Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ada Bessie Cotteril Rawlings aka Edith Bessie Taylor

My grandmother Blake was always a shadow figure in my life as she died 5 years before I was born. I knew a lot about her actual life, what she liked to do, her character and her known relatives. But when I tried to find her in the records  prior to 1891 that proved to be an impossible task. She just appears in the records in 1891 as the daughter of William Taylor and his wife Elizabeth. Searching for their marriage  around 1876 was also non productive. Then, bolstered by my courses at the National Institute  for Genealogical  Studies, I started collecting information on her siblings four in number although only three survived to adulthood. Buying their birth registrations led to the discovery of their mother  Elizabeth's  maiden name Rawlings. That let me find the marriage of William and Elizabeth in 1882. With that piece of knowledge I knew then that my grandmother had likely been born out of wedlock and was not likely the daughter of William Taylor. He would have been 17 years of age when she was born. I further proved this to be unlikely as he was some distance from Kimpton in this time period. Plus he was not listed as her father although did sign the marriage registration as a witness when Edith married Samuel Blake my grandfather.

I then purchased the marriage registration for William Taylor and  Elizabeth Rawlings and her father was William Rawlings. Locating Elizabeth on the census in 1861 and 1871 I found her mother Elizabeth and her siblings but could not find Elizabeth in 1881 and still can not find her. I searched on William instead and up popped the 1881 census with the youngest sons David and Sidney and a grand daughter Ada Rawlings five years old born at Ludgershall. Finding the birth registration for Ada proved  to be remarkably easy  and I waited for yet another certificate. Looking today at Find my past for my grandmother born in 1876 is interesting as there are seven hits for Ada Rawlings born in 1876 but six are easily eliminated because I know she was born 1 April 1876 and thus is the only record that matches.

For some reason I am completely untroubled by my discovery. Illegitimacy  does not hold any horrors for me. Finding my grandmother back in 2005 proved to be a catalyst for all the research that has followed. I discovered that you really can prove your line. Unfortunately it is not likely possible to determine her haplogroup. My father was her only child. She had one half sister but thus far I have not found a female descendant. The Rawlings line quickly fleshed out back to the mid seventeen hundreds  and a recent post proposes  a further jump back in time. William Rawlings married Elizabeth Lywood and the Lywood family has been well researched as a one name study by Warwick  Lywood  who has taken it back into the fifteen hundreds.

The last few 52 Ancestor Challenges have looked at the possible ancestry of my grandmother's  natural father. The father she knew and dearly loved was William Taylor and I considered  just letting her never be found by me in my recordings. The Taylor family was her family.  My grandfather  had very efficiently laid out an ancestry for her that appeared to be quite solid but I could not find a birth registration that fitted. Was I being unfair to her memory? I finally  decided after l revealed her ancestry to all my siblings and they were excited  that she was found that her memory was better served by truth than fiction. We love her just for being our grandmother  nothing else matters. A few Cotterill, Cotterell, Cottrell matches on the various databases that I have tested tell me I am likely right but I will wait to see if they contact me.

I am mostly  of the opinion that one's  familial ancestry determines who you are really. One's  genetic ancestry may or may not coincide but it can not include those wonderful personal anecdotes that make up the story of a family. We genealogists in this time and place have a wonderful opportunity to tell the stories of our families in amazing ways for future generations that gives flesh to the bones. Our DNA is also wonderful to include and gives us both recent and deep ancestry.

In total I have now found two illegitimacies in my ancestry. Both occur in the same line. My grandmother's  grandmother was also illegitimate. I suspect that her father was a soldier during the Napoleonic Wars. Martha Peck  married George Lywood a veteran of Waterloo and was the mother of Elizabeth Lywood married to William Rawlings. Not telling us the true story of our grandmother lost us the story of George at Waterloo. That story  has now returned  to our family history.

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