Mitchell


Select Mitchell Surname Genealogy

The root of Mitchell is the Christian name Michael, of Hebrew origin (meaning "with the likeness of God"). Medieval clerks would inscribe Michael in its learned Latinate form.  But its early pronunciation appears to have been Michel, in the French style. 

The "t" was introduced into the spelling to signify that "ch" was a hard sound "tch," rather than the soft "sh" French pronunciation.  This hard "tch" was particularly prevalent in Scotland.  

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Scotland.  It was said that a Mitchell family from Mitcham in Surrey brought the Mitchell name to Scotland. The Mitchell name took root there and evolved in many parts of the country.  It appeared in 1354 on the Treaty of Berwick.  A John Mitchell was rewarded in 1489 for holding Dumbarton castle.  And Mitchells became landowners in Ayrshire and Stirlingshire. 

The largest numbers of Mitchells were later to be found in the northeast of Scotland, in Angus and Aberdeenshire where the diminutive Mitchie name was also to be found. 

Some of these Mitchells left the area in the 19th century to join the British army or to emigrate.   But many stayed.  One third of the Scottish Mitchells were to be found in this part of Scotland at the end of the 19th century.  A Mitchell family in Letham, Angus has been producing quality Scottish-raised chickens since 1904. 

England.  While the Mitchell name may have originated in Surrey, there was a larger concentration in the north of England, particularly in Yorkshire. 

Yorkshire  Early sightings of the name, in Elzabethan times, were to be found in and around Halifax in the West Ridings.  Nonconformist Mitchells from this area were among the early emigrants to America.  There was the rather gruesome story of Anthony Mitchell being beheaded on the Halifax gibbet in 1650 for the crime of horse theft.  In the 1840's, William Mitchell started Mitchell's brewery in Pontefract.

SW England  There were also Mitchells in the southwest of England from early times.  The Devon Rawkerayne family dates from about 1410.  Later Mitchell families were to be found at Colyton, Gittisham, and Plymstock.  Philip Mitchell was a local 19th century landscape painter of the area.

Ireland.  In Ireland, the surname Mitchell derived in its anglicized form from the Gaelic Ui'Mhaoilmhichil, meaning followers of St. Michael the Archangel:
Other Mitchells in Ireland were of Scots descent. 

America.  Experience Mitchell was one of the early New England settlers, arriving on the Anne in 1623 and later settling in Duxbury.

Dr. Abraham Mitchell, of Scots-Irish extraction, was the forebear of the Mitchell family of Cecil County, Maryland.  Their home, originally built in 1764, is being restored to its original condition by the Elk Creeks Preservation Society.

The name of Elisha Mitchell, an early university professor, has been remembered with some affection in North Carolina.  Dr. Mitchell was the first scientist to argue that the peak in the Black Mountains was the highest point in the United States east of the Mississippi.  In 1857 he fell to his death on a waterfall on the side of this mountain.  The mountain was subsequently named Mount Mitchell in his honor.

Heading West.  Mitchell pioneers who headed inland included James Mitchell to Cole County, Tennessee in the 1830's and William Mitchell to Dade County, Missouri in the 1840's.   Asa and Eli Mitchell were early settlers and soldiers during the Texas Revolution.

Alexander Mitchell from Aberdeen in Scotland immigrated to America in 1839.  He pursued a career of banking in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and ended up as one of the wealthiest men in the state.   Mitchell Park in Milwaukee is named after him.  His son John Mitchell became the US senator for Wisconsin and his grandson General Billy Mitchell is considered the father of the US Air Force. 

San Francisco.  A Mitchell family moved to San Francisco from New York in 1865 and started a small dairy farm in the hills above what is now Noe Valley. Edward Mitchell ran the farm until his untimely death in the late 1890ís, leaving his wife with eight young children to raise on her own.  She leased out the land to another farmer and in 1913 had the apartment building that now houses Mitchellís Ice Cream built on the corner of 29th Street and San Jose Avenue.  It was in 1952 that two Mitchell brothers Jack and Larry turned this space into their famed ice cream parlor. 

John Mitchell had arrived in San Francisco from Illinois also around 1865.  His son Edward was one of the earliest and one of the most prolific postcard publishers in the United States during the golden age of postcards at the turn of the century
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Canada.  Most Mitchell immigrants were of Scots or Scots-Irish origin.  Allen Mitchell, for instance, came from county Armagh on the Miltiades in 1846 and settled in Maryborough township, Ontario.  William and Catherine Mitchell from county Cavan farmed in Quebec near Ottawa.  Their sons later homesteaded in Saskatchewan.  Another Mitchell family from Dublin ended up in Victoria, British Columbia.  And Dorothea Mitchell, of Anglo-Indian roots, achieved some local fame in the early 20th century as a lady lumberjack.   

Mitchells in Saskatchewan  It was a Mendel not a Mitchell family that started a meat packing business in Saskatoon in 1940.  However, this business was rebranded Mitchell's Gourmet Foods in 1970 when Fred Mendel's daughter, Johanna Mitchell, became President. 

What happened next might have come from Shekespeare's King Lear.  Her son Fred battled and won control from an alliance involving his mother, a brother and sister.  Complicating the matter was Fred's marriage to a former local beauty queen.  Never accepted by members of the Mitchell family, LuAnn Mitchell nevertheless managed to take over the company following her husband's death.       

Australia.  Sir Thomas Mitchell from Craigend in Stirlingshire was the surveyor who made four expeditions into the unknown interior of Australia in its early years.   David Mitchell arrived from Forfar in 1852 and made his name in the construction of many of the public buildings in Melbourne.  His daughter Helen Mitchell is better known as the Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba.

New Zealand.  Among the Mitchells who came to New Zealand were:
  • John Mitchell, who came with the British army in 1845 and ended up settling there
  • Janet, John, and Elizabeth Mitchell who came from Dumfries on the Scottish borders in the 1860's
  • and Henry Mitchell from Yorkshire who founded Mitchelltown, a suburb of Wellington.  He had built small cottages there for workers in the 1870's.
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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


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Sir Thomas Mitchell was a Scots surveyor and explorer in Australia in its early years, after whom a number of places in Australia are named.
John Mitchel, the son of a Scots Presbyterian minister in Ireland, became a strident activist for Irish nationalism in the 1850's and 1860's.
Helen Mitchell is better known as the Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba.
General Billy Mitchell is considered the father of the US Air Force.
Joni Mitchell is the Canadian-born folk singer.
George Mitchell is considered the father of the US fracking industry.  He was the grandson of Greek immigrants who had adopted the Mitchell name.

Select Mitchells Today
  • 121,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 134,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 79,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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