Thursday, May 10, 2018

52 Ancestors #19: Robert Mitchell (bef 1689-?): The Immigrant

Ancestor: Robert "the Immigrant" Mitchell, six times great grandfather
Haplogroup: R-M269

This week brings me to my Mitchell ancestors and the families allied to them through marriage.

Direct Mitchell ancestors and allied families; created using
Microsoft PowerPoint

My early Mitchell ancestors seemed to follow some version of the naming convention often used in Scotland until World War II in which the names were "recycled" from one generation to the next.[1] My tree is swimming in a sea of Mitchell men named Robert or Daniel. Sorting them out has taken several years. As a result of the number of men with the same given name, I use nicknames to differentiate them when writing their stories. These nicknames were the creation of other Mitchell genealogists and not used during the times in which the men lived.

I descend from Robert "the Immigrant" Mitchell and his son, Robert "the Elder," in two ways: 1) through daughter of Robert "the Elder," Mary Mitchell, who married Samuel Beard (1750-1814); and 2) through the son of Robert "the Elder," Daniel Mitchell (c1750-<1831).

Robert "the Immigrant" Mitchell was of Scots descent. According to Stith Thompson's book, Shipley, Mitchell and Thompson Families, a Mrs. W. H. Walthall wrote in 1895: "Robert Mitchell was born in Londonderry, Ireland, in the latter part of the seventeenth century. His father's family suffered greatly in that noted siege of Londonderry (1689), of which he loved to talk. When a young man in the first part of the eighteenth century he married Miss Mary Innes of Edinburgh, Scotland, and moved to America and settled in Pequa [sic], Pennsylvania."[2]

Pequea became an important center for Scots-Irish Presbyterians early in the 1720s. The motives for moving from northern Ireland were varied but were most likely the result of economic and political restrictions imposed by British Parliament under the Act of Settlement of 1652. All Catholic-owned land was confiscated; however, due to the Scots enmity to parliament in final stages of the English Civil War, English settlers rather than Scots were the main beneficiaries of the confiscation. Scots wanted to earn a livelihood on land they owned, but owning land in northern Ireland was rarely possible. At the time they were described by those in power as land hungry:

"The Northern Presbyterians and Fanatics, able-bodied, hearty and stout men, where one may see 3 or 400 at every meetinghouse on Sundays and all the North is inhabited with these, which is the most populous place of all Ireland by far. They are very numerous and greedy after land."[3]

After arriving in Philadelphia, many Scots-Irish pushed on to Chester and Lancaster counties because ownership and control of the area was disputed territory by Pennsylvania and Maryland. Due to the disagreement, it was impossible to establish sale prices or rental rates for land. In essence the Scots-Irish became squatters. James Logan, who served as the colonial secretary for William Penn, complained the Scots-Irish settled "anywhere with or without leave, and on any spot that they think will turn out grain to afford them a maintenance." In 1729 Logan worried that the squatters would be so firmly established "they will make themselves Proprietors of the Province."[4]

One of the first Presbyterian churches established was in Pequea was located at the headwaters of a stream, also called Pequea, which flowed into the Susquehanna. This was where Robert "the Immigrant" Mitchell brought his family, according to Mrs. Walthall, and where at some of his children remained for generations. However, my Mitchell ancestor did not.

The Susquehanna River at Pequea, Pennsylvania; personal collection

Under the leadership of the Caldwell family, a large contingent of Presbyterian families living in Lancaster County moved to Bedford County.[5] They likely took the Great Wagon Road, perhaps when it was yet so narrow only horses could be used for travel. Robert "the Immigrant's" son, Robert was in Lunenburg County (part of which became Bedford) by 1748, which is the earliest mention of Mitchells in deed records. His brothers, Daniel and James, were in the area by the early 1750s but could very well have been members of the Caldwell party.

