Miss Lily Elsie:  Notes on Ancestry

[This web site is hugely indebted to David Howard for the following research which clearly took considerable time to complete.]

Born 8th April 1886 at 39 Simpson Street, Armley, Leeds, Yorkshire: given name Elsie.

Birth Certificate shows mother Elizabeth Hodder (Dressmaker); no father is shown on the certificate and the identity of Elsie’s father is generally taken to be “unknown” though one possible candidate is the man Elizabeth subsequently married, i.e.:

William Thomas Cotton:  married Charlotte Elizabeth Hodder on 19th March 1891 at Chorlton-upon-Medlock, Manchester.

1891 Census – at 96 Higher Cambridge Street, Chorlton-upon-Medlock

  • Charlotte E Cotton [Elsie's Mother] – wife – 27 – no occupation – place of birth – Southampton, Hants
  • Elsie Cotton – daughter – 4 - scholar - place of birth - Leeds, Yorks
  • Florence E Hodder – sister-in-law – 9 – scholar - place of birth - Leeds, Yorks

Note 1.  The census was taken on the night of 5th April 1891, just a couple of weeks after the marriage, and has obviously been completed on the basis that William, although absent, was the head of the household (given his occupation – “theatrical baggage manager” according to the marriage certificate – his absence is not entirely surprising, though he ought to appear somewhere on the census e.g. in digs wherever he was working that night. So far no trace – search to be continued)

Note 2.  The fact that Charlotte’s sister / Elsie’s aunt Florence is staying with them is conclusive evidence of the identity of Lily Elsie’s mother – i.e. it has to be Charlotte Elizabeth Hodder and not Elizabeth Barrett, who is sometimes put forward.

Note 3.  The rest of the Hodder family were living close by in Chorlton-upon-Medlock at this time (see later)

1901 Census – Elizabeth Cotton [Elsie's Mother] (36) and her daughter Lily Elsie Cotton (15) are at 30/32 Waterloo Road, Lambeth, South London.  Occupation of both given as “Actress” and place of birth of both given as Manchester.

Note 4.  The place of birth is obviously incorrect in both cases and is possibly the origin of the “Elizabeth Barrett” red herring.  This type of error was however very common, likewise an individual’s age could vary by much more than 10 years between two censuses!  The 1901 census was taken on 31st March 1901 so Elsie’s “age at last birthday” should in fact have been 14 not 15.

Note 5.  Again William Cotton has not been traced on the census though he was apparently still alive i.e. by virtue of Elizabeth describing herself as “married” rather than “widowed” (though here too mistakes were often made)

1911 Census – Charlotte Elizabeth Cotton [Elsie's Mother] – Widow – 47 – no occupation – born Southampton, living in Marylebone with her mother – Emma Caroline Hodder [Elsie's Grandmother] – widow – 71 – no occupation – born Lymington, Hampshire

Note 6.  Evidently William Cotton died in the period 1901-1911 (not yet confirmed – enquiry continuing)

1911 Census cont’d - Elsie Cotton – 24 – single – occupation Actress – born Leeds – is staying at the Fowey Hotel, Fowey, Cornwall (presumably enjoying a break in between theatre engagements and ahead of her marriage later in the year)

Cotton family history

(prepared on the assumption that William Thomas Cotton is the father of Lily Elsie – unproven)

Edward Cotton (b. March 1843, Hinckley, Leics)) married Elizabeth Poole (b. June 1839, Aston, Birmingham) on 5th September 1864 at Aston, Birmingham


  • William Thomas [Elsie's Father?] b. Sept 1865 Birmingham (bpt 15th April 1866, St Thomas’s, Birmingham)
  • Mary Elizabeth b Mar 1867 Birmingham (bpt 17th March 1867, St Thomas’s, Birmingham)
  • Edward Henry b Mar 1868 Birmingham (bpt 15th March 1868, St Thomas’s, Birmingham)
  • Albert Wilfred b Sep 1870 Birmingham
  • Arthur Ernest b Dec 1874 Birmingham (bpt 25th October 1874, St Thomas’s, Birmingham)
  • Jesse Leonard b Sept 1878 Birmingham
  • Bertie R b 1879/80 Birmingham
  • George Herbert b Mar 1881 Birmingham
  • Alfred Poole b Jun 1882 Birmingham

