COTTON ORIGINS

12th century map of Lancashire showing Singleton and Cotham villages.

After substantial costly DNA testing, it is confirmed that  Cotton Y (male line) DNA is pure Celt and historically connected to the Irish Clan O’Byrne. The Byrne family is named after the King of Leinster “Braen mac Máelmórda”, who was deposed in 1018. Recently, detailed DNA testing discovered that John Cotton’s surname origins date back to Richard de Cottam, who lived about 1204 in Singleton, Lancashire. Richard was the son of Robert de Singleton, who owned land in the village of Cottam. His son, Richard,  changed his surname to conform to the common practice “of being from a place” i.e. Robert de Singleton and Richard de Cottam. As a result, John Cotton’s surname evolved from Singleton.

The diagram above shows the unique haplogroup containing Singleton & Cotton surnames. Members of Family 11 of the Cotton DNA Project include the surnames COTTON, COTTAM AND COTHAM. The Cotton surname has been proven to Roland Cotton born London, England 1558. Based on the Singleton/Cotton haplogroup, the Cottam surname shows a lineage back to St. Michael on Wyre, Lancashire, England to a Thomas Cottam circa 1740 and a William Cottam born 1779.

Surprisingly, a link between the Cottam and the Cotton surnames resulted from the results of my recent Big Y Test and how these results placed in the Big Tree Project. The Cotton DNA Project attempts to bridge genealogical proofs with DNA Test results. Fortunately for Family 11, the Cotton surname genealogical proof has been confirmed by a large number of prestigious lineage and hereditary societies. In addition, the Family DNA Big Y test is the most extensive DNA test available. As shown above in yellow highlight, the Cotton line’s placement has been further defined several more subclades or subgroupings under Haplogroup R-ZZ7, as follows:

Subclade DYS435=12 groups the Cotton line solidly with the Irish Sea or Leinister Modality as the group is dominated by Z16430 and the Irish Clan O’Byrne. The Byrne family is named after the King of Leinster “Braen mac Máelmórda”, who was deposed in 1018. About 1050, Cotton DNA traveled across the Irish Sea to the Wirral Peninsula. More recent than the Clan Byrne is a unique mutation that now forms its own haplogroup containing, two Singletons and a Cotton (me). Further research seems to indicate that the Singletons took their name from the Lancashire township of Singleton. Later, in the early 12th Century, a Singleton purchased land in the nearby township of Cottam and took the surname “de Cottam”. As a result, it seems that a potential nexus of historical and DNA data exists showing that Cottam and Cotton surnames derive from the Singleton family of Lancashire early in the 13th century.

“The Lancashire Chartulary, Series XX. Charter No. II (A.D. 1153-1160 Stephen to Henry II) shows the confirmation of William Warren, Count of Mortain, to Ughtred, son of Huck de Singleton, of the village of Broughton in Amounderness. “ A note by the Chetham Society, XXX. Page 5, in their Latin comments about the Charter state, “Broctun, now Broughton, in the parish of Preston, was assessed to Danegeld in 1066 as on teamland, and was a member of Earl Tostig’s great manor of Preston in Amounderness. Hucca or Uck is the Anglo Saxon Hoc, a tribal name retained in the place name “Hucking”. The individual so named in the charter seems to have been the successor of the preconquest thane or drengh of Broughton, and Singleton. He was the ancestor of the Singleton family, which with its various offshoots at one time held estates in Amounderness. Ughtred, son of Huck, is frequently mentioned in charters and other records of the time of Henry II. At Michaelmas, 23 Henry II, 1177, he rendered account at the Treasury of 5 marks to have the King’s confirmation or warranty of land which he held by the gift of Geoffrey de Valoiness…” Based on this charter and the notes of the Chetham Society, the following lineage has been established.⁠1

Huck (Ecke) de Singleton (lived about 1125)

Ughtred (Uctred) de Singleton (lived about 1153)

Robert de Singleton (lived about 1180)

Richard de Cottam (lived about 1204) Richard, son of Robert, owned land in the village of Cottam and thus changed his surname to conform to the common practice “of being from a place” i.e. Robert de Singleton and Richard de Cottam.  (Pipe Roll, No. 71, m.I.) From the Cockersand Chartulary it appears that Richard de Cottam was son of Robert, son of Ughtred, who was brother of Richard de Singleton (1180-1212)⁠2

