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December 2019
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The Will of Anna Maria Van Cooten

Again with assistance from family in the UK, I have obtained a copy of the will for Anna Maria Van Cooten dated 6 September 1872. Anna Maria (or Maria Anna) was the sister of John Lucius Van Cooten. I have transcribed the will.

In her will she appointed Sarah Jane Primrose as her executor. She refers to Sarah as ‘friend’, although Sarah Jane was the sister of Anna’s brother Eugene’s wife Emily. Anna leaves money to her sister Rosalie Virginia Gooman or Goonan (as best as I can make out) widow of Hubits, St Martins, Guernsey. In an old family letter, Ida Gorsuch says that Rosalie Virginia “Married a Mr L Garnham”. I’ve never been able to validate this, and it is now possible that Ida heard the name and assumed the spelling. I need to recheck the Guernsey census information for 1871 to see if I can find her. Neither of these names seems common on Guernsey.

Anna also left money to her cousin Elizabeth Smithers residing at Villa Marina, Promenade des Anglais, Nice. I’ve not come across Elizabeth before, but presume that she is the daughter of one of Martha Keane Smithers’ brothers – Henry, John or Sydney as far as I currently know. Promenade des Anglais is a current street in Nice.

Anna left money to two other cousins on the Van Cooten side. These are Alice Playter and Eliza Van Cooten who are residing together at Plaisance, East Coast, Demerara. I presume that Alice is the daughter of JLC Playter and Cornelia Bennett Van Cooten – both referred to in Hendrik Van Cooten’s will. This bequest seems to indicate that Anna Maria has some communication with family in British Guiana. I don’t know who Eliza’s parents are.

The remaining legacies are all to friends in England – Georgina Elmer in Pimlico, Alice Lee in Sussex, and Mary Ann Painter residing with Anna Maria in Gravesend. I need to check census information for these people to verify that I have correctly deciphered these names. I also need to find the 1871 census information for 57 Milton Road, Gravesend to see who is residing there – I’ve been unable to locate Anna Maria in the 1861 or 1871 censuses.

Smithers mini-update

With assistance from family in the UK (you know who you are!), I sent away for copies of the Smithers articles that I found in the online indexes to ‘The Cambrian’ newspaper. Unfortunately the text contains little more information than that revealed in the index. The entry from 28 January 1809 says:

On the 21st inst. at St Martin’s church, Strand, London, Mr. H. K. Smithers, of the Adelphi, London, to Miss Pitman, of Barnes, Surrey.

This event was not publicised in the London Times, as far as I can tell from the Digital Times archive, so this suggests that the marriage was of more significance to people (i.e. family) in Monmouthshire, rather than London. The second item was from 25 April 1812, included in the “Bankrupts from Tuesday’s Gazette”:

H. and H. K. Smithers and G. Buck, Newport, Monmouthshire, coal-master, April 25, May 12, June 2, at Guildhall; Attornies, Colins and Waller, Spital-square.

I’m presuming that the ‘Gazette’ referred to is the Welsh Gazette, as no bankruptcy notice of this nature appears in the London Gazette for Tuesday 21 April 1812 in the London Gazette online archives. I have previously assumed that this Smithers family originated in and around London, as they appear in London Post Office directories from 1817 onwards. Maybe this is where H. K. Smithers moved to re-establish himself after experiencing financial difficulties in his home of Newport. I need to discover if there are any Smithers birth, marriage, or death events around Newport. I also need to find a copy of the Welsh Gazette for 1812.

Physician reveal thyself!

I’ve mentioned before that John Van Cooten was a physician.

There are a variety of sources of biographical information on medical practitioners in England, but I will focus on those that are relevant to find out more about John Van Cooten.

The Cyndi’s List category for doctors contains some useful links for online resources, but paper resources are still significant. The British Medical Association has an excellent page detailing information sources. Alex Glendinning’s “Was Your Ancestor a Doctor” provides important background and sources. The Royal College of General Practitioners “Tracing Your Medical Ancestors” page is good.

