Surname Saturday: Cotten

With this week's surname study, we return to the American colonies and take a look at my tenth great grandmother, Dorothy Cotten.  It should be no surprise by now, but this line is yet another where I only know of one person with the surname.  However, what I do know is not yet fully verified to reliable primary sources.

Dorothy Cotten was born between 1603 and 1611 in England.  She was christened in 1611 in Cretingham, Suffolk, and had emigrated to Connecticut Colony by 1632.  It was then that she married Henry Smith in Wethersfield in either 1632 or 1633.  Here is where the biggest part of my doubts begin; right now in my database, I have fifteen children listed as their offspring, with the earliest born in 1612.  It seems incredibly unlikely to me that Dorothy would have been a mother at the age of eight (which is the oldest that she could have been based on the birth date estimate that I have so far), and I am more inclined to believe that at least six of the children were probably siblings of Henry rather than children of Henry.  Regardless, what I have in my database for their children are:
  1. Mary Smith (F; b. 1612, Norwich, England; m. John Graves; d. 19 Jan 1712, Wethersfield, Connecticut)
  2. Peregrine Smith (M; b. circa 1613, Norwich; d. before 20 Apr 1649, Charleston, Rhode Island)
  3. Rebecca Smith (F; b. circa 1615, Norwich; m. Samuel Smith)
  4. John Smith (M; b. 1616, England)
  5. Philippa Smith (F; b. 1622, Wethersfield; m. 1640, Wethersfield, to John Birdseye; d. 1687, Stratford, Connecticut)
  6. John Smith (M; b. 1623, England; d. before 1648)
  7. Mary Smith (F; b. 9 Oct 1628, Hadleigh, Suffolk, England; d. 16 Dec 1668, Hadley, Massachusetts)
  8. Dorothy Smith (F; b. 1635 or 1636, Wethersfield; d. 17 Apr 1706, Farmington, Connecticut)
  9. Preserved Smith (M; b. 1637, Norwich; d. 1637, at sea)
  10. Samuel Smith (M; b. 27 Jan 1638; m. April 1662, Northampton, Massachusetts, to Mary Ensign; d. 10 Sep 1703, Hadley, Massachusetts)
  11. Dorothy Smith (F; b. circa 1641, Glastonbury, Connecticut)
  12. Joanna Smith (F; b. 25 Dec 1641, Wethersfield; m. 4 Feb 1661, Hartford, Connecticut, to Philip Russell; d. 28 Dec 1664, Hadley, Massachusetts)
  13. Noah Smith (M; b. 25 Feb 1644; d. 8 May 1648, Hadley)
  14. Elijah Smith (M; b. circa 1647)
  15. Elizabeth Smith (F; b. 25 Aug 1648; d. 1648, Wethersfield)
Henry Smith, Dorothy Cotten's husband, died on 9 August 1648 in Wethersfield.  Dorothy remarried to John Russell, who was himself a widower.  John was born in 1591 in England, and married Phebe Collins (b. circa 1600, London; d. 8 July 1642, Cambridge, Massachusetts) circa 1625 in Bramford, Suffolk, England.  John and Phebe had two sons: Philip Russell (M; b. 1629, Ipswitch, Massachusetts; d. 19 May 1693, Hatfield, Massachusetts) and John Russell (M; b. 1628 or 1629, Wethersfield; d. 10 Dec 1692, Hadley).  I do not know of any children born to John and Dorothy.  They both died on 8 May 1680, John in Hadley, Massachusetts, and Dorothy in Wethersfield, Connecticut.  I find it highly doubtful that both John and Dorothy would have died on the same day in different cities, but it is possible.

Although it seems like I have a lot of information on this family, I am fairly certain that at least half of it is wrong.  As I mentioned above, it seems more likely to me that many of the children that I have currently listed in Henry and Dorothy's family were actually Henry's siblings.  I also have my doubts on Dorothy's death information as noted.  Finally, there are events listed in this data that occurred in the colonies before the political boundaries were formed.  Massachusetts Bay Colony was established in 1628 and Connecticut Colony was established in 1636.  This collection of data is another reason that I treat anything from Ancestral File with low regard; almost all of this data was recorded in Ancestral File by various researchers.

So, the obvious next steps to research this line are to find primary sources that will prove Dorothy's birth, marriage and death information, then find primary sources that definitively link their children.


Jean Olson said...

Since I can't find anything but errors on most of the Smith stuff online, I have been going deep, deep, and deeper into the results of a "Smith" Google search. Thus, I was lucky enough to find your blog. What a great service you are doing. I was so inspired I have started my own genealogy blog. I am going to Salt Lake City for a week of research at the end of this month. I am a Smith descendant, which is a big can of worms. Ha-ha.
Supposedly I come down through the above line.....whatever that may be. Like yourself, I am fond of the documented "fact." I'll be posting what I find out there in Salt Lake. Jean

Gordy Thomas said...

I am also a Cotten descendant, through my mother, tracing my lineage back to:

Name: John Cotten
Given Name: John
Surname: Cotten
Sex: M
Birth: 1625 in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England
Death: About 1693 in Isle Of Wight County, Virginia (Formed 1637 From Warrosquyouke County--formed in 1634)

I believe there are other possibilities worth considering:

1. A first wife not listed. Henry Smith could have been a widower when he married Dorothy. It would help to know when Henry was born. If there is a significant age difference between Henry and Dorothy, it would make that scenario all the more likely.

I find this to be very common in my genealogical searches when comparing various family trees: some will give credit to one husband/one wife for 15 children, while another, more complete tree will list all wives and designate which children were issued from whom.

2. These younger children could have been Henry's nieces and nephews. If their mother died, as mothers often did in those days, and if her widower, Henry's brother, fell upon some misfortune and passed away before his time, Henry might have simply assimilated the children into his family and raised them as if they were his own.

Or not :-)