Category: County Durham

Joseph Mitcheson, Yeoman Farmer

We reached Whickham Parish Church in County Durham, England at the end of a long day of exploration. I knew that two of my ancestors had been baptized in the little Norman-style church, but I didn’t know whether any family members were buried in its large cemetery. The weather was cool and rainy and the church was locked, so, after giving the cemetery a quick glance, we turned to leave. At that point, our guide drew our attention to an old gravestone to the left of the church door. 

“What you say the family name was?” he asked.

“Mitcheson,” I replied.

Only part of the inscription was legible, but enough remained to identify the couple buried there. This was the grave of my ancestors Joseph Mitcheson (1746-1821) and his wife Margaret Philipson (1756-1804). I like to imagine that, knowing we had come all the way from Canada, Joseph and Margaret were trying to get our attention. They didn’t want us to leave without finding them.

I posed with our guide, Geoff Nicholson, beside the family gravestone. HR photo.

This couple is of special significance to my family tree.  Two of their children, Mary Mitcheson Clark and Robert Mitcheson, moved to North America, and both are my direct ancestors. In 1844, Mary’s grandson, Stanley Clark Bagg, of Montreal, married his first cousin once removed, Catharine Mitcheson, daughter of Robert Mitcheson, of Philadelphia.1 This makes Joseph and Margaret simultaneously my four-times and five-times great-grandparents.

I know almost nothing about Margaret, and only a few bare facts about Joseph. He was born and baptized in Lanchester Parish, County Durham, in 1746, the youngest son of gentleman farmer Robert Mitcheson and his wife, Mary..2

When Robert died in 1784, he left most of his estate to Joseph.3 Joseph became what is known as a yeoman farmer, meaning he owned a small amount of property. Socially, a yeoman was notch above a tenant farmer, but below a gentleman.

Joseph Mitcheson, of Lanchester Parish, married Margaret Philipson, of Whickham Parish, by licence at Whickham Parish Church in 1774.4 They eventually had six children – four girls and two boys.

Before his father’s death, Joseph’s family seems to have moved frequently. According to family notes, Mary (1776-1856) was born at Stow House in the hamlet of Cornsay, Lanchester Parish. Again according to family stories, Robert (1779-1859) was born at Eland Hall, Ponteland, near Newcastle. I can’t confirm either of these accounts, but both children were baptized in Whickham. All of the couple’s other children – Margaret (1781-1864), William (1783-1857), Elizabeth (1786-?) and Jane (1793-1825) — were baptized at Lanchester Parish Church, so the family must have been living in the Lanchester area by 1781.

I found this photo of Stow House Farm, Cornsay, on a real estate page online. There is also a Facebook page for Stow House holiday cottage rentals. I have no idea whether the Mitcheson family actually lived here, but the photo does give an idea of the location.

Fortunately, County Durham has kept its records of land tax returns. These lists showed who owned each property, who lived on it and whether the occupant was the owner or a tenant. In 1789, Joseph was living in Lanchester Parish on a property owned by John Stephenson, Esq., who may have been the husband of his aunt Jane Mitcheson. Meanwhile, Joseph was getting income from three properties that he rented out: a farm in Iveston that he had inherited from his father, and another farm in Witton Gilbert.5 Both were located in Lanchester Parish.

In addition, his wife had inherited property in the town of Swalwell from her parents. Married women’s property belonged to their husbands, so legally it belonged to Joseph and he collected rent from the house, or houses, on this land. Swalwell, a township in Whickham Parish on the River Derwent, was an important iron manufacturing center in the 18th century.

The tax records show that, by 1798, Joseph and his family had moved to Iveston, where It appears he farmed the land: in his will, written in 1803, Joseph bequeathed his “implements of husbandry”, as well as household goods and furniture, to his wife.6

Margaret died in 1804 and perhaps Joseph decided to give up farming after her death and move to Swalwell. The Durham tax records of 1810 show the farm properties at Iveston and Witton Gilbert were occupied by renters and Joseph was living on his Swalwell property, although it now belonged to his son Robert, an iron manufacturer.

When Joseph died in 1821, he left cash to his daughters and the farm in Witton Gilbert to his middle son, William. William lived in London, so he rented the farm to a tenant farmer. Joseph left the bulk of his estate to his older son, Robert, although by this time, Robert had settled in Philadelphia. The 1824 land tax records show that Robert rented out both the properties in Swalwell and in Iveston.

