Mitchell Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Mitchell Meaning
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.

Mitchell Resources on

Mitchell Ancestry

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
Mitchell was rewarded in 1489 for holding Dumbarton castle.  And
Mitchells became landowners in Ayrshire and Stirlingshire.

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

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  Early
sightings of the name, in Elizabethan 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:

  • the Mitchells of Sligo can be
    traced to Hugh O’Maoilmhichil (Owen Mitchell) in the late 17th
  • another Mitchell line there has been traced to Barnabrach farm
    in Sligo

Other Mitchells in Ireland were of Scots

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

Dr. Abraham
, 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
death in the late 1890’s, leaving his wife with eight young children to
on her own.  She leased out the land to another farmer and in 1913
had the
apartment building that now houses Mitchell’s 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.

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
, 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

What happened next might have come from
Shakespeare’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.

Sir Thomas
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
    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.


Select Mitchell Miscellany

Mitchells of Craigend.  Of the Strirlingshire family of Mitchell of Craigend, John, who died in
1711, left a son Alexander who was recorded arms in 1719 as “Mitchell
of Mitchell.”  His son by the heiress of Livingstone of Parkhall
took her name and followed in her inheritance.

But John Mitchell of Craigend had a son Thomas, born in 1792, who was
educated at Edinburgh University. The poverty of this family after his
father’s death led him to join the Army in 1811.  They sent him to
Australia.  He gained distinction there as a surveyor and explorer
and was knighted for his services in 1839.

The Sentencing and Execution of Anthony Mitchell in Halifax.  “By the ancient custom and liberty of Halifax, the said Anthony Mitchell and
Abraham Wilkinson are to suffer death by having their heads severed and
cut from their bodies at Halifax Gibbet.

April 13, 1650.”

After this, the said Anthony Mitchell and Abraham Wilkinson were on the same
day conducted to the gibbet and there executed in the usual form.
Their executions were the last to occur on the Halifax engine. Whatever
the reason, the gibbet engine was allowed to rot where it stood, on the
scaffold of Gibbet Lane, upon the stone dressed platform and stone
steps where so many had lost their heads.

Owen Mitchell in Ireland.  Hugh O’Maoilmhichil (Owen Mitchell) had, like his ancestors, managed
cattle herds for the O’Donnells and served as a leader in the local
O’Donnell militia.  He was also related to the O’Donnells through
marriage. Owen’s ancestors had acquired land for their services.
But this land was confiscated by the English.

Owen had six sons and several daughters.  They left Ulster for
Connacht.  Their slogan was “onward to Connacht or hell,” because
the land in Connacht was rocky and not good.

Reader Feedback – Mitchells from Barnabrach Farm in Sligo.  Our Mitchells
go back to the twins John and Jane Mitchell who were living, by 1800 at least,
at Barnabrach farm near Beltra P.O. north of Sligo town in county

Mitchell married about 1820 to John Black
of the nearby Larkhill farm.  One baby Mary Black was buried in
the nearby
Church of Ireland.  The Blacks were Protestants and were said to
come from
Scotland about 1792 to work training the horses at Larkhill.

Mitchells were still at Barnabrach in
1962.  Jane Mitchell and John Black had emigrated to Washington
town in Litchfield county, Connecticut
in 1849 with their nine children.

Norma Jane Gilbertson (

Mitchells in Maryland.  The Mitchells of Cecil County were of Scotch-Irish extraction and were the
descendants of Dr. Abraham Mitchell, a celebrated physician who had
settled at or near the head of Elk some time prior to 1767.
Little was known of his early history except that he was a cousin of
the Rev. Alexander Mitchell, a Presbyterian minister.

Mitchell was about 25 years of age when he came to this country.
There was a tradition in the family that, having completed his medical
studies, his father presented him with a horse, saddle and saddle bags,
and $500 in cash, and he started out to seek a favorable location to
practice his location.  He lost the money; but, being of robust
constitution and possessed of great energy, he set out to repair the

A Mitchell Medley of Songs.  To the tune of Battle Hymn of the

“In England, Wales, and Scotland, and the
Emerald Isle as well,
In USA and Canada, in city, plain, and dell,
Where English tongue is spoken – that is where the Mitchells dwell.
The clan goes marching on!

Glory to the name of Mitchell!
Glory to the tribe of Mitchell!
Sapiens asideus!
The clan goes marching on!”

To the tune of Annie Laurie:

“Christopher, Dave, and Sir Andrew
Were fathers of our clan;
Andrew was the King’s Scotch chaplain;
Nathan was a minute man;
David was a Governor;
Many Mitchells died at sea;
Stephen was US Chief Justice
Mitchells, they were proud to be!”

Dorothea Mitchell, Lady Lumberjack.  Born in England in 1877, Dorothea Mitchell is one of
Canada’s least known, but significant early 20th century
women.  In 1904, realizing her limited options in England,
Mitchell immigrated to Canada – influenced by the promises made by the
Canadian government for free land and a better life awaiting.

In 1910 Dorothea was running a general store in Silver Mountain,
Ontario.  She soon found that her store was not very profitable as
most patrons bartered for goods.  The most common currency was
lumber and Dorothea consequently purchased a sawmill, hired some
workers, and became known as the “lady lumberjack.”

On receiving news that her mother, sister, and “an old family retainer”
were coming to Canada, Mitchell took the unprecedented step of
petitioning the Ontario government for land under the Homestead
Act.  After a year of frustration and lies and deceit on the part
of the Ministry of Lands and Forests, Mitchell was finally granted a
homestead.  However, while men were typically granted 160 acres,
Mitchell received only 79.

The Deputy Minister wrote: “While the Department has located you under
the Free Grant and Homestead Act for R 140, it is not strictly in
accordance with the Act.  Not being a married woman you are not
strictly entitled to a free grant.”


Mitchell Names

  • 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 Mitchell Numbers 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)




Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply