Research status ancestors and descendants of james john mitchell, susan ogilvie mcfarland


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By Barry R Huntsinger
Last Updated 10/10/2010
b. 22 Aug 1822, Forfarshire, Scotland (Source:obituary)

d, 26 Feb 1901, Armstrong, Emmet, IA, USA

We have struggled for a number of years with determining the ancestors of our James John Mitchell. It had been thought that our James was the James who was a brother to David Mitchell, famed Australian builder and entrepreneur—father of Dame Nellie Melba, reknown Australian opera singer in the early part of the century.
The relationship was implied in 1985 in communications by family researcher Ilene Wagner in Montana with a Leigh Blackburn of Lilydale Museum in Australia. It appears she was responding to a letter from Blackburn, which seems to be a reponse to an earlier letter from Ilene. It reads:
“Leigh Blackburn

29 St Andrews Drive

Chur….. Park 3116

Victoria, Australia
Dear Leigh Blackburn,
I have your letter I received from you sometime ago about David Mitchell. Since then I

have found he had a brother William Mitchell there also at Melbourne or near.

William Mitchell of Forfarshire, Scotland married a Miss Lithgow of Lilydale. I don’t know their birthdates or marriage date. For children I have 4 but no birthdates or birthplace. William Albert, 1881, Maud, Gertrude, Ethel. William the father was a son of William Ann Fraser Mitchell, brother of David, James and Peter Mitchell and maybe a Hugh and John Mitchell and some sisters. Believe your Helen Porter Mitchell was one of the sisters. The other sister was named Isobella. There may have been more.

Ann Fraser Mitchell was a daughter of Hugh Fraser and Janet McQuattie, I have birthdates and birthplaces of David Mitchell’s family.
I would like to get anymore information on William Mitchell’s family and descendants and Peter Mitchell’s family. I would really appreciate any information available on the marriage and family of Walter Blackburn and Helen Hunter Mitchell.
William Mitchell Sr Ann Fraser

Born 1791 1804 April 11, 1864
Birth of children: James- August 26, 1822- Forfarshire, Scotland

David- February 16, 1829- Forfarshire, Scotland







William and Ann Fraser Mitchell were tenant farmers.
Deaths: David- March 25, 1916- Melbourne, Australia (Lilydale Cemetery)

James- February 26, 1901- Armstrong, Iowa,USA, age 79

William (father)- May 1, 1849- Inverarity Cemetery, Angus, Scotland, age 58

Ann (mother)- April 11, 1864- Inverarity Cemetery, Angus, Scotland
David Mitchell went to Australia in 1852. Married Isabelle Dow. Father of Nellie Melba.
Peter Mitchell also went to Australia in mid-1890’s. Don’t know anything of his family. Is suppose to have went to Sidney and had a sheep ranch. I’d enjoy hearing any information about him.

James, my great grandfather & his wife Susan McFarlane Mitchell went to Ontario, Canada in 1854 then to Iowa , USA, in 1870.

Don’t know about John and not much about William (son).
One of the daughters married a man named Black and …(unclear words).. Could have been Blackburn.
I have been told Scottish families name their children:

1st son after father’s father 1st daughter after father’s mother

2nd son after mother’s father 2nd daughter after mother’s mother

3rd son after father 3rd daughter after mother
If so there could have been a Hugh.
Family has it that a cousin John Mitchell was a general.
My other Scottish names are McFarlane and Ogilvie, Fraser and McQuattie. English etc Gibbs, Bowen and (unclear).
If I can help you I will try. I have a small book on Mitchell. I couldn’t find you in there and neither is mine. I will appreciate any help you can give me. Thank you for your kind consideration. God bless you.
Mrs. Willard Wagner

Rte 1 W, Box 1519

Great Falls, Montana 59401

Ilene Wagner- Willard Wagner

Jennie Gibbs- John Hagen

Ann Eliza Mitchell- John Gibbs

James Mitchell- Susan McFarlane

William Mitchell-Ann Fraser

Believe William Mitchell’s parents were John (Mitchell) and Louise Churchill ??
Have been told John Mitchell, a cousin to David, went to Australia first and got David to come.

