Tombstone Tuesday: Adelaide & J.B. Cottam

West Street Cemetery, Durban, KZN, South Africa

John Bagot Cottam was born in Salford in 1836, the son of Richard Cottam and Margaret Bagot. He grew up in Manchester, where he was a warehouseman. Her married Adelaide Herbert, daughter of Reuben and Ellen Herbert, in 1858, and their first three children, Margaret, Ada and Jessie were born in Manchester.

Adelaide Cottam, born Herbert

He came to Natal in 1863 as accountant to the Natal Cotton Plantation Company. The American Civil War had disrupted the supply of cotton to the Manchester cotton mills, and it was thought that Natal might be an alternative source of supply. That soon fell through, however, and in 1867 J.B. Cottam set up business on his own account as a wool presser and fresh produce dealer. When the Durban fresh produce market was opened in 1876, he became the first market master. In 1891 he became a city councillor. For two terms he served as a town councillor of Durban until he retired in 1894. He then started his own business as accountant and auditor at 61 Esplanade Buildings.

Like many people of his time, he was a member of the Freemasons and other social and charitable organisations. He was district Grand Warden EC since 1887. He was district grand secretary for 12 years and held other offices in the Craft as well as being a prominent member of the Durban Town Guard formed during the Zulu War. He was also treasurer of the Durban
Benevolent Society for several years and occupied the position of secretary to the Seamens Institute.

He took an active interest in church affairs, and was one of those who supported the Colenso schism from the Anglican Church in Natal, and was at one time publicly rebuked to be Bishop of Natal for preaching without a licence from the bishop.

John Bagot Cottam (1836-1911)

They had five more children in Natal: Richard Herbert, Lucy, Bessie, Lily and Kate.

John Bagot Cottam’s younger brother, William Henry Cottam, also came to Natal, and farmed near Verulam.

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.

Family visiting and nostalgia trip

Yesterday we had to take our son Simon to work in Johannesburg, and as Val had a couple of days’ leave we decided to visit her cousin Margaret, who, we had recently discovered, lived much closer than we had thought. After catching up on family news we drove through Krugersdorp to Magaliesberg, where I went to school from age 9 to age 11.

I went to the Mountain Lodge Prep School, which was one of those private, for profit proprietary schools, and illustrated both the best and worst features of capitalism in education. The best was that we had small classes, and some interesting and exxentric teachers who might not fit in with all the rules and regulations of official government schools. The worst was that the school went bankrupt, and closed at the end of 1952, throwing the teacvhers out of work and the pupils out of school, amid rumours that the bursar/proprietor, Mr Burnford, had absconded with the funds. The school buildings are now used as a Salvation Army hostel, but there I a high wall, so it was hard to see whether there had been many changes in the buildings.

Some things had not changed much, though. The approach road was much the same.

The road to Mountain Lodge School, 58 years later

The trees may have been chopped down and grown again several times, and the three-phase electricity may not have been there, and there was probably a farm-line telephone wire there in its place, certainly the school was on a farm line, and the phone was a big wooden box fixed to the wall with two bells in front.

And the view was much the same as well.

Westen Magaliesberg

That was the view I saw most days for three years. The hill with the pimple on top is the western end of the Magaliesberg, and acording to my atlas is 1588 metres above sea level. And we used to ask each other what we would do if a hundred or a thousand or some number of fierce armed North Koreans appeared over the edge of it rushing towards us. The North Koreans were the foe du jour (that, like the hills and the trees, hasn’t changed much). as we learned from publications like Popular Mechanics, which showed by means of diagrams how the American air force dropped napalm bombs at each end of railway tunnels while a train was in the tunnel, thus suffocating or incinerating the people on the train. I later discovered that one of my Cottam relations was killed in the Korean War. He was John Frederick Oliver Davis, whose grandmother was Lily Cottam, sister of my great grandmother Maggie Cottam. He was in the No 2 Squadron of the South African Air Force (the Flying Cheetahs), and went missing on 10 March 1951.

Then we drove back to Pretoria, stopping at Catalino’s restaurant at Hartebeestpoort Dam for lunch, with the syringa trees all in bloom.

Hartebeestpoort Dam, west of Pretoria

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.

Cottam family of Lancaster

Yesterday I found another generation of my Cottam family in the Lancaster area, and so was able to link to a lot of descendants.

My great great great grandfather, Richard Cottam, was born at Heaton-with-Oxcliffe, near Lancaster, but I had not been able to find his baptism, and thus his parents.

At the LDS Family History Centre in Johannesburg I ordered the film of church records for St Helen, Overton, and found Richard Cottam was baptised there in 1811, along with 10 siblings, including his brother Adam Cottam, whose whole family I had recorded in censuses etc, without knowing how he was connected.

They were the children of John and Mary Cottam, John being recorded as “Farmer of Oxcliffe Hall”. The only other Cottams found there in abundance were the children of Henry and Alice Cottam. Henry was a “Farmer of Heaton”. The next step will be to find if John and Henry were brothers and who their parents were.

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!

Sharon Cottam visits her father’s old POW camp

I don’t know if she is related (possibly by marriage?) but I was interested in this item on the BBC, describing how Sharon Cottam had been taken to visit the places where her father, Flight Lieutenant Ted Nestor, was a prisoner of war in World War II.

But whether she is related or not, it makes intersting reading, and is illustrated by drawings and cartoons showing life in a POW camp, and how some of his fellow inmates plotted their escape.

 

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