Susannah Cottam Kellett

Today I followed the story of someone in my family tree, which struck me as rather sad.

She wasn’t a direct ancestor, she was my second coursin three times removed, and the story is just a bare outline, gained from the birth, mattiage and death indexes and census records for Lancashire.

She was the eldest daughter of John Cottam of Heaton in Lancashire, and Nancy Kellet of the nearby parish of Heysham. According to the 1871 census, Susanna Cottam was 3 years old, and her younger brother Adam was 1. Her father John was a farmer of 102 acres at Forton in the parish of Garstang.

In the 1881 census the family was still at Forton, Susanna was 13 and listed as a scholar, and her brother Adam was 10, and there were several younger brothers and sisters: Margaret, Ann, Robert and Elizabeth Alice.

In the 1891 census she was no longer with the family, but I could find no trace of her in the census staying anywhere else. She would have been 23 years old, so perhaps she had left home and got married, and was living under another name. The rest of the family had moved to Nether Wyresdale, and there were no farm servants — perhaps the older sons provided the labour on the farm, or perhaps they lived out, and came in to work; at any rate he is listed as an employer. John Cottam’s widowed mother-in-law Margaret Kellet was also staying with them, living on her own means.

In 1901 the family had moved to Preston, and they appeared to have come down in the world. John Cottam was a farm labourer (cattle), working for someone else, as were the older sons. The mother-in-law had gone, probably died. There was another daughter, Nancy, aged 7.

And the oldest daughter was back, aged 33, and a cotton weaver. She was listed as Susanna Kellett, rather than Cottam. And there were two grandchildren: Edith Kellett, aged 9, and Florence Kellett, aged 5, clearly Susanna’s daughters born out of wedlock.

Why was she now listed as Kellett rather than Cottam? Was she an illegitimate daughter John Cottam’s wife had had before they were married, and now that she had illegitimate daughters of her own, was her father distancing himself from her by listing her under her mother’s maiden name?

Part of the answer is revealed in Susannah’s baptism record in St Peter’s Church, Heysham:

Baptism: 20 Oct 1867 St Peter, Heysham, Lancashire, England
Susannah Kellet – [Child] of John Cottam & Nancy Kellet
Abode: Heaton & Heysham Lordsome House
Occupation: Farmers Son & Farmers daughter
Notes: Single Woman
Baptised by: Charles Twemlow Royds Rector
Register: Baptisms 1849 – 1900, Page 41, Entry 322

Jphn Cottam and Nancy Kellet seem to have married soon after Susanna’s birth, and almost immediately after they were married went to live at Forton in the parish of Garstang, where most of the other children were born. She was listed as Susannah Cottam on the next two censuses, perhaps because no one there knew them.

So I wondered what eventually happened to Susanna. Did she marry, either the father of her daughters or someone else, and live happily ever after? Apparently not.

According to the death register she died in about August 1907, at the age of 38. She was listed as Susannah Cottam Kellett. Her elder daughter would have been 15, ans the younger about 10 or 11. I wonder what happened to them. Did their grand parents continue to care for them, or uncles and aunts? And from the bare outline, Susanna seems to have had rather a hard life. There have been lots of single parents beofre and since, including others in my own family. But her story left me feeling a bit sad for her.

Bagot researchers unite

As a result of an earlier post on the Bagot, Cottam and Mashiter families, I’ve now made contact with two other Bagot family researchers, Johnny Marsh in the UK and Bill Geddes in Canada. It seems that we are all descended from John Bagot and Dorothy Mashiter of Lancaster. It’s always good to discover cousins that one didn’t know about before, and especially when they are also interested in the family. We’ve been exchanging information, and each of us had pieces of the puzzle that the others didn’t, and so we all know more than we did before.

Tombstone Tuesday: Hannan family in Girvan

In Girvan, on the west coast of Scotland, there are two tombstones for members of the Hannan family. They are made of sandstone, and relatively small compared with the surrounding tombstones.

The one on the left is the family of Thomas Hannan (c1830-1890) and his wife Janet McCartney (c1830-1915), my great great grandparents. I first saw it in May 1967, when my mother, Ella Hayes, and I visited her cousin Willie Hannan in Glasgow, and Willie took us to Girvan in Ayrshire, and showed us where the earlier generations of the family had lived. He said that they had had 9 children and the only one who didn’t die young was his and my mother’s grandfather, William Hannan (1856-1928). The names of the children who had died young were inscribed around the sides of the stone.

Thirty-eight years later we visited it again, and this time having a digital camera took more pictures of it.

