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Mary Ann Cotton

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    Mary Ann Cotton

    Hi, I'm new on here but i have been told by relatives from County Durham years ago that our relative was Mary Ann Cotton but haven't a clue how to find the line as i only know so far back with my Dad's line through to Helen Hughes who was my Great Grandmother. I guess she was born around early 1900's as a guess so not far from Mary Ann was hung. Any help with this would be massively appreciated as there seems to be a mystery with my family line anyway and why my Dad was brought up with his Gran Helen Hughes even when she was travelling doing her Psychic Medium stuff. Debbie. ;)

    my thoughts are do the basic stuff, ask around the family, get evidence. does anyone have certificates for your parents or grandparents? that's really the way to go.

    your local library should have ancestry or findmypast, so there's a way to find the census entries. if you want help, post waht do you do have, provided living people aren't mentioned. so if your parents are dead or your grandparents are, start with them.


      Here's an article about Mary Ann Cotton nee Robson in the Mail Online

      There's also a tree on ancestry

      You could look at the tree to see if any names link with yours.



        Originally posted by margaretmarch View Post
        Here's an article about Mary Ann Cotton nee Robson in the Mail Online

        There's also a tree on ancestry

        You could look at the tree to see if any names link with yours.

        I don't think you can view the public family trees on the library version of Ancestry.
        There's also FreeBMD, (free, as the name suggests) which enables you to look up possible birth, marriage and death registrations in the relevant GRO index. However you do only get access to the INDEX - the full details only appear on the certificates, which have to be bought.

        If you are just starting out, you really can't do better than to browse through our reference library, accessed by clicking on the tab under the picture of the tree at the top of the page. There you will find lots of guides, including explanations of how to start and progress with tracing your tree; descriptions of all the different types of records and how and where you could access these. It will tell you far more and in much greater detail than we can do here!

        Have a look, see what you know already and then feel free to get back to us with more specific questions on how to do something, or requests for help with finding out about individuals. (Remember we do not allow the names of living people to appear on the site.)

        And welcome to the forum! Enjoy researching your family.

        Janet in Yorkshire

        Genealogists never die - they just swap places in the family tree


          Depending on where you live Stockton-On-Tees Central Library have been doing a lecture on Mary Ann Cotton at the cost of £3 a ticket.
          Attached Files
          Lennon. Phillips. Thomas. Peacock. Tubridy. Burton.

          I am the girl from that town & I'm darn proud of it.


            There's also this that I found last year:
            Lennon. Phillips. Thomas. Peacock. Tubridy. Burton.

            I am the girl from that town & I'm darn proud of it.


              Hello Debbie - Mary Ann Cotton was my husband's second cousin three times removed. The following is an extract from information I have gathered on our family tree.

              We now turn to the life of Margaret and Michael’s daughter Mary Ann.

              I agree with Tony Whitehead in stressing that Mary Ann Cotton was charged with and convicted of only the one murder and most of the rest of the “crimes” before West Auckland held against her were possibly conjecture, fabrication, exaggeration or downright hysteria. It is possible, though unlikely, she may have been the unluckiest woman in the world and therefore someone who should be pitied and not reviled. It should be remembered however that in 1873 one murder was quite enough to earn a dawn appointment with the hangman. Then murder was murder, there was no distinction between cold-blooded killing and crimes of passion. If you murdered someone and were convicted you swung for it, unless there were very extenuating circumstances or you were a woman.

              A Chronology of Mary Ann’s Life

              Born about October 1832 as Mary Ann Robson, at Low Moorsley. Christened 11th November 1832 at St. Mary’s West Rainton. (then called Rainton Chapel). Her father, Michael Robson was about 21. Her mother, Margaret (nee Lonsdale) was a little younger. Margaret was born at Tanfield according to the 1851 Census. Michael was born in Co. Durham according to the 1841 Census. A Michael Robson, son of Robert and Mary Barrass, was baptized at Houghton le Spring on 22nd September 1812.

              c. 1833: Robson family moved to nearby East Rainton. Michael Robson started work at Hazard Colliery, owned by the 1st Earl of Durham (Lord Lambton), alongside his father-in-law Robert Lonsdale. They may have worked as “marras”

              1833: A sister Margaret was born, died young.

              1835: A brother Robert was born. Father Michael working as a sinker at North Hetton Colliery.

              1838: Robsons moved t the projected new super-pit at East Murton. Father Michael gets work as a sinker.

              June 1841 Census Durham Place, Murton New Winning. Family of four, plus two male lodgers. Mary Ann now 8.

              1842: Death of Michael Robson who fell down the shaft at Murton Colliery. It is reputed that Mary Ann, now aged 9, saw his mangled body brought home in a sack labeled “Property of South Hetton Coal Company” to be laid out.

              1843: Marriage of Margaret Robson to coalminer and fellow Methodist George Stott.

              1848-51: Mary Ann worked as a domestic in the house of the manager of South Hetton Colliery. May have met her friend Margaret cotton at this time. Still living at Murton with her mother, stepfather and brother.