Note 7.  According to published information “Wilfred Cotton married Ada Reeve – actress – in 1902”. Registers confirm the marriage of Albert Wilfred Cotton and Adelaide Mary Reeve in Maidenhead, September Quarter, 1902.

Note 8.  The choice of Poole as the second given name of the youngest child is useful confirmation of the mother’s identity in the absence of the actual marriage certificate.

Census Entries for Cotton family:

  • 1871 – In Birmingham- Edward, Elizabeth and the 4 eldest children ( Edward’s occupation – Bricklayer)
  • 1881 – In Birmingham – Edward, Elizabeth and 4 children.  The 2 eldest, William and Mary, are absent.  Elsewhere in Birmingham William T Cotton [Elsie's Father?] (15) is listed in a grocer’s shop, occupation “Shop Boy” (Edward’s occupation now “Master Bricklayer”)
  • 1891 – In Birmingham – Edward, Elizabeth and 6 children, William, Edward and Albert absent.  (Edward Snr’s occupation now “Builder”)
  • 1901 – In Birmingham – Elizabeth Cotton (61) and 5 children (Arthur now also absent)

Note 9.  Edward Cotton died in Birmingham June 1895 aged 53.

Hodder family history

Thomas Hodder [Elsie's Great-Grandfather] (born 1808 Devon) married Ann Watts (born 1807 Dorchester) on 25th February 1834 at Iwerne Minster, Dorset

Son Herbert Thomas Hodder [Elsie's Grandfather] born February 1841 in Poole, Dorset.

1841 Census in Cranford Magna, Longfleet, Dorset:

  • Thomas Hodder (30) – Occupation illegible
  • Ann Hodder (30)
  • Fanny Hodder (2) and Herbert Hodder [Elsie's Grandfather] (4 months)

Note 10 – For this census (taken on 6th June 1841) the ages of individuals over 15 were rounded down to the nearest 5

1851 Census: At 66 Hyde Street, Winchester, Hants

  • Thomas Hodder (43) – Railway Clerk
  • Ann Hodder (44) – wife
  • Fanny Hodder (12) – daughter – scholar - born Longfleet, Dorset
  • Herbert Henry Hodder – son – (10) – scholar – born Fordington, Dorset
  • Caroline Hodder – daughter – (5) – scholar - born Shirley, Hants
  • Flora Ann Hodder – daughter – (2) born Hannoth?, Dorset

1861 Census: At Lymington Railway Station, Lymington, Hants

  • Thomas Hodder (53) – Occupation – Station Master
  • Ann (54) – wife
  • Herbert T. [Elsie's Grandfather] (20) – Occupation – Railway Clerk
  • Charlotte (24-milliner), Fanny (22), Caroline (15) and Flora (13)

Note 11 – Not known where daughter Charlotte was on earlier censuses – to be followed up

Eli Lowe married Caroline Thomas (b.1818/19-Lymington, Hampshire) December 1838 in Lymington

Daughter Emma Caroline Lowe born Sept 1839 in Lymington

1851 Census:  at 6 Nelson Place, Lymington;

  • Caroline Lowe (35) – Master Mariner’s wife – born Lymington
  • Emma C Lowe [Elsie's Grandmother] (11) – Daughter – born Lymington
  • Daniel Lowe (41) – Brother[in law] – Master Mariner – born Cowes, Isle of Wight

Note 12 – No indication that Caroline is widowed – husband presumably away at sea.

Note 13 – Clearly Daniel is Caroline’s brother-in-law rather than her brother.

