I think I’ve worked out who John Hughes Van Cooten’s mother was.
The story so far is that John Lucius Van Cooten married firstly Frances Mary Theresa Kent, and secondly a Mary Hughes (according to one old family letter) or Emona Hughes (according to John Hughes Van Cooten’s marriage certificate). The first marriage ended in separation as Frances Mary Van Cooten is a witness at the marriage of her son John Rhodolphus in 1860. I suppose that the second marriage should really be considered a de facto relationship as divorces weren’t really obtainable at this time. I’m not expecting to find any formal documentation regarding this relationship.
The known children of JLVC and Mary/Emona Hughes were John Hughes VC born in Reading, Berkshire in about 1855 according to a variety of sources, and Margaret Hughes VC born in Oxford, Oxfordshire in about 1859. I have never been able to find a marriage for JLVC and Mary Hughes, and a search for the birth of John Hughes Van Cooten in Reading drew a blank.
A search of the 1861 census shows a family living in George St, St Mary Magdalen, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
Emma Hughes,Head,Wid,F,38,Waistcoat Maker,Essex Colchester
Isabella Hughes,Dau,Unm,F,15,,,Essex Colchester
Henry Hughes,Son,Unm,M,13,Errand Boy,Essex Colchester
William Hughes,Son,Unm,M,11,Shop Boy,Essex Colchester
John Hughes,Son,Unm,M,5,,Berks Reading
and nearby at Beaumont Buildings No 9
John Cooten,Lodger,Mar,M,44,General Agent,Sommerset
This looks as though it fits. John Lucius Van Cooten is living less than 200 metres from the Hughes household. The children above were born in about 1846, 1848, 1850 and 1856 respectively.
By the 1871 census we find living at 38 Maine Street, Chalgrove, Oxfordshire:
John Cooten,Head,Mar,Male,49,Schoolmaster,“Somerset, Bristol, Hot Wells”
John Cooten,Son,unmar,Male,14,Scholar,”Berks, Reading”
So it looks as though Mary/Emma is no longer alive.
At this stage I had been unable to find any evidence of a Hughes family matching the one above in the 1851 census. Nor was I able to find a Emma marriage to a person with the surname Hughes in the Colchester area, nor any children with the surname Hughes matching the names above in Colchester. Something didn’t seem to fit!
I checked out the archives of the Rootsweb mailing list for Essex to see if anyone had posted a query for Hughes in Colchester. This alerted me to the possibility that an alternative spelling of the name in this area was ‘Hewes’. I also had another look at a birth certificate I had ordered in 1992 and had discounted as having a connection. This birth certificate was for a Lucius Cooten born on 6 March 1862, child of John Cooten and Emma Cooten, formerly Griggs. Even though the birth was in Bendington near Wallingford, the surname Griggs didn’t make any sense.
On the assumption that this certificate was in fact relevant I did a FreeBMD search for an Emma Griggs marrying someone with the surname Hewes. Bingo! In the June 1844 marriages there is a Henry HEWES marrying in Colchester with a possible partner of Emma Griggs! And this entry was only added in this month’s update! A FreeBMD search for Hewes births in Colchester results in
Hewes, Isabella registered in Jun 1846
Hewes, Henry Walter registered in Sep 1847
HEWES, William registered in Sep 1849
These are the only children with these names, and the dates match really well.
So, it seems that our Hughes family in Oxford in 1861 was originally the family of Henry and Emma Hewes (born Griggs) of Colchester, Essex. It also seems that John Hughes and Margaret Hughes VC had another brother – Lucius, born in 1852, who possibly died in infancy.
Now to find the Hewes family in the 1851 census. What happened to Henry Hewes? How did they get to Reading? Is it worth getting the birth certificates for John Hughes born in Reading in 1856, and for Margaret Hughes born in Oxford in 1859?