The Anderson family history: Northumberland & County Mayo

Northumberland, England

Barrow Mill viewed from Barrow

Matthew Anderson (1784-1857) had been born into a family of millers living at Barrow Mill, Alwinton in Upper Coquetdale in Northumberland.

Undated photograph courtesy Helen Tait

There is a story written by Matthew’s great-great grand daughter in the 1920s saying:

“[His] mother was a frivolous and extravagant woman who destroyed her husband by causing him to lose his fortune.  Because of this Matthew, still a young boy, was forced to become a shepherd …..  He became very frugal, painfully so and he soon earned enough money to begin farming on his own.   Soon he married Jane Wanless and brought up a family to whom he gave the best education possible at that time ….four sons John, Ephraim, George and Archibald.  In 1852 these four came to Ireland with their father, and settled in the west of County Mayo.”

Jane Wanless’s father Archibald c1760-1815, a shepherd was born at Auchope near Kirk Yetholm, Scotland within 2 kilometres of the border with England. His daughter Jane was born at Barrow about 15 kilometres south of Auchope and in sight of Barrow Mill where Matthew Anderson was born. The three images below show:

  • Auchope in its setting, the house is a Victorian shooting lodge
  • the single storey part of Auchope probably existed when the Wanless family lived there,  so is likely to have been where Archibald Wanless was born, and
  • the third is of Barrow, as seen from Barrow Mill

Matthew Anderson and Jane Wanless

Matthew Anderson and Jane Wanless were married on 28 June 1810 at Alwinton and their eldest son John (Arthur Oram’s father-in-law) was baptised in 1811 away from  Coquetdale at Birdhope near Otterburn.

Looking east down Coquetdale valley over Barrownburn. Lounges Knowe is in the trees on the left

Archibald b1815, Margaret b1817 and Ephraim b1819 were all born  at Lounges Knowe on the northern side of Upper Coquetdale valley above Barrowburn.  The baptismal records give their father Matthew as a shepherd. In 2018 there were just the foundation stones remaining but luckily old photographs have survived.

Lounges Knowe is on the far left had side above the picnic party and  just visible behind the wall leading down to Barrowburn Farm. Photo taken before the stone schoolhouse was built. Courtesy Helen Tait.

In 1879 a stone schoolhouse, now Barrowburn Camping Barn and a wooden schoolmaster’s house, now a holiday let were built close to the Anderson’s old home.

Looking down on Lounges Knowe and the wooden schoolmaster’s house probably in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Courtesy Helen Tait.
Lounges Knowe including the schoolhouse on the right. Courtesy Helen Tait.
Carshope 2006

Matthew then moved further up the valley to Carshope where George b1823 and Jane b1829 were born.  This may have given the family a better house to live in but due to a cobalt deficiency in the soil shepherds always struggled to make a living there [i].  Locally they were known as the “Muckle Andersons”.

A General Gazetteer dated 1815
“Matthew Anderson his book Carshope March 30th 1826”

Matthew’s wife Jane died in 1840 and the next year during the 1841 census most of the family were living at Carlecroft, higher up and on the opposite side of the valley.

Carlecroft 2006

Ten years later, in 1851 the majority of the family had dispersed into the local area:

  • Matthew was living with the Bolams at Bickerton; Matthew had been with George Bolam in the 1841 census.
Silloans. Courtesy Helen Tait
  • John, as in 1841, was at Silloans, a farm of about 3,000 acres near Birdhopecraig, with his Uncle Ephraim.  Silloans had been owned by Ephraim’s wife’s family and in his will Ephraim left his portion to John Bolam, his wife’s nephew. John Anderson was soon to marry Margaret Stokoe, daughter of a shepherd.
  • Archibald had married Jane Patterson and become a cattle salesman in Westgate, Newcastle.
  • Ephraim had married his cousin Mary Ann Anderson  in the Rothbury registration district during the last quarter of 1843. By the 1851 census they had five children and were farming 122 acres at Little Harle.
  • George had married Catherine Lamb and was farming 380 acres at Old Town, Troughend.
  • Margaret & Jane were “daughters to head of household” (ie Matthew) at Carlecroft with James Cowan(s).  Jane and James were married at an unknown place and date.

Marriage of John Anderson and Margaret Stokoe

Margaret Anderson nee Stokoe

Before the family moved to Ireland John Anderson, on 30 April 1853 married Margaret Stokoe b1828, a shepherd’s daughter at Birdhopecraig Chapel to the west of Otterburn. In the 1851 census Margaret Stokoe’s parents lived at Bellshieldburnfoot while Margaret was working at Silloans where John Anderson lived.

