A Tisdale family in Norfolk and a potential link to Ireland

Tisdale research

I have recorded all the Tisdale’s who lived in the village of Shouldham Thorpe in Norfolk which is a few miles south of King’s Lynn. I picked this location as two brothers, John & William were baptised together in 1773 and could have been the same pair who showed up in County Cavan, Ireland on an 1821 census. I searched every available record and these two brothers were the only match. I made up a family diagram and then matched some parents with children and finally made a record of names that had no obvious links to families in the village. As far as I am aware, Tisdale’s have never been recorded as a family in this location. I have been able to view the original parish records and Archdeacons Transcripts and am confident with the family trees.  The table & graph show the total number of inhabitants and the effect on the population, possibly due to economic factors and various incidents of epidemics. Did I make a connection? No. The circumstantial evidence is that the Tisdale family disappears from the village after 1777 and, as yet, I can find no record of them. I’m keeping in mind that the Enclosure Acts could explain why families and communities apparently left their farms and homes as common land & small holdings were swallowed up by the bigger farmers. The two brother’s ages match the families in Ireland but this is no basis for continuity. Speculation is another matter. The relevant Irish census returns and other important documents were destroyed by a fire in Dublin as all Irish researchers know. I am intending to post what I have found, relating to the Irish Tisdale’s in Co. Cavan as this may be of interest to some members in the Teasdale Family History Facebook group who have Tisdale descendants.

Settlement & colonisation of Ireland

In 1605, Lord Deputy Chichester proposed the establishment of English & Scottish settlements at strategic points throughout the province of Ulster, which included Cavan. In 1606 he proposed a scheme for the whole county of Cavan where land was to be found for new colonists. This was not to prejudice the indigenous Roman Catholic inhabitants. Events overshadowed his plans and schemes were developed to cover most of the province of Ulster. One of the many reasons that the English government wanted English & Scottish so called ‘undertakers’ to reside in Ireland, was to counter threats from the French & Spanish.

Rural conditions & famine

The Great Famine of 1845-9 had major political, economic & social implications for Ireland. Despite earlier famines in 1727-30 & 1740-1 agriculture was still dangerously unbalanced. A large section of the population was practically destitute for 2 to 3 months of each year and 1817 and 1822 were particularly bad years for famine. There were around 8 million inhabitants in the 1840s with four fifths living on the land. The potato blight first arose in August 1845 in the south of England and spread to Ireland. Potatoes looked perfectly healthy when dug up, only to putrefy later.

Immigration from Ireland

We know that up to a fifth of the population of County Cavan emigrated to England, Scotland, Canada, the United States & Australia. English ships to Canada & the US had standards well below that of other countries with fares as low as £3 per person which was around a third of the normal price. These were the infamous ‘Coffin Ships’ which departed from the cheapest English port of Liverpool.

The Tisdales were not Catholics but protestant migrants from Scotland & England. They would have taken advantage of English favourable terms to settle in Ireland. It is not known how long the two particular families above had lived in Ireland; some came to colonise the country at the invitation of the Elizabethan authorities in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Families would sometime travel to Ireland from Scotland or England, then decide to sell their farms or holdings after a period and travel on to the United States & Canada for better prospects. Between 1841 & 1844 the average emigration was 50,000/year. In 1846 106,000 left, and in 1847 215,000 left, rising to 250,000 the following year. There are Tisdale records going back to the early 17th century, in County Meath for example. I’m not sure how much research has been carried out with respect to Tisdales in Ireland and I think much more needs to be done.

Origin of the Teasdale Name

The Teasdale name is almost certainly linked to the river Tees, which forms the boundary between the counties of Durham and Yorkshire. The river begins in the Northern Pennines, on the slopes of Cross Fell, near the Cumbrian border. After flowing east for eight kilometers it turns south east as far as Barnard Castle before winding south of Darlington and then out to sea just north of Middlesborough. The  river flows through Upper and Lower Teesdale and has two spectacular waterfalls at High Force and Cauldron Snout.

It seems probable that several families took the name Teesdale (or one of the variants) at around the same time in the 16th century. There are early records of a Geoffrey de Tesdale at York in 1309, Alan de Tesdale at Marsfield in 1325, Walter de Tesdale at Jedburgh in 1298 and John Tesdall at Westminster in 1379. A high proportion of early surnames were derived from the place where the family had its main residence. It was common practice in the 12th and 13th centuries for the senior line of a land-owning family to adopt a hereditary surname of this type, while junior branches gradually acquired different surnames or variations as they moved around the British Isles. More research is needed before we can be confident about the early families.

River names in this area seem to be the oldest of place-names relating to the first Celtic settlers (long before the invasion of Angles, Saxons and Scandinavians). The river Tees was called “Tesa” in the Knytlinge Saga, a history of the Danish kings of the 10th and 11th centuries and later records have the name as Teisa and Taise. Place names in England are predominantly Anglo-Saxon or Norman in character with the exception of some natural features such as rivers, prominent hills and forests which require immediate identification in terms equally intelligent to natives and newcomers alike.

It is tempting to throw a bit of speculation into the pot of imagination and say the very early names in the International Genealogical Index (IGI) such as Tesdell, Tisdel, Tysdale or Tisdill could be derivatives of the early names for the river Tees. The family name could have evolved with the river. The IGI records for England clearly show a predominance of Teasdales followed by Teesdales and then much smaller groups of Tisdales, Teasdells, Teasdall and Tisdells. There are at least 45 variant names within the IGI and no doubt these variations are the result of the different local dialects in each county of England. The church authorities would transcribe the parish names as they were spoken by the migrant parishioners into the parish records and Bishops Transcripts.