William James Cooper, 2x Great Grandfather & Career Soldier – Part 1: Baptism to 1841 Census (The discovery of our Southern roots)

Dad is proud of his Northern roots. He was born in Burnley, Lancashire, and immigrated to New Zealand in the 1950’s. But he still has his Burnley roots, and that’s where his family has always been. Or so he thought. When he discovered William James Cooper, he found a very different story.

Percival Street sign

As already mentioned, my Grandfather – Dads father, Charles Wallace Cooper was born in Burnley in 1894. When Dad went back one more generation, he discovered his Grandfather who he never met, William John Cooper, was born in Montreal, Canada. That was a curveball for a start. The son of a British soldier by the name of William James Cooper.

So, what could we find out about William James Cooper? Research revealed that while he was born in the UK, he was not born up north at all. He was born in Clerkenwell, Greater London, in 1839 to William Cooper, a gold chain maker, and Sarah. The baptism record states that he was born at 7 Percival Street, St James Clerkenwell (remember that address, because it makes an interesting appearance later). He was baptised at St James, Clerkenwell, 11th August 1839.

This entry has been photo-shopped so the entry is directly beneath the headings. On the actual page it appears further down. That’s why, in the left hand column, the baptism month is not present, just the date. The month was on the first entry.

William James Cooper Baptism copy

Percival Street today. You might say it’s changed from back then.

Percival Street today

William was one of four children. He had two sisters, Sarah (1835-1837) & Eliza (1840-?) and a brother Charles (1842-?), all who will be covered at a later date, although not a lot is known about them. I do know they were all baptised in this actual font, still inside St James Clerkenwell today.

St James Font

Just after his baptism, William appears in the 1841 census, with sister Eliza & parents William, a Goldsmith & Sarah. Now residing in Rosoman Street. (Census page cropped & photo-shopped) There is no number, but Eliza & Charles were both born at 13 Lower Rosoman Street. This area has long since been leveled.

1841 Cooper England Census,2

There’s not much to see of Rosoman Street today. Just a little bit is left. The rest of it has either changed names or is gone completely.

Rosoman Street sign

WJC's Clerkenwell

WJC's Clerkenwell 2

WJC's Clerkenwell 3

Any further census’s would take some hard searching to find, and this will be covered shortly.

So, there it is. I might have Burnley roots going back several generations and I know which football team to support (Come on you Clarets!), but before all that, the Coopers were Londoners, innit. Just how much so will be covered in future posts.





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