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24 September 2014

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Who Do You Think You Are?

You are in: Suffolk > History > Who Do You Think You Are? > Who do you think you are, Jeremy Paxman?

Jeremy Paxman researches his family tree

Jeremy Paxman researches his family tree

Who do you think you are, Jeremy Paxman?

Who would have thought Jeremy Paxman's family would have been so poor they had to rely on their Suffolk neighbours for money and food?

Local historian and author Clive Paine helped Jeremy Paxman retrace his Suffolk roots for the BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are?

Clive Paine, local historian

Clive Paine, local historian

The production company Wall to Wall Television were working backwards from their known records of the Paxman family in the North of England and came to the 1851 census for Bradford. There they found 52-year-old Thomas Paxman, who they knew was one of Jeremy's ancestors. 

Confusing census of 1851

Thomas's place of birth was given as Renglingham in Suffolk. Of course there is no such place in Suffolk and it is a 'confusion'. It was meant to read Framlingham.

Paxman family appear on 1851 census in Bradford

Paxman family on Bradford 1851 census

In 1851 you didn't fill in the census yourself - many people were illiterate so someone came to your door. The person filling in the form probably couldn't understand Thomas's Suffolk accent.

The programme makers then wanted to find out why Thomas Paxman's family left Framlingham for life in the north of England.

New Poor Law

The move was the result of the New Poor Law which was set up by the government in the 1830s.

The government set up workhouses in 1834 and 1835 and the Poor Law Commissioners realised there were a huge number of unemployed agricultural workers and labourers who had no chance of finding a job.

Investigation into Pauper Migration 1835-7

Extract from Parliamentary Paper 1843

So they devised a way of getting these people to move to Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire to work in the cotton mills and woollen industry where there were jobs.  It was a sort of 'forced migration'.

This scheme ran between 1835 and 1837 until the cotton mills and woollen industry went into decline and many people found themselves once again unemployed.

In 1843 there was an investigation into why this scheme failed. Among the documents to this inquiry was a list of all the people who left Suffolk and other places under the scheme.

There were 4,000 people on this list and half of them came from Suffolk.

This list tells us that Thomas Paxman, his wife Jane and their four children Benjamin, Thomas, Jane and Louisa left Suffolk in early 1836 and went to work for J R Barnes and Sons in Farnworth.

They were a cotton and fustian manufacturing firm and they employed the whole family. 

The Paxmans were taken to London and then travelled on the Grand Union Canal on the Pickfords Canal Barge. The journey could have taken 2-3 weeks and they were only allowed to take their own clothing and bedding.

Out Relief

If you look at the Framlingham Parish Records Overseers accounts you can see that before the New Poor Law was set up, Thomas was receiving money and bread flour every week over a number of years.

Jeremy Paxman has Suffolk ancestors

Jeremy Paxman has Suffolk ancestors

Thomas Paxman was a shoemaker but this was a seasonal job so his income fluctuated.  Each week he would have to go to the Poor House and tell the overseer how much he had earned and then he'd receive 'out relief'.

This money came from The Poor Rates - a local tax levied on every householder living in the parish.

The number of people needing help was increasing so people were being asked to give more and more in rates, and that's why the government came up with the New Poor Law and the migration scheme.

It could have been that Thomas Paxman was faced with the choice of taking his family into the new workhouse or moving up north with the hope of a new life and higher wages.

Sources of information

This story is a wonderful example of how we can use parish records like the registers' and overseers' accounts, and put them together with the census to ask questions about our ancestors.

Of course, because the migration scheme was a failure (and there was a parliamentary inquiry) we were able to answer the question why the Paxman family left Suffolk.

last updated: 23/06/2008 at 15:50
created: 09/01/2006

Have Your Say

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Elsie Jones
Is it possible to view a list on the internet of the people forced into migration from Suffolk to Lancashire under the Poor Law? If not, how can I get a copy of this list?

