Saturday, 1 December 2012

A Brown study

As a bit of relief from all those Joneses (don't worry there are plenty more!), I'm switching to the maternal side starting with Richard Brown (yet another Richard!) my great great great grandfather. He was born in Benton, Northumberland to ( and I've yet to confirm this in the parish records) to Philip Brown and Elisabeth in 1792/3.

He married Mary Oughton in Washington, Co Durham (ancestral home of George Washington it would seem) on Christmas Eve 1812 - so very nearly 200 years ago. Children Richard, John, Jane, George, Philip, Margaret and Elizabeth Mary came at regular 2 year intervals but in the two years between Elizabeth and the next child, Mary Ann they moved to West Auckland/St Helen Auckland. There they added Mary Ann, Ralph Oughton and Thomas Lumsden; and with these last two, the introduction of other family surnames which so helps mark them out and lightens the load of the family historian.

I presume the moving was to do with Richard's work; it's interesting to follow the progression on censuses and various certificates. The first confirmation I have is with Thomas Lumsden's birth certificate - the first the family would've needed as they were introduced in 1837 the year TLB was born - where Richard is described as an overman.

The Durham Mining Museum website: (and well worth a visit) describes an overman as 'one who inspects the state of the mine every morning before the men go to work. He also keeps a daily account of the mens' labour. An overman is almost invariably a man who has passed through all the graduations of pit work, from the trapper upwards, and who has been raised to his situation on account of his ability and steadiness. An overman's wages in 1849 were 26s. to 28s. per week, with house, garden, and coals gratis'.

By the time son Philip was married in 1846, Richard was a viewer: more or less the manager of both underground and surface work. I'd like to find out more about the locations/mines where Richard worked and to see if there are any records that mention him but there are many Brown families in this area and in any case, by the time daughter Margaret married in 1847, Richard had become a railway inspector. Why the change, were railways safer to work on? Had there been a colliery accident? Was he headhunted? He's still a railway inspector in the 1851 census and the family has moved to Shildon but Richard's death certificate puts the family back in West Auckland; he died on 31 July 1859 of 'disease of the liver', the informant being TLB, present at the death. Perhaps surprisingly, Richard's occupation is noted as being 'grocer' but wife Mary, a widow in the 1861 census is listed as 'grocer and woollen and lace draper so it might've been something they turned to to gain extra income.

Richard and Mary's children had interesting careers; there's more research to do but I think the eldest Richard became a 'practical engineer', Jane married George Hall and their son Richard Brown Hall (there's that so useful interjection of a family surname that helps you know you're on the right track) married a Tweddle/Tweddell (which is coincidentally another branch of my maternal family); Philip Brown became a physician, Margaret married Thomas Riley who had a hand in apprehending Mary Ann Cotton; Elizabeth married (a cousin I think) the wonderfully named Burdett Lambton Brown and they will have a post of their own - I'm very fond of Burdett. And then there's  gg grandfather Thomas Lumsden Brown - TLB - but that's a story for another day.

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