Michael and Ann Swinburn

The first Swinburn ancestors I can find in census records are Michael and Ann Swinburn.

Michael and Ann Swinburn -Marriage 9th July 1834

FamilySearch (old site) has a marriage for Michael and Ann on 9 July 1834 in Pickering, Yorkshire. This gives Ann’s maiden name as Fletcher. Civil Registrations did not start until 1837 so it is not possible to send for a marriage certificate. However, the original parish register record is available on film and could be ordered and viewed at a Family History Centre.

I cannot find any online record of Michael’s birth or Christening (which would have been around 1816 if his age is correct on the 1841 census or 1811 as calculated from his death certificate - see below). Thus I cannot track this lineage any further back.

However, Ann’s Christening is recorded on Family Search. This gives her father's name as Robert Fletcher and her mother's name as Hannah.

There is a corresponding marriage on Family Search which gives Hannah's maiden name as Hardwick.

Further investigations through Family Search take Ann's lineage back a further two generations to provide the tree shown at the top of this page. Except for these names and dates I know nothing about these ancestors.

The Family of Michael and Ann Swinburn

Michael and Ann would eventually have nine children including 3 sets of twins. Some women do have a tendency to release multiple eggs during ovulation and this seems to have been true of Ann.

By 1841 Ann had borne Michael four children but only two of them, Mary and Esther were living with their parents at the time of the 1841 census. The first two children, John and Mary Ann, were born before the start of Civil Registrations so there are no official birth certificates for them.

John Swinburn b 1834

The eldest child, born only 5 months after the marriage, is recorded in FamilySearch with a Christening on 7th December 1834. John does not seem to have survived until the 1841 census, nor can I find him in future years, although I cannot find a record of his death. If he died before Civil Registrations began this is perhaps not surprising.

Another powerful indicator of the fact that he died is that a later child, Robert, born in 1846, has the full name Robert John. It would be very unlikely that the name John would be used again if the first John were still surviving.

Mary Ann Swinburn b 1837

FamilySearch also has a record of the Christening of Mary Ann.

Birth of Esther Swinburn & Thomas Swinburn - 31st March 1839

I sent for a birth certificate for Esther Swinburn who is our direct ancestor (civil registrations began in 1837).

It shows the following details:

I had trouble finding the civil registration of Esther’s birth. It is interesting that although Esther clearly called herself ‘Esther’ – as shown by the name on most of the census records – the name on her birth certificate is clearly ‘Easter'.

FamilySearch also has a record of Esther’s Christening (with the correct name).

The listing of birth records registered in Whitby (shown right) and also FamilySearch, show that Esther had a twin, Thomas Swinburn, born and Christened at the same time as Esther. (There is an error in the Whitby listing as the heading is June 1839 whereas the birth was clearly registered in April.)


Michael and Ann Swinburn - 1841 Census

The 1841 census shows Michael and Ann Swinburn living in Glaisdale Yorkshire (see table below). Michael is a plumber and glazier. The street name does not appear on this sheet as it is dittoed from the previous page but reference back shows the address to be Under Hill (the 1841 census did not record house numbers). Glaisdale is a small North Yorkshire village and the current street name is Underhill (one word). That road is right on the edge of the village and there is new build so many of the original dwellings are likely to be gone. However the Swinburn home may have been similar to one of those shown (minus the porch). 

Here too are Mary Ann and our ancestor Esther aged 2 - but where is her twin Thomas?

Thomas Swinburn - 1941 Census           

Esther’s twin, Thomas Swinburn, was not living with his parents at the time of the 1841 census (see above). However I did manage to find him with his maternal grandparents. In 1841, at the age of 2 years, Thomas was living with Ann’s parents Robert and Hannah Fletcher in Rosedale, Yorkshire. He proved a little elusive, as the name on the form is Thomas Swingburn. This record is of particular interest as it confirms the names of Ann’s parents as Robert & Hannah Fletcher.

