Previous Page


What We Know

Visit Durham Mining Museum
Elaine Robertson

The first of our MINTO ancestors whose name we know is John MINTO. He married a woman called Mary GRAHAM (where and when is not yet known) and he was a coalminer.

At the end of the eighteenth and right up to the middle of the nineteenth century, pitmen or 'colliers' (as they were sometimes called) were bound to the owners of the mine. This meant that the coal owner would pay a 'binding fee' (at some collieries up to twenty guineas per annum) , to engage the colliers to work his pit for the twelve months that the bond continued. The coal owner supplied picks, wagons, weighing machinery, ponies etc., and the collier hired the tools of his trade and hewed the coal, which he then 'sold' to the pit owner.

Miners worked in a team: a father and his sons, for example, or two or three brothers, or a man and his wife and children. By the concerted effort of these teams of people, the coal was brought to the surface, to be weighed and paid for. If the tub - called a corf - did not hold the full weight of five and a half tons, the miner would be fined: if there was too much slate among the coal, again the miner was fined. He could be fined too if he broke his pick, or the 'rolly' (a wagon on which the coal was heaved away from the face to the shaft) was damaged, or even if a pony became sick. It was not an uncommon event for a miner to find, at the end of the working day or week, that he owed more in fines than he had earned by all his toil.

Go Back

Miners frequently moved with all their families to different parts of the county, presumably because they might find a pit offering a better 'binding fee'. In addition, the names of the MINTO men are repeated over and over again in all the records I have searched, right down to modern times. This makes it very difficult to identify our particular line of descent.

We can be certain however that in 1802, when his son Robert was born, John MINTO was living at Prudhoe. The entry for Robert's birth is as follows:-

       Die 7 Julii natus and die 19 ejusdem mensis baptisatus fuit a me Hen. Rittier Mysris Apco Robertus Minto filius Joannae and Mariae Minto (olim Graham) Sponsors errant Thos. Bell and Maria Robson.          
        [7 July born and 19 of the same month baptised by me Henry Rittier Robert Minto the son of John and Maria Minto (formerly Graham) Sponsors being Thomas Bell and Mary Robson]          

Prudhoe is a village situated nine or ten miles west of Newcastle, on the south bank of the river Tyne, in the Parish of Ovingham. There were two more Visit Prudhoe Castle.MINTO families living there at the beginning of the nineteenth century:- a Robert MINTO and his wife Ann and a Clement MINTO and his wife Elizabeth. All the MINTOs (perhaps working as a team) were employed at a small local pit situated just to the south and west of the ruins of Prudhoe Castle, belonging to the Blackett Family of Wylam.

Back to Previous Place

Back to Top

Minsteracres was a Catholic Chapel in the parish of Bywell St. Peter's, Northumberland, originally the private domestic chapel of the Silvertop family. Before 1791, there were no Catholic chapels registered for public worship in this country: almost all chapels were private, but most were open to local Catholics and continued to be used up to the middle of the nineteenth century. Minsteracres is now a Monastery and Retreat Centre.

I have searched such of the Minsteracres records as are available and have found that John and Mary MINTO were confirmed, along with several other people including one James GRAHAM (who could be Mary's father or brother) on 28 May 1804. This I believe is evidence that they were converts to the Catholic religion, otherwise they would probably have been confirmed in the normal course of events in their early teens.

In the Ovingham registers, I have found the record of baptism of Ann MINTO, the daughter of John and Mary MINTO, on 26 December 1790. Two more children were born to them, after Robert, and these were also baptised at Minsteracres, and I give a brief family tree below:

John Minto and Mary Graham had five children: Ann 1790, Robert (our ancestor) 1802, John and Sarah both baptised 1803.

*** Our direct ancestor.

Note the gap of twelve years between the birth of Ann and that of Robert. I wonder whether this could have anything to do with their conversion to Catholicism? Of course this could be a different John and Mary MINTO, or it could perhaps mean that they were disappointed at having no more children after Ann and thought that conversion could help them.

Go Back

Ten years later after the birth of these children, John MINTO was working at the Wylam Pit, across the river from Prudhoe. The Family Papers of the Blackett Family of Wylam show that he entered the Pitman's Bond each year from 1813 to 1816, either as a Hewer or a Putter. There was a gap, then he appears again at Wylam as a signatory of the Bond for each year from 1821 to 1823. Apparently he was working somewhere else for the seven years between 1816. and 1823.

As mentioned above, I have not so far been able to find where John MINTO and Mary GRAHAM were married. No record of any MINTO marriage appears in the Minsteracre records, but that is not surprising, since they were obviously married before they converted. In any event, between 1754 and 1837 a marriage, in order to be legal, had to take place in the Church of England. John and Mary would have to marry in the Church of England. Some Catholics went through a second ceremony according to the Catholic rites, but I have not found any record that John and Mary MINTO did so.

