The story starts with William Frampton Cotty who disappears with his wife and children somewhere between 1851 - when he's at South Street, South Petherton, Somerset - and 1861, when he's not in the country at all. No website had any records on him, but by googling I found references to the family in South Africa, and by checking their National Archives 'NAAIRS' catalogue, I slightly bulked out what I knew on him and his boys. The youngest girl by a fluke marries in Bristol, has a baby in Lancashire and returns to South Africa (odd). But of the oldest girl Ann, there was nothing.
A new site, South African Settlers, popped up in my internet browser with extra info on W. F. Cotty. His entry had been indexed from the Cape Death Notices and was modestly informative. By this time, I already knew or had surmised that his cousin the housekeeper had become his partner and later his wife, but I didn't know this:
That Ann had a middle name of Martha. In 1851 she's down as Ann M, but her birth shows her as Anne. I'd even signed up to the Crewkerne Yahoo Groups which has since deluged my mailbox in the hopes of getting the baptism at Hinton St George and finding that possibly useful middle name.
A few days after finding this, having fruitlessly combed South Africa for Annie Marthas who had children in the 1860s, I thought of putting her name into FamilySearch. It's worked before. I now have a claim to the firstborn male of Mount Vernon, NY, as a relative because I put a married couple's name into FamilySearch.
So off do I try it again. And, no! Can this be?
Not expecting to find anything, I pick up Ann as mother of a girl born around 1865 in Springfield Illinois. Well for a girl born 1840, that's about right. It's more than about right, it's spot on - Ann's aunt and uncle lived in Springfield, and of all the places in the US, this is one it makes all the sense in the world for her to have gone to.
She lies buried at Boone, Des Moines, where she'd gone to live with her husband Gus. She had 5 children, not the 2 stated in 1910, and 4 were living in 1900 (as correctly stated there) - Anna, Mae, Lotta and Earle but only the eldest has family - children Genevieve Eichenberger and Ashley Bowers. Ashley's grandson is in England not far from his roots; while Genevieve's are still in Glen Ellyn or retired elsewhere in the States.
Ann is not the first relative I've come across who's balked at the chance to go overseas with her widowed father or mother. Elizabeth Swanton and her cousin Sarah Mullins both said 'no thank you' to the chance to go to Australia (in 1852) and Ohio (in 1836). Sarah was already married, so the decision wasn't hers.
Ann was only 17 and had the perfect opportunity to emigrate while single, just as her aunt Hannah had 17 years earlier:
It's no coincidence that Anna was the name of her first child. Had she waited any longer she would have been rushed off to Cape Province, before you can say 'gold'.
Ironically, maybe her life was harder in America than it would have been in Africa. The Cottys did well and money was flowing in. Whereas Ann had to return to Chicago after years out in Des Moines - was she happy about that I wonder. Her aunt and cousins were around, and hopefully stayed in touch: newspaper articles would confirm.