Cottle + Halliday = Mystery … Solved?

There are many people and subjects that I could blog about within my own family or that of my husband. Long-standing mysteries, interesting stories that reflect the changing faces of our society, family members that are not connected in any way, shape or form with the Halliday family. So you’ll be pleased to note that this post is absolutely about the Halliday family and some new-found members – an entire branch of them!

I’ve been researching my family history since I was about 15 years old, so for very nearly 25 years. One thing that constantly thrills me about this ongoing journey is the capacity for surprise – as well as the reminder that no stone should be left unturned. You never know what will be unearthed.

Many blog posts ago I mentioned that all the brothers of my ancestress, Ann Halliday, emigrated to Australia. To recap, John Halliday and his wife Elizabeth Angell had four children: Ann, James, Thomas and John. Ann stayed in Gloucestershire. Thomas and John emigrated in 1849 with James travelling there in 1856. James and his wife and children were accompanied by an Eliza Cottle, who I had initially labelled “possibly a niece of either James or Hester”. How wrong – yet how right – I was …

I had never looked into Eliza’s family. I made the foolish mistake of ‘assuming’ that she was perhaps an adopted orphaned child that the family had taken in and then sent off to Australia. It was only when I started searching for her before her 1856 departure that things started clicking into place.

The 1851 census of Leighterton includes the Halliday parents – John and Elizabeth – living with an Eliza Cottle Halliday. The relationship column for her is blank. (Interestingly, one of the two lodgers is a Dan Hurcomb – actually David Hurcombe – a stepson of John and Elizabeth.)

Extract of 1851 UK census for Leighterton, Gloucestershire, via Ancestry

It was the only time I’d seen her enumerated with a Halliday surname, so thought that her baptism may be of help. Searching the Gloucestershire Church of England Baptisms record collection via Ancestry, I found only one likely candidate: Eliza Cottle the illegitimate daughter of Jane Cottle. She was baptised in Stroud St Lawrence church on 5 April 1844. Jane is listed as being a resident of Horsley parish, but currently of Stroud Workhouse.

Because I’m a suspicious sort of chap, I wondered if Jane had had any other children baptised.

On 25 August 1844, Eliza was rebaptised in Horsley, only this time with an additional middle name: Halliday.

But that wasn’t all. On 20 January 1848, again in Stroud St Lawrence, Jane – still resident in the workhouse – a William Cottle was baptised.

Like Eliza, William was also later rebaptised in Horsley, aged 5. And again, like Eliza, he had gained a couple of middle names to become William Thomas Halliday Cottle.

I had seen where Eliza was in 1851 – but what of William? He is recorded with his mother, Jane, and a sister, Saben, in Stroud Workhouse (I haven’t been able to find a baptism for Saben, but she was buried on 14 June 1851). As seen with the description of Charlotte Kew’s “bastard” children, William and Saben are described as “her bastard” underneath Jane. Nothing like some Victorian judgement.

Jane outlived her youngest daughter by two years – being buried in Horsley on 6 June 1853. She was just 30 years old. (There is a mention of a Jane Cottle being imprisoned for one week in Nailsworth in 1842 for stealing – this is likely the same Jane. In 1841 she is recorded as living with her parents and siblings in Horsley.)

By 1861, William is living with his Cottle grandparents in Lower Barton End, Horsley.

Eliza and William rather dissipate after this point. But what of their father? I am assuming here that the father is the same – but the truth is that there is no indication. Of course, inferences can be made. Firstly, that the father was a Halliday. Secondly, that it was one of the sons of John and Elizabeth.

In cases of illegitimacy, sometimes clues can be found in the child’s name. As both Jane’s father and one of her brothers was named William it seems that the son was named after one or the other (or both!). Given William’s middle names, could it be that it was Thomas Halliday?

1902 map of Stroud Union Workhouse, via

Sadly, there are no surviving bastardy bonds that could help (thank you for the search, Gloucestershire Archives!). Neither was Jane imprisoned for having illegitimate children.

But let’s return to James and Hester and their voyage to Australia in 1856.

Passenger List of SS Hooghly via Archives South Australia, shoddy editing by yours truly

As can be seen, there are the children James, Amelia, George, John, Eliza and Elizabeth. The eldest daughter, Eleanor, is recorded separately as Ellen. James, Amelia and George are all present on the 1851 family census return. John had come along in 1852 and Kesiah in 1854 (although she is not on this passenger list, she did marry in Australia in 1876). I believe that Eliza should be Elizabeth and vice versa as it is the 11 year old that is Eliza Halliday Cottle.

A 20-year-old Eliza Halliday then marries a Josiah White in Trinity Church, Adelaide on 8 April 1865. Checking on Trove doesn’t throw up an announcement of any sort. However, the transcription gives her father’s name as … Thomas Halliday. Right name. Right place. Right time. Right family. Seems to fit. I’m not saying that its 100% – but then sometimes in this game we have to rely on best-fit-with-caveats rather than certainty.

Josiah may or may not be a transcription error somewhere along the line as in all other records he is recorded as Jonah White. Just short of three years into their marriage, Jonah was involved in an accident, being thrown from his horse, and died on 3 January 1868. His uncle, Charles, spoke at the inquest and stated that Jonah had been “subject to fits but he had not seen him in one for the last four years”. He went on to state “when he got drunk he was more liable to fits.” Although there was no evidence that he had been drinking a great deal (another witness said he’d drunk “a glass of beer” earlier in the evening), the eventual verdict was that of accidental death. The newspaper article mentions that he left a wife and one child. That child was Ellen, who was born in 1866. Eliza was just two months pregnant at the time of Jonah’s death, and another daughter was born in July 1868 – Elizabeth Jane (presumably named for her grandmother).

Elizabeth died three weeks after her 28th birthday, unmarried. Ellen, however, married William Abbott (known as Willie) Symons, originally from Devon. The pair had six children in total – all of whom lived to adulthood and had issue of their own!

However, Eliza was not left defeated. Three years after Jonah’s death, she married again to Thomas Cotterell, a farmer with whom she had five further children (sadly, one died at only one month old), and at least two of these also had issue.

Quite a hefty chunk of new family to be processed … and that’s without looking at the somewhat confusion that surrounds Jane Cottle’s other child – William …! I’m so happy!

Now, this isn’t how I wanted to end this post, but I’m going to add in a bit of a warning against copying online trees that spring up easily without doing any due diligence of one’s own. Willie and Ellen crop up in a large number of Ancestry trees, all of whom incorrectly list his father as William John Pott Symons and his mother as Eleanor Horswill. The GRO birth index lists him being born in Barnstaple Union District and his mother’s maiden name as Abbott – as one would guess from his own middle name. This matches the marriage of William Symons (which ties into the father’s name on Willie’s marriage certificate) to a Susan Abbott in Barnstaple, Devon in 1864. This is two years before Willie’s own baptism in Barnstaple in 1866. (Note: William John Pott Symons and Eleanor also married in 1864, but in the parish of Stoke Damerel – and there is a good 60 miles between the two!)

I could honestly write a distinct post on why Willie’s parents are who they are and not who they aren’t. Suffice to say: be alert! Be cautious! Trust nobody!

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s