John Van Cooten was in practice from about the early 1800s to about the 1840s possibly on Guernsey for all of this time. I have yet to consult the Medical Directory. This directory commenced publication in 1845, so an unsuccessful search may not mean much. The genealogical collection of the State Library of Victoria holds copies on microfiche for 1848-1869. The GSV Library holds a copy on microfiche for 1847.

I have consulted the University Alumni documents for both Oxford and Cambridge with no result. I need to find publications for other Universities active in the early 1800s.

I have searched W. Munk, Roll of the Royal College of Physicians both in hard copy at the University of Melbourne, and on line without success. Unfortunately Munk covers Fellows only for 1826-1997, and it is probable that John was not a Fellow.

A Transcript is not the original!

Some time ago I obtained an 1881 English Census household entry from the LDS transcripts on CD for Thomas and Ida Gorsuch. The other day, having access to at the GSV Library I obtained a scanned copy of the actual census book page. In the last column of the entry for Ida, recording whether the person was (1) Deaf-and-Dumb (2) Blind (3) Imbecile or Idiot (4) Lunatic, was an entry reading “Partially blind from accident”. This information was not on the census transcript, and sheds a little more light on her personal history.

Also a reminder that the transcript is not the original! A quick check of my sources list indicates that there are a couple more LDS 1881 transcripts that I need to obtain the original for.

Those Scandalous Smithers!?

John Van Cooten, eldest son of Hendrik, married Martha Keane Smithers.

Ida Gorsuch wrote in 1893:

He [John] married a London merchant’s daughter (rather to the disgust of his father & his royal mother). She his wife was a “Miss Martha Keane Smithers”. Miss Smithers was considered a great beauty. I never saw my grandmother. She went out to the “West Indies” when Uncle Eugene was a baby and although she returned to England, she refused to return to her husband and children.

Her youngest sister Mrs Hannah Green, the widow of a Col. Green kept house for her. I should say for Grandpapa & the boys & girls. After a while Aunt Maria (fathers eldest sister) joined her mother, and never again returned to her Fathers house. I believe Grandmama had several very handsome brothers & sisters. The brothers were London and Colonial merchants and their offices were in the Minories. Anyway Uncle Henry Smithers were. I believe our grand parents had ten children, but I only knew the following, namely – Uncle Sydney Silicae Van Cooten, Eugene Hampden Van Cooten, Anna Maria Van Cooten, Rosalie Virginia Van Cooten.

And I have since been told that the Van Cooten family were reputed wealthy. I do not know the cause of the loss of property. The reasons have been variously stated by different members of the family (I mean our father’s property). The Smithers branch always blame Grandpapa & our Dad as extravagant etc etc. But I once heard Grandpapa Van Cooten say to my mother that his Father in law (his wife’s father) had led him into much money trouble & difficulty and that the Smithers had made a deal of mischief for him with his father (old Mr Van Cooten). He said “no doubt I may have erred in judgement” but he finished with the following words, “believe me dear Fanny I was more sinned against than sinning”. And I know that my mother always believed him.

In 1885 John Lucius Van Cooten writes:

I often heard my father say the property was worth £100,000 or more & when in London walking with my Uncle Henry from Peckham to his chambers No. 8 London Bridge & his remarking how much he regrets our reverse of circumstances on my account

He must be referring here to Martha’s brother Henry Keene Smithers.

I have found the marriage of John and Martha at St Woolas, Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales on 23 Jul 1808. This register entry says that Martha was ‘of this parish’. I can’t find any Van Cooten events in the Baptism Register for St Woolos 1769-1837 and the Burial Register for St Woolos 1769-1843 transcripts. I had been suspicious that a marriage in Newport was an elopement, as to the best of my knowledge the Smithers were a London family. I have, however, discovered some evidence that indicates that the connection to Newport or Monmouthshire may be substantial. Indexes to ‘The Cambrian’ newspaper published in Wales from 1804 to 1930 are available online. A search for ‘Smithers’ reveals two relevant entries – a marriage notice on 28 January 1809 for Mr H.K. Smithers of London to Miss Pitman of Surrey, and a legal notice on 25 April 1812 involving H.& H.K. Smithers of Newport. A list of Monmouthshire wills includes 26 Keen/Keene wills. Maybe this is where the Keene forename originates.

