Yes, there is a Northumberland in England

Old Northumberland

Old Northumberland

I have been driven to distraction over the past few hours by Ancestry’s many attempts to persuade me that my ancestors come from Pennsylvania, Ontario or New South Wales. I have no issue with USA, Canada and Australia reusing the Northumberland county name. What irritates me is that seems unable to suggest that any Northumbrian location is English without manual assistance.

Since I was unaware when I first started my tree that this was going to be an issue, I was not too careful about adding the country name to every place name. Now I am suffering for my lapse.

Looking on the positive side, I have been kicked into rationalizing another couple of hundred place names this evening. Hopefully I have now planted my little corner of Northumberland safely back on English soil, but if you read my tree and see a foreign Northumberland has slipped past me please let me know so I can check whether it is correct.

Purging poor place names

Having been warned that the new improved format is very sensitive to place names I decided to tackle the tidying job on all my place names. A combination of manual clumsiness in typing, names plucked automatically from poor transcriptions and my laziness in not adding country names mean that I have quite a task ahead of me. If I don’t sort this out before switching to the new format then I am going to find many of my border region ancestors will be assumed by ancestry to come from USA, Canada or Australia. It seems to search for all of these possibilities before considering that a Northumbrian town might be in England. Tonight I dealt with the obvious mistakes, using the “resolve place names” function in Family Tree Maker. That has cut my list of unresolved place names from 485 to 338, just by clearing up spellings, commas, and adding country to some. Still have a long way to go though, as many of the suggestions made by the software were wrong, so I will have to go through the whole list again manually.

Tynemouth – Christ Church

20150803_151819200_iOS20150803_152044046_iOSChrist Church in Tynemouth was consecrated in 1668 and was the local place of worship for members of my family in Tynemouth, North Shields and Cullercoats. Many of my ancestors in that area were fisherfolk and seafarers. I am still trying to disentangle when they used Christ Church, when they used Tynemouth Priory and when they hopped over the river Tyne to St. Hilda’s in South Shields, Co. Durham. I visited Christ Church for the first time in my summer holidays and found it to be a picturesque setting. My visit was a little late in the day so I was unable to see inside the church. Most of the churchyard has been cleared and put to grass. The old headstones have been moved to form a boundary wall for the churchyard. This would have been positive, but for the fact that a high hedge has been planted in front of the headstones rather than behind. Very disappointed to think that some of my ancestors may be hidden from sight behind that hedge. Still living in doubt as to who is lurking behind that hedge and who may have been moved to another location such as Preston Cemetery.

Fifteen possible little Browns

I have several large  families with 10 plus offspring in my tree, but I am now looking into what may turn out to be 15 children. The will of my 5th great grandfather Henry Miller of Whitley makes reference to his daughter Hannah Brown “the wife of Robert Brown of Southwark in the County of Durham Blacksmith”. Further investigation suggests that Robert Brown may actually have been born at Southwick.

Robert and Hannah married 13 October 1800 at Tynemouth in Northumberland and appear to have a flock of children baptized at Bishopwearmouth and St. Peter’s Monkwearmouth in Durham. Some of the transcriptions on my Brown search on can be confirmed as belonging to my tree since they give the mother’s maiden name as Miller, but others do not specify. I also know that there were a couple of other marriages for a Robert Brown to a Hannah in the same area and timeframe. I have therefore ruled out children baptized in Stanhope.

My next task is going to be to look at other sources to confirm whether all of these children belong to my relatives: John 1801, Elizabeth 1802, Jane born 1804 bapt 1807, Margaret 1805, Ann 1808, Robert 1807, Robert born 1808 bapt 1811, Elizabeth 1811, Hannah 1811, Mary 1813, Henry 1815, Isabella 1817, Hannah 1818, Sarah 1821, John 1825. If my theory is correct, then I also have some infant death records to chase up as some of the names have been recycled. Hannah Miller was born in 1779, so she would have been 46 when she popped out the last one if they are all hers. This little bunch of Browns should keep me out of mischief for a while.

The Waters of Tyne

Oh, where is the boatman, my bonny hinny?
Oh, where is the boatman? bring him to me
To ferry me over the tyne to my honey,
And I will remember the boatman and thee

The Water of Tyne

I am finding an increasing number of relatives in the 1700s who found their better halves on opposite sides of the River Tyne. People who lived in Cullercoats and married in South Shields or lived in North Shields and found their partner in Boldon. I understand that before full dredging operations were implemented that it was possible to walk across the river at low tide, so maybe this explains how easy it was to find a spouse in the next county.

Cullercoats Family History Research Group

20150803_143954 1During my summer holidays I visited the Cullercoats Family History Research Group to see if they could help me with my Henderson, Miller, Newton and Oliver families from that area.

They are a very hospitable group of folks. They have local information and photos organised both by surname and by street. Worth a drop-in if you have Cullercoats ancestors. They are open on Monday afternoons and evenings at the Community Centre on Belle Vue Street.

Maternal Margarets and Marys

I have now added three more generations to my direct maternal line. Got stuck for a couple of years at Margaret Watson as the name was so common, but have now pinned her down. So far my maternal line is confined to Northumberland, but I expect it may cross the border to Scotland or hop over to Ireland if I can get further back. This is what I have at present, taking me back 8 generations to 6th great grandmother Margaret Brewhouse.
  • Margaret Jane Webb, 1921 -1999, born Radcliffe, Northumberland
  • Margaret Jane Henderson, 1899 – 1982, born Amble, Northumberland
  • Margaret Jane Thornton, 1871 – 1912, born Choppington, Northumberland
  • Mary Oliver, 1842 – 1911, born Netherton, Bedlington, Northumberland
  • Margaret Watson, 1818 – 1895, born Ulgham, Northumberland
  • Mary Hutchinson, 1791 – ?, born Felton, Northumberland
  • Mary Brown, 1769 – ?, born Felton, Northumberland
  • Margaret Brewhouse, bef 1747, probably somewhere around Felton, Northumberland, but could be from further North or from Scotland.
As you can see, my ancient grannies did not have much imagination in choosing Christian names for their girls. Thankful that my Mam decided to break the mould and I did not end up as the fourth in a row of Margaret Janes.