County Mayo, Ireland

Within a few years of the 1851 census Matthew Anderson and most of his family moved to County Mayo with James Cowan(s).  By then Matthew’s daughter Jane had married James Cowan(s).

Matthew and his offspring John and Margaret

John Anderson

Griffiths shows that Matthew & John occupied 284 acres of land, a house, an office, and two cottages at Barnagreggan, Parish of Mayo, rented from Geoffrey Martin,  and sublet a further 7 other holdings of land and houses.

The house at Barnagreggan was called Brize (or Brees) House. There Matthew lived with his son John and daughter-in-law Margaret nee Stokoe.  Matthew’s daughter Margaret lived in County Mayo later in her life so she too may have lived at Brize House.

Brize House, also known as Brees House

John and Margaret’s six daughters were born at at Brize House:

  • Catherine 1854-1920 married Arthur Oram 1853-1919 in 1881 and lived at Wilford Lodge for the rest of their lives
  • Jane 1855-c1910 married Andrew Dowie Hardie 1849-1923 and was farming in Iowa, USA by 1887. Jane was usually referred to as ‘Mrs Hardie’.
  • Isabella “Bella”1858- married Robert Dick ?-1887 in 1884 and lived at Mullaun near Newport for the rest of her life.
  • Mary 1859-1943 lived at Knockroe in 1887 then in the early 1930’s moved to Mosney, Co Meath.  In 1898 Mary married her cousin James Cowan 1856-1936 who was the son James Cowan and Mary’s aunt Jane Anderson.
  • Margaret “Maggie” 1861-after 1945 lived at Knockroe in 1887 and also spent part of the year in Edinburgh. Between 1933-c1944 Maggie lived at Mosney and in Edinburgh. Maggie probably died in Edinburgh after her friend Jo Weddell nee Hunter died there in 1945.
  • Anne “Annie” b1862-after 1945? lived at Knockroe in 1887.  Annie may have also spent time in Edinburgh with Maggie.  Annie moved to Mosney in 1933.  Annie does not feature in many photographs so it is difficult to know when she died as she may have been the photographer.

Deaths of Matthew and John Anderson and the move to Knockroe

Matthew died at Brize House in 1867 and his son John died in 1874 when he was living at “Mayo Cottage”, Knockroe about 2Km south of Mayo Abbey .

As James Cowan(s) ‘senior’, see below had moved back to England by the 1871 census he may have left his eldest son James Cowan ‘junior’ to work for John Anderson.  John Anderson died when James Cowan ‘junior’ was about 19 years old.  No doubt James took over running the farm and the responsibility of maintaining a home for John’s sister, widow and unmarried daughters. By 1887 John’s widow Margaret, his sister Margaret, three unmarried daughters and James Cowan junior had moved within the townland to “Knockroe House”.

If this is what happened then it could explain the marriage of James Cowan ‘junior’ and his cousin Mary Anderson very soon after the death of Mary’s aunt Margaret Anderson. Marriage would be an easy way of transferring property from the Anderson sisters to their cousin James Cowan.

Note and source:

Patrick Butler has kindly shared the information that “Mayo Cottage” was enlarged in the 1940s and is now called “Ivy Cottage”.

Ephraim and George:

Ephraim and George are mentioned in Griffiths as renting at least 1,000 acres of land in Tagheen, County Mayo from Patrick Crean-Lynch.

According to a very distant family source, a descendant of herdsman John Young, Ephraim and George were described as “Northumberland gentlemen” and that “it was highly likely that John Young was recruited by the Andersons, recognising him as a typically reliable Northumbrian Presbyterian herd”.

Ephraim Anderson

Ephraim and Mary Ann move into Hollybrook House, Boleybeg and lived there for the rest of their lives. In Arthur Oram’s diaries there are very brief references when he met Ephraim and Mary Ann’s six offspring:

  • Matthew b1843
  • Elizabeth b1845 married Thomas Honeyman “a Revenue man”
  • Jane b1847 married Joseph Robinson who farmed in North Northumberland
  • Robert b1848 who may have married Mary Bole
  • Mary b1850 who married John Rochester
  • John, born in Co Mayo c.1860.   John, in the 1901 & 1911 Irish censuses was living at Hollybrook House with his wife Clara.  They had no offspring.
George Anderson

George married Catherine Lamb, as shown in the record of Elizabeth Anderson’s birth 6 Feb 1865 in Claremorris.