The 1817 London Post Office directory lists a H. K. Smithers, Auctioneer & Accountant, 1 Castle Court, Birchin Lane. I suspect that this is Martha’s brother. Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide for 1817 lists a H. K. Smithers, Accountant & Merchant at 1 Castle Court – Birchin Lane.

The Times, London, for 15 December, 1835 contains a notice for the Commercial Dock Company signed by H. K. Smithers, Jun., Chief Clerk. I suspect that this is Martha’s nephew. The Times, London, for 13 June 1836 lists the marriage “On the 11th inst., at St Mary’s Newington. Mr Henry Keene Smithers, Jun., to Alice, eldest daughter of Mr. Benjamin Lance.” The 1845 London Post Office directory lists Smithers & Co. merchants at 3 Crescent, Minories, 1 Hammet St. This is also the address recorded for the “Society for relief of Widows & Children of Dissg. Mnstrs, Hen. K. Smithers, sec”. The Commercial Directory listing records “Smithers & Co. merchants & Genl. agts. 3 Crescent, Minories”.

The 1850 Post Office London directory lists “Smithers, Hy. Keene, jun., sec. to Coml. Dock Co, 106 Fenchurch St”. The street directory section lists at 106 Fenchurch St “Commercial Dock Co.’s Office, H. K. Smithers, jun, sec”. Mr. H. K. Smithers is listed as a member of a deputation from the Commercial Dock Company to Lord Stanley of Alderley, in the Times, London for 22 January. 1858.

In the Times, London, for 15 June 1858, the trial of Henry Keene Smithers, embezzlement from his employers, the Commercial Dock Company. Henry Smithers pleaded guilty to three indictments, and was sentenced to six years imprisonment. Henry is described as “45, a gentlemanly looking man”. This implies that he was born in 1813, and thus likely to be the nephew of Martha. A report from the Commercial Dock Company to its shareholders describing its investigation of the Smithers embezzlement is reported in the Times, London, issue of 19 October 1858.

Ida had to have been aware of this sad event, but very tactfully remained silent.

Trawling Google Books

Google Books contains a surprising mine of genealogical information, particularly when searching for a relatively uncommon name like “Van Cooten”. I occasionally check Google Books to see what might pop up. For full text books in the references below, search for “Van Cooten” in the “Search in this book” field at the bottom of the right-hand pane.

There are a variety of books containing references to Eugene Van Cooten and his work as a missionary in Nigeria e.g. “Abbeokuta, Or Sunrise Within the Tropics”.

There are numerous books about the trial of John Smith, missionary, and Hendrik Van Cooten’s evidence at his trial e.g. “Report of the Proceedings Against the Late Rev. J. Smith, of Demerara”.

There are references to Di Van Cooten’s books on health in Indonesia e.g. “The Village Woman”.

Harold Van Cooten was the defendant in a legal case regarding tenancy, and is occasionally cited e.g. “The Solicitors’ Journal”.

I show up in a number of references to clinical trials involving quality of life assessment e.g. “Effect of Cancer on Quality of Life” .

Two surprising references I found today were a reference to a Lucius Van Cooten of Petersham as a subscriber to “An Easy Introduction To The Mathematics; In Which The Theory And Practice Are Laid Down And Familiarly Explained” published in 1814. I’m not sure who this is. Also in what would seem to be the 1828 edition of “The Royal kalendar, and court and city register for England, Scotland, Ireland, and the colonies” is a reference to “Assistant Master, J. Van Cooten”. This is possibly John Van Cooten. I need to find a way of accessing the text of this book.

