William James Cooper, 2x Great Grandfather & Career Soldier – Part 3: Return to the UK & Further Military Service.

We pick this up again with William James Cooper leaving Canada in June 1869. The 30th Regiment of Foot was posted to Ireland in 1869, Jersey in 1871 & England in 1872. I have nothing in writing that says William himself was in Ireland or Jersey. His army records say he was stationed in Canada until 1st June, then he was stationed in England after that date. I don’t know the 30th Foot went straight from Canada to Ireland, and then on to Jersey some time after that, or if they stopped in England first. I don’t know exactly how long they were in each place at this time- the regimental records will reveal that, but we have a general idea down to the nearest year. I cannot find William in the 1871 census. That may be because he was in Ireland (in which case the census may be lost) or in transit between Ireland & Jersey at the time the census was taken. Or if he was already in England, the census doesn’t want to be found.

I do know that the 30th Foot were stationed at Aldershot, Surrey, England by September 1872, so William was most likely there at that time.

On the 25th February 1873, 3rd son Mervin Edward Cooper was born in Aldershot. The index record actually reads Edward Mervin, but later census’s read as Mervin Edward. Mervin has an interesting story to tell himself. Stay tuned for that one.

By the 6th September 1873, a detachment of the 30th Regiment of Foot was stationed at Burnley Barracks, Lancashire. I don’t know if William James was there with this first contingent, but 4th son Adam Alexander Cooper is born in Burnley on the 9th July 1875 at Habergham Eaves Barracks (later known as Burnley Barracks TBC), so he is there by then. His rank on Adam’s birth certificate is Sergeant.

This photograph, from the book ‘Burnley in the Past’ is the only photo I have seen of Burnley Barracks. There’s not much left of the barracks now, just a part of one wall. Burnley Barracks railway station still exists though. Obviously, it’s near the location of the old barracks.

Burnley Barracks

However, there are some confusing discrepancies in William’s military records that make the details a little difficult to follow – mainly to do with dates and rank. His records say he is appointed to Lance Sergeant, which is below Sergeant, on the 1st April 1876 (the 24th March 1875 is originally written, but then crossed out) and stays that rank until 27th April 1877.

28th April 1877, William James is transferred to the Royal Flint Militia (until 21st July 1881). He is a permanent Staff Sergeant. However, his record then says “Promoted Sergeant in 30th Regt, 10th August 1877. Whereby he is “Awarded a silver medal for good service & conduct with a gratuity of £5.”

He would have received a medal similar to this. There are different versions – I’m not sure which one he actually received, but I think it may have been like this. I hope to find the original one day.  Medals often appear for sale online or in military collectors shops, but you’d be lucky to find the exact medal of your ancestor. It does happen though. I have registered with a website called Medal Tracker, so I hope one day I’ll get that message. (Beware of fakes – there are a lot around.)


William & Annie’s 5th son, Thomas George Cooper (his middle name appears as Richard or ‘R’ in a couple of records – this may be an error, to be covered later) is born in Mold, Flintshire, Wales, on the 28th September 1877, so we know that William is stationed in  Flintshire at that time.

The 1881 census confirms everything we have have so far, including William’s rank as Staff Sergeant.

Cooper 1881 Census,2

6th son Richard Ernest Cooper is born in Mold on the 3rd May 1881. (I’ve recently made contact with one of Richard’s descendants.)

On the 21st (or 22nd) July 1881, William receives an honorable discharge – “having claimed it on termination of second period of continuous engagement.”

James Robinson Cooper, 7th son, is born in Mold on the 31st January 1884.

And that’s the last I can find of William James Cooper. He doesn’t appear in the 1891 census, but I can’t find anything, including a death record, between 1883 & 1891 (last son James’ born Jan 1884, hence using 1883 as a date). Might they have gone back to Montreal? Is he in Burnley? Or Ireland? Or Wales? Maybe he has passed away? There are numerous death certificates for a William Cooper over those years, but none seem to really fit. There is one who died in Chelsea 1896. Is it possible that our William ended up as a pensioner in Chelsea barracks? Or is this another William Cooper?

Adam Alexander Cooper is listed as adopted in the 1891 census, living in Clow Bridge near Burnley. On son William John Cooper’s 1893 Dublin marriage record, William James is actually listed also as William John Cooper, “Sergeant in Army”. I suspect his middle name is listed as John instead of James because the father of the bride is also a William John – maybe the registrar got mixed up. There is no mention of him being deceased. Son Charles Wallace Cooper married on the 9th April 1898 in Burnley. Revealed in the marriage certificate is that his father, William, an Army Pensioner, is now deceased. So, we know he has died by April 1898 – can we presume he was alive at the time of son William’s marriage in 1893? Or has has in fact died by 1891 when the census was taken? Why would Adam be adopted otherwise? Even using these dates as clues, I still can’t find anything. On Thomas George Cooper’s 1904 Dublin marriage documents, his father is named as William Cooper, Colour Sergeant, but there is no mention of him being deceased, although it appears he is by this time.

It’s at this point that I can refer to the 1851 census again. I believe it has finally shown itself, after numerous serches.

Sarah, William, Charles Cooper 1851 census,2

As you can see William (James ) Cooper is there. His mother Sarah is needle woman and William is an errand boy. It appears that William has a brother, Charles, who I didn’t know about previously. I am not 100% sure that this is the correct census, but I think it is. However, it does raise some questions. Sarah’s age is not quite right. I believe she was born in 1816, so she would be 35 when this census was taken. This may just be an error (ages are often wrong in census’s) or it may mean I have the wrong people. What has happened to William James’s father (also William) if Sarah is a widow? Why are they visiting an address in Fulham, West London?

So, we’re stuck at this point, still missing the 1871 census and not knowing what ever became of William James Cooper. Stay tuned to see where this all leads.


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