Sunday, March 16, 2014

52 Ancestors: Margaret 'Maggie' Mitchell (1889-1976)

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of '52 Ancestors' in her blog post "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks." I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don't know.

Margaret 'Maggie' Mitchell was one of my paternal great grandmothers. She is high on my list of "If Only I Had Known Then What I Know Now" ancestors. As far as I know, I am the first of her great grandchildren and more importantly, she was the only one of my great grandparents living at the time I was born. Potentially, I could have had a chance to meet and get to know her a little. Sure, there were obstacles in the way of that meeting, like an ocean of distance separating us, but most significantly, I didn't know she was still alive as I grew up likely because I never asked instead, I just assumed that she like all my other great grandparents had passed away years before I was born.

Maggie was born on 22 April 1889, the second child and daughter of William Mitchell and Agnes Sweeney, in the middle district of Greenock, Renfrew, Scotland. At the time of her birth, the Mitchell family was living at 3 West Quay Lane in Greenock. Her father, William, listed himself as a shipyard labourer in Greenock when he registered her birth on 24 April 1889.

Life in the working class of the late 19th century could be tough and that is how I imagine it likely was for Maggie and her family. At some point in the 1890's, likely around 1895, William abandoned his family.  In an 1899 birth registration for her daughter Agnes, Agnes Mitchell listed herself as "wife of William Mitchell who, she declares is not the father of the child, and that she has had no personal communication with him for 4 years." In the 1891 Census of Scotland, Agnes can be found living in Greenock and recorded as working as a shopkeeper. Also living in her household, was Joseph Branchfield who Agnes married in 1905 and with whom she had additional children. During this tumultuous time, Maggie and most of her siblings were sent off to live with their maternal grandmother, Helen (or sometimes seen as Ellen) Sweeney (alternate spelling is Sweenie).

In 1906, some calm seems to have been restored to Maggie's life as she married James Little, an apprentice iron worker, on 22 March at 48 Kelly Street in Greenock. Maggie was only 16 years old when she married but James, her new husband, was a much older, mature 17 years of age. In spite of their youth, it appears that they achieved some stability as their family grew to include five known children: Edward Sweeney Little (born 1906), Agnes Little (my grandmother, born 1908), James Little (born 1910), John Little (born 1913), and one of my favourite grandaunts (Aunt Jennie) who I did have the great pleasure of meeting, Janet Triggs Little (born 1920).

It seems clear to me that Maggie and James honoured their ancestors in choosing names for their children. For example, Edward Sweeney Little named after Maggie's maternal grandfather and Janet Triggs Little named after James' aunt Janet (Little) Triggs.

In 1944, James Little passed away while Maggie lived until 1976 when she too passed way in her beloved Greenock.  

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