Cowzer - my journey

For a long time, I believed :
That Cowzer was a German Name or variant of one. That my great-grandfather, Thomas 1859, was an Orangeman from Belfast. By Orangeman is meant, or implied, a Protestant and Loyalist who favoured the Union with Britain. This would contrast with the vast majority in Ireland (at least in the Republic of Ireland) who were Catholic and of Republican ideals. Thomas had the (mis)fortune to marry a catholic whilst all of his family remained in Belfast. I also believed that relationships between the Dublin Cowzers and Belfast Cowzers were estranged (this could be a natural result of the fierce protestant-catholic, more or less synonomous with Loyalist-Republican, divide which existed in Northern Ireland, including Belfast, throughout much of the 20th Century). These beliefs were also those of my father's and his siblings. I believed this for over 40 years.

Then, along came the Internet :
That opened up a few avenues. Some early Genealogy Websites gave searchable lists and I could see Cowzer/Cowser variants throughout Ireland and Britain going back a few centuries. Very little real information, no images or digital interpretations, but places, names, and dates. Still it gave me a taste, and it also led me to an inkling that the Huguenot (French) migration looked a more probable source than the Palatine (German). Whereas there was a concentration of Couser names in Northern Ireland, there were only two Cowzer names, neither from genealogy sources. One was a Cowzers Pharmacy in Belfast, another was from an email archived by the Armagh Planetarium. The email was from a Doreen Cowzer enquiring about a bright star in the sky (As a child I had an interest in astronomy and knew it was the planet Venus). I was able to look up the postal addresses for both sources, I think through phone directories, and sent off two letters. The pharmacy never replied, but Doreen rang me up one evening and that was a breakthrough - she had loads of information. That was in 2000.

Doreen Cowzer :
That phone call in 2000 was a major breakthrough. Doreen had married Henry (Harry) Cowzer 1911, and had the Cowzer Family Bible with handwritten notes of all Cowzer births (except the descendants of my great-grandfather). Over the phone she provided this information and I had now found out my great-great-grandfather (John 1813) and details of the northern branch of the Cowzers about which I had no idea beforehand. Doreen said that she always believed that Cowzer was Huguenot, and that helped me with my theory. She had a location "Millicent" for John 1813 but had no idea what it meant nor where it was. I couldn't find it either for a few years. Doreen also stated that she was the last person with the name Cowzer, the other northern strands had petered out, and she had two daughters, both married and with new married surnames. I never got to visit Doreen, I knew her health was poor, but a Foot and Mouth epidemic restricted travel in Ireland soon after and then I had a few health issues, followed by a very busy period in work. Sadly I believe she passed away a few years later.

The First Cowzer Family History website :
With all the new found information, I quickly put together a very rough Cowzer Family History website, I had used a simple package to collate the family members and data. This was all based around information that my father provided and that which Doreen provided. The website was simple and difficult to update and it had one flaw, a pretty big one, I had misunderstood Doreen and had placed Richard 1877 as a child of the wrong John, making him Generation 2 when, in fact, he was Generation 3. I had also run both John's (1813 and 1854) lives as one.
However, the website began to serve it's purpose. People found it, and provided me with more information. Some people found the site useful and carried out further research and provided me with updated information. This information was accumulating bit by bit, and there was always the intention of updating the website, but it was a difficult task to update as some parts, the family tree diagram were fixed images and the technology to recreate it was lost many computers ago. Also, there were work commitments.

The Second (and current) Cowzer Family History website :
The first real requirement to upgrade/replace the website came in about 2013. Andrew Hudson who was researching the McDowell family line, found my site as a result of finding a Cowzer in his family tree. He did considerable research and came to the conclusion that I had mixed up the John-John-Richard line a bit. I had struggled with the dates and probable ages of a few individuals in this group, so was releived to discover my mistake. He also provided lots of documentation and facts about the Cowzer line. I now had a reason to upgrade the website - and technically the time. But there was lots of other things getting in the way. I did make a few starts, but the technology kept getting in the way.
My chief problem was myself. I have an IT background and had built and managed a few websites, from very large banking sites, to very small club/personal sites. I wanted to make any future site both easy to use, and easy to modify and amend as new information came along. This requirement was proving difficult to envision where family trees (graphical and possibly very large), details, photos, copies of documents, all would have to accomodate flexibility and still be easy to use and see. As time went on, I also realised that it would have to work on small screens like phones (as most peole seem to be using phones for a lot of their internet use).
Then Martin Clinton made contact in 2018 asking a few questions, as he too had come across the website while researching his family tree. I provided what info I had and introduced him to Andrew Hudson. 6 months later Martin had a phenomonal document with lots of info on all of the descendants of John 1813. This really got me thinking. I had my own personal website with a few sub-sites, including this family history site. I decided to have a look at what I could do to make my websites responsive (i.e. work well on all screen sizes, from desktop/laptop down to mobile phones). I started with my other sites and built a template which would handle my requirements (all except for a graphical family tree). I converted my other sites in late 2018 with relative ease, and then that left me with only the graphical family tree challenge in order to convert my family history site. I have worked out a solution that is flexible enough for me so, in early 2019, I finally launched this, the 2nd version of The Cowzer Family History website.

A footnote :
I have realised that I am not good at research. Research involves methodically trawling and recording information. That requires being organised, having good retention for facts, and being tidy, something I never was. My forte seems to be in presentation - give me something and ask me to get it out there in a visible fashion. All my breakthroughs have come about when someone else presents me with information. Either presentation or plagarism, perhaps. So, this site exists thanks to great effort on the part of many people. And I welcome any additional information that people may provide.

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