One wonders why he was with grandparents and not his parents at the tender age of 2 years. Perhaps twins were too much for Ann to cope with in addition to the 4-year-old Mary Ann. However, it is also possible that this was just a short term visit. The census records from 1841 are not very informative.

Michael & Ann Swinburn - 1841-1848

Between 1841 and 1848 Michael and Ann had five further children including two sets of twins.

FreeBMD has confirmation of the births and Family Search has confirmation of the Christenings of the new children:

¨   Michael Fletcher Swinburn born in 1842

¨   Robert and Sarah Jane Swinburn, a second set of twins, born in 1846 - Sarah Jane however did not survive her first year

¨   George and Hannah Swinburn, a third set of twins born in 1848


The complete family is shown in the tree below.

The family had moved from Glaisdale to the town of Pickering (given as the birthplace of all the twins and the place on Michael’s death certificate - see below).  

Death of Michael Swinburn - 19th November 1848

Michael Swinburn died in 1848 at the age of only 37. The death certificate shows that he died a mysterious and sudden death. He was found dead at 8am on 19 November 1848. The cause of death is given as ‘strangled accidentally’ and the body clearly went for examination by the coroner who is listed as the informant.

In 2014 I received further information about this strange death in the form of an email from JC another descendent of Michael & Ann Swinburn (through their son George). She told me that she had further investigated Michaels death and found a press report in the Yorkshire Gazette of Saturday 25 November 1848. It reads:

Pickering - On Sunday morning last about half-past seven o'clock, a man was found hanging by a halter that was tied above the manger in a stable belonging to Mr. Monkman, Black Swan Inn, Pickering. He was quite dead; his name was Michael Swinburn, glazier, &c., of Pickering. A coroner's inquest was held over him on Monday, when a verdict of "accidental death" was returned by the jury. He had been drinking during Saturday, and between four and five o'clock in the evening he was seen to go into the stable and shut the door after him. The ostler took no notice of the circumstance, as it was not unusual for the deceased to lay down in the stable when in liquor. It appears he had somehow got his head entangled in a halter that was suspended from the “rack” and was strangled. The body was quite cold and stiff when found, and only slightly raised from the ground,—from 12 to 16 inches. It is thought he must have been strangled whilst asleep, as there were signs of struggling whatever.

The report raises as many questions as it answers about the death and it would be very interesting to see the full coroner’s report. Looking at photographs of home made rope halters on the website it seemed to me that an accidental, drunken strangling would not be out of the question but we may never know the truth. However, the press report does give some insight into the character of Michael Swinburn who seems to have been an habitual drunkard. Perhaps, in the long term, Ann was better off without him!

Michael Swinburn Biography - 1811-1848

As he only appears in the 1841 census it is not possible to know very much about the life of Michael Swinburn. We know that he was born in Yorkshire but not where in the county and I have been unable to find any likely candidates for a record of his birth. However the age given on the death certificate indicates that it was probably around 1811. Without a birth record it is impossible to discover the names of his parents, which is why he marks the start of the line here.

It is possible that Michael came from Richmond, Yorkshire, as there seem to have been Swinburns in that town at the start of the nineteenth century and the family seems to have connections there as later censuses show. However, there were also Swinburns in York and Hull and a number of Yorkshire villages and the variety of different spellings of the name make it very difficult to track.

Michael married Ann Fletcher on 9th July 1834 in Pickering, Yorkshire. Civil Registrations did not start until 1837 so it is not possible to send for a marriage certificate. However, the original parish register record (which may show the name of his father) is available on microfiche and could be ordered and viewed at a Family History Centre. This record may also become available online in the near future as many parish records are currently being digitised.

Together the couple had nine children including 3 sets of twins. Two of the children seem to have died in infancy.

Michael worked as a plumber and glazier living in 1941 in Under Hill, Glaisdale and later moving to Pickering (where the youngest three of his children were born) – perhaps so that Michael could ply his trade in a larger population.

