Matthew Wraith and Isabella Brown

Matthew Wraith was born in 1780 and baptised on 25 June 1780 at Chester-le-Street, Durham, England .

St Mary and St Cuthberts, Chester le Street Durham

He was the son of Samuel Hope Wraith junior (b 1733 Tanfield, Durham) and Priscilla Watson.

Matthew’s father Samuel was baptised in the Presbyterian Meeting House (Non-conformist registers) at Tanfield on 21 October 1733 to parents Samuel Wraith senior (1701-1762) and Sarah Spencer.

Samuel senior and Sarah Spencer had four children – William b 1728, Eleanor b 1730, Samuel Hope b 1733 and Sarah b 1739.

I have DNA matches descending from Samuel and Sarah.

Samuel senior was a pitman working at Birtley at the time of Samuel junior’s baptism in 1775 at Chester le Street, Durham.

Non-conformist baptisms Tanfield, Durham 1733

Samuel junior was a coal miner working at Birtley Pit, Durham at the time of daughter Elizabeth’s baptism in 1782. He married three times, and had a total of 12 children, some with each wife –

  1. Mary Hayson in 1757 Chester Le Street. Children – John b 1758, Sara b 1760, Ann b 1762. Mary died in 1763.
  2. Elizabeth Wilson in 1764 Chester Le Street. Children – Samuel 1765-1771, William 1765-1771, Edward 1770-1771, Elianor b 1772, Samuel 1775-1856. Elizabeth died in 1775.
  3. Priscilla Watson in 1779 Chester Le Street. Children – Matthew 1780-1831, Elizabeth b 1782, Mary b 1787, Anne b 1790.

Back to Matthew Wraith b 1780. Like his father, grandfather and great grandfather, Matthew was a miner and pitman.

He spent his childhood travelling between mining villages such as Birtley in 1782 and Washington in 1787.

Christchurch Tynemouth

At the age of 21 he married Isabella Brown on 15 April 1802 at Christchurch, Tynemouth.

Isabella, according to the 1841 and 1851 census was born in 1781 at Alnwick, and baptised there on 21 July 1782.

She had siblings Sarah b 1776 and Jane b 1780 born in Alnwick, and possibly Mary, Thomas, William and Robert born in Tynemouth.

She was the daughter of William and Mary Brown (per her son Samuel’s non conformist baptism) – see image below.

Wesleyan Methodist Baptisms, Chirton, Northumberland 1818

Matthew and Isabella had twelve children, two of which are our direct ancestors. Below you will see that Priscilla is our 3 x great grandmother on the JEMSON line, and Matthew is our 3 x great grandfather on the WRAITH/MOODY line. In other words their children married each other (first cousin marriage).

Chart showing how Matthew’s grandchildren married each other.

  1. Priscilla b 1803 Whitehaven, Cumberland, d 1870 Chirton, Northumberland. Married Andrew Jemson 1828. 8 children.
  2. William b 1805 Whitehaven, Cumberland. d 1877 Lanchester, Durham. Married Ann Green 1828. 2 children.
  3. Matthew b 1808 Moresby, Whitehaven, d 1893 Skinningrove, Yorkshire. Married Mary Moody 1831. 8 children.
  4. Mary b 1810 Moresby, Cumberland. Possible death 1834 Newcastle Upon Tyne or 1842 Tynemouth.
  5. Isabella b 1811 Moresby, Cumberland.
  6. Dorothy b 1813 North Shields, d 1859 Argentina. Married Malcolm Gilmore 1836. 6 children.
  7. Mary Ann b 1815 Chirton, North Shields, d 1817 North Shields. Married William Fieldhouse 1844. 1 child.
  8. James b 1818 Chirton, North Shields, d 1840 Newcastle Upon Tyne.
  9. Samuel b 1818 Chirton, North Shields, 1899 Jarrow. Married Elizabeth Henderson 1837 and Isabella Fenwick 1865. 8 children.
  10. Elizabeth b 1821 Chirton, North Shields, d 1904 Chester le Street. Married Samuel Oliver. 3 children.
  11. Sarah b 1822 d 1822 Chirton, North Shields. d 12 days old, Chirton.
  12. Jane b 1829 Chirton, North Shields, d 1904 Gateshead. Married Thomas Harbron in 1854. 5 children. Staying with mother Isabella in the 1841 census.

Cousin Marriage – First-cousin marriage in England in 1875 was estimated by George Darwin to be 3.5% for the middle classes and 4.5% for the nobility, though this had declined to under 1% during the 20th century.  You can read George Darwin’s research paper on the subject here. The marriage was legal and in some areas quite encouraged.

First cousin marriage by the 1800s was not unusual. Andrew Jemson (Priscilla’s son) married Priscilla Wraith (Matthew’s daughter) in 1871 in Brotton, Yorkshire.

Modern genetics largely contradict the fear of defects among the children of first cousins. Unless both carry a specific genetic problem, the risk for cousin couples is only 1.7 to 2.8 percent higher than with other couples. Charles Darwin himself married his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood (1808-1896), of the china-manufacturing family. Albert Einstein married his cousin Elsa Lowenthal and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were also first cousins.

After Matthew (senior) and Isabella were married in 1802 in Tynemouth, they moved 100 miles west from one side of the country to the other to Whitehaven, Cumbria.

They stayed in Whitehaven for several years, until moving back to Chirton, North Shields sometime between 1811 and before daughter Dorothy’s baptism there in 1813.

Whitehaven Cumbria

In 300 years over seventy pits were sunk in the Whitehaven area of Cumberland. During this period some five hundred or more people were killed in pit disasters and mining accidents.

As in other colliery areas, horse-drawn tramways and then locomotive-powered railways were used extensively to move coal. The first steam locomotive made an early appearance in 1816. Matthew worked in the coalmines at Moresby and Whitehaven.

His first five children were all baptised in the established Church of England / Anglican church, but when it came time to baptise Jane in 1818, and the next few children, they were all baptised in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel at Chirton, North Shields, Durham.

Matthew died in February 1831 at Chirton aged 51 years, and was buried at the Tynemouth Cemetery. The Cemetery office confirmed that his burial is unmarked and was removed due to war damage.

Matthew is described in his death notice as a local preacher of many years in the Wesleyan Methodist connexion.

Durham Chronicle newspaper 5 Mar 1831

Chirton was in the North Shields Wesleyan Methodist Circuit, which also included the pit villages along the coast north and west as far as Hartley and Benton Square. The Chirton chapel also ran a Sunday School and in 1842 received some funding from the owners of the Burdon Main Colliery. (Newcastle Journal 1 Jan 1842). Money was raised and a new chapel that seated 140 people was opened in Chapel Street, Chirton in April 1861 (Shields Dailey Gazette 25 Apr 1861).

Chirton Methodist Wesleyan Chapel ca 1900

Matthew’s wife Isabella lived for another 27 years. She can be found living at Cross House, Mount Pleasant in North Shields, Tynemouth in the 1841 census with her 13 year old daughter Jane and possible other relatives (her maiden name was Brown) Mary Brown, aged 5 and George Brown aged 20.

Ten years later in 1851, Isabella, now aged 70 is living in Chirton, with her six year old grandson William Fieldhouse, who was the son of her daughter Mary Ann.

Isabella died at White House, Fenham, Newcastle on 17 September 1858. She was aged 76. This appears to be a farmhouse on the outskirts of Newcastle. The GRO death registration index gives her mother’s maiden name as Taylor.

Fenham grew up as a separate township from Newcastle, lying on the western outskirts of the city. Much of the land originally belonged to religious charitable institutions, and there are covenant restrictions on the building of any licensed premises.