A Tiny Peek at Our Watsons and Livingstons

This document provides a short history of the Watson and Livingston families as told by Anna L. Burton and later re-typed by Jane Washburn in 2013. You can click here to view the original document in PDF format.

Who are the Watsons? The Livingstons?           

The ancestor of the Watsons came from Normandy and he can be traced in England very soon after the coming of the Duke of Normandy in 1066 A.D. England became his home and his descendants have formed a number of different colonies, even as far north as Durham and Northumberland counties, England. We hear of the Watsons often in official capacities, one of them being no less the Prime Minister of England!

Our ancestor, Joseph Watson, came from Alston Moor, Durham County, England to the large copper mines in the Vale of Avoca, county Wicklow, Ireland; because he was quite proficient in “dialing",  he was given a large position, Captain of the mines. [NOTE: the most likely definition of dialing is use of a miners' dial, an underground surveying instrument for measuring and setting out angles and determining magnetic north  --ed]. He met and married Elizabeth Cooper, daughter of a very influential nearby family, whose beautiful refinement and education, quality strengthened by a religious tenet, consciously or unconsciously threw a very gracious light on the life of us as descendants even to the present day. Of their children, we are especially interested later in Mary Watson and Thomas Watson, the teacher.

The ancestors of the Livingstons may have come from one of two places. One author thinks he sees evidence in our Livingston ancestor being a Saxon thane who was in Scotland near Edinburgh, a number of years before 1066 A.D. Other writers say the Livingston ancestor was Livingus, a Hungarian nobleman who came in the court of his princess, who was of both Hungarian and English descent in royalty, to near London just before William of Normandy came in the fall of 1066 A.D. to take the English throne.

The princess and her court attendants fled north to Edinburgh to be under the protection of the Scottish King. Livingus became a royal favorite and was given a large tract of land outside of Edinburgh. His villa, Livingus town, save the name Livingston; and its inhabitants, especially his children, were called Livingston. We prefer this explanation of our ancestry because it has been held in part, at least by many of our forefathers.

Livingus’ descendants, one after another, for about 600 years, kept in very close touch with royalty, sometimes as tutor, sometimes as guardian, sometimes as keeper of the royal palace, etc., but never came into the royal line. They were always near and loyal to the loyal friend.

The Livingstons formed an honorable aristocracy (amongst them a long line of lords and earls) – not social aristocracy alone but the true aristocracy of the heart. From these families were many branches of honest yeomanry, David Livingstone, the great explorer and missionary, being amongst the number.

When the King needed services, two brothers of one family came to northern Ireland and were there during such troublous times as one reads of under James II of England (Baby Stuart) and the coming of William of Orange to northern Ireland. One descendant of these came to Carnew, county Wicklow, Ireland and settled there. The work was in leather and in the making of shoes, the sale for which they found very profitable at Avoca, county Wicklow. Here they kept in close touch of the Avoca Livingstons and Watsons both of which follow. In later years there were intermarriages, to which the Carnew Livingstons brought their excellent traits to be added to those in the later families.

From northern Ireland another Livingston descendant, John Livingston, came to Avoca, county Wicklow and had a [2013 NOTE: words missing from original copy—something about land?] copper mines just mentioned. He married a young woman in the neighborhood and of their children we, as descendants, are especially interested in Hugh, Robert and Elizabeth.

Hugh was a man who delighted in horticulture, especially in the raising of cherries and supervised one or more of the large cherry orchards in the neighborhood. He was very exact in business and this work, especially along administrative lines, kept him quite busy at home and in the locality of our ancestors in northern Ireland. His wife was Mary Ann Fitzsimons, a woman of a deeply religious nature. Their children were 8 in number; some of them, like father and mother, did not migrate to America, but remained at the different lines of work in which they were proficient. Two of them, Samuel and William, came to America; the latter, with his very excellent wife formerly Miss Katherine Meakin, settled in Livingston vicinity – southwest Wisconsin. [NOTE: some sources list her name as Catherine Ann Livingston (née Meakin), born 08 Feb 1821 in Snarestone,  Leicestershire, England, and died 27 Apr 1909 in Livingston, Wisconsin--ed.] Their 4 living children were John William, President of Platteville State Normal; Hubort Meakin; Thomas Edward; and Sue, who afterwards became Mrs. F. D. Rector.

