Tag Archives: mitchell

My top-ten surnames updated (or not as the case may be)

31 Mar

On two previous occasions I have produced a list of the top-ten surnames in my family tree (in February 2010 and May 2011) and I decided it would be interesting to see if much had changed since the last time.

The results were quite interesting (for me at least) and illustrated just how little work I did on my family tree last year.

  1. TROWER (152)
  2. GASSON (133)
  3. MITCHELL (92)
  4. HEMSLEY (75)
  5. BOXALL (52)
  6. KINGHORN (49)
  7. FAIRS (45)
  8. GEERING (39)
  9. HAYBITTLE (36)
  10. WREN (31)

None of the positions have changed since last year and the actual number of entries had changed very little. Only the number of Trowers and Gassons have increased and somewhat worryingly the number of Mitchells and Boxalls had decreased.

I remember removing a family of Mitchells who I haven’t been able to link into my family tree yet, but I am not sure why I have lost a Boxall. I think it might have been the result of a merger.

I know it is not really about the numbers, but it would be nice to see them increasing a bit more.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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My top-ten surnames revisited

4 May

Fifteen months ago I produced a list of the top-ten surnames in my family tree, for fun really more than anything, however it did highlight an imbalance in the names in my family tree.

I thought it was about time I had another look at the most common surnames in my family tree, so I fired up my copy of Family Historian and Microsoft Excel and produced an updated list (the number of individuals with the surname is shown in brackets):

  1. TROWER (139)
  2. GASSON (123)
  3. MITCHELL (94)
  4. HEMSLEY (75)
  5. BOXALL (53)
  6. KINGHORN (49)
  7. FAIRS (45)
  8. GEERING (39)
  9. HAYBITTLE (36)
  10. WREN (31)

This is much “better” than last time, the top four names are the surnames of my grandparents. The HEMSLEY surname was way down at number ten last time, so it is good to see that I have done enough work to push it higher up the “chart”.

The HAYBITTLE and WREN surnames are both new entries. I remember doing some work on the HAYBITTLEs, but I don’t remember doing much work on the WRENs but I suppose I must have done.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.

Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Ancestral Profile: Harriet WRIGHT (c1840-1925)

20 Jan

Harriet WRIGHT was my 2x great-grandmother and her exact date and place of birth (along with the details of her baptism) are bound up within the mystery surrounding the early years of her father Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT.

It is quite possible that her birth was registered under the surname SHORNDEN, and it seems likely that she was born not long after her parents marriage in 1840, all census information points to a birth around that year. The place of her birth is not quite so clear, with conflicting information given

  • 1851 – Ospringe, Kent
  • 1861 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1871 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1881 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1891 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1901 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1911 – Cowfold, Kent [there is a Cowfold in Sussex, but I haven't found one in Kent]

At the time of the 1851 census Harriet was living with her parents and siblings in Alton, Hampshire and in theory this means the information was given by Henry and ought to be most reliable. From 1861 to 1901 she is living with her husband William Henry MITCHELL, who obvious wouldn’t have known first-hand where she was born. In 1911 she is widowed and living with one of her married daughters, so again not first hand knowledge of her mother’s birth.

Returning to the 1851 census we find an eleven year old Harriet with her parents and siblings (Mary Ann, Henry, Emma, William and George) in Normandy Street in Alton, Hampshire. Her father is described as a cutler and lodging house keeper.

On the 4th February 1860 Harriet married William Henry MITCHELL at the parish church in the small village of Exton, Hampshire. Both were living in Exton at the time, which is where William Henry’s parents spent their married life together. [It is also conveniently situated on the South Downs Way so I was able to pay it a brief visit last year]

Together Harriet and William Henry MITCHELL had a total of thirteen children:

  1. Mary Ann MITCHELL (baptised 26 February 1860)
  2. Henry James MITCHELL (baptised 3 November 1861)
  3. Robert Charles MITCHELL (baptised 25 January 1863)
  4. James MITCHELL (baptised 18 December 1864)
  5. Sarah Ann MITCHELL (baptised 10 May 1866)
  6. William MITCHELL (baptised 22 December 1867)
  7. Emma Louisa MITCHELL (baptised 11 July 1869)
  8. Elizabeth MITCHELL (baptised 9 April 1871)
  9. George MITCHELL (baptised 25 May 1873) [my great-grandfather]
  10. Alfred MITCHELL (baptised 12 September 1875)
  11. Albert MITCHELL (baptised 5 May 1878)
  12. Harriet Ellen MITCHELL (baptised 21 December 1879)
  13. Frederick MITCHELL (baptised 5 February 1882)

These children were born and baptised in a range of villages across Hampshire and Sussex, as the family moved their way across the counties, presumably travelling wherever it was necessary for William Henry to find work. Many months ago I put this information on a Google Map to show the places that the family passed through.