Susan Ogilvie McFarlane was the daughter of Susan Ogilvie. Susan Ogilvie’s father was the youngest son of the Earl of Airlie. She had 4 brothers and a sister. Brothers were John, Andrew, Robert and Adam. A sister Ann married a Neal.

Hope the awful fires have been gotten under control. We had bad fires last fall too. Montana has a lot of grassland and forests.
Have had 3 cancer operations and they are watching closely. Pray and hope that is the end of it. We had a drouth last summer. So we are thankful for any snow we get.
Thank you for your help on the information I need.
Mrs. Willard Wagner

Rte 1 W, Box 1519

Great Falls, Montana 59401

It was never clear to us and we have never been able to learn whether the communication was confirming something Blackburn had provided or whether Ilene was providing information from her research for confirmation or a little of both. Most of our current James John Mitchell researchers have used copies of the above document as confirmation and the foundation for the conclusions that our James was a brother to David/Dame Nellie. We are not aware of all the communications that may have been exchanged by them.
In addition, my mother- Mable Moore Huntsinger - daughter of Flora MacDonald Mitchell, a daughter of James and Susan, grew up hearing that her grandfather was a brother to David in Australia, father of Dame Nellie Melba. She recalls a neighbor reading about Dame Nellie’s appearance in the States and explained to her as a young girl that it was her mother’s cousin. The belief has continued and has been perpetuated for many years.

We seem to have done everything imaginable to justify in our minds that our James belonged to that family. We thought maybe the census taker didn’t write the year down correctly, or that the writing was misread on the records, etc. Genealogists Robert and Penny Fenwick in Scotland even explained how the census takers would write down their information with pencils and then transcribe them later into the census books. They said it was not uncommon to misread their own notes from smudged or weathered paper. For instance they suggested age 13 could easily have been transformed to 18 and vice-versa.

Another piece of evidence used to perpetuate this belief was the Will for Ann nee Fraser, wife of William Mitchell, in 1864 (A copy exists in our files). She was the mother of the David in Australia/ Dame Nellie and would have been the mother of “our James” if the relationship were valid. She left a legacy to her son James, Port Union Station, Canada. Genealogist Doris Bourrie in Ontario explained that Port Union was a postal center. Mail would arrive there and then be delivered into the frontier. So any James Mitchell in the area would have had their mail sent to Port Union. Just the 1871 Ontario Census alone had 12 James Mitchells listed. Ours would have left by them, but it serves as an example.
Bourrie did a Stellar job of locating our James and Susan, Charles Ogilvie and the George Stewarts at Carlingford, Perth, Ontario, CN. The 1861 Ontario Census for Fullarton Township showed James and Susan with just one child, David Mitchell, born in Canada.

That would have been correct. George and Jane Stewart in the census is relevant because it was George and his children who moved to Iowa with James and Susan after Jane died. So out James was one of the several James Mitchells in Ontario, CN in 1861. (I have a plat map locating where they lived, copies of the census pages, and significant amount of history of the area.)

[ Reviewing my files for this summary I find I had a fleeting moment in May, 2003 looking at a James John Mitchell who was a Postmaster at the York-Scarborough (Ontario) post office. He was appointed in 1865 and resigned in 1868. It would have been perfect. He resigned to head to Iowa! Bourrie could find nothing about it.]

Because we have not yet found a marriage record for our James and Susan I had Bourrie check records in the event they married after they arrived in Canada. She checked an index to county marriages for 1858-1869 and found 20 named James, but none had parents of William Mitchell and Ann Fraser [ We now doubt they were the parents.] She also checked the Home District Marriage Index which covers marriages from 1837-1852. She found four James Mitchells. One of the records had the names of the parents and none had the William and Ann. [NOTE: If we determine the parentage of our James and Susan this may be worth another try.]