Hannan tombstone in Girvan Cemetery

The children who died young were:

  • Jane (1847-1847)
  • James (1848-1849)
  • William (1852-1854)
  • John (1854-1855)
  • Thomas (1859-1866)
  • Samuel (1860-1864)
  • James (1864-1887)

But we quite recently discovered that there were actually two children who survived to adulthood and had children of their own. There was a second Jane (1850-1917). She married Samuel Kay, and they had nine children. Janet Ewing of New Zealand wrote to us in 2008 and said

I have been looking through some old e-mails and have
found that you and I have a relation in common. My gt
grandmother was a Jane Hannan. She married Samuel Kay
6 September 1872 at Girvan Ayrshire. She was 22. He
was 20. Her parents were Thomas Hanan (could have
been transcribed as Heenan) and Janet McCartney. Her
surname on the marriage certificate could have been
transcribed as Keenan. This has all been most
confusing in the past. However her death Certificate
(d 19 February 1917) shows that her parents were
Thomas Hannan and Janet McCartney. Does all this fit
into your tree? Janet

So there are a whole lot more cousins on the Hannan side that we didn’t know about.

The second tombstone is larger, and a generation later:

Stanley Livingstone Hannan (1891-1917)

There are several interesting things about this. One is that Tom Hannan, Stanley Hannan’s older brother, was jailed as a conscientious objector during the First World War. For more on this see this earlier entry, and also the Hannan family pages on Wikispaces.

More Cottams in Lancashire

When we first started researching our family history 35 years ago, we made rapid progress. Every couple of months we discovered an earlier generation on one or other branch of the family. But then we got stuck. And so it was with the Cottam family. But now we have discovered two new generations going backin as many months. First was my great great great grandfather Richard Cottam — I discovered his parents, John and Mary Cottam, of Oxcliffe Hall in the village of Heaton with Oxcliffe near Lancaster, as described here.

Yesterday Rick Cowey, of the Cottam Connections mailing list, sent me a copy of the 1851 census page for Oxcliffe Hall, showing that John Cottam was born in Kellet in Lancashire. I’d already copied records from the Cottams there (in the parish of Bolton-le-Sands), thanks to the hard work of the Lancashire Online Parish Clerks (OPCs), and so once the link was clear, bang, instant family. John Cottam was clearly the son of Thomas and Isabella Cottam

Baptism: 27 Jul 1777 Holy Trinity, Bolton le Sands, Lancashire, England
John Cottam – Son of Thomas Cottam & Isabel
Abode: N Kellet
Register: Baptisms 1737 – 1812, Page 42, Entry 16
Source: LDS Film 1849647

and it looks as though the Henry Cottam, also found in Heaton with Oxcliffe, who married Alice Edmundson, was probably John’s brother:

Baptism: 7 May 1775 Holy Trinity, Bolton le Sands, Lancashire, England
Henry Cottom – Son of Thos Cottom & [Isabel]
Abode: Nether Kellet
Register: Baptisms 1737 – 1812, Page 39, Entry 19
Source: LDS Film 1849647

Unfortunately Henry decided to annoy future generations of the family by inconsiderately dying in 1848, before the 1851 census, so it isn’t possible to confirm this, but it seems likely.

Then yesterday I went to the Mormon family history library in Johannesburg and looked at the films for Overton, and especially for the period 1800-1812, looking for the baptism of an Isabella Cottam. I had one who had died young — born in 1809, daughter of Henry and Alice Cottam, and she died in 1818 at the age of 9. But there was another one who married a John Bagot, who was a brother of the Margaret Bagot who married Richard Cottam, my ggg grandfather.

There were two films, one the actual register of St Helen’s, Overton, and the other a copy that was sent to St Mary’s, Lancaster, of which St Helen’s was a chapelry, so I compared both. The copy had an Elizabeth Cottam at about the right period , daughter of John and Margaret Cottam, coming immediately after an Isabella Mashiter. I checked the original and found that it was what I was looking for — Isabella Cottam, daughter of John and Mary, only it was very faint, so I had missed it the first time.

So a Cottam brother and sister had married a Bagot brother and sister.

So two Cottam family mysteries were solved on the same day.

Of course it also produces more mysteries. Just as Cottam families suddenly appeared in Heaton-with-Oxcliffe towards the end of the 18th century — and we now know they came from Kellet — so they suddenly appeard in the parish of Bolton-le-Sands in the middle of the 18th century, and apparently came from somewhere else. That’s the thing about family history. You never finish.

Reviving an old history blog

I’ve decided to revive our old family history blog on Blogger.

A couple of years ago I moved everything from there to this blog because there were problems with the Blogger software, which caused a lot of people to move from Blogger to WordPress. I left the old blog there with a link to this one.

