Monday, October 14, 2013

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.


Mitcheson grave, Whickham Parish Church, County Durham, England

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)

1 comment:

  1. I had a similar experience in a kirkyard near Dundee Scotland a few years ago. I traveled there to meet with distant relatives who were kind enough to drive me around looking at various sites of our mutual ancestors. They had previously located a broken gravestone that identified some young children of the family but had never located the grave or the main part of the stone. I wandered off and spotted a stone half hidden under a pine tree with the inscribed side totally hidden. When I dug through the branches I discovered it was the missing grave, and it listed detailed info on the family! One of the people with me wondered out loud why they hadn't noticed it previously and I suggested that the ancestors were waiting for us all to be there to reveal themselves.

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