Wednesday, 3 August 2016

The Brown Forebears

Elizabeth Brown was born in 1848 at Widdrington, Northumberland, the eldest daughter of Robert and Isabel Brown (née Joisce). The Brown men were all farmers, but Robert spent sometime as the Widdrington baker. 


Elizabeth's baptism at Widdrington.

When Elizabeth was around the age of 21, she gave birth out of wedlock, to a baby girl named Alice. I don't think I will ever discover the identity of the father. Alice was certainly accepted by the wider family, as she was raised in the house of her grandparents. Interestingly, there was another granddaughter who lived in the household of Robert and Isabel Brown. Her name was Margaret who was born in around 1874. It could be that Elizabeth had another illegitimate daughter. 

Robert Brown died on Christmas Day 1881, and was buried with his parents in the family grave at Widdrington. Illegitimate Alice Brown was also laid to rest in the plot in 1884, when she died unexpectedly. 

Elizabeth Brown married James Bell at Morpeth in September 1876. James was a coal miner, born in New Hartley. Their child, Robert, was born the following year. 

In around the mid-1890s, James Bell became a greengrocer in Ulgham, close to Widdrington. He also found work as a rabbit catcher. Robert Bell was truly his father's son, as he also worked as a gardener and rabbit catcher. 


The Brown lineage.
Jane Mavin was my great-great-grandmother.

Elizabeth Brown was the second cousin of my great-great-grandmother, Jane Mavin. Jane was born in 1853 at Widdrington, so likely grew up knowing Elizabeth and her family. Their common ancestors were their great-grandparents, Anthony Brown and Margaret Marshall, a couple who raised their family in the small hamlet of Druridge, in the parish of Widdrington. 

Elizabeth Brown died in February 1938, a few weeks short of her 90th birthday. A rather unique obituary appeared in the Morpeth Herald in the week following her death. It read as follows;


"MRS. ELIZABETH BELL,
ULGHAM

Living in a district where changes are continually taking place there are not many individuals who may claim that their family has resided in one particular area for upwards of five centuries. Yet this unique record was revealed at the funeral of Mrs. Elizabeth Bell, who passed away on Sunday, at the residence of her brother, "Hillcroft," within six or seven weeks of her 90th birthday. A member of the Brown family, particulars of their forefathers are traceable in Widdrington parish records for almost 500 years, and many an interesting account of old customs and practices were recounted by the deceased lady as her friends gathered round a homely fireside on a winter's night. A search into the past a few years ago revealed the fact that one of her forebears had reached the age of 89, and her one wish was to live until April of this year when she herself would establish a record for longevity for the Brown family.
The interment took place in Ulgham Churchyard on Wednesday afternoon, the service being conducted by the Rev. L. Tirrell, vicar of Ulgham. ..."

I so wish I could have sat at the fireside as Elizabeth spoke of the bygone customs and our shared family. I certainly have some research to do it in the wake of this find. I have no where near 500 years of Brown history!