Do You Have a Mystery Man in the Family? Looking for Henry, Francis and William Cobb

This is going to be a short post because this has been a brick wall for 25 years. My husband has a Williams branch in his family and I spent a couple of decades tracing as many of the collateral lines as I could find up to the end of the Civil War.

There are a few people who have completely eluded me, but I think this is the only case of three brothers disappearing off the face of the earth at one time.

Charles Williams of Cumberland County, Virginia moved to eastern Tennessee with his brothers and some cousins. They were in the Roane County area by 1805. The name of Charles’ first wife is unknown, but he left a will naming his children when he died in 1825 next door in Morgan County, which is a burned county.

Those children were Reuben Williams, who married Mahuldah Cobb in Roane County in 1819, Susannah Williams who married Shadrach Stephens in Roane County in 1817, Amanda Williams who married Joseph A. Davis about 1825, probably in Morgan County, Tennessee, Malinda Williams who married David Rector between 1825 and 1828, William G. Williams, who may have married Dianah White and removed to Illinois, Charles C., who died before March 1844 in either Kentucky or Illinois and, finally the mother of our mystery family, Mary Williams, who married William Cobb before 1825 and removed to Mississippi.

Charles Williams’ second wife, Elizabeth, was apparently the widow Cobb. She died in 1843 and there is a court record settling the estate in March 1844. She had two daughters, Susannah Cobb (Williams) who married Ethelbert Ezell in 1846 in White County, Illinois and Frances Cobb, who married Thomas Rattorree and moved to Tallahatchie County, Mississippi before 1850.

By the time of the March 1844 term of court, Mary and William Cobb were both deceased, but the record stated that they had three children, Henry, Francis and William, “living in Mississippi when last heard from.”

Mary was probably born about 1800 and living in Morgan County when she married William Cobb. Morgan County was formed in 1817, but lost its records in an 1862 courthouse fire. She likely married before 1820, but the birth years for her sons are a guess-timate. They might have been born a bit earlier or a little later and there might have been other children who died young, creating gaps in their birth years. Regardless, they were named as William and Mary Cobb’s surviving children in March 1844.

It is possible that one or more died before 1850, but it would also be very coincidental if all three were not of age by 1840 AND had all died in that ten year span.

Children: (Cobb)

i. Henry, born c1820
ii. Francis, born c1822
iii. William, born c1824

I have never picked up the trail of William and Mary Cobb and the county in which they might have settled in Mississippi, nor have I found any Cobbs with the names of Henry, Francis or William, who could possibly be part of this family.

There is only one Cobb in Mississippi in 1820 – Jesse Cobb, who lived in Lawrence County. He was 16-18 years old and there was one female 10-15 years old. Jesse was probably an 18 year old newlywed making his fortune with a 15 year old bride in the new state of Mississippi. Jesse is a common name in the Cobb family. He could have been part of the Tennessee group.

The 1830 census has six Cobbs in the state – James in Yazoo County, Absolem in Copiah County, James Cobb and Martha Cobb (two separate households) in Jefferson County, Samuel Cobb in Simpson County and Jesse Cobb in Franklin County.

By 1840, there are 17 Cobb households in multiple Mississippi counties, including an H. Cobb in DeSoto County, who is too old to be Henry (30-39 years old in 1840) and Wm. Cobb in Leake County, who is the right age at 20-29, but I have found no evidence of his parentage.

This just doesn’t seem like it should be a brick wall unless all three did die young and/or unmarried. If you have a Henry, Francis (even a Frances, female) or William Cobb in your family tree that is a dead end brick wall, but might be one of these three children of William and Mary (Williams) Cobb, please contact me.

British Isles Genealogy Resources

NOTE: Friday’s Family History Finds is on a short hiatus because I have no reliable internet connection right now.

Given the huge number of Americans who have British Isles ancestry, I decided it was time to compile a list of mostly free websites to help with that research.

The Federation of Family History Societies – subscription membership, but there are almost 200 local family history societies that belong to FFHS. If you know the ancestral home of your family, membership in a society might provide access to local records.

GENUKI – a virtual reference library of genealogical information of particular relevance to the UK and Ireland

Guild of One-Name Studies

Society of Genealogists

Be aware that for colonial American ties to Britain, many early parish registers have been indexed and are available on FamilySearch.

However, for more recent vital records, there are indexes available online, but birth, marriage and death records must be purchased.


FreeBMD – Civil registration began in 1837 and records are indexed.

General Register Office – Certificates can be ordered here.

FreeReg – Parish registers can be searched here. Be aware that not all parishes are included, nor are all date ranges.

Prerogative Court of Canterbury – Probate records (wills) can be downloaded directly from the website, but it is a pay site.