              1851 Census: Murton Colliery. Family of four. Mary Ann now 19. No children by Margaret’s second marriage. Also a Robson family next door and next door to that and each had a daughter called Mary Ann.

              1852: Marriage of Mary Ann Robson and William Mowbray 18th July at Newcastle Register Office. Mary Ann was almost certainly heavily pregnant.

              July 1852 – Autumn 1856 living at Cornwall/Devon? Appleton said Penzance. Four or five children were allegedly born in this period but only one Mowbray birth was registered in the southwest peninsula in the entire period – at St. Germans in Cornwall, opposite (southeastern) end of the county from Penzance. William Mowbray was working at St. Germans as a railway storekeeper. The only other registered Mowbray death in this period anywhere near the southwest was a William Mowbray in 1853 in Bristol who was unrelated. There were Mowbray births and deaths up and down the country but only the one birth (below) was registered in Cornwall.

              1856 – 23rd June: Margaret Jane Mowbray born at St. Germans, Cornwall. Mrs. Margaret Stott came from the northeast to visit her surviving grandchild and namesake. Mary Ann, husband and child returned with her to County Durham.

              1857, 5th April Margaret Jane Mowbray christened at St. Andrew’s, Dalton-le-Dale. Murton did not have its own church until 1877. Mowbray family now living at Murton Colliery. William was now a storekeeper at the pit.

              1858, 26th September birth of Isabella Jane Mowbray at South Hetton. William Mowbray by now described as a stoker. May have worked at the pit or on a coastal steamer.

              1860, 22nd June death of Margaret Jane Mowbray of “scarletina Anginosa and exhaustion” at south Hetton. Once child, 2 year old Isabella Jane, left after 8 years of marriage.

              1861 Census: An unnamed pub in South Hetton. William Mowbray was described as a stoker. He may already have been working on a coastal steamer from Sunderland. Mary Ann’s mother and stepfather, the Stotts, were next door. George Stott is known to have run pubs in the South Hetton area. He was probably the actual landlord of this one rather than William Mowbray. Pub may have been the “Screener’s Arms”.

              1861 Census: shows Joseph Nattrass, a married man, living with his Thubron in-laws at Pattisons’s buildings, Seaham Harbour.

              1861, 2nd October a second Margaret Jane Mowbray born at South Hetton. William Mowbray was described as an “Engineman” on her birth certificate, which probably mean stoker. Family of four soon moved to Henry Street East at Hendon in Sunderland. William Mowbray now definitely working as a stoker on the coastal steamer “Newburn” operating from Sunderland. The master of this vessel was John Hubbard who was married to Mary Ann’s mother’s sister. Taking advantage of her husband’s absences Mary Ann may now have begun an affair with a red-haired miner, Joseph Nattrass, who was living in nearby Seaham Harbour.

              1863, 6th July: birth at 9 Henry Street East, Hendon of John Robert William Mowbray, her first known boy. He was baptized at South Hetton on 22nd November. Mary Ann now had three small children to look after in the absence of her husband.

              1864, 20th September: death of John Robert Mowbray from “diarrhoea” at either 9 or 28 Henry Street East, Sunderland. Buried at South Hetton.

              1865, 15th January: death of William Mowbray at 28 Henry Street East, Sunderland from “Typhus Fever (19 days) and Diarrhoea (2 days). Left two surviving daughters, Margaret Jane and Isabella Jane. Widow Mary Ann received £35 insurance money but no longer had a breadwinner. She now moved to the new and bustling town of Seaham Harbour. Her mother Margaret Stott was by then living at Seaham Colliery (New Seaham), a mile inland from the port but where the housing was exclusively for miners and their families. At Seaham Harbour Mary Ann met (or remet) Joseph Nattress. Definitely began an affair with him.

              1865, 30th April: death at Seaham Harbour (probably 19 Back North Terrace) from “typhus fever” of the second Margaret Jane aged three and a half, buried 2nd May at South Hetton. The remaining child Isabella Jane was taken in by her grandmother Mrs. Stott at New Seaham, perhaps to give her daughter a breathing space to sort herself out. Mary Ann now free of children and in fact completely on her own for the first time in her life.

              1865: briefly got a job as a nurse at the Infirmary in Sunderland.

              1865, 28th August: marriage of Mary Ann Mowbray and George Ward “Engineer” and ex-Infirmary patient, in Sunderland.

              1866, 20th October: death of George Ward (“Engine Driver in a Steam Tug”) at 5 Ettrick Place, Sunderland of “English Cholera and Typhoid Fever (14 days). Insured. Mary Ann now free and on her own again.

              1866, late November: death of Hannah Robinson, 27, at Pallion. Mary Ann became housekeeper to her widower James Robinson and five children on 20th December according to James Robinson’s own later testimony.

              1866, 21st December: (i.e. the day after she started work): death of John Robinson, 10 months, at Pallion of Convulsions. Buried at Bishopwearmouth. James Robinson still had four children left.

