I love history; it forms the basis of my interest in genealogy and has an influence on our itinerary when on family holidays.
The Middleton Family of Washington DC in the 19th century
19th Century America
In the beginning my first ever genealogy web article highlighted the Victorian scrapbook of George Burgess (my great-great grandfather) and his profession as a phrenologist. It also touched on the life of my great grandmother (one of his daughters) and the remarkable family she married into.
Following many years of research this article spotlights the lives of the very close American friends of George Burgess (1829-1905); the Middleton family of Washington in the U.S.A.
All photos in this article are family photos passed down through the generations and are now in my position.
The Middleton family, who my great-great grandfather met while he was in America to finish his apprenticeship in stonemasonry, emigrated from England to Washington DC prior to the American Civil War. I do not know exactly when they emigrated from England, all I know from my great-great grandfather's personal writings and diary, and photos they sent him that they lived in Washington and that the husband served in the American Civil War as a Captain in the Union Army.
The 1880 Washington census and Richard Middleton's Military Record gave me a further glimpse into their lives. The 1880 census revealed that Catherine (aged 51) and Richard Middleton (aged 47), living in Washington at the time, were originally from England and that at the time of the census they had three daughters and a son, all born in Washington between 1855 and 1867:
Written on the back of a photo of Richard Middleton, sent to my great-great grandfather, is the name Dick Middleton along with his military details. In the 1880 census he is named as William Middleton. His wife, referenced as Maggie on the back of her photo sent to George Burgess is named as Catherine Middleton born about 1829 in the 1880 census records. George Burgess refers to her as C M Middleton (aged 66) in a poem he dedicated to her in 1894, which would put her birth around 1828 and he named his second daughter after her; Catherine Middleton Burgess (born 1872).
Therefore, in putting together all the information I currently have it would seem their full names are Catherine Margaret Middleton and William Richard Middleton; and that (other than the census) they were most commonly known by their middle names of Maggie and Richard.
From Richard's Military records I learnt that during the American Civil War he was a Captain in the 50 N.Y. Engineers, in company M for the Union Army; and later he and his wife applied for Civil War pensions, albeit I have no information on whether they were successful with their pension applications.
The American Civil War 1861 to 1865
Richard Middleton was a Captain in the in the 50 N.Y. Engineers for the Union Army. This article isn’t about the civil war, but to better understand the times some appreciation of the civil war is important.
So if you are not familiar with the events of the times e.g. you’re not American, then this video gives a short overview.
American Civil War DVD
Six disc box set documentary
A very popular DVD box set on the American Civil War; a six box set with a run time of 660 minutes.
The Civil War in Four Minutes: The War Between the States
A Chance Meeting in Philadelphia or Baltimore
I do not know where or when my great-great grandfather (George Burgess) met the Middleton family, but the 1880 census gives William Middleton’s occupation as a Stone Cutter. This is the clue that tells me that they most likely met in Philadelphia or Baltimore prior to 1857; for the reasoning given below:
On leaving school George Burgess took up an apprenticeship in stonemasonry in Bristol, England. Around a year later (about 1845) his brother-in-law persuaded him to go with him to Baltimore, Maryland in America for them to continue with their apprenticeship; which was a border slave state at the time. His brother-in-law unfortunately died out there and George Burgess returned home to England to see his ailing mother.
George returned to America twice more to continue his apprenticeship, the last time being in Philadelphia; a free state bordering on Maryland. I think this is when Richard Middleton and George Burgess are most likely to have met in that Richard being about four years younger than George would most likely have been starting out on his apprenticeship at this time while George was finishing it.
A Lifelong Friendship Across the Waters (Atlantic Ocean)
On his last stay in America George obviously struck-up a cord with Richard Middleton because after his third and final return to England in 1857 (to visit his ailing mother) the Middleton’s and George Burgess remained good pen-pals for the rest of their lives. Not only did they exchange letters and photos but George Burgess named his second daughter Catherine Middleton Burgess (born 1872) after his good friend Catherine Margaret Middleton but in 1894 he also dedicated a poem to her entitled Days Gone Bye.
George returned to England for the third and last time in 1857 look after his ailing mother until her death in 1860. He never returned to America after that and forever regretted it; as he abundantly makes clear in his diary, although in his diary he does speak fondly of his friends there. Shortly after his mother's death George establishes himself as a phrenologist in the shopping Arcades in Bristol and runs a successful business in phrenology for the next forty years until his retirement in 1901. It is a complete switch from his early years in America doing his apprenticeship in stonemasonry, but it was while he was in America doing this apprenticeship that he also learnt about phrenology; which was to become his lifelong career. And although he never returned to America it is touching that he kept in contact with his good friends there, namely Maggie and Richard Middleton, from across the waters in Washington DC.
George Burgess (1829-1905)
I would love to know more about Maggie and Richard Middleton of Washington DC and their family.
Although they are not on my family tree they were close friends of my great-great grandfather; and learning more about this family would give a greater insight into my great-great grandfather’s personal life, adding more flesh (personal family history) to the bones (bare facts) of my family tree.
Below are links to the relevant sections for the Middleton Family and my great-great grandfather on my genealogy website, which with over 10,000 names, predominantly in south west England and dating back to the 15th century.
If anyone knows anything about this family I would love to hear from them.
Nathanville Family History - My Genealogy website
- The Middleton Family 1880 Census Record Details
The Middleton family in the USA during the American civil war, friends of George Burgess.
- The Life of George Burgess
The Life of George Burgess, his children, wifes and friends, in Bristol and America and his visits to America (USA).
The Value of Family History
Putting Events in Context
I have always felt that knowing more about the personal lives of ones ancestors adds a personal touch to historical events and gives it more meaning.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Arthur Russ
Your comments and views - Genealogy
Arthur Russ (author) from England on April 30, 2017:
Thanks Alun, I find it fascinating not knowing what may be around to corner, yet to be discovered; and when I do uncover something new, it’s always a delight.
Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on April 18, 2017:
Genealogy really is a fascinating subject to research Arthur, as an insight into the lives of people who lived long ago, made much more personal and sentimental by their familial relationship to the researcher. I wish you well in your future inestigations. Alun
Ann Hinds from So Cal on March 17, 2014:
I have spent two years working on the Rhea side of my family. I just started on the Yeakley's. I wanted to know my great grandmother and feel that I have succeeded. I know who she was and what her hopes and dreams were. Numerous cousins have appeared out of nowhere and we share information. It is an adventure.
VspaBotanicals on March 11, 2014:
This is an exciting story, and I hope that you get answers soon as well.
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on March 10, 2014:
I hope someone related to the Middletons gets in touch with you. It would be great to share your information and old letters with them.