Apr 062015

When my in-laws retired, my wife and I suggested that my mother-in-law could look into her family history. This she did very successfully over several years. Then along came the internet revolution and, about 12 years ago, she decided to show me what she had found regarding my family. She discovered a pedigree file on FamilySearch which detailed the ancestry of my great-great-grandfather, Robert MIDGLEY, back to 1490. I was impressed but also intrigued – why was my humble ancestor’s ancestry recorded? A little investigation showed that while Robert’s uncle, Thomas MIDGLEY, was born and married in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, he died in Utah – he had apparently became a Mormon and emigrated. Then I found the entry for his wife, Ellen, nee HINCHLIFFE, which said: “Died 4 September 1855 crossing the Platte River, Wyoming. Buried 4 September by the side of the Platte River, Wyoming”. I had to find out more. I was hooked. Eventually I discovered that Ellen had been a midwife, so during her trek across to Utah she had cared for the sick and ill, and had picked up cholera from one of her patients – not an attack from Native Americans, or some other fanciful scenario!

andy micklethwaite

Grandfather, Harry, born 1880, and his father, John Hetherington MICKLETHWAITE, born 1858, taken c1900 (dog’s name unknown)

I naturally looked at my paternal line, and quickly worked my way back to my great-great-great-grandfather, John MICKLETHWAITE. The first sign of trouble was when I found he and his youngest son had died on consecutive days in Huddersfield. His death certificate revealed “Asiatic Cholera” as the cause of death (another one!). One of my mentors found an article in one of the local papers which described the unsanitary conditions in which the family was living at the time, and mentions John and his wife Hannah – Hannah, apparently, was also severely ill with cholera and for some considerable time was unable to move out of the bed in which she and her dead husband were lying. Hannah survived the cholera and died 16 years later. 

John died in 1849. That means I don’t have any information from the 1851 census which would have provided a clue as to where he was born. I searched the local church records in Huddersfield library and at the county record office for a baptism without success. So I started to look at other John MICKLETHWAITEs to see what became of them. My search initially concentrated on the area around Huddersfield. I found I was collecting information on all MICKLETHWAITEs, not just the Johns. This became quite addictive, and I expanded the search into the wider area around Huddersfield, and eventually into the whole of West Yorkshire. Then I added other spellings of the name and expanded into the whole of England. I’m now looking at MICKLETHWAITEs (including variants such as MICKELWAIT, MICKLEWHITE) across the world. I’m also running a DNA project and have undertaken several DNA tests.

I have a guest blog on Ancestry.com which describes the origin of the surname:

My own occasional ramblings are blogged at: https://andymick.wordpress.com/

My website, with details all the branches and places, is at http://tinyurl.com/andymick2 and I have recently set up a closed Facebook group called Micklethwaite Family History.

Please do contact me if you want to know more about MICKLETHWAITEs or have your own stories to tell. And I still don’t know who John’s parents were!

Andy Micklethwaite

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