Phoebe Whiting 1843-1919

Parents: John Whiting and Elizabeth Barber (1)
Born: 18th Dec 1843 in Haverhill. (1)
Baptised: ?
Married (1): William Orble, 32, Labourer, of Withersfield, in the 4th Quarter of 1864.(2)
Children: Samuel Orble, b.1865(3,4)
Married (2): Daniel Nunn, 22, grocer's assistant of Haverhill, son of Richard Nunn, in the Risbridge district in the 3rd Quarter of 1867.(7)
Children: Jane Nunn b.1868, John Nunn b.1872, Daniel Nunn b.1875, Walter Nunn b.1879, Elizabeth Nunn b.1882 and Robert Nunn b.1886
Died: July 1919 in Little Wratting. Buried at St Mary's Church, Little Wratting on 21st July 1919(10,11)

Bio: Phoebe was born on 18th December 1843 in Haverhill, the daughter of John Whiting, labourer, and Elizabeth Barber. On the 1851 census she is living with her parents John and Elizabeth and her siblings Charles, Caroline and Amelia. In 1861, the census shows Phoebe as still living in Burton End with her family, working as a Hair weaver.

The Suffolk and Essex Free Press of 1st January 1863 tells us how Phoebe was accused of stealing, but subsequently acquitted: "Phoebe Whiting, of Haverhill, singlewoman, appeared to a summons charged with stealing three old plough-shares, of the value of 6d., the property of Wm. Pomfret-Brown, of Haverhill, miller. - David Whiting, of Haverhill, labourer [given the date, it is possible to identify this David Whiting with reasonable accuracy], deposed: 'I am in the employ of Mr Brown of Haverhill; on the 20th Nov. last there were three ploughshares in my master's stable; one of the shares had been broken; the piece broken off one corresponds; I had broken one share and laid the piece off the one against the wheat stack; on the shares being produced I went to the wheat stack and fetched the piece to correspond; I had previously made enquiries of John Wiseman, who buys old iron, respecting the shares, when I was informed he had bought three; the ones now produced are the same which I found there.' - Maria, wife of John Wiseman, marine store dealer, of Haverhill, deposed: 'On or about November last Amelia Whiting came to my house; she brought three old plough-shares; she asked me to buy them: she said 'they are not my shares, but Mrs Johnson's'. I gave her 2d for them; the shares now produced are the same; I gave them to David Whiting. - Amelia Whiting said: 'I took three ploughshares to Mrs Wiseman and sold them; my sister gave them to me to sell - I mean Phoebe Whiting, the prisoner.' - Discharged."(12)

There is a marriage of a Phabe Whiting to either Eli Amey or William Orble in 1864 in the Risbridge district(2).

Looking at the 1871 census and trying to trace either of the two potential candidates for her husband did not prove fruitfull. Either there were people of those names who were not listed as being married, or they were married to women whose first names were not even a close approximation of 'phabe', 'phebe' or 'phoebe'.

Then, an entry in the Suffolk Baptismal Register of the Suffolk Family History Society provided a clue which seemed to suggest that William Orble was the most likely candidate to be Phoebe's husband.

On 11th February 1866 a Samuel Orble, son of William and Phoebe is listed as being baptised in St Mary the Virgin at Withersfield.(4) William's occupation is given as labourer. Here we have a birth that ties in with the marriage date in a conurbation adjacent to Haverhill. The GRO register confirms the birth of Samuel Orble in the Risbridge district in late 1865.

Having a husband and son attributed to Phoebe should in theory make her easier to trace in later life, particularly with a less common name like Orble or Orbell as it is alternatively spelt.

Some research did indeed reveal the path her life took.

Given the connection with Withersfield, it seems not unreasonable to conclude that Phoebe's husband William was the son of John and Mary Orble of Withersfield, baptised on 18th March 1832.(4) Taking this a step further, the GRO registers give us a William Orbell dying in the Risbridge district in 1867(6), of the age of 36. This age seems to provide us with a good match and his early death would also explain absences on later censuses.

So, going with the hypotheses that her husband died prematurely, what happened to Phoebe afterwards?

The GRO registers came up trumps again with a likely fit for a second marriage.. and possibly a third!

Two marriages of a Phoebe Orbell feature in the Risbridge district in the third and fourth quarters of 1867. The likelihood given the timing, name, place, was that at least one belonged to our Phoebe. In this situation, if the recently married person you are looking for is female then checking the next census with their new surname for birth date and location usually helps to verify if they are one and the same.

What happened here was that the first marriage presented itself as an almost certain fit. Phoebe Orbell married Daniel Nunn in the third quarter of 1867(7), and when we look at the 1871 census we find them living in Burton End, Haverhill. Phoebe's birth date and birthplace match up, and more importantly her son Samuel from her first marriage is present. His age is correct and his birthplace is given as Withersfield, but he has adopted the surname of his stepfather here.

Daniel Nunn is a grocer's assistant, and Phoebe is working as a hair weaver which is what her occupation was listed as on the 1861 census. They have a daughter, Jane, 2, who was born in Haverhill. A lodger lives with them - Victoria Panting, 29, a glover born in Finstock, Oxfordshire.

What of the other Phoebe Orbell marriage? It appears to be to a George Barrett, but research as to who they were is inconclusive. Suffice it to say the strength of the evidence accompanying the marriage to Daniel Nunn and their appearance on the 1871 census tends to rule it out of the equation.

Phoebe's husband Daniel was the son of Richard Nunn and Letitia Clark(8) and was born on 14th April 1844 in Mount Pleasant, Haverhill. He was baptised at St Mary's Church on 14th February 1845.(4)

On the 1881 census we see that Phoebe and Daniel have relocated to Little Wratting. Phoebe's son Sam from her first marriage is still living with them, and is an agricultural labourer along with his stepfather. Phoebe's occupation looks like 'shop work' at first glance, but given what we know about her customary occupation it is most likely to be 'slop work' - this was the name given to home sewing of ready-made clothes.

There are three more children in the family; John, Daniel, and Walter, who was born in Little Wratting.

The 1891 census sees the family still living in Little Wratting. Phoebe is no longer working, and more children have arrived. Jane, John, Daniel and Walter are still at home, and have been joined by new additions Elizabeth and Robert.

For the 1901 census, Phoebe and Daniel remain in Little Wratting. Daniel is an agricultural labourer and sons Walter and Robert remain, working in the same occupation. Daughter Elizabeth is a linen weaver.

Daniel Nunn died in 1907 and was buried at Little Wratting church on 10th January.(9,11) We find Phoebe living alone in Little Wratting on the 1911 census.

She died in 1919 at the age of 75 and was buried at the local church.(10,11)


(1) Birth Register. 1st Quarter 1844, Risbridge District, Volume 12 Page 423 or 4th Quarter 1844, Risbridge district, Vol 12 Page 391
(2) Marriage Register. 4th Quarter 1864, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 809.
(3) Birth Register. 4th Quarter 1865, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 376
(4) Suffolk Baptism Register, SFHS, Clare Deanery 1813-1900
(5) Marriage Register. 4th Quarter 1885, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 971
(6) Death Register. 1st Quarter 1867, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 275
(7) Marriage Register. 3rd Quarter 1867, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 605
(8), Bishop's Transcripts, Archdeaconry of Sudbury, Batch M132561, Source Call No.0989598
(9) Death Register. 1st Quarter 1907, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 565
(10 Death Register. 3rd Quarter 1919, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 684
(11) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, burial register for St Mary's, Little Wratting, 1813-2000, FL502/4/8
(12) Suffolk and Essex Free Press, 1 Jan 1863, p.3,