1861 Census: at Gosport Street, Lymington

  • Caroline Lowe – widow (44) – occupation illegible (possibly Nurse)
  • Emma C Lowe [Elsie's Grandmother] – daughter (21) – occupation Teacher

Note 14 – Eli Lowe evidently died in the period 1851-1861
Herbert Thomas Hodder [Elsie's Grandfather] married Emma Caroline Lowe [Elsie's Grandmother] – Dec 1861 in Lymington


  • Thomas Willoughby Hodder – b.Jun 1862 – Kensington, London
  • Charlotte Elizabeth Hodder [Elsie's Mother] – b. June 1864 – Southampton
  • Frederick George Hodder – b. June 1872 – Winchester, Hants
  • Ernest Walter Hodder – b.Sept 1874 – Portsea, Hants
  • Hedley Herbert Hodder – b.Sept 1877 – Leeds, Yorks
  • Leonard Hodder – b. Dec 1879 – Leeds, Yorks
  • Florence Emma Hodder – b.Dec 1881 – Leeds, Yorks

Note 15.  Another child – Henry T Hodder, born 1870 - has been ascribed to the family by some sources.  This appears to be incorrect – the child in question, Henry Thomas Hodder, birth registered in Portsea June 1870, appears on later censuses with his parents John and Sarah Hodder.

Note 16.  The first child Thomas is interesting for 3 reasons:  1. his second “given name” Willoughby is unusual in itself and has no apparent connection with the family history of either of his supposed parents. 2. His place of birth is well outside the typically parochial areas historically inhabited by the families ie Dorset / Hampshire. 3. The birth is possibly a little “early” – not unusual in itself but taken together these 3 points maybe suggest something out of the ordinary eg daughter away from home in London, possibly pursuing a theatrical career, liaison with a stage-door Johnny named Willoughby, forced to return home with child and make a respectable marriage ?!! Pure speculation of course – the child’s birth certificate might give a clue but probably not.

1871 Census: At Nightingale’s Music Hall, 8 Upper Brook Street, Winchester

  • Emma C Hodder [Elsie's Grandmother] (32) – Occupation – Inn-keeper - born Lymington
  • Thomas W Hodder (son) (8) – scholar - born Kensington, Middlesex
  • Charlotte E Hodder [Elsie's Mother] (daughter) (6) born Southampton
  • Caroline Lowe (mother – widow) (52) – Housekeeper - born Lymington

Note 17.  Emma is described as Head of this household and husband Herbert is elsewhere i.e. At “Fancy Shop”, St Thomas’s Street, Lymington:

  • Ann Hodder (65) – Widow – Occupation “Fancy Repository”? born Dorchester, Dorset
  • Fanny Hodder (31) – Daughter – no occupation born Dorchester
  • Herbert T Hodder [Elsie's Grandfather] (30) – son – occupation Inn-Keeper born Poole, Dorset
  • Caroline E Hodder (24) – daughter – no occupation born Shirley, Hants
  • Flora A Hodder (22) – daughter – no occupation born Poole, Dorset
  • Charlotte Figg (33) – married daughter born Dorchester, Dorset
  • Frederick T Figg (4) – grandson born Lymington, Hants
  • Henrietta B Figg (2) – grand-daughter born Lymington, Hants

Note 18.  Thomas Hodder died in Dec 1869 aged 62

Note 19.  Presumably Herbert was simply visiting his mother on the night of the census.  Appears he and wife Emma were joint-proprietors of “Nightingale’s Music Hall”.  Further enquiry to be made into this establishment by reference to eg Trade Directories etc. as it could explain Charlotte’s theatrical aspirations?

