Alan March’s Family History

This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines, and some go back many generations. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from Alan’s as (1)

Monk Tree



JOSEPH CLIFT. Joseph’s age in the 1851 census is given as 74. This means gives him a birth date of 1776-7. This is close to the birth date of 1777-8 given by the age of 81 at his burial. The younger generation did not always know exactly how old elderly people were when they died.

The 1851 census says that he was born in High Easter. No baptism for Joseph Clift/Cliff has been found there, but there is the following:
Baptism. High Roding, Essex.
1776 Dec 1  Joseph Clift son of Wm and Elizabeth Clift.

High Roding and High Easter are villages in Essex 2 m apart. They lie between Chelmsford and Bishops Stortford.

Older generations of this family were known as Cliff(e), but in Joseph’s time the common spelling was Clift.

His mother was Elizabeth Campion.

Joseph was the youngest of eight children.

His grandfather was a farmer, but probably Joseph’s father was not. Even if he was, he is unlikely to have been wealthy enough to set up all three sons with farms. As the youngest son, Joseph was the most likely to slip down the social scale.

Like so many others in rural areas, he became an agricultural labourer. The rapid increase in population from the late 18th century meant a large shift in farming towards cereal-growing. This century also saw horses replacing oxen as the most commonly used draught animals.

By the time of his marriage, Joseph had moved 6 m south to village of Writtle, just west of Chelmsford.


JANE HARRIS. The age of 60 given at Jane’s burial in 1844 gives her an approximate birth date of 1783-4. Weddings usually took place in the bride’s parish. There is only one baptism in the Writtle area which is close to this.
Baptism. All Saints, Writtle.
1785 May 1  Jenny daughter of Isaac and Margaret Harris.

Her mother was Margaret Carter.

Jane/Jenny was the sixth of eight children, though an earlier Jenny had died in infancy. Other siblings may have died too, but the burial index we have does not distinguish between children and adults. We are likely to get more information when the parish registers become available online.

As a teenager, Jane would have seen the dramatic collapse of the church tower in Writtle in 1800. It was rebuilt soon after.

Writtle Church and Green[1]


Joseph and Jane grew up in the time of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. This caused a high degree of anxiety, with people expecting to be invaded by France. They married three years before the Battle of Waterloo.

The wedding was in Chelmsford. Probably Jane was working there.
Marriage. Chelmsford.
1812 Apr 2  Joseph Clift and Jane Harris.

Joseph may have been living in Chelmsford too, because that is where we find the first baptisms for Joseph and Jane.
Baptisms. St Mary the Virgin, Chelmsford.
1811 Dec 14  Joseph. This is probably a mistranscription for 1812.
1813 Jan 3  William

They then moved to Writtle, where the rest of their children were baptised at All Saints.
Baptisms. All Saints, Writtle.
1814 Dec 25  William
1817 Apr 20  Elizabeth
1820 Feb 29  Mary Ann
1822 Nov 24  James. Bur 1823 Jan 26 at 15 weeks.
1828 May 25  Hannah

Both Joseph and Jane lived to see the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. They are in Bridge Street in Writtle in the 1841 census.
1841 Census. Bridge Street, Writtle.
Joseph Clift     60    A lab        Yes
Jane Clift        55                    Yes
William Clift    20    A lab        Yes
Mary Clift       20                    Yes
Sarah Clift        15                    Yes
Hannah Clift    12                    Yes

The ages of adults have been rounded down to the nearest 5. It might appear that William was Mary’s twin, but he was actually more than two years older.

Bridge Street crosses the River Wid.

Jane died before the next census.

Burial. Writtle.
1844 Apr 14  Jane Clift 60

By the 1851 census, Joseph is living in Greenbury Lodge with his youngest daughter Hannah.

Their surname has been miswritten as Clipt.
1851 Census. Greenbury Lodge, Writtle, Chelmsford, Essex.
Joseph Clipt         Head    Widr    74      ag Lab                       High Easter
Hannah Clipt         Daur    Un       22                                       Writtle

No occupation is given for Hannah. She was presumably acting as Joseph’s housekeeper.

Towards the end of that year, Hannah married William Alyet of Writtle. Her father is given as Joseph Clift, labourer. William, too, was an agricultural labourer.

Joseph died 8 years later.

Burial. Writtle.
1859 Mar 24  Joseph Clift 81

[1] Post card 1950. Writtle Church and Green.




Monk Tree