Go Back

I have searched Boyd's Marriage Index for Northumberland and for Durham, both of which cover the years between 1500 and 1837. There are of course many MINTO marriages recorded, but not that of John MINTO and Mary GRAHAM. In addition, I have searched many local registers, and records of 'irregular' or 'border' marriages, but as yet no trace of John MINTO's marriage to Mary GRAHAM has been found. Of course the search continues.


On four or five occasions between 1660 and 1791 attempts were made to count the number of Catholics in this country. I have searched the Returns of Papists drawn up for Northumberland and for Durham in 1767 and the name MINTO does not appear in either county. I still have to search the returns for Scotland, but as indicated above, I believe that John and Mary MINTO were converts to Catholicism.

Back to Top


As indicated above, our ancestor Robert MINTO was the first son of John and Mary MINTO, and was born while his father was working at Prudhoe. Robert, like his father, was a coalminer. He too is shown in the Family Papers of the Blackett Family of Wylam as having entered into the Pitman's Bond for the same years as his father.

In 1813, when he entered into the first Bond, he must have been 11 years old. He too left Wylam in 1816, and returned later to enter the Pitman's Bond again, but a year later than his father (1822/1823 and 1823/24 only) He was a Putter: this means that he was one of the people who pushed the laden rolly from the face to the shaft.

Robert MINTO married Dorothy MACKEY at St. John's Church, Newcastle on 14 June 1828, so it seems likely that he, and possibly his parents, had moved into the city by that time.

Their first child, John Mackey MINTO was baptised at Longbenton Parish Church on 7 February 1830. He died about a month later and was buried on 16 March 1830. The entry in the register shows that the family lived at Hezzle Rig. There was a pit at the place now called Hazelrigg, near Dinnington, where Robert MINTO was probably working.

The Longbenton Parish Registers show several MACKEY burials between 1820 and 1831, so it seems likely that Dorothy's family had moved to that area too. Their places of residence are given as Bigges Main and Seghill, both of which had coal mines.

John MACKEY, Dorothy's father, died aged 62 in 1827, and her mother Dorothy nee WALKER died aged 75 in 1837.

By 1841 Robert and Dorothy MINTO were living at Byker. The entry shows Robert aged 35, (he would in fact be 38 or 39) a Collier, living with Dorothy, also said to be 35, a Mary MINTO, aged 87, two daughters, Elizabeth aged 10, Dorothy aged 8, and a son John aged 3. All were recorded as having been born in Northumberland. Robert MINTO could have been working at Heaton Main, or Lawson's Main, or Walker Colliery, all of which were open and working at that time.

Go Back

Mary MINTO must be Robert's mother. If the age given in the census is correct, she was born in 1754. This would mean she was 48 years old at the time of Robert's birth and 50 at the time the other two MINTO children were baptised. She died, “the widow of John MINTO Pitman” at Byker Village on 4 September 1848 at the age of 94 (which of course confirms that she was born in 1754), cause of death being 'natural decay'. Robert MINTO was present at the death, but the certificate does not record his relationship with Mary.

The 1851 Census shows Robert and Dorothy MINTO still living at Byker. The entry is as follows:-

Byker Village    
MINTO Robert 50Coal Miner Northumberland Prudhoe
Dorothy47 wife born Cowpen
Elizabeth 20 Daughter born Northumberland Seghill
John12 Son born Durham Threshington * (see below)

Go Back

In 1855 Robert MINTO was shown as the licensee of the Blue Bell Inn, Byker, but he may not have been working there: his wife ran the Public House, while he held the licence - see Slater’s Directory of the Northern Counties for that year. In the 1861 Census he was still working in the coal mines, at Heaton High Pit.

The entry shows him aged 60 and Dorothy aged 58, living with two of their grandchildren Robert BLACK aged 7 and Daniel BLACK aged 2. Both these children were born at Walker: they must be the children of Robert and Dorothy's younger daughter, Dorothy, who obviously married a man called BLACK. Nearby their son John MINTO aged 22 was living with his wife Mary, also 22, and their son Robert P, just 1 year old.

We have searched the 1871 and the 1881 Census, but can find no trace of either Robert or Dorothy. Of course one or both of them may have died before 1871, or they could be recorded under some variation of the name (eg MINTER) so we will keep searching.

In the 1881 Census we can find their son John MINTO, then aged 41, a joiner, married and living at Heworth. His place of birth is given as Wrekenton - see above where his place of birth is shown as * Threshington, obviously a mishearing of Wrekenton.

Go Back


Cowpen, where Dorothy MINTO née MACKEY was born, was in the parish of Horton. The parish covered a fairly small area, situated north west of Cramlington and bounded on the east by the sea, on the north by the parish of Bedlington, on the west by Stannington and on the south by Earsdon. Most of the parish records are available, but the name MACKEY does not appear in any of them.

In Stannington however, the neighbouring parish on the west, I have found the record of a marriage between a John MACKEY and Dorothy WALKER in 1790. They had several children, all baptised in Stannington except the last two - see family tree below:

John Mackey and Dorothy Walker had several children. Their daughter Dorothy Mackey was our direct ancestor.

