Category: Durham England

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.


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

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,

Janice Hamilton, “Philadelphia and the Mitcheson Family,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Nov. 22, 2013,

Janice Hamilton, “Fanny in Philly” Writing Up the Ancestors, March 30, 2014,

Janice Hamilton, “Robert Mitcheson’s Last Will and Testament”, Writing Up the Ancestors, March 1, 2022,


1. Will of Joseph Mitcheson, yeoman, Iveston, Durham, The National Archives, Wills 1384-1858 (, 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, (, 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, (, 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,, 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 (, database online, search for Margaret Dodd, accessed April 19, 2022),

8. England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973 (, 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,, 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, (, 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 ( : 20 March 2020), entry for Mary Maughan, accessed April 19, 2022).

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

The Legendary Robert Mitcheson of Knitsley

There’s a local legend in County Durham, England about a farmer who outwitted a would-be robber on his way home one dark night. As the tale goes, farmer Robert Mitcheson, of Knitsley, was at the Wolsingham Fair when he noticed a well-dressed stranger who seemed to be watching him. He became quite concerned when he realized the man’s horse was in the stable next to his own mount, so he mentioned his suspicions to the stableboy. When the man came for his horse shortly after Mitcheson left, the stableboy delayed the stranger as long as he could.

While Mitcheson was still a few miles from home, he heard a horse galloping behind him. His own horse was fast, however, and he managed to stay ahead of his pursuer. He also remained on the main highway, rather than take his usual shortcut through a thickly wooded ravine.

Mitcheson made it home safely, but a few days later, a deep grave was discovered in the woods. The stranger and his accomplices had probably planned to rob and kill him there.1

Knitsley is between Lanchester and Consett; Wolsingham is to the southwest.

When I first ran across this story, I had no idea whether this farmer was related to my Mitcheson family in northeast England. I now suspect he was. Robert Mitcheson (1728-1812), a farmer in the hamlet of Knitsley, in northern County Durham, was the eldest son of my five times great-grandfather Robert Mitcheson, of Lanchester Parish, and he had a son and a grandson, both named Robert Mitcheson, who also farmed in Knitsley.

Initially, all I knew about Robert Mitcheson of Knitsley was his date of baptism: February 1, 1728.2  Now I have discovered a surprising amount of information about this man and his descendants. They are listed in a variety of directories on Find My Past and Ancestry, in the UK census, and in land tax and poll book records.

The first clue I came across was a big one: the transcription of a monumental inscription. It made it clear that Robert Mitcheson of Knitsley lived well into his 80s, and it provided the key to finding his many descendants.

Here is a transcription of that memorial stone in Lanchester parish churchyard:

“In memory of Robert Mitcheson of Knitsley who died November 12th 1815 [sic] aged 87 years. Also Jane his wife who died April 22 1810 aged 86 years. Also Robert their son who died at Hurbuck February 7th aged 79 years. Also Ann his wife who died at Knitsley in April 1827 aged 56 years and was near Roxby’s stone in this yard. Also Ann daughter of the two last named who died in Hurbuck March 26th 1834 aged 28 years. Also John Mitcheson son of the first named who died at Hurbuck June 25 1847 aged 87 years. Also Thomas John son of the above Robert and Ann Mitcheson who died at Lanchester 15th February 1881 aged 71 years. [P.R. – 61 years.]”3

That text is hard to follow, so here is a more complete summary, including several more children for Robert and Ann and three family members named Robert Mitcheson.

1. Robert Mitcheson (1728-1812) of Knitsley married Jane Heppel (1725-1810) in Medomsley Parish, County Durham, 1757.4 
2. Robert Mitcheson (1759-1837) married Ann Roxby (1769-1827) of Biggin, New Brancepeth, by licence in Lanchester Parish, 1795.5
3. Jane Mitcheson (1796-1876)
3. Elizabeth Mitcheson (1799-?)
3. Robert Mitcheson (1801-1883)
3. Ann Mitcheson (1804-1834)
3. Mary Mitchinson (1810-?)
3. Thomas John (1811-1881) 
2. John Mitcheson (1761-1847)

Robert Mitcheson of Knitsley, (generation 1) was a farmer all his life, living a few miles northwest of Lanchester village. Land tax records for this part of the county can be found online for 13 years between 1759 and 1827, and Robert appeared as a tenant in Conside and Knitsley Township in 1788, 1789 and 1795.6 Robert’s name continued to appear as a tenant between 1802 and 1810, and he died there two years later.

Rural scene in Lanchester Parish near Knitsley. JH photo.

He had two sons, Robert and John. In 1798, three years after son Robert Mitcheson (generation 2) married Ann Roxby, the name Robert Mitcheson appeared for the first time as an owner/occupier of a property in Burnop and Hamsteels Township.7 This was probably Hurbuck farm, which the family appear to have either worked themselves or rented out to tenants while they farmed at Knitsley.

By 1824, Robert (generation 2) also owned land in Knitsley and his son Robert (generation 3), now in his early 20s, was living in Knitsley.8

Over the years, various members of the Mitcheson family owned or rented several farm properties in this area. Farming was hard work, but grain brought high prices during the Napoleonic wars (1803-1815). County Durham farmers also raised cattle and sold milk and meat to feed the region’s fast-growing population of coal miners. Meanwhile, land owners could boost their income from renting to other farmers, and land ownership was of value in itself in that it brought both social status and voting rights.

Map Source:  Ordnance Survey of England and Wales Revised New Series, 1902. Vision of Britain Historical Maps. (accessed Feb 28,  2022)


1. Consett and Derwent Heritage Initiative Facebook page, The Grave Wood, posted Nov. 15, 2016, (viewed March 13, 2022)

2. England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 (database on-line,, Robert Mitchinson, 1728, viewed Dec. 30, 2021) citing, England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975. FamilySearch, 2013.

3. Northumberland and Durham Family History Society, “Northumberland and Durham Memorial Inscriptions;” Lanchester, All Saints, Durham, England, database, for Robert Mitcheson, 1815, Find My Past, (, viewed Dec. 30, 2021). Note: This transcription was incorrect about the date of Robert’s death. According to the burial record on Ancestry, he was buried on November 15, 1812, and he was included in the Index to Death Duty Registers 1796-1903 in 1813 on Find My Past.

4. Northumberland and Durham Family History Society, “Durham Marriages,” Medomsley, Durham, England, database, for Robert Mitcheson, 1757, Find My Past, (, viewed Dec. 30, 2021).

5. England Marriages, 1538-1973, Lanchester, Durham, England, database, for Robert Mitcheson, 1795, Family Search Intl, Find My Past, (, viewed Dec. 30, 2021).

6. Durham County Record Office. Quarter Sessions – Land Tax Returns, Chester Ward West 1759-1830,, for Robert Mitcheson, Knitsley, (viewed March 02, 2022).

7. The National Archives, Land Tax Redemption Office: Quotas and Assessments, IR23; Piece: 23 UK, Land Tax Redemption, 1798,, database on-line, for Robt Mitchinson 1798, (viewed March 15, 2022), citing Land Tax Redemption Office: Quotas and Assessments. IR23. Records of the Boards of Stamps, Taxes, Excise, Stamps and Taxes, and Inland Revenue. The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England.

8. Durham County Record Office. Quarter Sessions – Land Tax Returns, Chester Ward West 1759-1830,, for Robert Mitcheson, Knitsley (viewed March 02, 2022).