Georgina Paxman
i am a paxman myself and i would like to see the paxman family tree very much

Jean B Gardiner
I would like to know which passage from his grandmothers bible Jeremy Paxman read on Who Do You think you are It refers to being remembered. A poem called Life's Purpose which my father gave me over 60 years ago I'm sure was a paraphrase on this passage.Is there any way of contacting the programme makers to find out

My father's family are born and bred Yorkshire folk but on my mothers side the fsmilies came from Thetford Norfolk-Chinery Palmer -a wheelwright and Joseph Mutcham a farm labourer- I have often wondered how they ended up working at Whiteheads Mill Tyersal Bradford. Grandma told me her mother -AnnPalmer=Mutcham used to be in service in Thetford.They must have arrived in Bradford later than the Paxman family -between 1861 and 1874.How did they travel? Who paid the fare?

Have just watched this programme and have links to Suffolk myself through the Broom family nr Ipswich - unfortunately cannot get to the roadshow as living abroad, but if anyone has any info, I'd be grateful.

Eloïse Fifield
Interesting to hear a bit about workhouses. My GGG Grandfather John Fifield was working in the Kingston Union Workhouse in the 1891 census. He died in the workhouse at the age of 78. I'd like to know a little more about workhouses, but information is scarce.

Victoria Paxman
i am very interested as i am also a Paxman, Fredric Paxman is my grandad and i would like to see the paxman family tree.

Vera Lewinton
Very interesting on Jeremy Paxman, as I have discovered that my maternal Grandfather Thos Morse's family came from Walpole Suff, and moved to Hammersmith abt 1850 and wondered why. It seems possible that you have answered my query,great programme as always,Vera nz xpat Middx

Constance Faust
My paternal family named Guest have been traced back to 1627. All first born sons named John up to my father in 1905. Have traced maternal side back to about 1789 for the Paternal (White) side of my family. Paternal side goes all the way back showing births in Worsboro area of Barnsley up to my grandfather's birth. Paternal side goes back to the Hull area in late 1780's.

Is it possible to view a list on the internet of the people who were forced into migration to Lancashire and Cheshire under the poor law

Typical Paxman throughout, a very interesting story of his past. However, I'm not sure he enjoyed being asked questions which made it trivial that he should take part in a programme like that!

G Crawford
A very interesting edition from which Igleaned that I may be related (distantly) to Jeremy

Pat Davis
I wonder if Jeremy Paxman has also followed the trail with regard to Paxman engines etc.? I found the information about migration to the north very interesting and it is amazing how descendents are affected by the events of the past.

Diane Sawyer
I was so interested in the who do you think you are that im starting my own looking back at my family wish me good luck.

I am afraid to say that I think John Rogers is slightly mistaken.. certainly as far as Oxfordshire goes..

John Rogers
Given Jeremy's compassionate response to his impoverished forebears, I wonder what he would say to the fact that TODAY destitute Asylum Seekers are not permitted to work, cannot receive any help from the state and have to rely on charitable handouts?

Annie in London
I think Mr Hull is missing the point if that is the only comment he has on the programme. Paxo's reaction to the fate of some of his forebears proves that under all the bluster is a decent bloke who took a lot away from this project.

Jeni Roberts
The programme touched me deeply but, viewers sitting in the comfort of their own home, may not be aware that events that affected Jeremy's great grandmother are still happening to women here, in the UK, in the 21st Century. Due to my former husband's illness and alcoholism, we lost our accountancy business and home of 20 years, following which,three years ago I found myself homeless at the age of 56. My struggle to survive the events of bankruptcy, homelessness and poverty, and the repercussions throughout our family are difficult to describe. The indignity of having to seek help from agencies such as income support is a demeaning and humbling process. Three years ago, however, I was accepted onto an MBA programme, and am now working as a university researcher. Life is still challenging, but, as Jeremy's story shows, it is always possible (with reasonable health and support of friends) to claw one's way back, however small those steps might be.

Ruby in Bury
I loved the bit at the end where Jeremy says "So I'm not a Yorkshire man after all?" and the expert on the Paxman family name replies, "Oh no, you are a Suffolk boy"

Mr Hull
we have just watched Jeremy Paxman on 'who do you think you are' The only comment we have is......he was so rude when answering any question. How arrogant of him. If he thought it was that far below him to do this programme then he should have refused the job. I'm really glad we don't pay a TV licence as that's how he gets his salary.

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