Michael died very young - ate the age of only 37 - in strange circumstances wherein he was “accidentally strangled”. The press report of his death gives an insight into Michael’s character. He was clearly an habitual drunk. When he died he left a widow with 7 young children: Mary-Ann (12), Esther & Thomas (twins aged 9), Michael (6), Robert (2) and George & Hannah (twins aged 4 months). Thomas was already living with his maternal grandparents (see 1841 census above) and Michael also went to live with them, perhaps on his father’s death, as he can be found with them in the 1851 census - see below. Mary-Ann started work in service as soon as possible and the remaining four children are to be found with their mother in the 1851 census.

There are no photographs of Michael.

Ann Swinburn - 1851 Census

The death of Michael in 1848 left Ann a pauper with seven children, including 4-month-old twins George and Hannah, born just before the death of their father. Life must have been very hard. How was Ann able to make a living to support her family? The eldest two children were helping by working in service – see below.

The 1851 census finds Ann with four of her children living in a property in the Cattle Market, Pickering. There is no longer a place called Cattle Market in Pickering but the current Market Place is right at the heart of a bustling small town.

In addition to the twins, Esther was there, as was Robert aged 5 but his twin sister Sarah Jane had died in December 1846. This record was hard to find as the census enumerator misspelled ‘Swinburn’ - the error is also shown on the transcript.

The three older children are not with their mother but I managed to locate them all.

Mary Ann Swinburn - 1851

Mary Ann, aged 15 in 1851, was in service up at the Hall in Pickering - no doubt contributing some of her wages to help support the rest of the family.

Thomas Swinburn - 1851

Esther’s twin, Thomas (who had been living with his maternal grandparents in 1841) by 1851 was also in service in Pickering – working on a farm at the tender age of 12

Michael Fletcher Swinburn - 1851

Michael Fletcher Swinburn (aged 9) was living with his maternal grandparents in Rosedale. The original census record is very faint and difficult to make out but this is what it reads:

Birth of Alfred Swinburn - 14th January 1859

The birth certificate of Alfred Swinburn resolves the issue of his parentage. He was born at home in Abbey’s Yard (the same address as on the 1861 census) and only the mother’s name, Esther Swinburn, appears on the certificate.

Ann Swinburn & family - 1861 Census

The 1861 census has Ann as head of a large household in the city of Scarborough. Robert, George and Hannah are still at home and also here is Mary Ann - now married to William Hardas.

Ann had got her life together now - 13 years after her husband’s death. She is no longer listed as a Pauper but was working as a dressmaker and living in a bustling street in the heart of Scarborough. She also had a lodger, George Jackson, and doubtless her son-in-law William Hardas was also contributing to the family finances.

Here now too is our direct ancestor, Alfred Swinburn (aged 2) recorded as ‘son’ to the head of household, Ann. But this does not fit with the information supplied to me by a member of the family that Alfred Swinburn’s mother was called Esther. In fact it seems highly unlikely that the two youngest children Alfred and William - both named Swinburn on this record - are truly Ann’s sons.

Ann's age is given on this form as 48 and so she would have been 46 at the time Alfred was born in 1859. She had, in any case, been widowed for 11 years since 1848. Moreover Ann’s second child was called Esther and she would have been quite old enough to have had a child.

It thus seems likely that there is an error on this census record, which gives Alfred as Ann’s son. In fact, Alfred is the illegitimate son of the unmarried Esther Swinburn as his birth certificate confirms (see below).

The positioning on the census record would seem to suggest that baby William is the child of William and Mary Ann - in which case his name should be Hardas not Swinburn. This seems like another error by the census enumerator as the birth of a William Hardas is recorded in Scarborough in March of 1861.

Esther Swinburn - 1861

But where is Esther in 1861? Here she is in service! She has left her son in the care of his grandmother while she works to provide the money to support him. I wonder whether her employers knew about Alfred?

Michael Fletcher Swinburn - 1861

Michael’s location in 1861 sheds some further light on family relationships. He was living and working with his half brother in Pickering.

If James is truly half brother to Michael, that suggests that Ann may have had an illigitimate son before her marriage to Michael Swinburn in 1834. James would have been born in 1830 when Ann was 18 years old. His place of birth - Rosedale - fits with this, as that is where Ann came from.