Now Blogger has improved, and appears to be stable, so I’ll start using it again.

But there’s not much point in having two identical family history blogs, so I’ll use them for different purposes. WordPress and Blogger have strong points and weak points and one is better for some purposes and the other is better at other things.

So this blog, the WordPress one, I’ll mainly use for the more personal stuff, stories and news of our family and our own family history research. So you will be most likely to find this blog interesting if you are related to us, no matter how distantly. WordPress is better for this kind of thing because it makes it easier to post family photos and give them captions. I’ll also use it as a kind of research log, with news of things we find, and what other members of the family find.

The other blog, the Blogger one, I’ll use for more general stuff — notes and news on genealogical research generally, research resources, local history articles, background pieces, and general historical stuff. It will also include articles on historical method, technique and theory, comments on software for genealogists and family historians and for research generally, and so on. That’s because one of the strengths of Blogger is making links, grabbing stuff from news articles and putting it in a blog post. It also does a much better job of displaying widgets, like the “Recent Readers” from MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog. WordPress often makes a pig’s ear out of it, and sometimes displays the wrong pictures and so on.

The distinction won’t be absolute — I might still post some of our own family history on the other blog, and more general items here, depending on which blogging platform makes it easiest for a particular post.

The blogrolls on each blog will reflect this division as well. Here the links will be mostly to blogs by other family members, with a few more general links. On the other one, we will link to genealogy blogs that deal with the areas we are interested in — southern Africa, the UK, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and also ones that give more general information about genealogical and historical research.

US President Barack Obama related to all US presidents but one

7th-Grader: Obama, Most US Presidents Related – Central Coast News Story – KSBW The Central Coast:

SALINAS, Calif. — A seventh-grader and her 80-year-old grandfather are allegedly the first people to discover that President Barack Obama is related to all other U.S. presidents except one.

BridgeAnne d’Avignon, who attends Monte Vista Christian School in Watsonville, traced that Obama, and all other U.S. presidents except Martin Van Buren, are related to John ‘Lackland’ Plantagenet, a king of England and signer of the Magna Carta.

Hat-tip to Father Milovan.
BridgeAnne claims that President Obama is her 11th cousin. I wonder what relation he is to the other US presidents.

Keeping track of paper files

One of the perennial problems of genealogical research is keeping track of paper files. As time goes by you accumulate mounds of paper, piles of paper — notes, letters, family group sheets sent to by related and unrelated people, certificates, photocopies of wills, and much much more.

How do you keep track of it?

There are all kinds of systems that are recommended, but most of them are too complicated, and too difficult to catch up with if you fall behind.

The easiest filing system I have ever seen is one recommended with the early versions of the Personal Ancestral File program (PAF). It even came with a program to support it, the Research Data Filer.

The simplest solution is this: number each document with a serial number, and file them in numerical order in a lever arch file (or, if you’re American, a 3-ring binder). Use a computer program to keep track of the contents of the paper file.

The Research Data Filer had (has — I still use it!) two files – Documents (.DOC) and Data (.DAT). The document file contains a description of each document. The data file indexes the people in the documents, and allows you to enter the kind of information contained in the documents – the fields are: Document Number, Page, Name, Sex, Id, Event, Date, Place, Rela(ations), Relations Id numbers (up to 3) and Comments. For Id I use the RINs allocated by my genealogy program, since they are unique to each person.

Thus if you are looking for a person, you can search on name or Id, and it comes up with a list of the documents that contain information on that person, which you can then find easily, because you’ve filed them in numerical order.

You don’t have to use the Research Data Filer (RDF) to index your paper files. You could use a spreadsheet or general database program, or a specialised program like Clooz. But I still find the RDF program best because it was designed for the job, and adheres to the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid. I only wish that someone would update it with a Windows version, because printing output from DOS programs with a Windows printer is a pain in the neck.

If course you can’t store all research documents in a lever arch file — for example, if it is a book. The book must stay on the bookshelf. So what you put in your lever arch file is a sheet of paper with full bibliographical information about the book, and, if it is a library book, which library you found it in, and when you consulted it. You can also add photocopies of relevant pages, under the same document number.

The advantage of this system is that it is simple and easy to maintain, and you can start anywhere, with any pile, or any document. Just punch the holes, file it, and give it a number, starting with 1, or 00001 if you prefer. Some genealogy programs, like Legacy, let you include this document number in your source notes on a person.

The Research Data Filer program allows you to sort on any field. You can also “focus” on any kind of information – say a surname, and then a first name, and then a place. This is like the “filter” function in most database programs, but it is not just in the form of a report, but a view of a particular set of records that can then be edited or printed.

