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December 2019
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A stolen hat

In searching the 19th Century English Newspapers for Maggie’s Gormans, we came across the following intriguing item in the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle for July 13 1861:

William Taylor a respectably
dressed young man, was charged with stealing a hat on
the previous Sunday, at the Independent
Chapel, High-street, the property of Mr. George Gorman,
ship’s steward. Mr. Gorman attended service at the
Independent Chapel, High-street, on Sunday evening,
the 30th of June, and placed his hat, of the value of 13s.,
on the window ledge near where he was sitting. The
prisoner, a stranger to the congregation, was present, and
at the conclusion of the service, took the hat and walked
off. About an hour afterwards he was apprehended by
P. C. Littlefield, in the street, with the hat on his head.
He said he took it by mistake, but which could not be the
case, as he had only a cap with him when he went into
the chapel. He pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to six
weeks’ imprisonment with hard labour.

Just a random vignette, but which conveys much information about George Gorman and either pointers to further sources of information, or sufficient to match this person with other events  – his name, occupation, the date, and his place of worship.

Newspapers as sources

In a previous item I referred to the Australian Newspapers on line project. There are a number of other resources that I have encountered in my research.

The first I would like to mention is the transcription of Guyana colonial newspapers being transcribed by John Wilmer. These are a valuable source of information for an area for which it is extremely difficult to obtain any primary sources.

A great newspaper source for English research is the 19th Century British newspapers from the British Library. I have accessed these online by being eligible for a reader’s card at the National Library of Australia (NLA) and the State Library of Victoria (SLV). I’ll give some examples of specific interesting items in a subsequent item. The NLA also provides access to the 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers, however I’ve yet to explore these fully.

Another great resource provided through the NLA and SLV is the Times Digital Archive. I’ve found a number of Van Cooten and Smithers items in this collection.

Australian Newspapers on line

The National Library of Australia released in December 2008 the first stage of their project to digitise out of copyright newspapers. They are creating a free online service that will enable full-text searching of newspaper articles. This is a really fantastic project, and one of the current features is the ability of users to improve, annotate, and tag the scanned material.

I’ve found some interesting tidbits already. These include:

Not just Van Cootens

I know its been quiet here for a while, but that doesn’t mean that nothing has been happening on the family history research front. Over the next little while I’ll catch up with some of the progress that I’ve made on Maggie’s side of the family – Edwards, Gormans and Lacks. Stay tuned.

William Eaton Rusher

A name that I occasionally do a search for is that of William Eaton Rusher. John Hughes Van Cooten was Mr Rusher’s “amanuensis” for about four years from about 1870 (when John would have been about 15) to 1874 (when John was about 18 and migrated to Australia). The collection of Van Cooten family letters contains a reference from Mr Rusher dated September 1874 – presumably carried by John on his voyage. There is also a reference dated 1876 – presumably posted. Another curious item is correspondence from Mr Rusher where each letter has been formed by a matrix of pin pricks forming the shape of capital letters. This form of writing was a competitor for braille, and a description of it can be found in section 6 of chapter 3 of a thesis on printing for the blind. The existence of this letter implies that Mr Rusher had a sight impairment.

I have always wondered what the connection was between the Mr Rusher and the Van Cooten family.

I have recently discovered that Mr Rusher spent time on Guernsey. He was a student at Elizabeth College. His alumnus entry reads:

Trinity Term, 1835. 526. William Eaton Rusher, born Oxford, Jan 13th 1820, son of Dr. William Rusher (Oxford). Left 1837 Magdalen Hall, Oxford, B.A. (3rd class Classics) 1842, M.A. 1852. Afflicted with blindness and unable to follow any profession.

This makes William Rusher a contemporary of John Lucius Van Cooten. John Lucius’ eldest son John Rodolphus Van Cooten became a teacher at Elizabeth College from about 1878.

Annie Jones

Someone contacted me recently trying to determine if he was connected to the Annie Jones lurking in the Van Cooten tree. The information I had for her was sparse, so the contact prompted me to do a little more research. Annie was the first wife of William John Fraser Van Cooten. The only information I had about her was from a couple of entries in a family bible. She died after giving birth to their first child Sylvester Fraser Van Cooten, who also died at birth. Knowing that the marriage in question took place in Queensland, I searched the Queensland historical marriages and found: 

Reg # Subjects family name Subjects given names Other party’s names
1910/C002280 Van Cooten William John Fraser Sarah Ann Caroline Jones

Sarah Ann Caroline is obviously the person I had always heard referred to as “Annie”. Doing a search on deaths, I found:

Reg # Family name Given name Fathers given names Mothers names
1911/C002979 Van Cooten Sarah Ann Caroline David Jones Amelia Williams
1911/C008879 Van Cooten Sylvester Fraser William John Fraser Sarah Ann Caroline Jones

This confirms Annie’s full name, and also gives the names of her parents. Doing a search for births to David Jones and Amelia Williams gives:

Reg # Family name Given names Fathers given names Mothers names
1884/C005818 Jones Sarah Anne Caroline David Amelia Williams
1887/C006616 Jones Thomas Stephen David Amelia Williams
1888/C007565 Jones John Edgar David Amelia Williams
1882/M001167 Jones Unnamed (M) David Amelia Williams

