Cottam cousins

Don Edge recently sent us a photo of the graves of my great great grandparents, John Bagot Cottam and his wife Adelaide Herbert. They are buried in the West Street Cemetery in Durban, and what is interesting about the picture is that it was probably taken about the time that the gravestones were erected, or very soon afterwards. We have pictures that we took in about 1975, when we first became interested in family history. About that time there was a rumour that the cemetery would disappear because a new freeway was being built, which would cross the cemetery, and would also require the demolition of the nearby Roman Catholic Cathedral. I think that the route of the freeway was changed, and that the Cathedral, and the Cottam graves, are still there. The John Bagot Cottam who lies buried there had a sister Mary, known as Polly, who married John Stringer Worrall, a bookbinder, and they lived in London. I knew the names of their children from the 1881 English census, but I wasn’t able to find any descendants of their children. Now Don Edge, who is descended from the eldest daughter, Maggie Worrall, had made contact, and so we’ve suddenly unearthed a bunch of cousins that we knew nothing about before. Don, it appears, is my third cousin once removed.


Let us sing because round things roll

Let us sing because round things roll
And rejoice that it might have been otherwise

So wrote N.F. Simpson in his play “A resounding tinkle”, but it might have been written for our dog Samwise, who has a single-minded obsession with round things that roll, and jealously guards those that are in his possession. I’ve no idea what this will look like – I’m posting it by e-mail via Posterous, and when our web access is restored tomorrow (I hope) I might be able to see it.


Internet woes, and joys

Last night we tried three times to buy more bandwidth from Telkom, but it failed every time, so no Web access until Friday. Oh well, at least e-mail still works. The trouble is the banks make you jump through so many hoops to avoid fraud that eventually legitimate transactions fail as well. On the family history front, we’re checking out lots of Ellwood researchers to see which ones are related, and discover the pitfalls of online family trees, where everyone copies from everyone else, without checking to see if the information is accurate — and very often it isn’t!

Also had an interesting e-mail from Don Edge, who says he is related on the Cottam side, but I’m not sure where he fits in, so that might lead to discovering a whole lot more relatives we didn’t know about.

Ellwood family history

Since we added 8 generations to our Ellwood family tree a couple of weeks ago we have spent every spare moment of leisure time updating the Ellwood family tree, and trying to make contact with Ellwood cousins and researchers we hadn’t known about before. We have started a mailing list for Ellwood researchers and family members at 

and hope that others will join us there as a way of getting and keeping in touch and exchanging family information.

Ellwood family of Whitehaven

We’ve just made contact with a previously unknown (to us) Ellwood cousin, Genie Zappanti of Arizona, USA, which has led us to some research done by Bruce Morrison, also of the USA, which has added several generations to our Ellwood family tree all at once.

Val’s maternal grandmother was Martha (Mattie) Ellwood, who married William Pearson in Pinetown, Natal, in 1913, and lived at 315 Main Road, Escombe, Natal.  They were both from Whitehaven, Cumberland, in England. After William Pearson died in 1956, Val’s gran went to live with them — they built on a granny flat, and she lived there for 12 years until she died in 1968. She wrote regularly to her brothers and sisters in Whitehaven, and they sent her the Whitehaven News, and so Val grew up hearing stories of the family in Whitehaven.

When we started our family history, therefore, the Ellwood side was quite easy, at least for a couple of generations back, because a lot of the material was at hand. But we were stuck with Val’s great great great grandparents, Robert and Martha Ellwood, and couldn’t get back any further than them.

One of the things genealogy text books tell you is that you should always get in touch with living relatives, and ask them what they know, and some of them may even be interested in family history. There’s no point in working hard to collect lots of information and draw up a family tree only to show it to a cousin who says, “Oh, Uncle George did all that years ago.”

But we started six years after Val’s grandmother died, and since she had died the family had not kept in touch with the Whitehaven relatives. So we wrote to the Whitehaven News, asking any Ellwood or Pearson relatives to get in touch.

Some did, and in some cases we remained in touch with them, especially some of Val’s mother’s double first cousins, Ralph and John Pearson. Their father, Ernest Pearson was the brother of William, and their mother was Margaret Ellwood, Mattie Ellwood’s sister. John Pearson’s wife, Norah, was an inveterate letter writer, and kept in touch for many years after John died, and we met her and her daughters Maxine Wincott and Zania McKenzie when we went to the UK in 2005. Ralph Pearson became interested in the family history after we had made contact with him, and collected a lot of information, especially on the Pearson side.

Thomas Ellwood (1845-1914)

Our letter in the Whitehaven News also elicited a response from a cousin we had not previously heard of, Mrs Mary Ann Tumilty of Elk Grove Village, Illinois in the USA. She happened to be visiting Whitehaven in the week that our letter was published, and when she got back to the USA wrote to say that she had a family Bible that had the dates of birth and death of all the children of Val’s great great grandparents, John Ellwood (1819-1892) and Bridget Anderson (1819-1876). That also revealed that Val’s great grandfather, Thomas Ellwood (1845-1914), had been born at Wingate Grange in County Durham, which was why we had not been able to find his birth certificate. Now, with resources such as FreeBMD, finding such things is relatively easy, but back in 1975 it wasn’t.

And now, 37 years later, we’ve made contact with another cousin in the USA, Genie Zappanti, who is also interested in the family history.

And through her we have also made the link to Bruce Morrison’s Ellwood Genealogy web site, which traces the Ellwood family back to the village of Dufton in Westmorland where they were farmers for several generations until some became miners. At first they were lead miners in nearby Alston, and later coal miners in Whitehaven.