Harold and Geoff took a close look at the Mitcheson/Philipson gravestone. JH photo.

Two final remarks:  I suspect that Joseph Mitcheson and Margaret Philipson’s grave was in a prominent location in Whickham Parish Cemetery because of her family’s prominence. The grave is near the front door of the church where everyone coming and going could see it. (See the link below to the story of the Philipson family, “Can Two Wrongs Make a Right?”)

My other thought is that, while Joseph was a farmer like his father, his children were the first generation to break new trails. In Montreal, Mary and her husband, John Clark, invested in real estate. In Philadelphia, Robert was involved in several different business ventures as a merchant, a manufacturer and a landlord. Meanwhile, son William was an anchor manufacturer. Did Joseph and Margaret encourage their children to be adventurous and to leave County Durham, or were the next generation just fortunate to live at a time when new opportunities beckoned? That is a question I can’t answer.

See also:

“Can Two Wrongs Make a Right?” Writing Up the Ancestors, May 4, 2022, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2022/05/can-two-wrongs-make-a-right.html

“Robert Mitcheson’s Last Will and Testament” Writing Up the Ancestors, March 1, 2022, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2022/03/robert-mitchesons-last-will-and-testament.html

“Mary Mitcheson Clark” Writing Up the Ancestors, May 16, 2014, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2014/05/mary-mitcheson-clark.html

“The Mitcheson Family of Limehouse” Writing Up the Ancestors, Jan. 21, 2015, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2015/01/the-mitcheson-family-of-limehouse.html

“The Mitcheson Sisters” Writing Up the Ancestors, May 18, 2022, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2022/05/the-mitcheson-sisters.html

“Master Mariners in the Family” Writing Up the Ancestors, June 13, 2022,  https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2022/06/master-mariners-in-the-family.html

An article about the life of Robert Mitcheson of Philadelphia will appear in the fall. 

This article is also posted on the family history blog Genealogy Ensemble, https://genealogyensemble.com

Notes:

My husband and I made that trip in 2009. Our guide that day in Durham was retired professional genealogist Geoff Nicholson. Later, Geoff e-mailed me the whole memorial inscription, copied by the Northumberland and Durham My Family History Society in 1995. It said, “In memory of Margaret, wife of Joseph Mitcheson of Swalwell who died June 23 1804 aged 49? years. The above Joseph Mitcheson died June 1821 aged 77 years”

Sources:

1. Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 1078, database, Ancestry.com (http://:Ancestry.ca, accessed Dec. 22, 2019,) entry for Stanley Clark Bagg, 9 Sept. 1844; citing Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

2. England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.ca, database on-line, entry for Joseph Mitchinson, Lanchester, accessed May 2, 2022), citing England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

3. Robert Mitcheson’s will is stored at Durham University Archives and can be viewed online. Search for it at http://familyrecords.dur.ac.uk/nei/data/simple.php and view it on Familysearch.org. “England, Durham, Diocese of Durham Original Wills, 1650-1857,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-67DQ-481?cc=2358715&wc=9PQL-ZRH%3A1078415794 : 7 July 2014), DPRI/1/1784/M5 > image 3 of 3; Special Collections, Palace Green Library, Durham University, Durham. (accessed Feb. 28, 2022).

4 England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973 Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.ca, database on-line, entry for Joseph Mitcheson, accessed May 2, 2022), citing England, Marriages, 1538–1973. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

5. Durham County Records Office. Quarter Sessions – Land Tax Returns, Chester Ward West 1759-1830, www.durhamrecordsoffice.org.uk, search for Mitcheson, viewed April 19, 2022.

6. Will of Joseph Mitcheson, yeoman, Iveston, Durham, The National Archives, Wills 1384-1858 (http://nationalarchives.gov.uk, search for Joseph Mitcheson, accessed Nov. 18, 2010), The National Archives, Kew – Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 9 February, 1822.

The Mitcheson Sisters

Sisters Margaret (born 1781), Elizabeth (born 1786) and Jane Mitcheson (born 1793) grew up together on their parents’ farm in County Durham, England, but when they became adults, their lives followed very different paths. The eldest married a much older man who provided her with financial security, the middle sister was swept off her feet by a tenant farmer and the youngest married a mariner who was often away at sea.

The daughters of yeoman farmer Joseph Mitcheson and his wife Margaret Philipson, they were baptized at Lanchester Parish Church and grew up in the rolling countryside of northeast England. Their mother died in 1804, when Jane would have been just nine years old.