The couple eventually ended up in Sussex, by 1901 their children had all left home and they were looking after one of their grandchildren in Funtington, Sussex. William Henry died in 1908 (aged 74 years) and was buried at Funtington on the 1st October 1908.

In the 1911 census Harriet is living in Portsmouth, Hampshire with one of her now married daughters (Harriet Ellen HUTFIELD with a husband in the navy). Harriet herself died in 1925 (aged 85 years) and was also buried in Funtington on the 12th September 1925.

“Death must have been almost instantaneous”

9 Jan

My relatives continue to amaze me with their ability to make the national newspapers and in the quite gruesome ways their lives are cut short. To the two relations who were killed in railway accidents I can now add another who died in a maritime accident.

Thomas Henry HUTFIELD married my 2x great-aunt Harriet Ellen MITCHELL in 1900, I don’t have the exact details only that it was in Q4 1900 in Portsmouth Registration District. I had been unable to find Harriet in the 1901, but then I didn’t know at the time that she had married. It wasn’t until I was searching for her widowed mother in the newly released 1911 census that I found both Harriet and her mother living in Portsmouth, Hampshire.

The fact that she was living in Portsmouth and that despite being married her husband was not at home immediately made me think that her husband was serving in the Royal Navy. That is pretty much where my research ended. I added a few children to the marriage but never took the research any further until a few days ago.

I bought and downloaded a copy of Thomas’ naval service details from DocumentsOnline, in the hope of finding out a bit more on him and his family. I have found naval records to be largely devoid of family or personal detail in the past, and this one was no exception.

What I did find however, beneath the long list of vessels on which Thomas had served was the following intriging note: “21 July 1911. Accidentally killed on board ‘Kangaroo’ owing to bursting of a steam pipe during steam trials.”

Using my membership of  the Surrey Library Service I was soon searching copies of The Times newspaper online for a mention of the accident. It didn’t take long to find a report of the accident, a message of condolence from the King and details of the inquest.

According to The Times for the 22nd July 1911:

While the destroyer Kangaroo was carrying out steam trials off Beachy Head, about four miles out, shortly after noon yesterday, a steam pipe burst. Two stokers were killed by the explosion and five injured. The bodies of the dead men and four of the injured were put on board the cruiser Topaze, which brought them into Portsmouth, and the injured were sent to Haslar Hospital.

The above article lists the casualties and the report of the subsequent inquest gives further details of the accident. Bearing in mind that this was in a national newspaper, I would expect the local newspapers to give more information and probably mention of his funeral and the family he left behind.

This incident poses many research questions such as did Harriet receive some pension or compensation? Was there a memorial service for the two dead men? Where are they buried? What became of Harriet and her children after the death of Thomas? In other words, plenty of reasons to go and visit the Portsmouth Records Office and do some more digging.

Ancestral Profile: Mary SMITH (c1807-1891?)

6 Dec

In recent weeks I have been jumping from branch to branch of my family tree when it came to choosing a subject for my weekly Ancestral Profile post, but this week I thought I would follow up last week’s post (featuring George MITCHELL) by writing about his wife Mary SMITH, my 4x great-grandmother.

Although Mary outlived her husband by nearly 50 years I know very little about her, this is not helped by the fact that her maiden name was SMITH and her married name was MITCHELL, neither of which are particularly uncommon. It also doesn’t help that each census return seems to give different information from which to calculate her date and place of birth.

The marriage to George MITCHELL took place on the 29th September 1828 in the parish of Cuckfield, Sussex. As I mentioned last week I haven’t checked the original marriage record for extra information. I also wrote last week that George and Mary had six children:

  1. Eliza MITCHELL (baptised 7th December 1828 in Cuckfield, Sussex)
  2. Mary Ann MITCHELL (baptised 30th January 1831 in Cuckfield, Sussex)
  3. Harriett MITCHELL (born c1834 in Slaugham, Sussex) [my 3x great-grandmother]
  4. Caroline MITCHELL (born Q3 1838 in Slaugham, Sussex)
  5. Alfred George MITCHELL (born 23rd February 1841 in Bolney, Sussex)
  6. William MITCHELL (baptised 14th April 1844 in Balcombe, Sussex)

It seems that her husband George died in October 1844 as the result of being hit by a steam engine, leaving Mary as a widow with six children. The 1851 census shows her as a pauper living in Slaugham, Sussex with her four youngest children.

