Our Family

Our Family

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Grandma Cotter Calls to Me

We're heading to Edinburgh on our next Mormon Heritage Association tour of Scotland and Wales in a few weeks. My wife and I are going a week early as a celebration of my retirement. I had planned to travel down to Durham for some Vaughan family visits, but something besides just the longer drive nagged me to stay in Scotland.

We were going to rush through some of my wife's ancestral villages in Scotland just the other side of the Firth of Forth and then swing up through the Highlands just to say we've been. But now, I've planned for a few more days in the Lowlands. Grandma Cotter has been prompting me.

The Mitochondrial DNA is passed from Mother to children unchanged and can be traced on the maternal line back for a very long string of generations. My results show that my mother's mothers' mothers come from Scotland. And Elizabeth Cotter (1787-1860) is along that line.

She was on my FamilySearch Family Tree and married to Thomas Fletcher, who we believe to have been in Lord Nelson's decisive naval Battle of Trafalgar. But with the MtDNA, she is the one who was clearly a Scot.

FamilySearch was all messed up for her. My Ancestry.com research had a lot of good information and I still went to some original sources to dig out her birthday of 29 November 1787. She was born in Carriden Parish, now Bo'ness when it was in Linlithgowshire also called West Lothian. That's a lot of confusion right there!

The Cotter name ended up with many spelling variations. I think that is because if pronounced by a Scot, it could be heard as "Coulter." But it is clearly two "t's" on her birth record and her parents marriage record which was described as a "clandestine" marriage. I was up serving in the local Family History Library when I made that discovery so I asked the other consultants if they knew what a "clandestine" marriage was in Scotland. The evening director said that she didn't but she could look it up. "Oh, well I can Google," as we all laughed. Google explains that it could be a marriage of two from outside the parish with no license and no banns read in the three weeks before the marriage. And, it could be a sanction of a common-law marriage particularly if there was a wee bairn on the way. English law (a different thing than Scottish law) also recognized clandestine marriage, but the Scots were much more practical about the whole thing making a border business with English couples coming over.

It is not clear what kind of clandestine marriage it was as Elizabeth was born a good eighteen months later.

The important piece of history about Elizabeth is that she was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 14 March 1847 after the Fletchers moved to Yorkshire. Elizabeth never went to join with the Saints in Utah. Her daughter Ellen did. That took the mother's mothers' MtDNA to come to me.

I found a good place to stay in the heart of Linlithgow a couple of streets from the castle where Mary Queen of Scots was born. We hope to take some pictures to post for a later blog piece.

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