Indeed Family Search has him, Christened on 17th January 1830 with only the mother’s name given.

Ann and Alfred Swinburn - c1865

In spite of the initial poverty she suffered after the death of her husband in 1848, Ann became a comfortably off, Victorian matriarch, as shown in this photograph. The exact date is not known but Alfred seems to be around 6 years old.

Alfred was the illegitimate child of Ann's daughter Esther Swinburn and was the protégé of his grandmother. Ann’s own history - she had been an unmarried mother herself (see above) - may go some way to explaining her response to Esther’s pregnancy and her subsequent devotion to Alfred.

I have only a photocopy of this photograph and would very much like to see the original again if anyone knows who has it.

Ann Swinburn + Alfred - 1871 Census

In 1871 Ann was still in Scarborough - living with her youngest daughter, Hannah and also Alfred, who is now correctly designated as her Grandson

Ann's other children now have independent lives. Although I have some information about these, it will not be included here so that the rest of the story can focus on the lives of Ann, Esther and Alfred, our direct ancestors.

Esther Swinburn - 1871

I cannot find Esther Swinburn in the 1871 Census when she would have been around 32 years of age. However, it is probably safe to assume that she was in service somewhere and she does show up again in the 1881 Census in service in another household in Scarborough.

Alfred Swinburn - 1872

In 1872 Alfred Swinburn, a thirteen-year-old pupil at King Street Academy in Scarborough wrote a letter to his grandmother:

King Street Academy

Scarborough June 8th 1872

Dear Grandmother,

One of my greatest pleasures is to apply diligently to my Studies and another to look forward to the period of appearing before you to give an account of my conduct and to produce the fruits of my Scholastic labours. This period is just at hand for our Vacation will take place on Thursday the 10th Instant. Fully conscious of your great kindness to me I have endeavoured to pay it by strict attention to my duties, of which I expect my improvement will be proof. Mr and Mrs Whitfield desire to be kindly remembered to you.

With duty to yourself and best love to Uncle and Aunt,

I remain dear Grandmother,

Your dutiful Grandson,

Alfred Swinburn

                                      N.B. The Duties of the School will be resumed D.V. on Tuesday July 23rd 1872

Whilst the immaculate handwriting is doubtless Alfred’s I doubt that he composed the text. To me this reads like a standard letter dictated to the boys for them to take home to their families at the end of term.

Alfred Swinburn - c1872

The photograph shows Alfred at around the same date as he wrote the letter.

I have only a photocopy of this photograph and document and would very much like to see the original again if anyone knows who has it.

Ann Swinburn + Alfred - 1881 Census

In 1881 Ann was living at 42, Victoria Street - a few doors away from 47 where the family lived in 1871.

Her daughter, Mary Ann had returned home - perhaps to care for her elderly mother – and she seems to have returned to using her maiden name, Swinburn.

Grandson, Alfred, was still here too, aged 22 and a Cabinet Maker.

There were also 3 lodgers (this time called ‘Boarders’ by the census enumerator): the elderly Rachael Thompson and two other women working in the dressmaking trade; Alice Lockhart, a dressmaker and a young machinist Laura Ingram.


Esther Swinburn - 1881

In the 1881 census Alfred’s mother, Esther, shows up again. (I could not find any record of her in 1871.)

She was still working in service in Scarborough - now as domestic servant to the elderly Robert Fenwick - where she would remain for at least the next 10 years.

Death of Ann Swinburn - 28th May 1885

Ann Swinburn died on 28th May 1885. Her age on the DC is given as 73 but as she was born in 1910 was actually 75. She had survived her husband by 37 years.

 The cause of death is give as cerebral apoplexy (ie a stroke), which Ann had suffered 10 months previously. The address - 42 Prospect Road - is very close to Victoria Street where Ann was living in 1881. Edward Heselton, husband of Ann's daughter Hannah, registered the death.


Ann Swinburn Biography     1810-1885

Ann was born Ann Fletcher on 22nd January 1810 in Rosedale, Yorkshire. She was the daughter of Robert Fletcher, an agricultural labourer, and his wife Hannah.