              1867, About 28th February: Mary Ann became pregnant by her employer James Robinson.

              1867, 15th March: death of Mrs. Stott at California Row, New Seaham from “Hepatitis”. Mary Ann, a “nurse”, was in attendance. George Stott would remarry on 14th August (to widow Hannah Paley) and there was now no room for his step granddaughter Isabella Jane Mowbray. Mary Ann stuck with her surviving child and may not have known yet she was pregnant by Robinson.

              1867, 20th April: death of James Robinson (6) of “Continued Fever”
              1867, 25th April: death of Elizabeth Robinson (8) of “Gastric Fever”
              1867, 30th April: death of Isabella Jane Mowbray(9) of “Gastric Fever”
              All three buried at Bishopwearmouth. Only two of Robinson’s five children left.

              1867, 11th August: marriage of James Robinson and Mary Ann Mowbray at Bishopwearmouth. Strictly speaking Mary Ann should have named herself as Mary Ann Ward, but her marriage to George Ward and his death were seemingly ignored.

              1867, 29th November: birth of Margaret Isabella Robinson

              1868, 28th February: death of Margaret Isabella Robinson of “Convulsions”.

              1869, 18th June: birth of George Robinson

              1869, Autumn: Mary Ann left Robinson after a row. Took baby George with her.

              1869, Last week in December?: Left baby George with a friend. Went to “post a letter” and never came back. Child restored to his father James Robinson on New Year’s Eve 1869/New Year’s Day 1870.

              1870, February: Mary Ann introduced to coalminer Frederick Cotton at Walbottle, Northumberland by her friend and his sister Margaret. He had two surviving sons. He had recently lost his wife (consumption) and two daughters (typhus).

              1870, 25th March: death of Margaret Cotton at Walbottle of “Pleuropneumonia”

              1870, about 8th May: Mary Ann became pregnant by Frederick Cotton. She may not have known when she moved on from Walbottle to her native County Durham.

              1870, Summer: Mary Ann worked for German doctor in Spennymoor. May have remet Joseph Nattress. It possibly became apparent to Mary Ann ( and her employer) that she was expecting. Dismissed by him for that reason thought it may have been for theft. She went back to Walbottle and told Cotton of her condition. Frederick Cotton agreed first to employ her as his housekeeper and then to marry her.

              1870, 1st September: Bigamous marriage of Frederick Cotton and Mary Ann Mowbray at Newcastle. She was nearly four months pregnant.

              1871, 8th February: birth of Robert Robson Cotton at the High Pit, Walbottle.

              1871 Census 3rd April: Shows family of five at Walbottle. Annual Miners’ Bond signed at about the same time. Within days family had moved to West Auckland in County Durham. Frederick Cotton began work at the local colliery.

              1871, 2nd September: death of Frederick cotton senior in West Auckland from “Typhoid and Hepatitis”. Aged 40.

              1871, December: Joseph Nattress (widowed in 1868) moved in as “lodger”. Mary Ann, a nurse, now gets job looking after a Mr. Quick-Manning, Customs & Excise man at local brewery, who was suffering from smallpox. She begins an affair with him.

              1872, 10th March: death of Frederick Cotton junior (10) of “Gastric Fever”

              1872, 28th March: death of Robert Robson cotton (14 months) from “Teething (3 weeks) and Convulsions.

              1872, 1st April: death of Joseph Nattress (35) of “Typhoid Fever”

              1872, about 7th April: Mary Ann becomes pregnant by Quick-Manning.

              1872, 12th July: death of Charles Edward Cotton from “fever”. Workhouse official becomes suspicious. Death certificate withheld. Insurance payment therefore also withheld. Inquest held next day in the pub next door to Mary Ann’s house. Autopsy actually carried out on a table in Mary Ann’s living room. Local GP Dr. Kilburn, without equipment, could ascertain no foul play. He did however retain the boy’s stomach contents. Verdict – “Natural Causes”.

              1872, 17th July: Dr. Kilburn gets a positive result for arsenic poisoning using a primitive test

              1872, 18th July: arrest of Mary Ann Cotton. Exhumation of Charles Edward Cotton. “Massive police/press enquiry” into her history and background begins. Three more bodies exhumed at West Auckland (Frederick Cotton senior could not be found in the chaotic cemetery). Her pregnancy delayed her trial. Spent her 40th Birthday in Durham Gaol.

              1873, 7th January: birth of her last child, Margaret Edith Quick-Manning Cotton in Durham Gaol.

              1873 early March: Mary Ann Cotton tried and convicted of single specimen charge of murdering Charles Edward Cotton.

              1873 24th March: Executed by William Calcraft at Durham Gaol. Buried inside prison walls.

              I hope this is of help.

              Kind regards Linda
              Linda - Happy Hunting

              A tidy house is the sign of a broken computer

              Researching: Brown, Bell, Key and Musgrave from Cumberland. Dodds, Green, Campbell, Hall, Armstrong, Davison from Co. Durham. Raymond from Devon/Cornwall.