“Not a lot of people know that!”

July 20, 2015

A Look into Sir Michael Caine’s Ancestry

Sir Michael Caine

Sir Michael Caine

The actor, Sir Michael Caine, was born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite. Does that surname variant derive from Micklethwaite or from Micklewright? I set out to investigate.

Sir Michael Caine is the eldest son of Maurice Micklewhite (1899-1956) and his wife Ellen Burchell, according to civil BMD records on FreeBMD. Looking at the 1911 census, Maurice (senior) shows up as a 12 year old scholar, living at Amicable Row in Southwark with his parents Joseph and Hannah and 4 siblings. Usefully, Joseph misread the instructions and included on the census the names of his children who had died by 1911.

The 1901 census is more problematic. Maurice Micklewhite doesn’t show at all initially. By searching for variants of the surname, and using his parents’ Christian names, eventually Maurice Nicklewhite, son of Joe and Johanna, shows up in Southwark, living in Villa St, Newington. Joseph married Johanna/Hannah Regan in St Saviour Southwark Registration District.

Joe/Joseph has an age on the 1901 and 1911 censuses consistent with a birth in 1874/5 – and FreeBMD shows one in March Quarter 1875 in the Registration District of St Saviour Southwark. Joe Mickelwhite (another variant) aged 16 shows up in Southwark on the 1891 census living with his parents Joseph and Kate at Roberts Place, Clarendon St, which is close to Amicable Row.

Joseph and Kate/Catherine/Catharine can also be traced in Southwark on the censuses without too much difficulty:
1881 in Henry St Southwark
1901 in Falstaff Yard, Southwark
1911 in Falstaff Yard, Southwark

I still haven’t found the marriage for Joseph Micklewhite and Catherine/Kate Turner on FreeBMD, but not all events make it from the local record office to the GRO records. However, their banns can be found on Ancestry’s London parish records in Walworth in 1880 – some years later than their son Joseph’s age would suggest.

This elder Joseph shows up on the census in 1861, and 1881 to 1911. I haven’t yet found him in 1871 – I wonder what variant he goes by – although I did find his brother William in an Industrial School. On the later censuses, his surname is Micklewhite or similar, but on 1861 with his parents George and Emma, he’s a Micklethwaite. They’re living on Butcher Row in Southwark.

Joseph was born in 1854, and baptised Joseph William (all George’s sons had a second name of William except William!) It appears that he was the one who formalised the change from Micklethwaite (or similar) to Micklewhite.

George and Emma are transcribed on the 1851 census as Michlethwite. They have just the one young child which might suggest a recent marriage. In fact they married in 1859 by which time they already had 3 children – the marriage is on both FreeBMD and the Ancestry London PRs. The latter shows George’s full name as George Gilliam Scott Mickelthwaite, an unusual use of middle names at this time, and names his father as Joseph, a hair dresser.

The London PRs also show the baptism of George Gilliam Scott Mickelwait (yet another variant) in 1814 in Hornsey to Joseph and Phillis. Joseph and Phillis Price Wagner married at St Bride’s Fleet St in 1809, he was a widower. I think he had previously married Sarah Benson in 1797 at St Martin in the Fields. His parentage remains elusive. One branch of the Micklethwait tree uses St Bride’s about a century earlier than Joseph – I will have to wait until the intervening records are made more easily available. Joseph died in 1833.
And that’s as far as I can get at the moment. As Sir Michael said in one of his films: “Don’t worry lads – I’ll think of something”.

In his autobiography, Sir Michael says his father was a porter at the Billingsgate fish market, as were his ancestors before him. The censuses neither support nor contradict this. Both Josephs were recorded as dock labourers in the censuses, although the elder Joseph born 1856 is recorded in 1881 as a carman. This occupation is not that dissimilar to his father George, who was an ostler and horsekeeper. Joseph, father of George, was an Innkeeper at George’s baptism, although when George married he said his father was a hairdresser. So there is a variety of occupations all through the family.

Joseph and Phillis married North of the River, and their first daughter Emma Ann was baptised at St Clement Danes Westminster in 1810. However, in 1811 Eliza was baptised at St Mary’s in Lambeth. The next child, George, as mentioned above, was baptised in Hornsey, then 6 or 7 more children baptised in Lambeth. In 1911 both Josephs were living off Tabard Road in Lambeth. As I haven’t found parents for the Joseph born about 1771, it is not possible to say where Micklethwaites are related to this branch. Indeed, as DNA testing has shown there could be at least 3 different Micklethwaite branches, it would not be sensible for any Micklethwaite to claim a relationship to Sir Michael. On the other hand, most of the Micklewhites in London and the London area can claim descent from Joseph born 1854, so are related to Sir Michael.

In conclusion, I think I have shown that this Micklewhite branch is a variant of Micklethwaite – as Sir Michael is reputed to say “Not a lot of people know that” – or they didn’t until they read this article.

Summary Chart of Sir Michael’s line: http://andymick.magix.net/public/SirMichael-direct2.pdf

Full chart: http://andymick.magix.net/public/micks-data/gdr-m5604.pdf

Andy Micklethwaite
Member 1027

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