Axholme Ancestry

A few days ago I found the web site of a hitherto unknown cousin, Penny Howell, who is also descended from the Vause family, and in following up some loose ends on that family discovered another web site that deals with Isle of Axholme family history, Axholme Ancestry. It seems to be a remarkably useful site for anyone whose ancestors come from the Isle of Axholme.

Epworth, Lincolnshire, England (May 2005)

Our Vause ancestors seem to originate in Epworth in the Isle of Axholme, which is north-west Lincolnshire in England. There seem to be several Vause families in Epworth and in the neighbouring town of Belton, and the Axholme Ancestry site lets everyone put their families into a single database, which should make it easier to find out if there are any links between them.

St Andrew's Church, Epworth

Though they started in Epworth our Vause family moved around a bit, because they also lived in Fishlake and Thorne in Yorkshire, and my great-great grandfather, Richard Vause (1822-1886), was born in Hull, across the river Humber, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The whole area is sometimes called Humberside, which is a good geographical name, though some people objected to it because it was a short-lived administrative county that took people out of their traditional counties. But the Axholme Ancestry web site covers a lot of the neighbouring towns and cities as well, because ours wasn’t the only family that moved around.

St Oswald's Church, Crowle, Lincolnshire

Richard Vause’s father, John Vause (1784-1863), was born in Epworth. He was a maltster of Myton in Hull at the time his eldest son Richard was born. He lived at Thorninghurst, near Thorne, Yorkshire from about 1825-1835, then moved to Crowle, where he was an innkeeper of the Cross Keys commercial hotel.

There were other Vause families that lived at Crowle too, the database at Axholme Ancestry may make it a bit easier to find links between them.

MyHeritage.com — another scam site?

I keep getting messages from MyHeritage.com, saying that there are SmartMatches for my family tree, or that various people want access to my tree.

When I go to their site, however, I cannot do anything about these, because I get this message:

Your family tree has 10,592 people. This exceeds the Basic subscription plan of your family site.

In order for your family tree to display all people, you must upgrade the site plan.

We have an Easter special: 30% discount on our Premium plan! But hurry up, this offer expires very soon.

Now I never subscribed to their site, with a basic plan or any other. I did not enter those 10 592 people on their site, so if it “exceeds” their basic plan, that is their problem, not mine.

They never asked me for my permission to put their data on their site, yet they seem to have done so, and now want me to pay them to have access to my own data, and to respond to the 19 other people who have asked my permission to access it because they think it matches something in their family tree.

There seems to be something unethical about this whole operation, in fact it seems to be yet another genealogy scam.

They stole my data without my permission, and now they want me to pay them to access it, or to give other people access to it.

Bagots of Lancaster

The past few weeks have been pretty busy with other things, and so not much time for family history. Our son Simon got a new job in Johannesburg, doing computer animation, which is what he’s really been wanting to do for a long time, and until he found a place to stay there at the beginning of the week we had to take him there and bring him home again, and in between I managed to get in some research time in various archives and libraries.

I was looking through a microfilm of the parish registers of St John’s, Lancaster, looking for Cottam, Bagot and Mashiter and related families, and found a number of Bagot entries, and then began sorting them into families, and found that several of them are linked to ours.

So we have John Bagot who married Dorothy Mashiter in Lancaster in 1798, and so far we’ve found six children for them: Nancy, William, Sarah, John, Margaret and Robert. John Bagot the elder was apparently a publican. Margaret married Richard Cottam and was my great great great grandmother.

The surname was spelt in various ways in the records, Bagot or Bagott mostly, though in the end most of them seemed to settle for Bagot.

We’ve managed to find children for William, John and Margaret.

William Bagot married Ann Wooliscroft, who was originally from Derbyshire, in 1823, and we’ve found six childfren for them, though there may have been more. We’ve found marriages and children for two of their boys, Henry and John Thomas. Two of the three girls appear not to have married.

John Bagot, son of John Bagot and Margaret Mashiter, was a watchmaker, and he married Isabella of Oxcliffe (where the Cottams seem to have come from). I’ve discovered four of their children, though there’s a bit of confusion about which of the grandchildre4n belongs to which.

And then there is the mysterious Mary Cottam Bagot, born in Lancaster in 1838, who was staying as a visitor with a Cottam family at Scotforth in the 1851 census. She seems to suggest that there were more links between the Bagot and the Cottam families than Margaret who married Richard, but until I can find her parents it’s hard to say what it was. Perhaps I’ll have to save up to buy her birth certificate!

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