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Book details
  • Genre:HISTORY
  • SubGenre:Europe / Great Britain / General
  • Language:English
  • Pages:238
  • Hardcover ISBN:9781098356637

The Cottons of Grundisburgh

Where did they go? And why?

by Robert Rietz

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During the 1800s, several Cotton families lived in Grundisburgh, a village of about 800 residents in rural Suffolk, England. The Cottons of Grundisburgh tells the story of nearly 300 members of this dynasty. Drawn from online genealogy records, author interviews with family members, and more than fifty other sources, this book contains not only the usual genealogical information, but also narrative stories of these Cotton ancestors. These engaging tales identify the major changes and challenges in their lives, while adeptly bringing real people to life. Learn the fascinating stories of many Cotton family members. Did Frederick Cotton, a London police sergeant, help investigate the nearby murders of Jack the Ripper in 1888? Why did Fred Cotton travel the Australian Outback, arranging fuel dumps for pilots? How did Alice "Gladys" (nee Cotton) Zombolas end up being buried in Illinois after dying in Buenos Aires? How did twin sisters get named Mary Margaret and Margaret Mary? Read about three intrepid, single Cotton sisters in their 20s who emigrated to South Africa and the first industrial entrepreneur in Grundisburgh. Follow the lives of the first Cottons who emigrated to America. This book contains not only timelines and portions of the Cotton family tree to help the reader trace people's relationships over time. It also includes more than 25 images, some dating back to the 1800s, to help the reader visualize the settings important to their Cotton family ancestors. The carefully documented information in Cottons of Grundisburgh is useful not only to genealogy researchers of the Cotton family heritage, but also provides a rich overview of 250 years of history as descendants of the family leave their rural English roots and spread out around the globe.
I'm stuck, genealogically, at my great-great-great-great-grandfather George Cotton, so that's where this story begins. There's not much that I know about George Cotton. I don't know when or where he was born or died or the identity of his wife or parents. There are some indications that he lived in Suffolk on the eastern coast of England and was born around 1760, though I have not found records to support these notions. Apparently other researchers have not discovered any records either, because no such records have been posted to online family trees. Some undocumented family trees indicate that he had a son, William Cotton (1783-1869), who was born in Brandeston, a village in Suffolk. If George is William's father, then I suspect George Cotton lived in Suffolk because people in 18th-century England tended to live where they were born. Similarly, 1760 is a reasonable year of birth (YOB) for George, making him 23 years old at the birth of his son. I'd be thrilled to receive any records on George or William Cotton from readers. The surname Cotton in some parts of England probably originated from "cotum," meaning cottage or "coton" meaning cottage in a small village. However, the Cotton lineage in Suffolk is distinct from Cotton lineages in other parts of England, and the Suffolk Cottons date back to the 11th-century Norman Conquest. The surname of the Suffolk Cotton families may have been derived from John de Cotentin (1042-1105), an invading Norman from Cotentin, now known as the Cherbourg peninsula in France. Various censuses list multiple Cotton families in Grundisburgh and nearby locations in the 19th century. Who were they? What were their lives like? Where did they move? Let's find out.
About the author
When a pandemic swept the world in 2020, Robert J. Rietz, a retired consulting actuary, found himself with files full of notes on his family history, his mother's stories of her European and Canadian ancestors, and plenty of time on his hands. With his usual activities temporarily curtailed, Bob set about organizing his notes into a book, bringing the past to life, creating a love letter for his family and anyone interested in their Cotton heritage. Bob graduated from Michigan State University in 1970, Summa Cum Laude, with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. A credentialed actuary, Bob writes a dedicated column for Contingencies, the magazine of the actuarial profession, and has authored multiple peer-reviewed research articles. He has won two communication awards, is a Past President of the Conference of Consulting Actuaries, has served three terms on the Board of the American Academy of Actuaries, and was the Chief Pension Actuary for a large national consulting firm. Bob was appointed by different Michigan governors to sit on the boards of two of that state's large public retirement systems. Bob and his wife share a passion for travel, having been to six continents, and are considering a trip to the seventh. They have five children and ten grandchildren and live in Asheville, North Carolina.