I referred to FreeBMD in the previous post. FreeBMD is an ongoing project, the aim of which is to transcribe the Civil Registration index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales, and to provide free Internet access to the transcribed records. It is a collaboration of thousands of people world wide transcribing to estimated 100 million entries from the start of civil registration in 1837 through to 1900 and presently up to about 1920. I’ve transcribed records for them in the past. Coverage is now getting really comprehensive, and scanned images of the original indexes are also available from the site.
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?
I’ve been trying to think about what is knowable about Hendrik Van Cooten’s early years. I know that he was christened in Doorn Reformed Church on 5 Jul 1750. He was the son of a carpenter, and had six living brothers and sisters. He was the second child of the family, and the eldest son.
I don’t know where he lived, or where he was educated. I do know that by 26 April 1771 Hendrik van Cooten was officially recognized as a chartered land surveyor (“landmeter”) by the provincial government of Utrecht. In his testimony at the John Smith trial he indicates that he arrived in the colony in February, 1773. By 1775 he has assisted in the production of a map of the plantations lying along the west bank of the Demerara River. How did he get to Demerara? What was his motivation?
The Utrecht Archives contains many online resources. In particular is the database of extracts and digitised images of certificates of notaries who resided in the city Utrecht. The database contains over 167,500 extracts for the period 1663-1783, all having digitised images.
As Utrecht was the base of much commerce with the Demerara colony, many contracts are contained in this archive relating to families in Utrecht with connections to Demerara. Searching for ‘Demerarij’ and variants results in 62 hits covering the period 13-10-1750 to 15-03-1809. I wish my Nederlands was sufficient to let me make more sense of these. For me, the most significant of these is the the document that links Hendrik Van Cooten of Demerara with his family in Doorn. I have put up a transcript and translation of this document.
When I started family history research I just wanted to find out as much as I could, in a fairly vague sense. As time went on, three main goals materialised. They were:
- Finding Hendrik Van Cootens origin in the Netherlands
- Establishing contact with the descendants, if any, of Margaret Hughes Van Cooten
- Establishing contact with the descendants, if any, of John Rodolphus Van Cooten
Over the past few years all of the goals have been met, largely as a result of people contacting me after finding information on my web site! So, I need some new goals. I’ll be working on:
- Who was John Hughes Van Cooten’s mother? It looks as though it was Emona Hughes, but where did she come from? And what was her story?
- John Hughes Van Cooten’s birth certificate.
- Margaret Hughes Van Cooten’s birth certificate.
- Do any descendants of Hendrik Van Cooten exist in Guyana? What happened to Hendrik’s other children and their descendants?
- Are any of the Van Cootens living in and around Vryheids Lust in Guyana descendants of Hendrik, and what do they know of their history?
Sources for British Guiana research are rather hard to come by. I’ve just (re)discovered the London Gazette archives. The London, Edinburgh, and Belfast Gazettes are the official newspapers of record in the United Kingdom and include notices relating to State, Parliament, Planning, Transport, Public Finance.
A large proportion of notices published in the London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes are mandatory, including Insolvency and Bankruptcy notices. Clicking on Archive>Full Search allows search of archives that cover most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and seem to go back as far as back as 1752.
Searching for British Guiana as of 24-July-2007 brings up 2264 entries, the oldest being from 18-February-1831:
The King has been pleased to appoint Major-General Sir Benjamin D’Urban, K. C. B. to be Governor and Commander in Chief of British Guiana, comprehending the Colonies of Demerary, Essequibo, and Berbice.
Searching for “Van Cooten” and variations brings up 20 entries, many from the Demerara colony in the 1820’s. Searching for “Demerary” results in 1002 gazettes dating back to 27-November-1784.
NOTICE is hereby given to tbe Officers and Seamen who were actually on Board His Majesty’s Sloop Fly, Milham Ponsonby, Esq; Commander, at the Capture of the Cargo of the Brigantine Hope, Hans Pieter Fynboe, Master, from Demerary to Amsterdam, condemned in the Court of Vice Admiralty of Tobago, and sold there, that the Shares of Prize Money due to the said Officers and Seamen shall be paid unto them on Monday the 6th Day of December next, at the French Horn, in Crutched-fryars; and the Shares remaining undemanded will be recalled the First Monday in every Month for Three Years to come.
More research in this resource is needed.
I’m into family history. I’ll use this blog to record progress, and interesting sources.