Friday, July 22, 2016

Robert Mitchell, the Elder

Robert "the Elder" Mitchell was my five times great grandfather. He immigrated from Londonderry, Ireland, with his parents as a boy or young man, lived with them in Pequea, Pennsylvania, then migrated to Bedford County, Virginia. When I first took over our family's genealogy research from my father in 2012, I had no idea the Mitchell surname was in my family tree. Dad had just learned the surname of his grandmother was Beard and had not been able to do much with it.

Effie Beard's mother was Barbara Ann Mitchell, the daughter of Daniel Mitchell and Sarah "Sally" Wood. As I researched the Beard family, I saved researching Barbara Ann Mitchell for another time. Then I received a message from a person who administered DNA test for his cousins. My name was in their list of matches and he believed the connection was likely to be in Bedford County, Virginia. As I looked through his family tree, I felt the connection had to be with great great grandmother, Barbara Ann Mitchell. I spent the next several days researching the Mitchell family and found the connection.

The DNA match identified our common shared ancestor after I traced my
Barbara Ann Mitchell back to her great grandfather; courtesy of

Though the Mitchell family emigrated from Ireland, they were Scots "planted" in northern Ireland by the English sometime in the 1600s. They followed the Scottish naming convention religiously and in my new Mitchell line, I had a sea of men named Robert and Daniel Mitchell. Wills, deeds, tax lists, chancery court cases, and other Mitchell researchers helped me straighten out my tree, which I believe is mostly correct now.

Snippet of page 134 of Rev. William Foote's Sketches of Virginia; personal

In a biographical sketch about Rev. James Mitchell in Rev. William Foote's Sketches of Virginia, I found a description of my five times great grandfather, Robert Mitchell, who lived from 1714 until 1799:

"The Rev. Jacob D. Mitchell, says under date -- Lynchburg, Nov. 1st 1854: Robert Mitchell, was born in the north of Ireland, but emigrated to America while yet a youth. He is reputed to have been a man of vigorous intellect and devoted piety, well instructed in religion, and a devoted and thorough Presbyterian. His wife, whose maiden name was Mary Enos, was, it seems, of Welsh extraction. She, like her husband, was an eminently pious Presbyterian. This excellent pair resided in Bedford County, for many years, and were members, the husband being ruling elder, of the Church, of which their son was pastor. They both lived to a good old age. He lived to be 85; of her age I am not informed. They had 13 children, of whom not one died less than 70 years old. The Mitchel family seems to have been remarkable in former times for piety and longevity. Robert Mitchel it seems was converted while yet a boy. The immediate means of his awakening was the fact of overhearing his great grandmother, at her secret devotions praying for him. She was then more than 100 years old; she lived to the age 112.

Rev. Foote went on to say "Robert Mitchel, tradition says, very fond of music, and did much to promote singing in the congregation. He talked much of Derry and the affairs of that noted town, and the sufferings of the Mitchel family in that famous siege.[1] The peculiar dialect of his countrymen was marked in his speech. As an elder he was worth of double honor."

Snippet of page 135 of Rev. William Foote's Sketches of Virginia; personal

Robert Mitchell's parents were Robert Mitchell and Mary Innes. Because of the similarity between the surname Innes and Enos, many family trees have combined the two women and turned the father and son into one person. This is not correct.

In order to keep the two men straight, I have given them nicknames: Robert "the Immigrant" Mitchell was born well before 1689 in Ireland and Mary Innes was said to be from Edinburgh. They had at least two sons, Daniel and Robert "the Elder" Mitchell. It was Robert "the Elder" Mitchell who married Mary Enos and removed to Bedford County, Virginia.

At least two DNA-related mysteries remain about Robert "the Elder" Mitchell. Tradition and secondary sources indicated he and his wife had 13 children and they all lived to adulthood. I have 15 in my tree:
  1. David Mitchell (1737-1817); removed to Ohio
  2. Frances Mitchell (c1742-unknown)
  3. *#Susannah Mitchell (1744-1813); married Josiah Campbell
  4. Enos Mitchell (c1744-unknown)
  5. #@James Mitchell (1747-1841); married Frances Blair Rice
  6. *#Stephen Mitchell (1749-1806); Ketturah "Kitty" Wade
  7. *^Robert Harvey Mitchell (1752-1818); married Mary Witt
  8. +#@Mary Mitchell (c1755-1843); married Samuel Beard
  9. *#Samuel Mitchell (c1758-1835); married 1) Siner Pullen and 2) Margaret "Peggy" Claytor
  10. Sarah "Sally" Mitchell (1756-unknown)
  11. John Mitchell (1760-1839); married Elizabeth Hardwick
  12. #Margaret Mitchell (1762-unknown); married Adam Beard
  13. Andrew Mitchell (1764-1834)
  14. #Martha Ann Mitchell (1767-unknown); married Samuel Claytor
  15. *#Daniel Mitchell (unknown-1821); married Margaret (maiden name unknown)
Update 24 July 2016: I reviewed my Robert Mitchell (1714-1799) DNA circle today and one DNA match to the circle (but not with me) descends through Child No. 7, Robert Harvey Mitchell (1752-1818). 
* Mentioned in will of Robert "the Elder" Mitchell
+ Father paid surety for marriage bond
# Relationship in multiple primary and secondary sources and proved through DNA
^ Relationship in multiple primary and secondary sources and in a Robert Mitchell DNA Cirle
@ Direct ancestor

[1]The Siege of Derry (or Londonderry) occurred in 1689.


  1. How fortunate to have a thread leading your Mitchell line back to Ireland and Scotland before that. I found this post interesting as I've been trying to trace my own Scotch-Irish ancestor who I suspect followed a similar route. As an aside, I have a John Beard that I've been researching who died in Licking County, Ohio in 1814. I don't suppose your Beards were in Ohio?

    Good luck with your continued research.

    1. I have some Beards (of the Virginia family) that ended up in several counties in Ohio, but all much later than 1814. John is supposedly the name of one of three brothers who came to the British colonies in America together and settled in different places.

  2. Hello, I am a fellow Mitchell and I am trying to trace the Paternal line of my Mitchell's which happens to be J2a1, which is rare for Scotland. It is not confirmed yet but it looks like I have Mitchell's from bedford,Va that I match only on the Paternal YDNA side. Do you know if any of these Mitchell men have tested YDNA?

    1. I do not know if any of the Mitchell men who have taken an Ancestry autosomal test have also taken a YDNA test from another provider.

  3. I am off the Mitchell line, I directly come from Daniel (The Elder's brother) and I am having trouble on ancestry locating Robert the Immigrants parents. Any ideas? Thank you.

    1. I don't know who they were. You would probably need to search for them on ScotlandsPeople or Roots Ireland. I do not believe they came to the U.S.

  4. I have a connection to all these people. John Campbell Smith is my 5 times great grandfather