John Whiting c.1785-1862

Parents: James Whiting and Catherine Hilsdon
Born: c.1785 in Haverhill.
Baptised: 27th March 1785 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill (1)
Married: Mary Scotcher, single woman of Kedington on 29th April 1807 at St Margaret's Church, Ipswich. Witnessed by Elizabeth Chapman and Buckingham Bugg (Parish Clerk) (7)
Children: Joseph Whiting b.1808(4), John Whiting b.1810 died in infancy(4), John Whiting b.1814(5), Elizabeth Whiting b.1816 died in infancy(4,10), Seth Whiting b.1818 died in infancy, Sophia Scotcher Whiting b.1821, Jabez Phillips Whiting b.1824 died in infancy and and Jabez Whiting b.1829
Died: 30th October 1862 of chronic bronchitis and old age at the Union Workhouse, Kedington. Buried on 1st November 1862 at St Mary's Parish Church.(10,2)

Bio: John, according to the censuses, was born in Haverhill around 1780, however a Militia description book suggests he was actually born around 1785 which would tie in with him being the son of James Whiting and Catherine Hilsdon who was baptised on 27th March 1785 at St Mary's church, Haverhill.

The Description and Enrolment book for the West Suffolk Militia (14) gives us an actual physical description of John. When he enrolled for unlimited service with the West Suffolk Militia as a substitute for Henry Choat on 24th March 1803 he was 18 years and 53 days old, which would place his birth in January 1785. He was 5ft 6ins (It is recorded that he grew to 5ft 8ins by the age of 24), and had a dark complexion, long visage, dark eyes and dark brown hair. His birthplace was confirmed as Haverhill, Suffolk, and his occupation was labourer.

The Militia certificates held at Suffolk Record Office(11) give confirmation of the details surrounding John's enrolment in the Militia and subsequent marriage, and were first brought to my attention by a transcription from Haverhill History Group:

'A certificate issued at Ipswich New Barracks, [1st] May 1807 to the effect that John Whiting of Haverhill was serving in the West Suffolk Militia. He was a substitute for Henry Choat of Withersfield. On the back of the certificate is a note to the effect that John Whiting had permission to get married by his Commanding Officer. An order was made for her maintenance at the rate of 1/6d. per week by Haverhill Overseers, this to be reimbursed, of course, by Withersfield Overseers, [dated 7th May 1807]. A letter from Kedington, where John Whiting's wife Mary was living, states that she was now confined and expected her usual allowance of 40/- for the month from Haverhill; date [2nd] July 1808. An order, dated [28th] July 1808, was made for the maintenance of mother and son at the rate of 1/6d per week each.'(6)

On 29th April 1807(7) prior to the issue of the certificates mentioned above John had married Mary Scotcher, who was born in Little Wratting. A note amongst the Militia Certificates shows he had been given permission to do this by Major George Wollaston of the West Suffolk Militia.

They married at St Margaret's Church, Ipswich, and the reason for this is alluded to in the passage above. John must, at this time, have been stationed at the barracks in Ipswich and in this period there was a definite connection with St Margaret's as the East Anglian journal of January 1900 mentions: 'In the register of St Margaret's, Ipswich, the book.. ...containing the burial entries from September 30th, 1805, to December 25th, 1815, and the baptisms from October 4th, 1805, to December 25th, 1812, and which consists of thirty-one parchment leaves, the following regiments are mentioned as frequenting the old barracks on the Woodbridge Road..'(8) The West Suffolk Militia is among the regiments listed.

What is slightly unusual is that John Whiting is given as being 'of this parish' on the marriage entry, and no mention is made of his Militia status. We can, however, tie John to Haverhill from the Militia records and so there is no question in my mind that they are one and the same. Another piece of circumstantial evidence from the marriage entry links John with another member of the branch of the Whiting family we attribute him to. The witness at the marriage was Elizabeth Chapman. This is surely the same Elizabeth Chapman who was baptised in Kedington on 25th September 1785,(4) was a contemporary and in all likelihood friend of Mary Scotcher and would eventually marry John's younger brother Stephen.

The Militia Certificates confirm that John enrolled in the West Suffolk Militia on 24th March 1803. Muster Rolls suggest he was a Private in Captain John Worth's Company at this point, and was there from 11th March.(13)

On 1st May 1807 the Certificates state he was in Captain Smith's troop. A List of the Officers of the Militia of the United Kingdom, 1st Aug 1809, reveals a Captain Philip Smith in charge of a troop of the West Suffolk Militia. He had joined on 15th September 1806. (12)

Muster rolls(9) show that a John Whiting was a drummer in Captain Bridgeman's company of the Risbridge Battalion of Volunteer Infantry who first appears for the period 25th December 1805 to 24th December 1806. This is unlikely to be him, as the Risbridge Volunteer Infantry ran concurrently with the West Suffolk Militia, but they appear to have been seperate entities at this time.

