Nesbit Family at Ford Forge 1825-1859

Ford Forge (Ford Mill), Northumberland, England shown in an 1866 ordnance map

Ford Forge is in Ford Parish, one mile Northwest of Ford Village. Buildings housing a water-powered forge were constructed at this site on the river Till by 1770. Throughout the 19th century, the forge was used to manufacture shovels for Northumberland collieries.

Family History

James Nesbit and Ann Black were probably married in about 1815. Ann's father, believed to be an accountant, was born in Scotland. Other members of her family, perhaps her brothers, leased buildings at Ford Forge where they ran the shovel factory. James and Ann moved to Ford Forge sometime between 1825 and 1830, presumably so that James could work in the Black's factory. James Sr. died in 1839 at the age of 56. By 1841 the three oldest sons were working in the factory and the two daughters were working as dress makers.

In 1841, the Nesbits were among 22 blacksmiths and 7 joiners working at the forge. Most of the workers lived on the forge side of the Till river, but the Nesbits and several others lived on the Ford Mill side and crossed the river every day to work. Also living in the community were millers, farm laborers, dress makers, clerks, drapers, woollen dyers, servants and a shopkeeper.

Ann Sr. probably died in 1842. Apparently, her daughter Ann, her son Robert and his wife Alice, all died in 1844 while still in their 20s. One can speculate that their deaths were due to smallpox, which was epidemic in Northern England at about that time. The younger daughter, Margaret, married someone named Dodds. She died in 1847 soon after giving birth to a daughter, Agnes. Agnes appears to have been raised by the oldest remaining son, John, under the care of a nanny (Jane Cuthbert).

John's first wife died sometime before 1851. He married Margaret Trotter in 1852. John and Margaret had two sons born at Ford Forge before they moved to Spittal in the late 1850s.

John's younger brother James married in about 1850. He moved to Wolsingham, Durham to work in another shovel factory where he eventually became a shop foreman. Many years later he helped his nephew, John's son James, find a job in the same factory in Wolsingham.

The 1861 census shows no members of the Nesbit family remaining at Ford Forge.


James Nesbit (1783-1839) was born in Alwinton (pronounced and sometimes spelled "Allenton"), a remote farming community nestled in the Cheviot hills. He moved to Ford Forge with his wife, Ann Black, and their children.

Ann Black (~1790-1842) was perhaps the daughter of John Black, a Scottish accountant. Her place of birth is unknown. She died at Ford Forge.

Robert Nesbit (~1821-1844) was born in Alwinton. He worked as a blacksmith at Ford Forge. He married Alice Oliver in 1840. They apparently both died at Ford Forge in 1844.

Ann Nesbit (~1821-1844) was born in Alwinton. She worked as a dress maker in Ford Forge, where she died while still in her twenties.

John Nesbit (1819-1877) was born in Alwinton. He worked as a blacksmith in Ford Forge. After his first wife died he married Margaret Trotter. They moved to Spittal in the late 1850s.

Margaret Nesbit (~1821-1847) was born in Alwinton. She worked as a dress maker in Ford Forge. Apparently she married someone named Dodds and died shortly after the birth of her first child, Agnes.

George Nesbit (~1826-????) was likely born at Alwinton. His trajectory is unknown, but there is a family story that has one brother moving to Massachusetts.

James Nesbit (~1826-????) was born at Alwinton. He worked as a blacksmith at Ford Forge where he married in about 1850. He moved his family to Wolsingham, Durham, where he became the shop foreman in another shovel factory.

Thomas Nesbit (1831-1908) was born at Ford Forge. He worked for most of his life as a farm laborer, perhaps first at nearby Hay Farm, and later at farms throughout Northumberland. By the age of 50 he was head of a large family living at a farm in Belford parish.

Thomas Black (1788-1856) was born in Scotland. He may have been the brother of Ann Black and the son of John Black. Thomas was an entrepreneur whose enterprises at Ford Forge were the mainstay of the local economy. In the 142 businesses listed for Ford Parish in the 1827 Parson White Trade Directory, "Black Thos. James & Co." is listed three times, denoting lines of business as "iron founders & wrought iron manufacturers," corn millers, grocers and drapers.


1841 Census (adult ages rounded to nearest 5 years)

Ford Mills
Ann Nesbit50Independent
Ann Nesbit20Dress Maker
John Nesbit20Blacksmith
Margaret Nesbit20Dress Maker
George Nesbit15M***** Man
James Nesbit15Blacksmith
Thomas Nesbit11
Ford Mills
Robert Nesbit20Blacksmith
Alice Nesbit20
Ford Forge
Thomas Black53Merchant
Margaret Black20
John Black18
Agnes Black16
Jane Black14
George Black12
Thomas Black10
Ford Forge
Thomas Tindle40Blacksmith
Sarah Tindle40
James tindle10
Margaret Tindle8
Sarah Tindle7
Thomas Tindle4
George Tindle9 months
John Black21Landsurveyor
Alexander Black20Blacksmith
Alice Brown17F. S.

1851 Census

PlaceLast nameFirst nameRelationMarital
Ford Mills
"ThomasBroM29*Farm labrFord
DodsAgnesNiece 3 Ford
CuthbertJaneSvt 20House SvtFord
Ford Mills
"MargaretWifeM29 Bamburgh
"JamesSon 1 Ford
"IsabellaDtr 9 mth Ford
Ford Forge
AlexanderAdam"16Farm labr"
TurnbullCatherine"19House ServantFord
Ford Forge
TurnbullCatherineSvtUNM39House Servant"

* Transcription error. Thomas Nesbit was born in 1831.

Marriages: General Register Office (GRO)

DateSurnameFirst name(s)DistrictVolPage
Dec 1840NesbitRobertGlendale25307
Dec 1852NesbitJohnGlendale10b365

Marriages: FamilySearch™ International Genealogical Index

29 Oct 1852Margaret Trotter
John Nesbit
Parish Records And Dissenters, Ford, NBL

Births: General Register Office (GRO)

DateSurnameFirst name(s)DistrictVolPage
Jun 1847DoddsAgnesGlendale25280
Jun 1847NesbitJamesGlendale25303
Mar 1853NesbitJamesGlendale10b279

Deaths: General Register Office (GRO)

DateSurnameFirst name(s)AgeDistrictVolPage
Sep 1839NesbitJamesGlendaleXXV164
Jun 1842NesbitAnnGlendale25176
Jun 1844NesbitAnnGlendale25178
Sep 1844NesbitRobertGlendale25162
Sep 1844NesbitAliceGlendale25176
Jun 1847DoddsMargaretGlendale25267
Mar 1856BlackThomasGlendale10b184
Mar 1908NesbitThomas77Belford10b318

John C. Nesbit 2005.03.29