Church of England Clergy – covers 1540-1835

Old Bailey – criminal trial records from 1674-1913

Historical Directories of England and Wales – digital directories from 1750-1919

Post-1858 Wills for England and Wales – searchable index

Northern Ireland

North of Ireland Family History Society

General Register Office of Northern Ireland

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)


Scottish Association of Family History Societies

ScotlandsPeople – This is the government website to use for Scottish records. However, it is a pay site.

National Records of Scotland: Besides access to ScotlandsPeople, this site has many other databases:

National Library of Scotland

The Scottish Archive Network


FamilySearch Wiki – Wales Genealogy, lots of links

Archives Network Wales – Includes collections from 21 archives in Wales

FreeBMD – Civil registration began in 1837 and records are indexed.

General Register Office – Certificates can be ordered here.

Historical Directories of England and Wales – digital directories from 1750-1919

National Library of Wales

A Topographical Dictionary of Wales

FamilySearch Wales Probate Abstracts, 1544-1858 – As of December 2017, patrons must sign up for a free account to log in and access collections on FamilySearch


IrishGenealogy – Search vital records for Ireland

National Archives of Ireland

National Library of Ireland

United Kingdom

UK GenWeb – managed by volunteers so some sites might be chock full of information, while others have little, but well worth checking

The Genealogist – membership website, but you can search for free.

International Society for British Genealogy and Family History – based in the US

Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England Family History Society

Quaker Family History Society

Forces War Records – search military records for free, but fee to access

Catholic Family History Society – covers England, Wales and Scotland, but not Ireland

Adoption Search Reunion

Children’s Homes

Home Children, 1869-1932 – British Home Children in Canada

British Home Children in Canada

British History Online

British Home Child Group International

British Library

Connected Histories

Deceased Online – search British burial records for free, but fee to access

British Postal Museum and Archive

Army Museums Ogilby Trust – Regimental museums in the U.K.

Borthwick Institute for Archives – U.K. repository of regional and national archives

British Newspaper Archive

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The Gazette – UK government notices on a variety of topics

FreeCEN – Search U.K. Censuses

Medieval English Genealogy

Gazetteer of British Place Names

University Research Libraries – catalogs of 24 of the largest UK and Ireland research libraries

National Maritime Museum

Railway, Work, Life & Death – spreadsheet with details about UK rail accidents

National Railway Museum

Naval Biographical Database

Roll of Honour – war memorials in the UK

Western Front Association – remembering those who served in The Great War (WWI)

The Workhouse – Learn about the poorhouses of their times

UKBMD Project – local society initiatives to publish local records online

Robert Mason and the Bolton Massacre of 1644

Yesterday, I shared data on the family of Sampson Mason and his wife, Mary Butterworth, who lived in Rehoboth, Massachusetts in the 1600s.

It seems that the Mason and Butterworth ancestral origins weren’t far apart back in Old England as Bolton to Halifax is only about 40 miles distance.

It is unusual, at least in my family, to find ancestors who hailed from the north of England. Many of mine came from Devon, Cornwall, and some of the other southern, or at least more southern shires, of England.

However, the Masons and the Butterworths were from northern England towns about 40 miles apart – the Mason family from Bolton, Lancashire and the Butterworth clan from Halifax, West Riding, Yorkshire. Both are close to Manchester.

Back in the 1600s, forty miles’ distance made it very unlikely that the families knew each other, but they may have felt some kinship with each other on arrival in Massachusetts with so many other families from the south.

Today’s story is about Robert Mason. The name of his wife isn’t known and he is credited with a houseful of children, but the only records I am able to locate name:

Mary – possibly this child, baptized 28 August 1621, Wigan, Lancashire, England, daughter of one Robert Mason, was a sister to Sampson. Wigan is only ten miles from Bolton and it is certainly possible that the family moved from one village to another.

Sampson, baptized 6 December 1624, St. Peter Bolton, Lancashire

Thomas, baptized 29 January 1638, St. Peter Bolton, Lancashire

None of these records names a mother and no likely marriage record has been found for this Robert.

However, Robert’s death has been well documented, as he was one of 78 people (76 men and 2 women) who were killed in the Storming of Bolton, or the Bolton Massacre on 28 May 1644.

This event was a brutal episode during the English Civil War. Bolton had two strikes against it – it was supportive of Parliament and Oliver Cromwell AND it was strongly non-conformist in terms of religious leanings.

On that fateful day, Prince Rupert mounted an attack on Bolton. The Parliamentarians fortified the town by setting up a defensive line of men, ready to defend their homes and families.

Fighting continued until the Parliamentarians were overcome by the Royalists. A true count of men lost doesn’t exist. Some sources claim thousands were killed, but town records only name 78 souls lost in the battle.

There are a number of undocumented lores about Sampson’s involvement in the Civil War, but I hestitate to repeat them since they are just that – lore.

Thus, the story of Robert Mason and his family is quite short. Perhaps future research will shed light on his wife and other possible children.

Next week, I will outline Mary Butterworth’s ancestors, which have already been proven.