 Thus “Annie” was born in Queensland along with three other brothers, one who possibly died at birth. Continuing this further, I decided to look for an immigration record for the Jones. These are available online for the years 1848 to 1884 in pdf form.  In the pdf for “Johnston to Jones” I found that an Amelia Jones and a David Jones both arrived aboard the “Silver Eagle” on 7 June 1882. I then consulted the microfilm of the Queensland immigration records held at the State Library of Victoria.The “Silver Eagle” skippered by Captain Wright departed Plymouth 2nd March 1882 and arrived at Maryborough 7th June 1882. On board were:

Jones David Male 34
Jones Amelia Female 35
Jones William Male 9
Jones Francis Male 7
Jones Margaret Female 2
Jones Ada Female 1
Jones   born on voyage

This shows that the family were quite well established before emigration, and also gives an idea of ages for David and Amelia. I then looked in the British census records and found the family in the 1881 census for Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales. The residents of 11 Victoria Place were:

David Jones Head Mar M 33 Wire warehouse man Monmouthshire
Amelia Jones Wife Mar F 34 Monmouthshire
William Frederick Jones Son   M 8 Scholar Monmouthshire
Francis Henry Jones Son   M 6 Scholar Monmouthshire
Margaret Amy Jones Daur   F 2   Monmouthshire
Ada Eleanor Jones Daur   F 4 months   Monmouthshire 

These ages correspond quite well with those given in the immigration record, and the census also indicates that the family were all born in Wales.The final step I took was to look at the electoral records for Queensland. These show Amelia and David living at Macadam St, Maryborough, Queensland during the period 1913 to 1925. Amelia’s occupation is “home duties” and David is a carpenter. No other family members appear at the same address. Amelia and David would have been in their 70s at this time.

Although this family is a “dead end” as far as Van Cooten descendants goes,  it was an interesting exercise to see how much information could be obtained, and gaps filled, in a relatively short space of time using resources readily available on the internet, and State Library of Victoria holdings.

Dr John fails to front

I mentioned in a previous post that I needed to consult the medical directories for the UK. I have since browsed the State Library of Victoria microfiche for 1846 and 1848, and the GSV Library microfiche for 1847. Alas I was unable to find any reference to Dr John Van Cooten of Guernsey. It is possible that he was no longer in practice – the 1851 census occupation for him says that he was a physician no longer in practice. The 1846 directory was London only. The 1848 directory contained London and Provincial listings. It is likely that the list of of provincial practitioners didn’t cover the Channel Islands. I could find no reference at all to medical practitioners on Guernsey or Jersey.

A search of the Guille Alles Library catalogue for Guernsey shows that they hold “A Guernsey commercial directory for 1826 : from A guide to theisland of Guernsey, 1826”, and “Guernsey Commercial Directory for 1834 / edited by J. Stevens Cox.”. I’ll try to find if someone can consult these for me.

The Value of Old Money

In working out the equivalent value in today’s money of the legacies that Anna Maria left, I found the Measuring Worth site. Very useful for gaining some idea of equivalent values of money, but also a little confusing as the different methods of calculation give some quite drastically different results! The figures I gave in the earlier post were an approximation of the RPI and GDP deflator figures, which gave similar sorts of answers.

Deciphering old handwriting

The handwriting in Anna Maria Van Cooten’s will was fairly hard to decipher. The copy I received was a register copy, and thus it was written in a copyist’s script, rather than Anna Maria’s handwriting. There’s a really good site at the British National Archives about Palaeography: reading old handwriting 1500 – 1800 that provides valuable assistance in reading the text. In fact the script in the register copy of Anna Maria’s will was very similar to the cursive script in Document 2 in the set of tutorial documents. This script is also very similar to the script in the register copy of Hendrik Van Cooten’s will that I obtained from the UK National Archives.

A little bit more about Anna Maria

Anna Maria Van Cooten was the eldest daughter of John Van Cooten and Martha (nee Smithers). According to the 1851 census she was born in Newport, Monmouthshire, which is where her parents were married. Ida Gorsuch lists her as Anna Maria in a letter in 1893, and also mentions that “Aunt Maria (fathers eldest sister) joined her mother, and never again returned to her Fathers house”. In a family tree summary from about 1900, Ida says “Anna Maria Van Cooten, died unmarried a Milton next Gravesend in or about the year 1875 or 6”, and in another list, possibly from about 1903, just says “Maria Anna Van Cooten died unmarried”.

The next documented information I have is from the 1851 census for 9 Draycott Street, Chelsea where Martha K. Van Cooten, 61, Annuitant, born in Surrey Southwark is presumably being looked after by Anna M. Van Cooten, 38, born in Monmouthshire Newport. No occupation is listed for Anna Maria. Anna Maria’s death certificate on 12 December 1873 states her occupation as “gentlewoman”. M. A. Painter is listed as the informant, present at the death. Martha died in 1854.

Anna Maria divided an amount of £300 in her will. In today’s money this is the equivalent of about £20,000 or about $AUS45,000. The income of £15/annum from the investment of this money is worth about £1000 or $AUS2,200 – which wouldn’t seem enough to live on. Anna must have had some other form of support.