Dorothy and Hannah were both baptised at Salem Chapel, Hood Street, Newcastle formerly the Bethel Methodist New Chapel. The entries in the record for these two are as follows:-

Go Back

        No. 110: MACKEY Dorothy, born 6 March 1803, baptised 26 March 1803, daughter of John, collier, Cowpen Square, and Dorothy, Horten (sic) Parish, Northumberland.
        No. 179: MACKEY Hannah born 6 August 1805, baptised 4 October 1805, 4th daughter of John, pitman and Dorcus (sic) Walker, daughter of Edward WALKER, Pitman, Horton Parish, Northumberland.

Cowpen, where Dorothy MACKEY was born, was a township in Horton Parish, the village being about a mile west of South Blyth, which is itself about 114 miles north-north-east of Newcastle. There were four pits there: 'A', 'B', Isabella and Mill Pit, and most of the inhabitants were connected with the coal trade for their livelihood.

Go Back


As seen above, Elizabeth was the eldest daughter of Robert and Dorothy née MACKEY. She was baptised at Earsdon on 14 January 1831, and she married Charles EMMETT on 8 December 1853 at the Catholic Chapel, Pilgrim Street, Newcastle. Both gave their address as Dent's Hole, Byker.

By the time of the 1861 Census Charles and Elizabeth were living at the Blue Bell Public House, Byker Village. Charles, aged 40, was a Waterman, Elizabeth aged 38 'attends to public house'. They had two children, Charles aged 2 and Robert aged 1 living with them, along with a widowed aunt Margaret DOYLE aged 71, and two nephews William NEELE aged 8 and Alexander BLACK aged 6 months.

Go Back

Francis and Elizabeth went on to have another six children: John born in 1861, Elizabeth born 1865, Dorothy born 1865, Christopher born 1867, Emiah or Emily born 1870 and William born 1873. The fourth son was our grandfather, Christopher EMMETT (13 August 1867 to 16 May 1955)

Back to Top

In the 1871 Census Charles and Elizabeth were shown as living at Colliery Staithes, Walker, with all seven of their children.

By the time of the 1891 Census Elizabeth was living at 4 Tyne Terrace, Byker. Charles was not living there then: perhaps he had already been admitted to the City Lunatic Asylum at Gosforth, where he died aged 65 on 14 July 1893 (see the EMMETT FAMILY)

Elizabeth EMMETT née MINTO died on 11 April 1905 at 4 Tyne Terrace, Byker. Cause of death was given as 'Appendicitis 7 days'. She was said to be 70 years old, but would in fact be 74. Her second son Robert was in attendance at her death: he lived at 23 Ropery Walk, Newcastle.

Go Back

MINTO - the place

MINTO is a small town or village in Teviotdale, on the borders of Roxburgh and Selkirk. The name MINTO, as might be expected, appears frequently in the records:for that area.

Minto Church.According to the International General Index, there was a MINTO family in Berwick at the end of the sixteenth century, and by the early part of the eighteenth century, they were well settled in various parts of rural Northumberland, first at Alwinton, a small town or village about 20 miles north west of Morpeth and 7 or 8 miles west of Rothbury, next at Rothbury itself, (about 20 miles north of Newcastle), then at Stamfordham (20 miles north—west of Newcastle), and at Longhorsley (about 15 miles north of Newcastle).

By the end of the eighteenth century the MINTO name can be found in many places along the River Tyne and in the county of Durham.

In the parish registers of Alwinton I found two marriages — Clement MINTO who married Dorothea WALLIS on 26 April 1739 and a Thomas MINTO of Eglingham who married Jane DAVISON on 10 June 1760.

Clement Minto and Dorothea Wallis married 26.4.1739 had six or seven children.

The name Clement seems to have come down through the MINTO family right up to recent times: another Clement MINTO married Ann Burn at Rothbury on August 21, 1758.

A third Clement MINTO married Elizabeth REED at St. Nicholas Church, Newcastle (not yet a cathedral) on May 17 1806, and three children were born to them at Ovingham in 1807, 1810 and 1812 respectively.

In June 1893 a Clement MINTO died in an accident at Deaf Hill Colliery, and on 22 August 1947.

Link to Durham Mining Museum

Back to Top

Notes: 1841 Census: HO1O7/820 Folio 17
1851 Census: RG13/5030 Folio 34
1861 Census: RG 9/3834 Folio 54
1861 Census: RG 9/3833 Folio 71
1871 Census: RG 5124/35
1891 Census RG 12/4217 Folio 57
1901 Census: RG13/4792 Folio 116
Minsteracres Vol. 1. p 39 and Vol. 11 p 32
Fynes' History of Northumberland and Durham Miners, Summerbell, 1893
Reid's Handy Colliery Guide with Map of the Coalfields of Northumberland and Durham, Andrew Reid & Co., Newcastle 1921
Plan of the Rivers Tyne and Wear, with the Lands, Collieries and Staithes Thereon, W. Casson 1801

© Emmett Family 2006. Site created by Pentalpha Web Design.