If your last name is "Mitchell" or you have a few branches with this name in your family tree, you are not alone. In fact, according to the 2000 United States Federal Census, this is the 44th most popular name in the country and the surname of more than 367,000 citizens. The name is also quite common in Great Britain where it may have originated. The story of the Mitchell family is a fascinating one, and it's no surprise that the descendents of the early Mitchells are well represented today.
History of the Mitchell Family
The surname Mitchell may come from the given name "Michael," which Behind the Name reports roughly translates as the rhetorical question, "Who is like God?" It may also be based on the Middle English word "mickle," meaning great or large. The surname probably originated in Scotland and England, according to Surname Database.
No one knows who the first Mitchell was, but the name's earliest known written record occurred in the year 1219. That year, The Royal Registers of England show that a man named William Michel received money to take care of the King's dogs.
Common Variants of the Mitchell Name
If all the variants of this surname were added together, it's likely the census records would show that it is even more popular than previously assumed. Mitchell has many spellings and derivatives, and you'll likely see a number of them while doing genealogy research:
Mitchells in the New World
The Mitchells are one of the oldest families to come to the New World. In fact, according to Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, 1607-1635: A Biographical Dictionary by Martha W. McCartney, at least one Mitchell family arrived before the Mayflower:
- Francis Mitchell sailed to Virginia on the ship Neptune, which left London in March of 1618. By February 16, 1624 records indicate that he was living in Virginia with his family and had a comfortable home surrounded by a palisade, or defensive log fence.
- Maudlin Mitchell arrived two years after her husband, Francis, travelling on the Bona Nova in 1620. She was 21 years old in 1624 when she was living in Virginia with her husband and son.
- John Mitchell was the son of Francis and Maudlin Mitchell. He was born in Virginia in 1622 or 1623.
According to Ancestry.com, most Mitchells can trace their ancestors back to Scotland, England, and Ireland. A few branches of the family also originated in Germany and Bermuda. A steady stream of Mitchells came to America throughout the 1700s and 1800s, but there was a significant immigration spike in the late 1880s. The Library of Congress reports that this corresponds to a general spike in immigration, especially from England, Ireland, and Germany.
Unlike many other families, the Mitchells spread out when they reached the United States. They did not stay in a particular geographical area or limit themselves to certain states. Instead, they followed the general Westward expansion of the US at the time.
Ancestry.com's Canadian site reports a different story for Mitchells coming to that country. The family member trickled in throughout the 1800s, but there was a dramatic spike in the early 20th century. Most settled in Ontario.
According to Biography.com, many Mitchells have distinguished themselves over the years, including the following:
- Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) - She was the United States' first female professional astronomer. She was also the first woman recognized by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and she discovered a comet.
- Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949) - Famous for writing the classic Gone with the Wind, she won a Pulitzer prize. She saw her book transformed into one of the most iconic movies in American cinematic history.
- Joni Mitchell (1943 - ) - One of the most famous folk singers of the 1960s and 1970s, she won Grammy awards and had several gold records.
Learning More About the Mitchell Family
If you want to learn more about your family history, there are lots of great resources you can use. Start by finding your earliest known Mitchell ancestors and work backwards from there.
The Mitchell coat of arms has a different appearance, depending on the country of origin. However, you can see various versions of the family crest at these sites:
- House of Names - Here, you'll find family crests from Scotland, Ireland, and England, as well as historical information about the name. You can purchase an image of the coat of arms as well as a number of commemorative products featuring the design.
- Irish Surnames - This site offers the Irish version of the family crest for sale as well as products featuring it. Helpfully, it has a wealth of information about the colors and symbols used on the crest.
- The Tree Maker - This is a great place to find artistic and beautiful renderings of the family crest. You can choose to purchase product featuring the Irish, Scottish, or English versions.
Mitchell Genealogy Sites
There are a number of genealogy sites that offer records and resources specifically related to the Mitchell family. The following options may help you expand your family tree:
- Mitchell Surname DNA Project - If you are interested in adding your DNA results to other branches and seeing the connections you may have in common, this is a great place to start. You can import your results from a variety of different DNA testing services.
- The Mitchell Family Genealogy and Family Tree Page - Created by the editors of Genealogy Today, this site offers an exhaustive list of Mitchell family history resources. You'll find links to trees, passenger lists, public records, photos, and more.
- Mitchell Families Online - This British site offers a gigantic family tree with almost 28,000 individuals with Mitchell last names or Mitchell connections. There are also photos and a handy search feature.
Expand Your Tree or Satisfy Your Curiosity
If you are a member of the Mitchell family, you are part of an important clan with branches all over Scotland, Ireland, England, and North America. You can use the many wonderful resources available on the Internet to add to your family tree or simply satisfy your curiosity about your origins.