Tag: Swalwell

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.

Can two wrongs make a right?

A member of my extended family has a silver dish that once belonged to Great Aunt Amelia Bagg (1852-1943), engraved with a genealogical record that goes back to the mid-1700s. Amelia, who was my great-grandfather’s sister, must have been very interested in family history if she went to the lengths of recording this relationship in silver. She also must have been sure of her facts to record them in such an indelible fashion.

The engraving reads:

Margaret, daughter of Thomas and Margaret Friend of Willington,
Married Edward Phillipson of Swalwell;
Margaret Phillipson, their daughter, married Joseph Mitcheson of Langley Park.

My own research shows that, yes, my direct ancestor Margaret Philipson (1756-1804) married Joseph Mitcheson (1746-1821) in 1774, at Whickham Parish Church, County Durham, in northeast England.1 Furthermore, parish records show that Margaret Philipson was the daughter of Edward Philipson and Margaret Friend.2 However, Amelia may have been wrong about the identity of Margaret Friend’s parents.

My mother’s cousin Clare was also interested in genealogy, especially in the Mitcheson family of County Durham, and she made a list in a notebook of their births, marriages and deaths. The earliest entries in that list were Robert Mitchinson (?-1784) and his wife Mary Waille. Other sources confirm that Robert’s wife’s first name was Mary,3 but when I could not find a record of this marriage, I put a question mark beside Mary Waille’s name.

I now suspect that both aunt Amelia and cousin Clare were partly wrong and partly right. Parish records show that Robert Friend married Mary Walle in Ryton parish in 1714,4 and their eldest daughter, Margaret Friend, was born in 1715. This would explain how Mary Walle/Waille actually fits into the family, and it suggests that Margaret Friend’s father was not Thomas of Willington, as engraved on the silver dish, but Robert of Ryton.

Ryton is in the north of the county, near the towns of Swalwell and Whickham. Willington is south, in the ancient parish of Brancepeth.

There is no question about daughter Margaret Friend’s marriage: she wed Edward Philipson on November 16, 1747 at Whickham Parish Church.5 The couple’s only child, Margaret Philipson, was baptized in 1756, which raises several other questions. Her mother would have been 41 years old that year. Perhaps there had been miscarriages or fertility problems, or perhaps Margaret was not baptized as a newborn, but as a young child. The place and date of Margaret (Friend) Philipson’s death is another unanswered question.

As for Edward Philipson, he may be buried in the cemetery at Whickham Parish Church. A burial entry on the Durham Records Online website (www.durhamrecordsonline.com) reads, “25 July 1774 Edward Philipson, of Swalwell (Crowley’s factory).” This was possibly my ancestor, but what does the reference to Crowley’s factory mean? Did he work there? The factory was a large, well-known manufacturer of iron goods located in nearby Winlaton, but employee records disappeared long ago.

Whickham Parish Church

I have not identified a record of Edward’s birth, but I suspect he grew up in the Swalwell area, which was part of the district known as Gateshead. There are records of Philipsons in County Durham and neighbouring Northumberland dating back to the 1677 will of another Edward Philipson, and records suggest that a number of people with the last name Philipson lived in the Swalwell area in the 18th century.

In his will, written in 1803, Joseph Mitcheson noted that Margaret Philipson owned property in the area before they were married, property she probably inherited from her parents. The will stated “I also confirm to my said Wife and her heirs and assigns for ever the freehold and Copyhold houses at Swalwell, Whickham and Winlaton, or elsewhere in the said County of Durham, which belonged to her before our marriage.”6

Records show an Edward Philipson owned a property called Lingyfield House in Swalwell in 1734.7 Land tax records refer to Edward Philipson in Whickham in 17598, and a 1761 poll book listed Edward Philipson, freehold owner of several houses in Swalwell.9

Later records of this family have survived, including the baptisms of Margaret Philipson’s and Joseph Mitcheson’s six children, Margaret’s death in 1804 and Joseph’s death in 1821. Their grave is in Whickham Parish Church cemetery.

Notes:

The children of Joseph Mitcheson and Margaret Philipson were:
Mary (1776-1856), married John Clark and immigrated to Montreal
Robert (1779-1859), immigrated to Philadelphia and married Mary Frances McGregor
William (1783-1857), married Mary Moncaster, was an anchor maker in London  
Margaret (1781-1864), married Thomas Dodd of Ryton, Durham
Elizabeth (1786-?) married Shotley, Northumberland farmer John Maughan
Jane (1793-1825) married master mariner David Mainland, died in London

Joseph Mitcheson and Margaret Philipson are my four-times and five-times great-grandparents: cousins-once-removed married, so I am directly descended from both their daughter Mary (Mitcheson) Clark of Montreal and their son Robert Mitcheson of Philadelphia. 

Margaret (no maiden name given), wife of Edward Philipson, was buried in 1757 at Kendal, Westmorland, near England’s Lake District. There was a Philipson family in Kendal, but I think this was a different family and a different Margaret.

Several public members trees on Ancestry suggest Edward came from Lincolnshire, but I think it is more likely he was from County Durham.

Sources:

1. 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.

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

3 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.

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

5. England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.ca, search for Margaret Friend, Whickham, accessed May 2, 2022) citing England, Marriages, 1538–1973. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

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. Ancestry.com.

7. UK, Poll Books and Electoral Registers, 1538-1893, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.ca, database online, entry for Edward Philipson, 1734, Swalwell, image 146, accessed May 2, 2022), citing “London, England, UK and London Poll Books”, London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library.

8 Durham County Record Office. Quarter Sessions – Land Tax Returns, Chester Ward West 1759-1830, www.durhamrecordsoffice.org.uk, for Edward Philipson, Whickham, 1759, (accessed May 2, 2022).

9. UK, Poll Books and Electoral Registers, 1538-1893, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.ca, database online, entry for Edward Philipson, 1761, accessed May 2, 2022), citing “London, England, UK and London Poll Books”, London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library.