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Tracing Their Hethersett Roots

When an Australian family decided to visit Hethersett to trace their descendents they had little idea of how important their ancestors had been in shaping the history of the village. 

Michael Back, wife Therese and children Catherine (15), Matthew (9) and Andrew (7) included Norwich and Hethersett as part of a whirlwind family history tour that also takes in Ireland where Mrs Back’s ancestors originate. 

The Back family had been researching the family name from their home in the Australian capital of Canberra and come across many links to Hethersett. Using the Hethersett village web site they were able to make contact with village archivist Gary Wyatt and Hethersett South Norfolk Councillor David Bills. The duo were able to furnish them with information and set-up visits in the parish. 

Michael’s descendent Thomas Back was the first owner of Hethersett Hall. Thomas was a solicitor who became sheriff, alderman and subsequently mayor of Norwich between 1802 and 1810. The Hall was the brainchild of Swiss born builder John Luke Iselin. The family were shown around the building which today is a residential care home. 

Michael’s side of the Back family emigrated to Australia when his Great Great Grandfather became Governor General of Tasmania Railways: 

“It is nice to know that I am descended from such an historic family.” Michael said having researched his family line and found he wasn’t descended from criminals as so many other Australians have found. 

The name of Back plays an important part in the history of Hethersett through the family’s ownership of land and property and selfless service to the village in many guises. The family name is immortalised in Back Lane and the upstairs room in Hethersett Village Hall is named in memory of Humphrey Back, a former chairman of the parish council and village benefactor. 

The Back family also visited numerous Back family graves in the churchyard of St Remigius Parish Church.