More recently we concluded that this relationship is clearly not correct. We first made the decision a few months ago when the 1841 Scotland Census became available on Scotland’s People, the official government records web site in Scotland.
In fact, in reviewing my files, I find I was suspicious in May 2003 when exchanging communications with the Fenwicks after receiving information from a Gloria Phillips ( in Canada, researcher of another Mitchell family in Canada. She sent information from the 1861 census for Port Union, Pickering Township, Ontario. It showed a family with :
James Mitchell: born in Scotland; religion-Church of Scotland; age next birthday- 34; married; Elizabeth Mitchell: born in Scotland; religion- Church of Scotland; age next birthday-33; married. (Would have made this James birth year as 1827, give or take a year). Children and other information was also provided.
Gloria emailed additionally in May 12, 2003:
“According to the 1901 Ontario Census, and the information given at the time of his death, my

James Mitchell was born August 28, 1826 in Forfar. James and his brother Charles both came to Ontario ending up in Melancthon Township. Both are buried in Badjeros Cemetery—almost identical tombstones side by side.
Charles Mitchell has a daughter named Ann Fraser Mitchell—just one of the many reasons I believe my James and Charles to be the sons of William Mitchell and Ann Fraser.

Your mention of Port Union rang a bell with me – according to the obituaries of three of the James Mitchell and Elizabeth Rodgers sons at least three of their children were born in Port Union and moved with their parents to Melancthon when they were young.”

[BRH NOTE: Relevance of Port Union is Ann Fraser Mitchell’s Will noting a legacy to her son James at Port Union, CN.]
I additionally mentioned to Gloria the 1841 Scotland Census that showed the James in the William and Ann family to be 13, which would have made his birth year about 1828. Gloria responded on May 22, 2003:
I’m not sure how familiar you are with Canadian Census but here we are asked to record what our age will be on our next birthday. In the 1861 census, James gives his age on next birthday as 34; 1871 he gives it as 44; 1881 he gives it as 54. I am missing the info from the 1891 census for James and family; in 1901 he gives his age as 74; all of which would fit with your year of 1828 for birth. However, on the 1901 census the date of birth was also asked. James lists his as 20 Aug 1826. My James died on December 2, 1901. One his tombstone his age is listed as 75 years, 3 months.
James’ wife Elizabeth is listed as age 33 in 1861; 42 in 1871; 50 in 1881; 72 in 1901 (date of birth listed as 11 Oct 1828) and 76 at the time of her death on June 1, 1906.
Over the years I have found that one can seldom rely on the date of birth given on the 1901 census. In one of my families two brothers both give their year of birth as 1860 (one in January, the other in July). In searching back these brothers show up in the 1861 census as 3 & 4 years of age. A younger brother believed to have been born in 1862 is one year old in the 1861 census.”

In her May 15, 2003 communications she wrote:

Info from 1901 Ontario Census: Dist 64, Grey E., S. District No. 3, Melancthon…family 106..lot 27 NE Con. 11… MITCHELL, James; male; head of household; married; date of birth 20 Aug 1826; age next birthday 74; born in Scotland; immigrated to Canada in 1854; racial origin Scotch; nationality- Canadian; religion- Presbyterian; retired farmer. Also listed in household are wife Elizabeth Mitchell, 72; and grandson- James B. Mitchell, 12.

I’m not sure when Charles and Ann came to Canada, but I know is was after 1881 as I have them in the 1881 Scotland census.”

I also mentioned to the Fenwicks at that time that the 1841 Scotland Census showed a James in the household of William and Ann that was age 13. Again, it would have made his birth year as 1828. I wrote “It then causes me to ponder whether the relationship is through the Frasers… Janet and Ann?” Curiously, the 1841 District 288 Forfar Parish Census shows the William Mitchell and Ann Fraser family living next to the Hugh Fraser and Janet Fraser household in North Methie (Forfar). [ See entry below in Current Research regarding a William Mitchell and Janet Fraser.]

The Fenwicks also found the parish roll and communicants for the Forfar Free Church West from 1839 and it listed the William and Ann family from Meathie (Forfar). It listed James as 14 at the time (birth year 1825 to add to the confusion).

