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Meet the Mitchells of Greenock

My paternal grandmother, Agnes Little was born in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland in 1908. Twenty years later, she left Scotland for Canada where she met and married my grandfather, John Gaull Hadden, in 1929.

Agnes’ parents were James Little and Margaret Mitchell, both also natives of Greenock and both born in 1889. Margaret was one month shy of her seventeenth birthday when she married James. The 1901 Scottish Census perhaps casts some light on her early-in-life nuptials.

Margaret was the second of five children born to William Mitchell and Agnes Sweeney, likely my grandmother’s namesake under the Scottish naming convention. Margaret’s father, William was a shipyard labourer. Margaret was born at 3 West Quay Lane in Greenock, the address associated with the Greenock Poorhouse, serving not only as a sanctuary for the indigent poor but also as the lunatic asylum. An 1868 report on the conditions of the poorhouse indicates that it was generally kept in good condition but that “there are no means of regular amusement or occupation.” The same report indicates that “lunatics’ were annually sent to both England and Ireland!

In 1901, Margaret is found living with her grandmother Helen (noted in the census as ‘Ellen’) Sweeney (nee Dickson). Helen was operating a boarding house at 3 Shannons Close. 12 year-old Margaret was there with her four siblings. Her older sister, Ellen was working at the time as a ‘Message Girl’ for a local fish shop. Her parents were not present but there were nine lodgers, eight of whom were men, labourers from likely from the shipyards.

I can only guess that the boarding house environment was rough and uncomfortable for a young lady. Was marriage a few years later an escape from that environment? More research is required to unlock the answer.

This past week has brought about a new cousin connection, with the granddaughter of Margaret’s youngest brother James. Kathy Holmes lives with her husband and their three sons in Loughborough, Leicestshire, England and we have begun sharing information on our Mitchell family common ancestors via email. More cousins that I didn’t know I had!

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