John and Mary lived in Kedington for some time between 1808 and 1818 and had several children there. Joseph was born on 29th June 1808 and baptised at St Peter & St Paul, Kedington, on 29th Oct 1809.(4) Then they had a son John, born 28th February 1810 who was to die soon after and was buried 7th November 1811 in Kedington.

Their next child, also given the name John Whiting was born in Kedington in 1814(5) and the baptism records refer to his father as being a corporal in the West Suffolk Militia.

The Militia Description book for the West Suffolk Militia places his date of discharge as 24th June 1814 when the Militia was disembodied at Bury(14).

John's occupation reverts to labourer on the baptismal entry for his daughter Elizabeth on 30th June 1816.(4) Elizabeth (recorded as Eliza) died aged 1½ years and was buried in Kedington on 19th January 1818.(10)

Then John and Mary moved to Haverhill, where the rest of their children were born. Although John is mentioned as living in Burton End and working as a weaver at the time of his daughter Sophia's marriage in 1838, It is unusual that John and Mary do not seem to appear on the 1841 census. However, he crops up on the 1851 census as a pauper living with his wife Mary and their daughter Sophia Buttle (nee Whiting) and her family in Clements Lane.

They are here again on the 1861 census, except this time living with the Iron family (George, Sophia and children Emma, Mary Ann and Eliza), who are lodgers. John's birth date according to this census would have been 1779. His occupation is given as agricultural labourer, not bad for an 82 year old!

A death certificate for John Whiting shows he died of chronic bronchitis and old age in the Union Workhouse, Kedington on 30th October 1862, aged 78.The age given is much more in line with his date of baptism than the age we have on the 1861 census. His rank or profession is stated on the certificate as farm labourer, and Hannah Short(?) was present at his death in the workhouse - presumably she worked there. The death was registered on 7th November 1862(2).

Initially it was difficult to confirm to my satisfaction that it was the same John and Mary who had all these children, particularly as some were born in Kedington and some in Haverhill. But as Sophia was baptised Scotcher Whiting, it helped provide a link. We know that John's wife Mary was born in Little Wratting from the evidence of two censuses, so I looked at all the births around the 1780's of girls with the name Mary in the Little Wratting parish registers. There was a Mary Scotcher baptized on 24th December 1785, who was the daughter of James Scotcher and Sarah Phillips.(3)

The reason that I suspect that Jabez is of the same parentage as Sophia is that they both appear in the same set of non-conformist records of baptisms in Haverhill around this time. A Jabez, son of John and Mary was baptized in 1824 and again in 1829. I think the first child must have died in infancy as the Jabez Whiting who later joined the Royal Marines was born around 1829. Further circumstantial evidence that he was the child of this John and Mary is that along with them he is missing from the 1841 census. He would have been 12 and presumably still living at home.


(1) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Mary's Church, Haverhill. Fiche FL578/4/p36 of 37
(2) Death Register. 4th Quarter 1862, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 250. GRO death cert PDF.
(3) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Mary's Church, Little Wratting. Fiche FL502/4/p1
(4) SFHS, Suffolk Baptism Index; Clare Deanery 1754-1812.
(5) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Peter and St Paul's Church, Kedington. Fiche 595/4 of 18
(6) Haverhill Parish Chest records, transcription p.10. Courtesy of Lauraine McPhee.
(7) SFHS, Marriages at Ipswich St Margaret., parish records collection 1538-2005
(8) East Anglian journal, Jan 1900, p209, 'Regiments represented in Ipswich early in the Century', eds. Evelyn White and Charles Harold, pub. Goose & Son, Proquest, British Periodicals
(9) National Archives, Militia and Volunteers Muster Books and Pay lists, Suffolk Risbridge, 1803-1808, WO13/4553
(10) SFHS, Suffolk Burial Index, issue 2, 1538-1900
(11) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Overseers Militia certificates, FL578/7/41
(12) A List of the Officers of the Militia of the United Kingdon, 1st August 1809, War Office, p63.
(13) National Archives, WO13/2036
(14) National Archives, Records of Militia Regiments, Description and Enrolment Registers, West Suffolk, WO68/463