Both ends of the voyage to Canada

The Genealogical Society of Victoria Library provides members free access to – a commercial site specialising in British family history records, including complete birth, marriage and death records for England and Wales from 1837 to 2004, fully transcribed census records, overseas and consular records, and military records.

I have recently explored their shipping records for Van Cooten voyages. The shipping departure records are indexed.

I found Edwin Van Cooten departing for Canada in 1903, Thomas Van Cooten departing for Canada in 1907, Mrs W. Van Cooten departing for Canada in 1918 accompanied by her children Margaret, Mary and John (this must have been a very sad journey as Edwin was killed in WW1 in 1917), and Miss M.W. Van Cooten departing for a holiday in Gibraltar in 1931.

Arrival records for Canada are available at Archivianet. These are not indexed by passenger, however they are searchable by ship, arrival port, and date. If you use the information from the British emigration register, you can call up the Canadian immigration register, and gain a few snippets of information!

John Van Cooten leaves Demerara

John Van Cooten was possibly the eldest son, or the eldest legitimate son, of Hendrik Van Cooten. By inference from English censuses, and from his death certificate, he was born in about 1775-1781, most likely 1780, in Demerara. This is not that long after Hendrik arrived in the colony.

Ida Gorsuch says that John “was sent to England and was educated in the then highest class schools and afterwards finished his studies at Oxford University. This I know for a fact as I have seen several of his books with the stamp of the College upon them.”

I can find no record of John being educated at Oxford or Cambridge. I have consulted “Alumni Oxonienses” [“Alumni Oxonienses : the members of the University of Oxford, 1715-1886”, Foster, Joseph, Oxford : Parker, 1891] and “Alumni Cantabrigiensis”. It is possible that was educated elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

The transcripts of the parish registers for St Woolos (Newport), Monmouth, Wales covering the period 1754-1823 show a marriage of John Van-Cooten of Chelsea, Middlesex to Martha Smithers of St Woolas, Newport on 23-Jul-1808. Their children, according to census records, appear to have been born in the Newport and Bristol area until about 1820.

John is named in Hendrik’s will but not mentioned when apportioning extra responsibilites so this suggests that he is not in the colony at the time (1825).

I have found no record of John until the 1841 census where he is residing in Guernsey as a physician.

So… where was John educated – in London? or in Bristol? How did he get trained as a physician? Where did he practice?

Hughes/Hewes update 2

I ordered the birth certificates for John Hughes born in Reading in March 1853 (ref 2c 351) checking that the mother’s forename was Emma, and June 1855 (ref 2c 326) again checking the mother’s forename. Both drew a blank. Fortunately, checking that the details matched meant that the process was faster, and also cheaper as a certificate wasn’t actually posted. I’ve also checked in the FreeBMD images for the March quarter of 1856 as its only partly transcribed, but there doesn’t seem to be any relevant entries there. I’m now a bit stumped as to where to look next!

Hughes/Hewes update

The birth certificates I ordered for the birth of John Hughes registered in Reading in the September quarter of 1856, and the birth of Margaret Hughes registered in the March quarter of 1859 turned up in the mail today.

The one for John Hughes showed a birth date of 23 August 1856 to parents Thomas Hughes and Frances Hughes formerly Applebee. Not a match.

The one for Margaret Hughes showed a birth date of 22 Dec 1858 to parents Emma Hughes formerly Griggs and Henry William Hughes (deceased). This is clearly a match, and the information for the mother is consistent with that for Lucius Cooten born in 1862.

FreeBMD shows a death registered in March 1858 for a Henry HEWES in Watford. This is possibly Emma’s husband.

Searching FreeBMD for the births of John Hughes in Berkshire between 1850 and 1865 shows births in Reading in March 1853 (ref 2c 351), June 1855 (ref 2c 326), September 1856 (ref 2c 306), and September 1861 (ref 2c 319). The best information that I have at the moment for the birthdate of John Hughes VC is 7 Nov 1855. I guessed that the September 1856 registration seemed most likely. I’ll order the March 1853 one next and see what it shows.