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Friday, 27 May 2016

An Instance of Being Fruitful and Multiplying

This headline appealed to me when I came across it in my local paper "The Berwickshire News and Advertiser: 17th May 1881.

 "There died the other day at *East Morriston  a man named John Middlemass, at the very advanced age of 93. He was the father of 11 children. He had 70 grandchildren, 138 great-grandchildren, and 4 great, great grandchildren, making in all 223 descendants." 

*Near Earlston, Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders 


So John Middlemass must have been born c.1788, just before the outbreak of the French Revolution.

He lived through the Napoleonic Wars, Crimean War and Franco-Prussian War, saw the railway reach his village in 1863 and the introduction of the penny post, general anesthetics and vaccination against disease. Among so many inventions in his lifetime were the steam powered ploughing machine, the sewing machine, typewriter, telegraph and telephone, and gas light.

Research online revealed John married his wife Janet Mallam in 1845 and spent his life in agriculture as farm servant, hedger and gardener. In the first full census of 1841, he was with his wife Janet and four children still living at home, Margaret aged 30, Jessie 21, John 18 and May 15.

By the time of the 1861 census John, a widower was making his home with his daughter Janet, her husband Archibald Mack, a shepherd, four young children aged 4, 2 1 and 1 month, a ten year old relative and a lodger - 9 inhabitants in what was described as a one room cottage.

Ten years on John was described in the 1871 census as an 84 year old gardener, living with his daughter Jessie, her husband Thomas McDougall, a coachman and their four children aged 8 to 21.

At the age of 93 in 1881, John, a retired gardener, was still with Jessie's family in a depleted household of son-in-law Thomas, a 70 year old farms servant, Jessie aged 56 and granddaughter Elizabeth aged 22.

Six weeks after the census, John died.

Earlston - early 1900's.



  1. Interesting and kind of amazing to go through his life like that. My father's parents had 12 children but I don't think that they will have that number of descendants. I will have to count them up soon and see.

  2. I have included your blog in Interesting Blogs on Friday Fossicking at

    Thank you, Chris


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