Our family history wiki in 2012

Here are some statistics for our Family History Wiki in 2012.

The pages that had the most visitors were:

  1. 2184 – Jessie Koch, formerly Falkenberg, born Schultz
  2. 2063 – Morton family
  3. 1974 – Home Page
  4. 1815 – Alfred William Green discussion (bit of a mystery this)
  5. 1638 – Vause family
  6. 1555 – Frederick Thomas Green
  7. 1501 – Bagot family

It is a bit of a mystery why 1815 people (that’s nearly five people a day) should be drawn to a page for discussing Alfred William Green, but then completely fail to discuss him when they get there. By contrast, only 130 people visited the page that actually has information about Alfred William Green.

Jessie Schultz was Val’s great great grand mother, who came to South Africa from Germany in 1858, and it would be nice to know if any of the people who visited her page are related to us, but none of them is saying.

Here are some more general statistics for the site as a whole, and, sadly, they seem to indicate that collaborative family history research is not very popular:

WikiStat

That’s quite a lot of visitors, but the emptiness of the “Messages” section shows that the feedback is almost zero, which is why the edits are relatively few. If few people respond, there is little  motivation to add to the information.

So I’m still a bit disappointed. I thought the wiki format was ideal for family participation, and that other members of the family could help to contribute to information, especially with family stories and biographical information.

I hoped that some cousins might start their own wikis, where the relations we have in common could be linked across two wikis, and then their own wiki could branch out to the unlinked families on their side of the family. In that way we could have a whole network of interlinked family wikis. But somehow it has never reached critical mass, and never taken off.

But maybe this year will be different.

Would it be too much to hope for — that we could have one linked family wiki a month? Or even a quarter? Or perhaps even one for the whole year? It’s quite easy to start one on Wikispaces, but it doesn’t even have to be there, there are other wiki sites as well.

2011 in retrospect

During the second half of 2011 we concentrated mainly on the Ellwood family of Cumbria in our research. We found a link to Bruce Morrison’s online family tree, which took our Ellwood family several generations back to Dufton in Westmorland, England, which enabled us to also link up to several other Ellwood families we had previously thought were unlinked. We started an Ellwood family history forum in July, and by the end of the year it had 19 members, most of them known to be related.

In May we went on holiday to the Western Cape, and visited several relations on the way, mostly of the Growdon and Hannan families. In the first part of the year we were mainly working on the Bagot and Cottam families, from Lancashire in England, and also started a Bagot family forum.

We’ve seen a gradual greowth in the number of visitors to our Family Wiki, but still practically no interaction, which is the main purpose of a Wiki — a collaborative effort at building up a family history, but apart from us, only one other person contributed to it in 2011.

Perhaps one of the problems is that most of the visitors seem to have come from the USA, though the families we are researching are mainly in the UK, South Africa, Germany and Australia.

Another historical project that Steve, in particular, has been involved in is a mailing list on the history of the Anglican Church in Namibia. Steve worked in the Anglican Church in Namibia from 1969 to 1972, and had been in touch with some other people who had worked there in the same period, and have been comparing notes.

On New Year’s Eve we were visited by Val’s cousin Enid Ellis and her husband Justin, who have been in Namibia for the last 20 years, and were also there in the 1970s.

Val Hayes, Enid Ellis, Laura, Justin Ellis, 31 December 2011

 

Which families are people interested in?

Here are the top families that people were interested in on our family wiki at http://hayesgreene.wikispaces.com

Page Views
space.discussion.GreenAW1194 154
home 130
GreeneFT144 89
Vause_Family 85
SchultzJ40 76
Morton_Family 75
Bagot_Family 73
Green_family 59
Index_of_People 36
Family index 34
ParkW223 32
Ahnentafel 29
Devantier_family 27
GreenAW1194 27
About 26
Stooke_Family 25
Decker family 22
Sandercock Family 22
GreenMAA935 21
Growdon_Family 21
GreenWJ140 19
PearsonW2044 18
VauseRW232 18
CottamJB227 17

But, as usual, no one contributed any information about these families, or even left a message to say what it was they were looking for. And, also as usual, the thing that most people most wanted to do was discuss Alfred William Green, 154 of them, to be exact — but not one of them wrote a word.

Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that the wiki conscept hasn’t caught on, and that the wiki page isn’t working, and take it down.

