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.
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 Pamela Lorimer’s “A critical evaluation of the historical development of the tactile modes of reading and and analysis and evaluation of researches carried out in endeavours to make the braille code easier to read and to write”. 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.
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||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|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.