It is thought that George and his wife Catherine lived at Hollybrook House before emigrating to West Virginia, USA.   The 1880 US census shows that George and Catherine were living with seven offspring all of whom had been born in Ireland between 1855 and 1866. The 1900 US census gives the year of their arrival in the USA as 1874.


There is no evidence that Archibald went to Ireland with his father, though various family sources suggest that he was in County Mayo for a while.  There was an Archibald Anderson, cattle salesman living in Westgate, Newcastle for the 1851, 61 & 71 census returns with wife Jane Anderson and their son Mathew Thomas.  Matthew was born on 17 September 1850 and on his birth certificate Jane’s maiden name is given as Patterson.  In 2013 there is no sign of them in 1881 & 91 census returns.

Family sources suggest Archibald was at Three Mile Bridge, close to Westgate so, although no record of Archibald and Jane’s marriage had been found by November 2013, it is highly likely that this Archibald was one of the brothers.

On 29 Aug 1893 Arthur Oram received a “telegram announcing death of Archibald Anderson” and attended the funeral at Hollybrook on 31 Aug but does not specify the graveyard.  This is the only mention of an Archibald Anderson in Arthur Oram’s diaries.  It is not known if he was living at Hollybrook or just visiting.

 Jane Anderson and the Cowan family

Jane Anderson 1829-? married James Cowan or Cowans  1827-1907 who was at Carlecroft, the Anderson’s home in Northumberland for 1851 census.  There are no James Cowan(s)s in Griffiths so we do not know where they lived but the birth of James in County Mayo in 1856 does back up the family story that James Cowan(s) moved to County Mayo with the Anderson family.

By the 1871 census James, a shepherd and Jane had returned to Northumberland with Matthew, Jane, Eleanor, John and Hector though some of the given places of birth are at odds to the entries in the national register of births.  James and Jane could be the couple who appear in the 1901 census returns in Northumberland when their dates and places of birth are correct and James gives his occupation as ‘retired coal miner’.

James & Jane Cowan’s six children:

  • James who was born in Co Mayo in 1856 (Irish census).  To confuse matters James married John and Margaret Anderson’s daughter Mary b1859  in early 1898.  No offspring.  At the time Arthur Oram’s diaries start in 1887 James lived at Knockroe.
  • Mathew born c1861, Co Mayo (1871 census), who went to Canada.
  • Jane, born in Westport, Co Mayo c1863 (1871 census), married John W Rotherford (Rutherford in Arthur Oram’s diaries) farmer in Northumberland.
John & Jane Rotherford’s children
  • Eleanor who was born in Ireland in 1865 (UK census), married Tony Oliver and lived in Northumberland.  All their offspring emigrated to North America.
  • John was born on 11 September 1866 in Claremorris, Mayo.  Knockroe is close to Claremorris. John  later went to Idaho.
  • Hector who also went to Idaho was born on 5 June 1869  in Church Hill, Donegal.


Census and birth, marriage and death references and details from


MOD’s book “‘Then & Now’ A snapshot of Otterburn Training Area”. No ISBN.

Back to main Anderson page

12 Responses to The Anderson family history: Northumberland & County Mayo

  1. Bob Anderson says:

    I stumbled across this. I think maybe I am Ephraim and Mary Ann Anderson’s great-great-grandson. My great Grandfather was a Matthew Anderson, born 1843 at Shuttleheugh, Northumberland England.
    We believe the family moved to County Mayo at some point and Matthew came to the U.S. as a young man, bought a farm in Virginia (that I still own), Married a Scot named Joan Cunningham and had three children, Ephraim, Robert(my grandfather) and Grace – all born in the 1880s.
    Is it possible it’s the same family?

    • Carolyn says:

      Yes distant cousin! In the UK and Irish records Matthew can only be traced as far as the 1851 census. I have found evidence that in 1874 Matthew’s uncle George Anderson and his family emigrated from Ireland to Wood, West Virginia. I wonder if Matthew went with them.

  2. Bob Anderson says:

    Yes, Matthew probably came with them. We have some West Virginia cousins that we lost contact with probably 50 years ago. Matthew did in fact buy the farm in Amelia county, Virginia in 1875 that I now own. Rather than talking here I’ll just use Yahoo so I can attach stuff.

  3. Jean Anderson Terrell says:

    I am Ephraim and Mary Ann Anderson’s great- great- granddaughter. As described by Bob Anderson (above) our great-grandfather was Matthew Anderson, born in 1843 in County Northumberland. My grandfather was Ephraim, born in Virginia in 1881, eldest son of Matthew.