We will leave this family now and go back to Hugh Livingston’s brother Robert and sister Elizabeth. Robert’s wife was Mary Watson and Elizabeth’s husband was Thomas Watson, the teacher. Thus their children (Robert and Mary Watson Livingston had 12 and Thomas and Elizabeth Livingston Watson had 11), all born in or near the Vale of Avoca were double first cousins. When the older ones of Robert Livingston’s found way to America, this attracted the interests of both families and finally by 1855 all of those two families and both groups of parents had left Ireland for a home in America. Thomas Watson, the teacher, died at sea on his way to America. Most of the children settled in southwest Wisconsin and with them their parents, Robert and Mary Watson Livingston and Elizabeth Livingston Watson—a concrete example of family loyalty! Not one parent nor child remained in Ireland. The Carnew Livingstons who were married into these two family groups are represented also. Through all our great ancestral families one great important trait shines out. They knew no socialism, no fascism and were the very farthest from communists. Next to God, their home and family were supreme. So we find them making every effort to have their own home and to “keep the home fires burning”.


After a time, because of the desire for coal mining occupation, Joseph Watson, wife and family moved from Wisconsin to near Pittsburg, PA where a large Watson colony was founded. After about ’84 their son John (Cousin Jack) made quite regular visits to Wisconsin and kept in touch with his Watson relatives, at the same time keeping them in close touch with each other. (In Wis. And PA.)   On the other hand, beginning at the time of migrating to America the family of Wm. Livingston, Sam’s grandfather, kept in very close touch with family members remaining in Ireland and thus the Carnew Livingstons, the Robert Livingstons and the Watsons here in America were also kept informed. All this time, Wm. Livingston’s children too, were deeply interested in relatives overseas and relatives here. Dr. Thomas Edward, already mentioned, very often expressed his loyalty and quite yearly visits to his people, the Livingstons and Watsons, at Livingston and vicinity, on each visit seeing each one even if only for a minute or two. All this strengthened all family ties. Thus he was and is the general favorite in all of the families.

On one of these visits - August, 1924 – plans were quickly on foot to have a family picnic in Dr. Tom’s honor. Accordingly, on the afternoon of August 11, 1924, a large number of Watsons and Livingstons gathered in the Livingston village park; after pleasant visiting and a much enjoyed luncheon, the work or organizing a family association was soon under way. A President, Vice-President and Secretary were elected. Besides, there was the expressed plan of having a short family history collected. 


And so the Livingston-Watson Family Association had its visible beginning. The annual meetings are held sometime in August and officers are elected by the regularly followed rule of having the President of one large family and Vice-President of another, alternating the selection each year. It works well.

Material for the family history has been quite fully collected and some of it has been written. It really makes a large amount of material collection, since it can be traced so far back and since such large families comprise its membership. Their directory covers many pages and their lines of business listed show a decided avoidance of destructive tendencies, such as dealing in alcoholics; but the choice of constructive uplift brings our people into enrollment as farmers, teachers galore, ministers, lawyers, doctors, dentists, nurses, dieticians, accountants, etc., etc., and in the proficiency of which we are and have the right to be justly proud. 

More about the author, Anna L. Burton at this link. Also see the news clippings on early reunions, as Anna was a key part of the beginnings of the Livingston Watson family association.

As a follow-up to the above story, the following reader comment from Lisa was posted to this website in 2017:

About Meakins family -reposted for Lisa

Permalink On Sun, 03/19/2017 - 14:56


Just came across your Page & found it quite Interesting.

My Grandmother's Ancestors were Meakin Originally from Snarestone In Leicestershire England.

Her Great-Grandfather was a John Benjamin Meakin Snr, Brother Of Katherine Meakin, Born 1821 In Snarestone Leicestershire, Eldest Daughter Of William & Ann Meakin. Katherine went On to Marry William Livingstone & Parents to 5 Children eldest Child John William Livingston, Hurbert Meakin Livingston, Thomas & Sue & baby Margretta Livingston whom sadly died In Infancy.

You May find this Interesting as this is the Obituary Of Catherine Meakin:

Catherine Meakin was born on February 8, 1821, in Snarestone, Leicestershire, England, the eldest daughter of William and Anne Meakin.