I haven’t found Mary in the 1861 census, although there are several possibilities. In the 1871, 1881 and 1891 census she is living with (or next door to) her youngest son William and his family, initially in Bolney, Sussex and then Slaugham, Sussex. All of these show her as a widow and only the 1871 lists an occupation, which is “washerwoman”.

Below are the ages and places of birth from the various census years. In 1841 the age was rounded down, but taking the other years it looks like we are looking at a year of birth about 1807 +/- 2 years. All the places are quite consistent, in the same general area in mid sussex within a few miles of each other.

1841 – aged 30, born in Sussex
1851 – aged 42, born Cuckfield, Sussex
1861 – not found yet
1871 – aged 64, born Staplefield, Sussex
1881 – aged 76, born Cuckfield, Sussex
1891 – aged 84, born Slaugham, Sussex

There is a baptism in Cuckfield which seems to fit, Mary SMITH daughter of Samuel and Mary SMITH, baptised on 1 Nov 1807. Unfortunately there is also a Mary SMITH baptised in Cuckfield in 1805 who could just as easily be the one. Clearly more evidence is needed.

It seems likely that Mary died later in 1891. There is an entry in the GRO indexes for the death of an 85 year old in Q3 1891 in the Cuckfield Registration District. All of the parishes listed were in Cuckfield Registration District. I really need to buy the certificate to see if this is my Mary MITCHELL.

There is a corresponding burial in Balcombe, Sussex of an 85 year old Mary MITCHELL on the 19th September 1891. This would make sense if her husband was buried in Balcombe, but it looks like he was buried in Cuckfield. Why would she be buried in Balcombe when the 1891 census has her living in Slaugham? Did she spend her last few months living with someone else in Balcombe? Am I barking up the wrong tree?

Personal Genealogy Update: Week 49

5 Dec

There was a real mixed bag of family history for me last week, a little bit of housekeeping and quite a bit of new research. To be honest the housekeeping was starting to lose its appeal, so I switched my attention to a couple of previously unexplored branches of my tree.

I completed reviewing another ten individuals, there wasn’t much to actually update on these ten people but plenty to add to my to-do list. I will probably try to complete a similar amount this week, although I keep getting distracted. That last sentence took about twenty minutes to write as I went off and searched the 1911 census for my 2x great-aunt’s husband (and I found him!).

A conversation with my father on last Sunday started me off exploring a new branch of our family tree, and in the process solving one of my long standing queries (what happened to one of the daughters of Thomas KINGHORN?) and one of his even longer standing questions (who were the two people known to him as child as Aunt Issy and Aunt Minnie?). It turns out they were relations, but not aunts. They were the daughters of John Richard KIPPS and Isabella KINGHORN. Of course this has meant a bit more exploring down that line, which I need to finish off this week.

Then for a change I started tracing some of the KINGHORN family who had remained in Carlisle, Cumberland. I know that George KINGHORN remained in Carlisle whilst his brothers headed south to London (I am not sure what happened to his two sisters, I still need to do some work on them). I have followed one of his children in the census and need to try to do the same for his other children.

Then there was George MITCHELL. After writing the Ancestral Profile post on Monday I started thinking about him and his family. His branch of my family is probably the most awkward in my family tree. MITCHELL is quite a common surname and to make things worse his wife was Mary SMITH, if you read my post yesterday you will know that he (probably) died at a reasonably young age, leaving very few records behind. There is not a lot more I can do at the moment other than review what I already know and add some more items to my to-do list ready for a visit to West Sussex Record Office.

Unplugged: “He did not appear to be a bit worse for what he had to drink…”

4 Dec

I mentioned on my Ancestral Profile post on Monday that I thought my 4x great-grandfather George MITCHELL might have been killed in an accident on the London to Brighton Railway, well today I had chance to try and find out more with a visit to the Brighton History Centre.

Once again a local newspaper has proved itself to be an invaluable source, the report below was published in the Sussex Advertiser on Tuesday 5th November 1844. As usual there is not enough detail for me to be 100% certain that this is my man, but I am pretty confident. It is another tragic story, I don’t know why my relations (or in this case a direct ancestor) seem to get themselves in the newspapers so frequently.

FATAL ACCIDENT ON THE LONDON AND BRIGHTON RAILWAY.

