It is 50 years since the death of Britain’s great war leader, Sir Winston Churchill.
As we mark the anniversary of the death and state funeral of this remarkable man, considered by many to be the greatest Briton of the 20th or any other century, it may be of interest to learn that Churchill was descended from Halifax ancestors, both through his British father, Lord Randolph Churchill, and through his mother, American socialite Jennie Jerome.
Churchill was born into the aristocratic family of the Dukes of Marlborough, a branch of the Spencer family. Lord Randolph Churchill was a charismatic politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Winston’s mother, the famous – some may say, notorious – New York socialite Jennie Jerome, was born in 1874 and died in 1921. Some readers may recall the 1974 Thames TV series about her life, Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill, starring Lee Remick and Ronald Pickup.
Jennie went on to marry twice more after Randolph’s early death at age 45 and was also associated with various other men, some of whom were probably her lovers.
Having studied the des-cendants of some of our emigrant 17th-century Halifax families, some while ago I became aware that Sir Winston Churchill was probably descended through his American mother from a Puritan emigrant from Halifax.
Although this was initially traced via a variety of online records, plus local information, it required considerable checking with records in the USA. There is now no doubt.
Jennie’s Halifax ancestors were Matthew Mitchell (c1589-1646), a Puritan yeoman clothier, whose baptism has not been traced, and his wife.
Matthew was living in Ovenden in 1616 when he married Susan Butterfield (nee Wood) at Halifax Parish Church. Their children were also baptised at the same church over the next 15 years.
By 1635 a group of local Puritans were unhappy with the Laudian reforms in the Church of England, which they considered “popish”. Led by Matthew Mitchell, then living in Northowram, and probably associated with Quarry House, a sizeable number emigrated to New England.
The journey is well documented; they travelled on board the James from Bristol to Boston, Massachusetts, between May and August 1646. The James almost sank in a hurricane off Maine.
Eventually the family sett-led in Stamford, Connecticut, originally known as Rippowam, where Matthew was one of the earliest white settlers.
The descent of Jennie Jerome from Matthew Mitchell is through his daughter, Hannah, baptised at Halifax Parish Church in 1631. She married a man called Robert Coe of Stratford, Connecticut, who was killed by native Americans in 1659, leaving Hannah with a very young family.
Their son, John Coe (1658-1741), forms the next generation; the line then comes down through the New England Guthrie family to the New York family of Murray.
In 1807 Aurora Murray (1785-1867) married Captain Isaac Jerome of New York (1786-1866). And Aurora and Isaac were Jennie Jerome’s grandparents, whom she could remember.
Winston’s father, Lord Randolph Churchill, (1849-95), was a younger son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. He was MP for Woodstock and then Paddington South and served as Secretary of State for India, Leader of the House of Commons and Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Randolph’s Halifax ancestor was Sir Richard Saltonstall, who was born here about 1520 and made his fortune in London, becoming Lord Mayor in 1597/8.
He died in 1601, and his fine Elizabethan memorial may be seen today in South Ockendon Church, Essex, including his own effigy and those of his wife and large family.
From one of his daughters, Elizabeth (1568-1627), comes the line of descent down to Randolph Churchill.
In 1584 Elizabeth married Richard Wyche, a London merchant, and their son was Sir Peter Wyche (1593-1643), British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, who spent many years in Constantinople (now Istanbul) during the reign of Charles I.
The ambassador’s daughter married John Granville (1628-1701), a Cornishman, who was created first Earl of Bath in 1661 by Charles II.
The pedigree proceeds down through his daughter, who married into the family of Leveson-Gower. Three generations further on, in 1737, Lady Gertrude Leveson-Gower married John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford.
In 1762 their daughter, Lady Caroline Russell, married the 4th Duke of Marlborough. The descent to Randolph and Winston Churchill is then directly in the male line.