1881 Census: at 17 Alexandra Crest, Headingley, Leeds

  • Herbert T Hodder (39) – Commercial Traveller Wine & Spirits - b Poole, Dorset
  • Emma C Hodder (40) – wife – no occupation b Lymington, Hants
  • Thomas W Hodder (18) – son – clerk b London, Middlesex
  • Charlotte E Hodder [Elsie's mother] (17) – daughter - no occupation - b Southampton, Hants
  • Frederick G Hodder (9) – son – scholar - b Winchester, Hants
  • Ernest (5) – son – scholar - b Leeds, Yorks
  • Hedley H Hodder (3) – son – scholar - Leeds, Yorks
  • Leonard (1) – son - b Leeds, Yorks

Note 20.  Ernest’s age and place of birth are apparently errors – should be 6 and Portsea, Hants.  The family evidently moved up North sometime in the period mid-1874 to mid-1877?

1891 Census: at 61 Bridge Street, Chorlton-upon-Medlock, Manchester

  • Herbert T Hodder [Elsie's Grandfather] (50) – Commercial Traveller b. Poole, Dorset
  • Emma C Hodder [Elsie's Grandmother] (51) – wife b. Lymington, Hants
  • Ernest Hodder (15) – son - Van Driver?? b.Southampton, Hants
  • Hedley Hodder (13) – son – scholar b. Leeds, Yorks
  • Leonard Hodder (11) – son – scholar b. Leeds, Yorks

Note 21.  Thomas Willoughby Hodder married Mar 1886 in Leeds (no info on wife); married for a second time December 1897 in Chorlton – to Martha Tongue (born Manchester 1871/2).  Living in Ardwick, Manchester on 1901 census - occupation “Mineral Water Carter”.  Two children – Bernard (1) and William Hedley (1 month).  Thomas Willoughby Hodder died March 1904 in Prestwich, Manchester, age 42.

Note 22.  Frederick George Hodder married Margaret Ross Jun 1890 in Chorlton.  In Salford on 1901 Census (occupation – Mineral Water Carter) and South Manchester 1911.  No information on any children.

Note 23.  Ernest Walter Hodder – possible marriage in Chorlton December 1898 (to either Amelia Davies or Helen Richardson).  Not identified on census 1901 or 1911.  Died June 1911 in Salford age 37.

1901 Census: at 16 Trafford Road, Salford, Lancs

  • Herbert T Hodder [Elsie's Grandfather] (60) – No occupation shown b. Longfleet, Poole, Dorset
  • Emma C Hodder [Elsie's Grandmother] (61) wife – Occupation-Teacher of Music b. Lymington, Hants
  • Hedley H Hodder (23) – son – Occupation – Builder’s Carter b. Leeds, Yorks
  • Leonard Hodder (21) – son – Occupation - ditto b. Leeds, Yorks
  • Florence E Hodder (19) – daughter – no occupation shown b. Southampton, Hants

Note 24.  Florence’s place of birth is incorrect – the family were in Leeds at the end of 1881 and registers confirm the birth was registered there (note correct info given on 1891 census)

Events post-1901:

Herbert Thomas Hodder [Elsie's Grandfather] died June 1910 in Salford aged 69.

Emma Caroline Hodder [Elsie's Grandmother] – with daughter Charlotte Elizabeth Cotton in 1911 (see above)

Hedley H Hodder – no information

Leonard Hodder – Married Ada Smith in Manchester Mar 1911

Florence Emma Hodder – Married James Wilkinson in Chorlton June 1908; possibly living in Middlesborough at time of 1911 Census.

General Note re dates given in these notes:

Unless a specific date is given the date quoted is the Quarter in which the Birth, Marriage or Death was registered.  Generally a period of 6 weeks was allowed for registration of a birth or death so an event registered in the June quarter could have taken place at any time between the middle of February and the end of June.

In very few cases the baptismal dates have been included – these are taken from secondary records on the internet which are far from complete.  Thus the absence of a baptismal date does not signify that there was no baptism and as regards events in the 19th century examination of the relevant prime source eg Parish Registers will usually provide the date and possibly other relevant information.

[This web site is hugely indebted to David Howard for the following research which clearly took considerable time to complete.]

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