Help from the grave?

I have been lucky in that a few members of previous generations of my family jotted notes on the backs of photographs, saved letters or personal documents, or wrote to the appropriate parish in England, inquiring about the births, deaths and marriages of earlier generations. My genealogy research has been fairly easy, thanks entirely to their efforts.

But sometimes I wonder whether my ancestors are helping me in more direct ways. We were wandering around a cemetery in Durham, England after a long day of sightseeing, and it was cold and wet. We really just wanted to go back to our hotel. Suddenly our guide said, “What did you say your family’s name was?” He had spotted the name Mitcheson on a gravestone that we had all walked past just a few minutes before. It was so worn that it was almost illegible. I joked at the time that the ancestors were standing next to the grave, yelling and waving to get our attention.

It was the grave of my four-times and five-times great grandparents, Joseph Mitcheson and Margaret Philipson. Two of their children later left England, Mary coming to Montreal and Robert emigrating to Philadelphia. Mary’s grandson and Robert’s daughter got married, which is why Joseph and Margaret do double-duty in my family tree.

The Mitcheson-Philipson headstone in Whickham Parish Cemetery, Durham County

Most of my ancestors left the U.K. around the the beginning of the 19th century, although the colonial  families all arrived in New England in the 1600s. Here are some of the families I am researching:   

  • Hamilton (Lesmahagow, Scotland; Scarborough, Ontario; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg, Manitoba)
  • Forrester (Forfar, Scotland; Melrose, Ontario and Emerson, Manitoba)
  • Drummond (Inverarity, Scotland and Melrose, Ontario)
  • MacFarlane (near Dunkeld, Scotland and Melrose, Ontario)
  • Bagg (Springfield, Westfield and Pittsfield, Massachusetts and Montreal, Quebec) 
  • Moseley (Westfield, Massachusetts)
  • Stanley (Hartford, Connecticut)
  • Phelps (Westfield, Massachusetts)
  • Burt (Springfield, Massachusetts) Mitcheson (Durham, England and Philadelphia)
  • Smithers (London, England, Montreal and Brooklyn)
  • Workman (Ballymachash, Ireland and Montreal)
  • Mulholland (Ireland and Montreal)
  • Smith (MacDuff, Scotland, Toronto and Montreal)

Of course, I have several brick walls — people of special interest, for one reason or another, about whom I am having difficulty finding information. They include:

  • Martha Bagnall Shearman (1826-1897, Waterford, Ireland, Brooklyn and Montreal)
  • Pamela Stanley (1760-c1793, Litchfield, Connecticut and Pittsfield, Massachusetts)
  • John Clark (1767-1827, Durham, England and Montreal)
  • Mary Frances McGregor (c1792-1862, Port of Menteith, Scotland and Philadelphia)