Ancestors of William Case Morris
William Case Morris was certainly of humble stock, despite his later achievements; his great-grandfather and grandfather were agricultural labourers who seem to have moved around from farm to farm over the years, always within the Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire area. His great-grandfather is shown as a ‘farmer’ or farmer/labourer in the parish registers at Litlington and Toseland, so it is not likely that his farm was extensive.
His great-grandfather was a William Morris, who married Lucy Swailes at the chapel at Toseland (although the marriage is recorded in the register of Great Paxton, Huntingdonshire) on January 12th 1807. Of William’s exact origins there is no real clue, though the record of their marriage shows William as ‘of Litlington’ and a widower. The couple seem to have settled at Litlington, Cambridgeshire.
Lucy had already had a ‘baseborn’ son, Pharez, baptised as Pharez Swailes at Litlington in 1806; she went on to have six further children with William, all baptised there between December 1807 and March 1818. The rather obscure Biblical names used (Pharez, Pelatiah, Asa, Anah (twice), Naomi (twice)) suggest a certain religious fervour, of a non-conformist persuasion! Then, on August 9th 1819 there is a baptism of a further daughter, another Anah, this time at Toseland, Huntingdonshire. The family had obviously moved to Toseland by this point, as the parish burial register shows the burial of Aziza Morris (aged 4 months) in 1822 and Susannah Morris (aged 6 months) in 1826. Then, on September 30th 1829 there is the burial of a William Morris, aged 78, and of Lucy Morris on March 27th 1833, aged 49. If this William is Lucy’s husband, there was a considerable age difference between them, but this is likely given that William was already a widower at the time of their marriage.
Pelatiah Morris, the first legitimate son of William and Lucy, was William Case Morris’s grandfather. He married twice; his first wife, Mary Ann, was from St. Neots. She bore him at least five children, of which the second child, William, was born in 1833 and was to become the father of William Case Morris. Mary Ann died between 1851 and 1854 and in 1854 Pelatiah married Ann Lindford at St. Neots. Ann had been born in Yelling. The 1841 and 1851 censuses show Pelatiah and his family in Toseland, but by 1861 (probably between 1851 and 1855) the family had moved to Soham where Pelatiah was a foreman agricultural labourer. The family, including three of his grown up children, was living at Jugg House, Meer (sic) Farm. Pelatiah died in 1869 and Ann in 1889. Both are buried in Soham Cemetery.
William, however, was not with them in 1861. In October 1855, at Soham, he had married Sophia Hills, daughter of William and Susan(na) Hills of Qua Fen Common. Sadly, Sophia died in September 1857 at the age of 22, having recently given birth to a daughter, Harriett, who died the following month aged only 11 weeks. It is not known where William was at the time of the 1861 census, as parts of the Soham census for that year are lost. However, in May of that year he remarried. Sarah Case, his second wife, was originally from Fordham, near Downham Market, the daughter of William Case, a gamekeeper. She had been in service at Archer House in Ely and they married at the Primitive Methodist Chapel in Ely. William gives his father’s occupation as a farming bailiff and his own as a draper and tea dealer.
William and Sarah had one son, William Case Morris, who was born at Vine Cottage, Soham on February 16th 1864. Sadly, Sarah died of consumption in February 1868, at the age of 37, and it seems to have been her death which prompted William and his young son to leave Soham shortly afterwards for their new life in South America, where William Case Morris was to do such important work.