An inquest was held on Tuesday last, at the Station Inn Hayward’s Heath, by Alfred Gell, Esq., Deputy Coroner, on the body of George Mitchell, a labourer, on the above railway, who met his death on Saturday, the 26th, in the awful manner shown in the following evidence given at the inquest.

Robert Whaley, sworn-I am an engine driver on the London and Brighton Railway, and live at Croydon. I left Brighton on Saturday night at half-past 11 o’clock with the engine No. 70 of the London and Brighton Railway Company, and arrived at the place where the accident occurred a few minutes before 12. We were in the Folly Hill cutting in the parish of Keymer, [p]roceeding at the rate of 15 miles an hour when I felt a sudden [j]erk of the engine; I said to the fireman that was with me, w[hat] is that, he said we had run over a man, I said that can’t be, he said he was sure of it for he saw a man’s hat fly past the engine, by this time we had stopped the engine and we went back about 30 yards but I could see nothing, my mate said here he is, and I then saw the deceased lying in the ditch which carries the water off from the line; we took him out and placed him by the side of the line, and started off to Hayward’s Heath station for assistance; we then took the body back to the Station Inn; this was about quarter past 12; It was a moonlight night and I could see a long distance before me; I am sure the man was not walking on the line or I must have seen him; my opinion is that he was lying down on the line; it was on the left hand side of the line from
Brighton; the deceased was quite dead when we took him out of the ditch; we had our usual signals on the engine and the deceased must have heard us coming had he not been asleep.

John Wright sworn: I am a fireman or stoker on the London and Brighton Railway; I was with the last witness at the time of the accident, in Folly Hill cutting; I felt the engine jerk and at the same instant saw a man’s hat fly past the engine; I said we have run over a man and Whaley said, “surely not,” we stopped the engine, took the lamp and found the deceased in the ditch.”-This witness corroborated the evidence of the engine-driver in most particulars.

Thomas Spry Byass sworn: I am a surgeon and reside at Cuckfield; about twenty minutes past one, on Sunday morning, I arrived at Hayward’s Heath Station; deceased was quite dead when I got there; I found a large wound in the abdomen, the intestines protruding, which was quite sufficient to cause sudden death; It appeared as if a heavy weight had pressed upon the body; I have no doubt but that deceased was dead in an instant after the accident happened.”

George Pratt sworn: I am a labourer and I live at St. John’s common; I saw deceased at Ellis’s Beer Shop, at Burgess Hill about nine o clock on Saturday night, and we drank together, he had one pint of beer when he first came in and had one glass with me; we then went to another beer shop, the New Anchor, kept by Agate, also at Burgess Hill; we stopped there till ten o’clock, during which time we had three pints of ale between us; I walked with deceased to Cants Bridge, which crosses the Railway; I asked him if he was going home and he said yes, but he did not want to get home till mid-night as there was a warrant out against him for poaching, and he has been away from home some time. He was working on the Line between Burgess Hill and The Hassocks; the deceased’s wife and family live at Balcombe, and I last saw him walking in that direction, on the Line, about two miles from Folly Cutting. He did not appear to be a bit worse for what he had to drink; I have known him for some years.”-

Verdict: that deceased was accidentally killed by the engine No. 70, of the London and Brighton Railway Company, passing over his body, and that there was no evidence to shew in what position deceased was in at the time the engine came up to him. Fine one [shill]ing on the engine.

Im[med]iately after the inquest, a subscription was entered into by the [c]oroner and Jury on behalf of the widow and six orphan children of the deceased, who are left in a most deplorable state of distress. The subscription list is lying at the Station Inn, and Mr. John Bennett, junior, landlord, will be happy to receive donations on behalf of the bereaved family.

This is a wonderfully detailed report of the accident and of the effects of the accident, the “widow and six orphan children” matches with my George MITCHELL’s family. There are so many questions going through my mind: What was the engine like? Where is Folly Cutting? How much was the subscription in the end? Did the family receive any poor relief? What about the warrant for poaching, what was that about? Are the beer shops still in existence? Where is Cants Bridge?

George MITCHELL was buried in Cuckfield (where it is likely he was born) although the family were living in Balcombe. I am guessing the parish of Balcombe washed their hands of him, not wanting to have to support his family financially. There might be some record of that? Does he have a gravestone at Cuckfield? It sounds like his family couldn’t afford one but perhaps the railway company might have done.

So many questions but only handful of answers. If I can find a death certificate for George, then I should have another piece of evidence for his date of birth (the burial record says he was 32 years old). This might enable me to find his baptism, probably in Cuckfield and push that branch of my family tree back another generation.

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