Before leaving for Virginia, Robert "the Elder" Mitchell married a woman named Mary Enos in 1736. Because of the similarity in the names Mary Innes and Mary Enos, and the fact the two women married men named Robert Mitchell (father and son), many public trees and published genealogies and histories have compressed two generations into one. 

I do not know if Robert "the Immigrant" Mitchell came to Bedford County or not. He was described as a "young boy" during the siege of Derry, which was in 1689. Say he was six or seven years old then, than he would have been in his mid- to late-60s when his sons removed to Virginia. It's certainly possible to travel at that age but the trip would have arduous.

I have not yet made research trips to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where Pequea is located or looked for any genealogical books that include information from order books or land deeds.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. The theme for this week was "Mother's Day," which I did not follow.

Using the Ancestral Reference Numbering System, Robert "the Immigrant" Mitchell is Ancestor numbers 292 and 304 on my family tree:

292 and 304 Robert "the Immigrant" Mitchell, born sometime before 1689 in Londonderry (now Derry), Northern Ireland; died on an unknown date; married Mary Innes and immigrated to Philadelphia about 1735.

146 and 152 Robert "the Elder" Mitchell, born about 1714 in Derry, Northern Ireland and came to Philadelphia with his parents as a young man; died before 25 February 1799 when his will was proved; married Mary Enos, daughter of Richard and Susannah Enos in 1736 likely in Delaware; removed to Bedford County, Virginia in the 1750s.

292.1 Daniel Mitchell born about 1718 in Derry, Northern Ireland and came to Philadelphia with his parents as a young man; died between June and October 1775 in Bedford County; married Mary Caldwell before 1747; removed to Bedford County in the 1750s.

292.2 James Mitchell born before 1720 in Derry, Northern Ireland and came to Philadelphia with his parents as a young man; according to the Duffy Papers he died before 1776; married Margaret Amey Caldwell in 1738 in Lunenburg County Virginia (part of which became Bedford County).

[1] Beyond ScotlandsPeople, Tangled Roots and Trees (accessed 1 May 2018)
[2] Thompson, Stith (Compiler). Shipley, Mitchell and Thompson Families, (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University, 1964), pages Mitchell i-ii, Mitchell 1-16.
[3] Klett, Guy S. "Scotch-Irish Presbyterian Pioneering Along the Susquehanna River," Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, PennState University Libraries (accessed 3 May 2018).
[4] ibid
[5] Thompson, Stith (Compiler). Shipley, Mitchell and Thompson Families, (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University, 1964), pages Mitchell i-ii, Mitchell 1-16.


Foote, William Henry, Rev. Sketches of Virginia, (Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott & Co., 1856), pages 133-141.
James Logan (Statesman), Wikipedia (accessed 3 May 2018).
Klett, Guy S. "Scotch-Irish Presbyterian Pioneering Along the Susquehanna River," Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, PennState University Libraries (accessed 3 May 2018).
Margaret Caldwell, (accessed 23 Oct 2016).
Robert Mitchell, the Elder, Tangled Roots and Trees (accessed 1 May 2018).
Samuel Beard (1750-1814): Revolutionary War Veteran, Tangled Roots and Trees (accessed 4 May 2018).
Siege of Derry, Wikipedia (accessed 22 Jul 2016).
The Duffy Papers, RootsWeb (accessed 25 Oct 2016).
Thompson, Stith (Compiler). Shipley, Mitchell and Thompson Families(Bloomington, IN: Indiana University, 1964), pages Mitchell i-ii, Mitchell 1-16.
Ulster Scots People, Wikipedia (accessed 3 May 2018).
Why John and Mary (Boyd) Mitchell Are Not the Parents of Robert Mitchell (c1714-1799), Tangled Roots and Trees (accessed 1 May 2018).


  1. Fascinating tale, excellent writeup Thanks. Would like to contact you further.

    David Mitchell, Cape Town, South Africa
    Researching Mitchell of the Glendermott Valley, co. Londonderry, Ireland

    1. David, I sent you an email. It's so exciting to hear from another Mitchell!