    The earliest info I have is from a 1841 census –
    Carlcroft, Alwinton, (Town of Linbriggs, Parish of Allenton or Mivinton
    Archibald Anderson 26
    Ephraim ” 20
    George ” 15
    Marget ” 20
    Jane ” 11
    – all born in the county – no parent in the home at the time of the census

    I have information re: our branch and limited information about George’s family who settled in West Virgina.

    – am delighted to have you in the family!

    Many thanks!

    • Carolyn says:

      We are so pleased that you have found us and look forward to sharing, perhaps even developing a website?
      Chris and Carolyn

  4. Erin Sulivan says:

    Hello, I am another anderson family member trying to find my Andersons. I am interested to know who the Jane born 1829 was and who her parents were. I may be missing something but I did not see her link here. My ggg gransfather was a John Anderson born 1828/29 (probably) in Ireland as he enlisted 1848 in RIC in Derry. BUT I cannot find his birth or parents etc. As Jane is born around same time they are of same generation and may be related. I am thinking that the family maybe were in Ireland for a time but cant find them now. I only know his father was John and by 1853 was a PENSIONER. Maybe there is a link to your family?

    • Carolyn says:

      Hello Erin
      Jane Anderson born 1829 married James Cowan(s) at time and place unknown. They moved from Northumberland to Mayo with the Anderson family, then had a few children there before returning to Northumberland ca. 1870 for the rest of their lives. Most of descendants of the male Andersons mentioned in the website immigrated to the USA in the 1870s or returned to England.
      Thank you for contacting us and good luck with your search

  5. Maureen Howes says:

    Hello Everyone
    I am trying to trace Emily Wilding Davison the Militant Suffragettes Anderson ancestry. Both her Grandmothers were named Anderson and were first cousins her fathers mother Mary Davison nee Anderson was a gun maker in her own right in Alnwick and in Newcastle. She was the daughter of John Anderson 1754 -1827 born in Simonburn died in Morpeth. His second wife was a Mary Cowans. Her Maternal Grandmother was Elizabeth Caisley nee Anderson the daughter of Thomas Anderson born 1757 – 1830 -born in Simonburn and died 1830 Alnwick . The Grave next to Emily’s in Morpeth St Marys Churchyard is her Gt Uncle Ephraim Anderson a Revenue Officer. Her Gt Grandfathers John and Thomas parents were Thomas Anderson born about 1723 and Margaret Dinning of of Slaterfield Simonburn .
    Last week a statue was unveiled of Emily in Morpeth’s Carlisle Park. reading your letters I realised that there were many similar family names as Emilys Andersons.
    . Another brother of John and Thomas was Robert born Simonburn 1760 who was the Steward of Earl Grey the Prime Ministers estate at Fallodon Northumberland. If anyone can help me find out the origins of Emily the Suffragettes Andersons I would be delighted. Thank You in advance for any help with this. Maureen

    • Carolyn says:

      Hello Maureen
      Unfortunately we are not related to Emily Wilding Davidson despite having connections to Andersons and Cowans, two surnames that are common in Northumberland. Our Ephraim Andersons were farmers.

  6. Kevin Doyle says:

    My wife’s gt. gt. grandfather was the ‘herd,’ John Young , who had worked for the Andersons -George and Ephraim – at Hollybrook. He also became the sexton of the newly built Presbyterian church in Hollymount. He, his wife Mary Heneghan, and their children – John 1854, Margaret 1856 and Mary 1866 had lived in Parknakillew townland in the parish of Taugheen.
    When Mary Heneghan died in 1888 we lose sight of ‘herd’ John and have been unable to locate him. If you come across him – possibly in Northumberland or in a known Anderson location in the U.S. please get in touch. Neither do we know how he became associated with the Anderson family or even where he was born.
    Of his children John emigrated to Northumberland (and we know his story), Margaret
    exists only in a noted baptism – and Mary married an English butler, later emigrating to London.
    I have recently published a ‘fishing’ article in the December 2018 journal of the Durham and Northumberland Family History Society which gives some background to the lives of both families in the County Mayo of those times which may be of interest. I did so in the hope of receiving some answers to the questions posed above.
    If you would like a copy by Email let me know.

    • Carolyn says:

      Hello Kevin
      I think that we have been in e-mail contact in the past. John Young is a name I know and I will let you know if I ever come across him. In the meantime good luck with your quest. The Durham and Northumberland FHS article sounds interesting.
      Kind regards

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