They had two older siblings, Mary (born 1776) and Robert (born 1779) who both immigrated to North America, and another brother, William (born 1783), an anchor manufacturer who lived near the docks of London. (Mary and Robert were both my direct ancestors since Mary’s grandson, Stanley Clark Bagg, married Robert’s daughter Catharine Mitcheson in 1844, so these three sisters were my 4x and 5x great-aunts.

Their grandfather Robert Mitcheson (-1784) left each of his older grandchildren 50 pounds, part of which could be spent on their care and education and the rest given to them when they turned 21. In his will, written in 1803, their father also left them between 100 and 150 pounds each,1 although he gave the two youngest, Elizabeth and Jane, their money in 1807.

Margaret Dodd

Margaret would have been considered as having married well when she wed gentleman Thomas Dodd (1743-1823) at Whickham Parish Church in 1808.2 The Dodd lineage in northern County Durham can be traced back to 1645, and his family owned a farm called Woodhouse, located in Woodside Ryton Township.

Whickham Parish Church. JH photo.

Thomas was in his sixties and Margaret was 27 when they married. They had five children, three of whom lived to adulthood, although their only surviving son, Thomas Anthony Humble Dodd (1824-1899), was born after his father had died. Thomas grew up to be a well-known Newcastle surgeon and married his cousin, Frances Jane Mitcheson (1824-1898), daughter of the anchor maker.3

Thomas Dodd senior was an early pioneer of Methodism, founded in the 18th century by English minister John Wesley. Wesley often preached to large crowds outdoors. According to the late Durham-based genealogist Geoff Nicholson, John Wesley may have preached in the fields at Dent’s Hall, near Ryton, and Thomas may have met Wesley.4

After her husband’s death, Margaret remained at Woodhouse. In 1824, 1825 and 1827, the property was listed as owned and occupied by the executors of Thomas Dodd’s estate, but according to the 1830 land tax returns, it was “Property of Mrs. Dodd, occupied by Mrs. Dodd.”5

She was also a farmer. A local directory published in 1828 listed Margaret Dodd as a farmer in Woodside Ryton Township,6 and the 1841 U.K. census did the same.  

The 1851 census found son Thomas A. H. Dodd as head of the household, living at Woodhouse with his wife and two small children, his mother and two servants. Margaret was listed as an annuitant, meaning she had her own income. The census noted that Thomas was a surgeon, and that the farm had 96 acres and employed two labourers.

When the 1861 census-taker came around, Margaret was once again head of the household, living with her widowed daughter Mary Robson and a house servant. Margaret died in October, 1864, age 83, and was buried with her husband in Holy Cross Parish Churchyard, Ryton.7

Elizabeth Maughan

While researching Margaret was straightforward, finding records of her sister Elizabeth’s life was more challenging. What I did find suggests that Elizabeth’s life was far from easy.

She was just 20 when she married farmer John Maughan, of Shotley, Northumberland, in 1806 at Whickham Parish Church.8 They lived in Shotley, a sparsely inhabited parish in southern Northumberland, located between the River Derwent and the town of Hexham. Its soil consists of sandy clay, and coal, silver, lead and iron have been produced in the area.

Elizabeth might have been lonely there, but she probably didn’t have much time to think about it as she gave birth to at least 10 children.9 Several of them died young, but Joseph (b. 1810), Margaret (b. 1814), Isabella (b. 1816), Mary (b. 1817) and possibly William (b. 1823) grew to adulthood.

The family eventually appears to have left Shotley. In 1842, my Montreal ancestors Stanley Bagg and his 21-year-old son Stanley Clark Bagg travelled to England. In an account of the trip, Stanley Clark Bagg mentioned that they visited his great-aunts Mrs. Dodd near Ryton and Mrs. Maughan in Sunderland, in northeastern County Durham.11

Some genealogists suggest Elizabeth died in Hexham, Northumberland in 1839, but in that case, the Baggs would not been able to visit her. The 1841 census counted a John Maughan, agricultural labourer, and Elizabeth Maughan, age 55, in Sunderland, along with 15-year-old Thomas Maughan, so this may have been the family.12 I do not know when Elizabeth died.

As for the youngest sister, Jane, she married master mariner David Mainland in 1812. About 10 years later, the family moved to London. Jane died in London in 1825 and their son David married his widowed cousin Mary Ann (Mitcheson) Eady in 1849. Jane’s family will be the subject of my next post.