 When Ann was around 20 years of age (c1830) she had an illegitimate son, James Fletcher, Christened in Rosedale on 17th January 1830.

On 9th July 1834 Ann married Michael Swinburn, a plumber and glazier, in Pickering, Yorkshire. The couple had nine children, including 3 sets of twins. Some women do have a tendency to release multiple eggs during ovulation and this seems to have been true of Ann. The first two children, John and Mary Ann, were born before the start of Civil Registrations so there are no official birth certificates for them but there is information about all the Christenings in the Family Search data available from The Church of the Latter Day Saints:

¨   John - Christened on 7th December 1834 in Pickering – does not seem to have survived until the 1841 census

¨   Mary Ann - Christened on 18th February 1837 in Pickering

¨   Esther & Thomas – born 31st March 1839 at 11pm at Under Hill, Glaisdale and Christened on 1st April 1839

¨   Michael Fletcher - Christened on 17th April 1942 in Glaisdale

¨   Robert John & Sarah Jane – Christened on 29th March 1846 in Pickering – Sarah Jane died in December 1846.

¨   George & Hannah – Christened on 29th August 1848 in Pickering.

The family originally lived in the village of Glaisdale and remained there for some years, moving to the centre of the town of Pickering (Cattle Market) sometime before 1846.

On 19th November 1848, only a few months after the birth of the youngest twins, Ann’s husband, Michael, died suddenly – found strangled accidentally. This left Ann a pauper with seven children. Her life must have been very hard for many years although she eventually mastered her situation and became matriarch to the considerable Swinburn clan.

By 1861 Ann was head of a large household in Scarborough (Abbey’s Yard, St Nicholas Street) working as a dressmaker. Amongst others living with her was her grandson Alfred (2), the illegitimate child of Esther. Ann brought Alfred up as her own child and protégé sending him to the prestigious King’s Street Academy. Perhaps some of the attention she lavished on him was to assuage her guilt for not being able to bring up three of her own sons, James Fletcher and Thomas and Michael Swinburn.

Ann remained in Scarborough until her death living in Victoria Street in 1871 and 1881 and dying 10 months after suffering a stroke in the nearby Prospect Road (perhaps the home of her daughter Mary Ann) on 28 May 1885. Her daughter’s husband, Edward Hanson, who was in attendance, registered her death.

There is one photograph of Ann, probably in her late 50s, sitting beside her treasured grandson Alfred (see above).

Marriage of Alfred Swinburn and Annie Brown - 1885

A few months after Ann's death her grandson and protégé, Alfred, was married to Annie Brown - for her ancestry see the Brown Line.

The marriage of Alfred Swinburn to Annie Brown is registered in Scarborough in September 1885

Note that Alfred has invented a father!!!

Edward Heselton (husband to Alfred's sister, Hannah) signed the register as a witness, along with Matilda Brown, Annie’s sister.

The photograph shows Alfred and Annie - it is undated.

I have only a photocopy of this photograph and document and would very much like to see the original again if anyone knows who has it.

Alfred & Annie Swinburn - 1891 Census

By 1891 Alfred and Annie had started a family and moved from Scarborough to Alvaston in Derbyshire to be near Annie’s family. The move had been fairly recent though, as all the children to date had been born in Scarborough. Their three children were Samuel George, born in 1886, Alfred Victor (Fred), born in 1887, and Margaret Ann, born in 1889.

Esther Swinburn - 1891 Census

In 1891 Alfred’s mother Esther was still in the service of the elderly Robert Fenwick - now aged 81.

The photograph shows Esther Swinburn at around this time - exact date not known.

Esther Fanny Swinburn - 1891-1892

Alfred and Annie’s fourth child Esther Fanny had a very short life. She was born 15th April 1891 and died 8th December 1892 – a sad tragedy for the family.