The final confirmation of our conclusion came recently upon receipt of information from Andrew Nicoll, national archivist for the Catholic Church in Scotland. He had researched the William and Ann Mitchell family a number of years ago and had communicated with fellow Mitchell researcher Shari Cremer in 2003. His information was in storage at the time. We recently reconnected with him and he provided his research. He had access to a church register in Forfar at the time that hadn’t yet been forwarded to National Archives. He had confirmed that the James Mitchell in the William-Ann family was born 26 Aug 1826 in North Meathie, Angus, Scotland and that he died 2 Dec 1901 at Shrigley, Ontario, Canada. He was married to an Elizabeth Rodger 29 Jun 1849, Montrose, Angus, Scotland. [This was pretty much what Gloria had said all along.]

Earlier family members and researchers have always indicated that they believed from family stories that John and Susan married in Scotland in about 1851, left for England in about 1852 and then sailed from England to Nova Scotia in about 1854. It is believed the initial contingent came to Iowa in 1870 from Carlingford, Perth, Ontario, CN settling near us in Armstrong and Emmet County, Iowa.
The obituary published for Susan in Armstrong said she was born in April 1830 in Forfarshire, Scotland. James was still alive at the time so we feel he would have provided or confirmed that information. The obituary for James in Armstrong said he was born 22 August 1822 in Forfarshire, Scotland. We have yet to find birth records for either of them in Scotland, although new records are being added from historical documents regularly on-line and eventually we may locate something.

MUIRKIRK: Genealogist Robert Fenwick in May, 2003, mentioned the marriage of a William Mitchell and Janet Fraser in Muirkirk 8 Feb 1814. He indicated they had a son James baptized 16 Nov 1823. We need to research a birth date for this James.

KINCARDINESHIRE: The 1841 Scotland census also shows a Mitchell family of interest. This is a Mitchell family from Marykirk (parish), Kincardineshire (county). It shows the father as David (b. abt 1781) and the mother as Jane (b. abt 1793) and children: Mary (b. abt 1812), David (b. abt 1814), Williamina (b. abt 1818), Peter (b. abt 1820), James (b. abt 1822), John (b. abt 1826) and Ann (b. abt 1828).

What is of interest here are comments written by Barbara Jacobson, whose mother Bernice ( a sister to my mother and 10 years older) She writes:
James had two brothers, Peter and David. David served in the English Army and was serving with General John Mitchell in the Union of South Africa when James and Susan moved to Canada in 1854. David later joined General John Mitchell and settled in Queensland, Australia. David married an English girl and they were the parents of two girls, Susan and Nellie. Peter married in England and his wife was named Susan and they were the parents of four boys. All settled about 65 miles from Melbourne, Australia about 1886 or 1887. Peter visited James Mitchell in Iowa in 1886 on his way to Australia to visit David. Then shipped his family to Melbourne soon after.” She then reflects on the story that Dame Nellie Melba was the daughter of John Mitchell and was the first cousin to Grandma Moore. Grandma Moore would have my/our Grandma Flora (Moore) Mitchell. We know that a James was not Dame Nellie’s father.
(Note: My mother, Mable Leota Moore Huntsinger, suggests it was Peter who served in the English Army and was a soldier in Africa, not David.)
Barbara went on to write that our James was born in Kelso, Scotland near the English border and at age 6 the family moved 10 miles into England where they had a 50 year contract on land where they raised sheep. (Susan’s obituary says they married in 1851 and lived in England for two years. ??)

In searching the Mitchell surnames and clans I found the following: “Helen Mitchell, the daughter of a Mearns farmer is better known as Dame Nellie Melba…” ( ). Wikipedia says Mearns is also known as the county of Kincardine or Kincardineshire. The new Mitchell family referred to in the CURRENT RESEARCH section of this report is from Kincardineshire. Might this support the “cousin” relationship mentioned in Barbara Jacobson’s letter when it comes to Nellie and Flora?

