Northumberland Ancestors

The most favorite person of my mother’s life was her grandmother, Mary Payne.  My Mom was named after her.  That makes Mary Payne a very special person to me as well.

Mary was born in Bedlington, Northumberland, England, in 1870 to parents John Payne and Jane Weightman.  In 1881, when she was eleven years old, she and her parents and siblings emigrated to America, and settled in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, just south of Pittsburgh.

Mary Payne, circa 1891

Her father, John Payne, was not a native of Northumberland.  He and his older brother, George, traveled there in the 1860’s from Bedfordshire, about 250 miles to the south, presumably to find work in the mines.  Although I’ll research John and George themselves, their ancestors lived elsewhere.  So, my Northumberland research will focus primarily on the family history of Mary’s mother, Jane Weightman.

More specifically, my goal is to generate complete and well documented family group sheets for Jane and the three generations before her, which is eight families involving sixty-four individuals, all of whom lived here in Northumberland.  A family group sheet lists a couple and all of their children, with all the basic facts about each person’s life.  Here’s an example:

Partial Family Group Sheet for John Payne and Jane Weightman

I already know the basics about my direct ancestors back through Jane’s great-grandparents, but there are still plenty of mysteries to solve within the families.  In addition, I want to find out as much as possible about their lives by examining records in the local archive which can’t be accessed elsewhere.

I’m very fortunate to have a photograph of the Payne family, right around the time they baptized their first child, Mary Payne, at St. Cuthbert’s Church in Bedlington, just a few steps away from my flat.  I’ve posted it before, but here it is again:

John Payne (left), Jane Weightman (seated) holding baby Mary Payne, James Weightman (back right), and Thomas Weightman, ca 1871.  Photo taken in Blyth, Northumberland, England by W.T. Hunter.

The 1871 England census tells us that John Payne was working in the coal mines, along with the two boys, Jane’s brothers, ages 17 and 12.  It’s hard to imagine today that a 12 year old boy was going “down the mine” every day with the men.  I’m hoping to find out more about the mines, and how the families lived.  And I wonder why they were all dressed up for a photo that day?  Perhaps I can find  a special event at the right time which could explain that.

It’s unrealistic to expect that all my research questions will be answered.  The most important thing to me while I’m here is simply to experience being in Northumberland, and to look upon the same landscape, the same coast, and frequently the same buildings, that they saw each day.

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