Notes:

According to genealogist Geoff Nicholson, Margaret and Thomas Dodd’s children were: Margaret (c.1810-1851) m. John Milburn; Isabella Ann (1815-1822), Mary (1817- ) m. Rob. Robson or Ritson; Anthony Humble (1818-1821) and Thomas Anthony Humble (1824-1899) m. Frances Jane Mitcheson.

Elizabeth and John Maughan’s daughter Mary (born 181712)) moved to Montreal, Canada, where her Aunt Mary (MItcheson) Clark lived. Mary Maughan married merchant William Footner in Montreal in September, 1840,13 and she gave birth to one of her three children at Mile End Lodge, a large farmhouse that belonged to her aunt. The Footner family later moved to the United States and Mary died in Minnesota in 1901. (There was another William Footner, an architect, married to another Mary, in Montreal in the mid to late 1800s.)

See also:

This article has simultaneously been posted on https://genealogyensemble.com

The Lucy H. Anglin Family Tree on Ancestry Public Member Trees. Numerous members of the Mitcheson family in Durham, including several generations of men named Robert Mitcheson, as well as their descendants in Philadelphia and Montreal, have now been listed on this tree.

Janice Hamilton, “Mary Mitcheson Clark”, Writing Up the Ancestors, May 16, 2014, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2014/05/mary-mitcheson-clark.html

Janice Hamilton, “Philadelphia and the Mitcheson Family,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Nov. 22, 2013, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2013/11/philadelphia-and-mitcheson-family.html

Janice Hamilton, “Fanny in Philly” Writing Up the Ancestors, March 30, 2014, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2014/03/fanny-in-philly.html

Janice Hamilton, “Robert Mitcheson’s Last Will and Testament”, Writing Up the Ancestors, March 1, 2022, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2022/03/robert-mitchesons-last-will-and-testament.html

Sources:

1. Will of Joseph Mitcheson, yeoman, Iveston, Durham, The National Archives, Wills 1384-1858 (http://nationalarchives.gov.uk, search for Joseph Mitcheson, accessed Nov. 18, 2010), The National Archives, Kew – Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 9 February, 1822.

2. England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973, Ancestry.com. (www.ancestry.ca, database on-line, entry for Margaret Mitcheson, accessed April 19, 2022), citing England, Marriages, 1538–1973. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

3 London and Surrey, England, Marriage Bonds and Allegations, 1597-1921, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.ca, database on-line, entry for Thomas Anthony Humble Dodd, 1848, accessed April 19, 2022), citing Marriage Bonds and Allegations. London, England: London Metropolitan Archives.

4 E-mail correspondence from Geoff Nicholson about the Dodd family, June 13, 2009.

5 Durham County Record Office. Quarter Sessions – Land Tax Returns, Chester Ward West 1759-1830, www.durhamrecordsoffice.org.uk, search for Dodd, viewed April 19, 2022.

6 The History, Directory and Gazetteer of Durham and Northumberland, Vol 2, by Wm. Parson and Wm. White, W. White and Company, 1828, p. 186, Google Books, search for Margaret Dodd, accessed April 19, 2022.

7 Find a Grave (www.findagrave.com, database online, search for Margaret Dodd, accessed April 19, 2022), https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/231216340/margaret-dodd.

8. England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973 Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.ca, database on-line, entry for Elizabeth Mitcheson, Whickham, accessed April 10, 2022), citing England, Marriages, 1538–1973. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

9. England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975, Familysearch.org, database online, entry for John Maughan and spouse Elizabeth, Shotley; accessed April 10, 2022.

10. Letter from Stanley Clark Bagg to Rev. R. M. Mitcheson, Dec. 6, 1842, probably transcribed by Stanley Bagg Lindsay; Lindsay family collection.

11.1841 England Census, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.ca, database on-line, entry for Elizabeth Maughan, Bishop Wearmouth, accessed April 10, 2022), citing Class: HO107; Piece: 310; Book: 4; Civil Parish: Bishop Wearmouth; County: Durham; Enumeration District: 4; Folio: 13; Page: 21; Line: 1; GSU roll: 241353, original dataCensus Returns of England and Wales, 1841. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1841.

12 “England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JWVX-TMS : 20 March 2020), entry for Mary Maughan, accessed April 19, 2022).

13. Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968, Ancestry.com, (www.ancestry.ca, database on-line, entry for Mary Maughan, accessed April 19, 2022), citing Institut Généalogique Drouin; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Drouin Collection; Author: Gabriel Drouin, comp.