Alfred Cotton was born in Fawley, Hampshire, England on 15 June 1876.
He was the son of William Cotton (b. 1842), a builder and carpenter, and Fanny Ward (b. 1833), both natives of Hampshire who had married in Southampton in 1875. Alfred was apparently their only child; the family appeared on the 1891 census living at Newtown, Fawley, Hampshire and Alfred, aged 14, had already left school and was working as a general labourer. His mother died in 1893 and his father was remarried several years later to Mary Frances Smith (b. 1870) of the same locale.
Alfred himself was married in 1900 to Alice Andrews (b. 1881) who was born near Lymington. Alfred would be absent from the 1901 census when Alice was listed as living at Lower Pennington, Milford, Hampshire, the home address of her parents Charles and Harriett Andrews.
Alfred and Alice went on to have two sons: William (1902-1979) and Charles (1905-1962). Again absent from the 1911 census, Alfred wife and sons were listed at Dibden Purlieu, Hythe, Hampshire and Alice was described as a laundry worker, employing her sister Florence.
Cotton was taken onto Titanic as a substitute after several crewmembers reported late for departure. His engagement, alongside that of fellow trimmer Robert Steel, was so hurried that no details of their address or previous ship was recorded. As a trimmer Cotton could expect to earn monthly wages of £5, 10s.
Alfred Cotton died in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was never identified.
His wife Alice remained a widow for a decade before remarrying in 1922 to Lewis Bishop. She died in Hampshire in 1968.