Transcription errors

One of the perils of doing genealogy and family history research far from the location of the original records is that one has to rely a lot on transcriptions of the records. Now I’m not knocking transcriptions, because without them I’d know a lot less about my family than I do, and I’m very grateful to those who have spend much time transcribing records so they can be put on line. But it is always better to look at the original records, or at least microfilm or microfiche or scanned copies, if possible. A case in point is my Bagot family of North Lancashire. Using the transcribed 1881 census on FamilySearch (the old one), I was able to find the children of Henry Bagley Bagot (1838-1919 – my first cousin 4 times removed). He lived in Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire, and he and his wife Lucy Brown had five children: 

  • Ann Jane Bagot
  • Ellen Bagot
  • Lewis Brown Bagot
  • Robert M. Bagot
  • Walter Bagot

 

From their ages at the census I was able to find, on FreeBMD, their appoximate dates of birth, and possible dates of marriage and death. All except for Robert M. who seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth, and there was no record of his birth. Suspecting a transcription error, I checked the original of the 1881 census, and there he was, not Robert M. but Herbert W. And from there it was possible to track him in other records. He was Herbert Wilson Bagot (1870-1927). He was born in Barrow in Furness. At the age of 20 he was in Govan, Scotland, as an electrical engineer. A few years later he made at least one voyage to Australia as a ship’s electrician. He married Isabella Christina Davidson of Aberdeen at Chorlton in Lancashire in 1898 (why at the opposite end of the county to where his parents lived is not clear), and by the 1901 census he was in Aberdeen as an electrical engineer. He died in Glasgow in 1929, and may have had a son, Walter Fraser Bagot, who was a medical student.
See more on the Bagot family forum.

BagotHW.pdf Download this file

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.

Cottam, Bagot and Mashiter ancestors in Lancashire

John Bagot Cottam, my great great grandfather, came to Natal in 1863 with his wife Adelaide Herbert and three children. Several more children were born in Durban. We knew that his parents were Richard Cottam and Margaret Bagot, but only in the last few months did we find out who their parents and grandparents were, so here they are.

And we’re already beginning to discover new (well hitherto unsuspected) cousins, and we hope that anyone else related to this femily will get in touch.

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.

Surname Saturday: Cottam, Bagot, Mashiter

For the last few weeks I’ve been concentrating my genealogy research on my Cottam, Bagot, Mashiter and related surnames in and around Lancaster in Lancashire, so I thought I would mention them today for Surname Saturday.

My great great grandfather John Bagot Cottam married Adelaide Herbert in Manchester in 1858, and in 1863 they emigrated to Durban with their three daughters, Maggie, Ada and Jessie. In Durban they had another five children.

John Bagot Cottam was the son of Richard Cottam and Margaret Bagot, who came from around Lancaster, in the north of Lancashire. I’ve been going through the microfilms of parish registers to try to find their origins, together with the registers that have been transcribed by the Lancashire Online Parish Clerks.

I note each instance of records of the surnames of interest in a database, whether known to be related or not, and then try to connect them into families with the help of census records. FreeCEN has relatively complete records for the 1861 census, and FamilySearch has for the 1881 census. This also helps to get the names into families, which I keep in a lineage-linked database in the Personal Ancestral File (PAF) program, which is free. I have a separate database for Lancashire research, and throw everything in, whether the people are related or not. When I think there is enough evidence of a confirmed relationship, then I transfer them to my main database in Legacy.

The Cottam surname goes back to the mid-18th century in Heaton-with-Oxcliffe, just west of Lancaster, but before that they seem to have come from somewhere else. The Mashiter surname goes back a bit further. Heaton-with-Oxcliffe was in the parish of Overton, but Lancaster was almost as close as Overton, so some members of the families were baptised, married or buried there. Using Lancaster as the centre, I am working outwards and checking other parishes to see if I can find where the Cottams came from.

Here are some of the other surnames in the area that members of my families have married into:

Lord, Barnet, Parker, Atkinson, Richards, Monks.

Variant spellings include Cotham, Cottom, Bagott, Baggot, Baggott and Masheter.

Some of the related places mentioned in the register and census entries are Poulton-le-Sands and Bare (now Morecambe), Heysham, Sunderland, Scotforth, Ellel, and Skerton.

Research at the LDS Family History Centre

Val is on leave and last Friday we went to Johannesburg and did some research in the LDS Family History Centre in Parktown.  One of the things I always enjoy when going to the LDS Family Centre is the walk through the garden between the car park and the reading room. It is a pleasant place with ponds and lots of shady trees, and is especially enjoyable on hot summer days.

Garden at the LDS Family History Centre

Val was checking Methodist records from the Cape Colony, looking for the Stewardson and Morris families of Damaraland (now part of Namibia), who were said to have had Cape connections, and to have been Methodist missionaries.

I (Steve) was looking at microfilms of the parish registers of Lancaster, Lancashire, England, where the Cottam and Bagot families came from. I managed to find a fair number of entries relating to the siblings of my great-great-great grandmother, Maragaret Bagot, who married Richard Cottam in Lancaster in 1835, and I’ve been reconstructing the families from the parish records.

We also met Gwyneth Thomas there, who is indirectly linked to the Stewardson family through the Gunning family of Walvis Bay — John William Gunning married Charlotte Caroline Stewardson (sister of Val’s great great grandmother Kate Stewardson who married Fred Green) exactly 135 years ago today — they were married at Omaruru on 13 April 1875. Gwyneth Thomas is descended from John William Gunning’s younger sister Sarah Petronella Gunning (1845-1930) who married Thomas William Thomas in Cape Town.

We’ve been trying to exchange GEDCOM files with Gwyneth, but though hers reached us OK, ours seems to get mangled in the transmission, and ends up unreadable.

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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