Birth of Tom Swinburn - Sunday 22nd July 1894

Our direct line ancestor, Tom Swinburn, the fifth child to Albert and Annie, was born on 22nd July 1894 at 2, Alexander Street, Boulton, Derby. His mother registered the birth some time later on 18th September 1894

For full details and birth certificate and the continuation of the family history see the separate section Tom's Story.


Summary of the lives of the Swinburn Family throughout the Nineteenth century – highlight shows the direct line ancestors

The earliest Swinburn ancestor is Michael Swinburn, born around 1811 in Yorkshire. As he died before the 1851 census (which had details of place of birth) and as no record of his birth can be found the exact place of his birth is not known.

However on 9 July 1834 he married Ann Fletcher in Pickering, Yorkshire. Ann was the daughter of Robert and Hannah Fletcher and she was born in Rosedale, Yorkshire on 22 January 1810.

In 1841 Michael & Ann were to be found living in the village of Glaisdale, Yorkshire with 2 children, Mary Ann (b 1837) and Esther (b.1839). Ann had born two children before Mary Ann:

¨   James Fletcher - born in 1830 to an unmarried Ann before her marriage to Michael Swinburn - I have not followed him up in this chronology

¨   John Swinburn – born 1834 - who seems to have died in the first few years of life

On 19 November 1848 Michael died leaving Ann a pauper living in Pickering, Yorkshire where the births of most of their children are registered. Ann later moved to Scarborough where she worked as a dressmaker and lived until her death on 28 May 1885.

The Nineteenth Century lives of the children of Michael & Ann can be summarised as follows:

¨   Mary Ann – born 1837 - working in service in Pickering by the age of 15 – married in March 1860 to William Hardas – gave birth to a son in March 1861, also William Hardas, who died in March 1862 – by 1871 widowed and in service again in Kent – in 1881 living back with her mother in Scarborough ­– married again in September 1884 to William Snow Whelpton and living with him in Scarborough at the turn of the century.

¨   Thomas - twin to Esther, born June 1839 – living in Rosedale with maternal grandparents, Robert and Hannah Fletcher, in 1841 - working as a farm servant in Pickering in 1851 at the age of only 12 – no sign of him thereafter.

¨   Esther – twin to Thomas, born June 1839  – gave birth on 14th January 1859 to an illegitimate son, Alfred, who would be brought up by his grandmother, Ann – working in service in various households in Scarborough from 1861 until the turn of the century.

¨   Michael - born 1842 - in 1851 living with maternal grandparents, Robert and Hannah Fletcher in Rosedale, Yorkshire – in 1861 living with his half brother, James Fletcher, in Pickering, working as a wheelwright – married in September 1868 to Sarah Jane Atkinson – lived with his wife and 5 children in Sheffield, working as a joiner and carpenter until the turn of the century.

¨   Sarah Jane - twin to Robert John, born March 1846 - died before her first birthday.

¨   Robert ­John – twin to Sarah Jane, born March 1846 - living at home with his mother in 1851 and 1861 when he was a moulder in iron aged 15 ­ – no evidence of him after 1861.

¨   George  - twin to Hannah, born September 1848 - living with an aunt in Darlington in 1871 ­– married in September 1872 to Emily Hansom with whom he was to have 9 children – lived in Richmond, working as a mason until the turn of the century.

¨   Hannah - twin to George, born 1848 – unmarried in 1871 and living with her mother working as a dressmaker - married in September 1873 to Edward Heselton – lived with Edward and their 6 children in Scarborough until the turn of the century.

Alfred Swinburn, son to Esther, grandson to Michael and Ann, was born on 14th January 1859. He lived with his grandmother, Ann, until her death in 1885 and was a pupil at King’s Street Academy, Scarborough later becoming a cabinet maker. In September 1885 he married Annie Brown in Scarborough – a marriage witnessed by Edward Heselton (his brother in law) and Matilda Brown (Annie’s sister). By 1891 Alfred and family had moved to Alveston in Derby where they had 7 children, one of whom died in infancy. They continued to live in Alveston until the turn of the century.

Tom Swinburn was the sixth child of Alfred and Annie, born on 22nd July 1894.