Geoffrey de Cottam

John de Cottam Richard de Cottam

Writ dated at Westminster, June 10th, 21st year of Edward I (1293), directed to the sheriff of Lancaster and his coroners, reciting the same terms as the previous writ (No. LXXI) the petition of the venerable father R. Bishop of Coventre and Lichfield respecting the lands and chattels of Richard de Cotton, clerk, which had been taken into the King’s hands owing to a charge against the said Richard, of the death of William le pauper, and directing the sherif to make inquiry as to the said Richard’s conversation and reputation….. By the oath of 12 free and liege men of the neighborhood of Amundernesse, who say that Richard de Cotton is of good and honest conversation and of good report nor was he ever a public or notorious malefactor except for the death of William le Paumere of which he was accused (arectatus) before the Justices in the last eyre at Lancaster, of which he afterwards solely vindicated (expurgavit) his innocence.“3

John de Cottam (lived about 1344)

1 Singleton, Sam, Singleton Family Association. A History of John Singleton of American Fork, Utah, His Ancestors and Descendants, Spanish Fork, Utah: JMart Publishing Company, 1973.

2 Cheshire, Record Society of Lancashire and. Record Society for the Publication of Original Documents Relating to Lancashire and Cheshire, 1903.

3 Ibid.

In a 2014 article in Time Magazine opinion article Gregory Rodriquez says that genealogy is nearly as popular as pornography as Americans obsessed with their ancestry has spawned a billion-dollar cottage industry. ABC News Good Morning America reports that genealogy is now a $1.6 billion hobby. The obsession with ancestry helps explain the popularity of the PBS show “Finding Your Roots” which is hosted by noted Harvard scholar, Henry Louis Gates Jr.

So what explains our obsession with our roots?

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I am not a genealogy “geek” although I have met plenty of them. In America there are hundreds of ancestral lineage societies that people with proven genealogies aspire to. Perhaps the best know is the Daughters of the American Revolution or the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. Many people I have encountered in my search for the past were obsessed with linking their line to British or European royalty. Online one can find many family trees that link back to ancient Rome.

To my mind, our obsession with our family roots is rooted in our rootlessness. We are out of touch, disconnected and fragmented by modern life. We no longer live in tight-knit family units or tribes. We no longer tell stories of our ancestors around the camp fire.

Honestly, how many of us know what tribe we descend from?

National Geographic’s Genographic Project using simple DNA swabs from people around the world has tested 150,000 DNA markers to trace the emergence and migration of mankind.

Genealogical research can only go so far as it is based on written documentation. The farther back in time one goes written records become more and more scarce. Ultimately, written records are nonexistent.

DNA research now provides a means to trace one’s ancestry back in time by determining the most recent genetic mutation in your genome. Males test their yDNA to determine the heritage of their father’s line. Tests for 12, 37, 67 or 111 genetic markers are available. The more markers tested, the more specific the results. Once results are received, however, further research is needed.

For example, I tested R1b1a2a1a1b4f or L159.2+The R1b haplogroup arrived in Europe about 35,000 to 40,000 years ago and was the first culture in Europe to leave cave art. Today over 50% of Europeans are R1b with the highest number in the British Isles.

My test consisted of 67 markers and determined that my male line fits the L159.2+ mutation known as the Leinster Modal. This mutation is found in the ancient Irish kings of Leinster and most particular in the Irish Clan O’Byrne. The Byrne family is named after the King of Leinster “Braen mac Máelmórda”, who was deposed in 1018. About 1050, Cotton DNA traveled across the Irish Sea to the Wirral Peninsula.

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The theory is that the R1b1a2a1a subclade is common to a number of British Celtic tribes migrated to southern Ireland and southwest England between 4th and 8th century.  Among these are the Dumnonii that settled Cornwall and in the southern Ireland.

Recently, I expanded DNA testing to 111 markers and have moved deeper down the L159.2+ haplogroup and now am classified R-ZZ7_1.

This places my DNA in what is termed the Irish Sea Modality as I share many traits of the Irish Clan Byrne. To dig even deeper, however, I am taking the ‘Big Y Test’.

The Big Y product is a Y-chromosome direct paternal lineage test. That has been designed to explore deep ancestral links on our common paternal tree. Big Y tests thousands of known branch markers as well as millions of places where there may be new branch markers. The test is intended for those with an interest in advancing science and may also be of great interest to genealogy researchers of a specific lineage. To learn more about the methodology and science behind the Big Y test Family Tree DNA has produced a Big Y white paper published August 28, 2014 and sells the Big Y product as a Y-chromosome direct paternal lineage test.

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RDNA testing is not only helpful in placing one’s family geographically in the history of human migration, it can determine a common ancestor in a range of 3 to 10 generations. For example, several Cottons who have no proven genealogical link to the Rev. John Cotton, who helped found Boston MA in the early 1630s have been linked to his line through DNA test results. (Family 11 on this link)