Officiating clergy: James Harrison, curate
Witnesses: Sally Goldsmith, John Welham
The groom was a Baptist and the bride was probably baptised in the Church of England, but they did not have a choice of church in which to marry. In 1811, it was the norm for Baptists and other Protestant dissenters to marry in the establish Anglican Church, because only Anglican marriages had full legal status. The couple’s affiliation with both churches is reflected in the Anglican baptisms and Baptist birth records of their children.
|Hannah Steff||christening||28 Mar 1813||Bishop’s Transcripts,
Church of England
|Abraham Steff||christening||28 Apr 1816|
|Jonathan Stiff||christening||05 May 1818|
|Sarah Steff||birth||09 Apr 1820||Register transcripts,
|Elijah Steff||birth||09 May 1823|
|Ann Steff||birth||31 Aug 1826|
|Suzanna Steff||birth||05 Aug 1829|
|Richard Stiff||birth||21 Sep 1832|
|Sarah Ann Stiff||birth||15 Jun 1835|
Anglican baptisms (or christenings) were generally performed on infants soon after birth. Baptists only performed baptisms on ‘Believers’ who were old enough to understand the religious meaning of the ceremony, so recorded both births and adult baptisms.
Wattisham Strict Baptist Chapel, established in 1763, drew its congregation from the surrounding villages, including Hitcham, Bildeston and Ringshall. Therefore, attendance did not necessarily indicate the residence of congregation members, only that they probably resided within travelling distance.
This couple are recorded together on only one census, in 1851 at Bildeston, with one adult daughter, Ann (aged 25), who were all born in Hitcham. Abraham’s occupation was a baker.
In 1841, the best census match for Abraham is a 50 year old woodsman in Bury St Edmunds Goal and House of Correction. The best match for Hannah finds her with one daughter, Susan (aged 10, born ca 1831, who may be Suzanna), at Ringshall. Daughter Ann, aged 15, was a servant at Loose Hall, Hitcham. Whilst I expect that the older children would have left the parental home, where were the two youngest, Richard and Sarah Ann?