In the atmosphere of a well-to-do home she passed her girlhood, her mother’s loyal helper in the care of a large family of younger brothers and sisters. During her young womanhood she spent several years in Mr. John Oliver’s home, and the fond associations with this family form a chapter of her life to which she ever looked back with happy memories. With them she enjoyed the privilege of travel through various parts of the British Isles, and during her stay at their country seat, Cherry Mount, County Wicklow, Ireland, she met and later married William Livingston, from whom but four years ago she was separated by death, after a companionship of fifty-two years. To this couple were born five children, four of whom survive the parents, one little daughter, Margretta, having died in infancy. The children are, John W., president of the State Normal, Platteville; Hubert M., of Lancaster; Dr. Thomas E., of Bode, Iowa and Miss Sue M., whose pleasure and privilege it has been to care for the father and mother in their declining years, and who is now left alone in the old home.

In 1865 the family decided to seek a new home in the land of promise across the sea, and landed in America in the spring of that year, coming directly to southwestern Wisconsin, because of the fact that cousins had already located there.

Here, in the period immediately following the Civil War, they lived the life of the pioneer, enduring bravely its limitations and meager opportunities, and toiling ceaselessly to make for themselves a comfortable farm home. In this ceaseless toil, the wife proved a true and faithful helpmate of her husband. Of her it might be said, as of the good woman of the proverbs: “She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. She riseth up while it is yet night and giveth meat to her household. Her candle goeth not out by night.”

Yet in the midst of the countless duties devolving upon the wife and mother in these early days, she found time to read to her children, and to foster in them a love of books and of reading for which they truly “arise up and call her blessed.”

In speaking of their mother last night, one of the sons said: The thing I feel most grateful to mother for, is the interest she took in getting for us the best books to be had. When too poor to buy, she would borrow, walking sometimes miles to get a good story book; and the happiest times I can remember are the evenings spent about the fire in the little log cabin while mother read aloud to us from an interesting book, or the continued story in the weekly newspapers, which luxury our parents indulged in, though denying themselves many real necessities. Another thing I am grateful to mother for, is the hearty hospitality given to the boys who came to see us. They were always welcome and the best in the house was at their disposal. These two things bound us with a strong tie of affection to our parents and our humble home.”

Mrs. Livingston loved flowers as well as books, and wherever she made her home, in country or in village, flowers brightened her windows and bloomed beside her doorway.

She was a good neighbor, and the bounds of her neighborhood were wide. In the early days when the trained nurse was unknown and with no doctor within easy reach, friend stood to friend in the stead of both doctor and nurse, and no one was sent for oftener or more urgently than “Aunt Kate.” No night was too dark, no road too rough to travel in reaching one in sickness or in need, and many a one today can say, “She came to me in my trouble;” “She watched all night beside my sick child.”

Twenty five years ago, Mr. Livingston purchased the house in Livingston which has ever since been their home. Four years ago the two life companions were called upon to par, and since then the mother, partially shut out from the active life about her by deafness, has lived much in the memory of the past – with her little children about her upon the farm, or in her own childhood home upon the English hills; and nothing has pleased her grandchildren better than to hear grandma tell of these things – of her anxiety for an education in the days when there were very few schools accessible to girls in England; of her visits to London, of the Crystal Palace, of the famous Seven Churches, of the Irish home within sound of the sea.

She was throughout her life a most earnest and faithful Christian. The voice of prayer and the words of scripture were daily heard within the walls of her home.

Though she had reached the advanced age of 88 years, she retained in a marked degree her bodily vigor. Two weeks ago she walked to the other end of the village and visited with old friends. Two days later she was taken with a chill, followed by fever, from which time she grew gradually weaker till the end came, Tuesday, April 27, 1909.

“Life’s race well run,

Life’s work well done,

Now come rest.”

 A short service was held at the home Saturday afternoon at 1 o’clock. The funeral sermon was preached by the Rev. Alfred Verran at the M. E. church. The choir of the church rendered several appropriate selections. A large number of friends and neighbors from far and near were present to testify their great respect for the memory of the deceased. The remains were taken to the Rock Cemetery “until the day breaks and the shows flee away.”

 All felt sorry that Prof. Livingston of the Platteville Normal was unavoidably absent. He was in the west, and could not be reached by telegraph.

Regards, Lisa