It’s puzzling to think of David as a farmer based on what we have read about his life in Scotland. Her certainly had ranching and farming operations in Australia among his many enterprises. He would have been about 25 we think when he left Scotland. We had understood he was busy learning stone masonry and building draining ditches as a young man in Scotland. I haven’t been able to source that conclusion.

b. 22 Apr 1830, Forfarshire (Angus), Scotland (From obituary)

d. 13 Sep 1898, Armstrong, Emmet, IA, USA

Genealogists Fenwick wrote to me in April 2003 saying that most Ogilvies originate from Angus (Forfarshire) with some in Banffshire, “but odd ones do indeed appear elsewhere”.
It appears that we can clearly establish Andrew McFarlane and Susan Ogilvy as the parents of our Susan Ogilvie McFarland.
Mitchell Researcher Lois Riekens points out that the 1841 Scotland Census showed an Andrew McFarlane (age 40) and Susan Ogilvy (age 35) and their family in Fern, Angus, Leytack, Scotland. The children listed were: Robert (age 2); John (age 6); Andrew (age 10) and Ann (age 15). The problem had been that we had not located a Susan in this family.
I did locate a Susan of about the right age (b. 1829) in the same Census, born in Lethnot & Navar, Angus. She was living with an Ann Cobb (b. 1766) and an Ann Gordon (b. 1786). Lethnot/Navar was a parish in Angus created in 1845 and abolished in 1975. We believe these were neighbors to the McFarlanes and that she was helping the older women. She would have been about 12 at the time.

Lois found what appears to be our Susan in the 1851 Scotland Census. The parents and family were still in Fern, Angus, Leytack. The now had another son, Adam (age 8); Robert and Susan were also listed. This Susan was listed as age 19 which would have made her birth year abt 1832, not the 1830 which we show from her obituary. We know these birth years can vary in a census depending when the information was gathered within a year and whether the census taker records current or nearest birth date.

(The 1851 Census shows place of birth for Andrew McFarlane as Lochlee, Forfarshire and for Susan Ogilvy -- Oathlaw, Forfar. )
What makes us believe this is the correct family is the addition of Adam to the family. Mrs. Glen (Gladys) Burt, grandmother to Lois Riekens, made mention of Adam in a family history some years ago. She said Adam was single and died in Scotland in 1906. The 1871 Scotland Census still shows Adam living with his parents. He was the only child at home at that time and was age 28. The Burts are descendants of the marriage of Susan Mitchell and Andrew Burt, Sr. Susan Mitchell was a daughter of our James John Mitchell and Susan McFarland.


b. 2 Nov 1832

d. Armstrong, Emmet, IA, USA

The family story here has been that Susan Ogilvie McFarlands cousin, “Charlie” Ogilvie talked James and Susan into moving to Canada. One story says he had come to North America and then returned to encourage them to move with him to Canada. Charlie’s father –William Ogilvy – was a brother to Susan’s mother.
He was called “Uncle Charlie” by “everyone” even though he was just a cousin.
An Emmet County History book suggests that Charles was a clerk in a dry goods store in Ayr, Scotland for two years, apparently from about the ages of 14-16 or thereabouts.
The 1836-1925 Iowa State Census Collection lists “Charlie’s” mother as Susan Gilbert and his father as William Ogilvy (spelled Ogilvy in Scotland; Ogilvie in Iowa). Barbara Jacobson’s letter says Charlie was born 2 Nov 1832, South Kirriemuir, Forfarshire (now Angus), Scotland and died 12 May 1925 at Armstrong, Emmet, IA, USA.

I located the marriage of William and Susan on Scotland’s People, banns/marriage: 30 Jun 1828, Ruthven Parish, Angus, Scotland.

Also located the births of four children:
Robert b. 10 Jul 1830, Kirriemuir, Angus

Robert b. 4 Nov 1832, Kirriemuir, Angus*

James b. 31 Aug 1834, Kirriemuir, Angus

Susan b. 7 Aug 1836, Kirriemuir, Angus

*I think this is actually our “Charlie. Either census taker messed up or “Charlie” decided to go by another name. There is only a two-day difference in date of birth. The records on Scotland’s People do not differentiate whether a birth or a baptism.

Need to find the common parents for Charlie’s dad and Susan’s mother.


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