William Cooper, 3x Great Grandfather & London Goldsmith – Part 2: Search for Birth Records, Parents, Brothers & Sisters

We have determined with the 1841 census that William Cooper was born possibly between 1811 & 1816. According to the census he was born in Middlesex. Just where in Middlesex, we don’t know. At that time, the county covered much of Greater London. He was residing in Clerkenwell when the census was taken so it may be likely that he was born in or near to there. If we search for birth or baptism records for him in that time frame, born in Middlesex, to unknown parents, we get numerous results, but none in Clerkenwell. There are also numerous other results outside of the constraints of the 1811-16 time frame, including one of a William Cooper born in St James Clerkenwell, baptised in St Lukes Islington in 1817, to parents John and Sarah. Really, he could be any one of them.

Likewise, later census’s don’t throw up many results. I may have found this other William, (son of John & Sarah) in the 1881 census, still living in St Lukes Islington, a widow, his occupation is a ‘Flicker’ (a lighter of street lights). I can’t find this William in any other census’s. Either way, I don’t think he is our WIlliam.

Sophia Cooper, William’s Mother?

Remember that clue we found with the signature of a Sophia Cooper on William’s marriage documents and thought she may be his mother or sister?

1834 Marriage, William Cooper & Sarah Robinson,2hl

If Sophia Cooper is William’s mother, then what happens if we search for William Cooper, born about 1811-1816 in Middlesex, with a mother called Sophia and an unknown father? I get a couple of possible results in the correct date range and general locale but no results in Clerkenwell. I also get a couple of results outside of that time scale in nearby parts of London.

One result that keeps appearing is that of William Cooper, baptised 8 October 1815 in St Andrew’s Holborn, son of Matthias Cooper & Sophia. Matthias is a boot maker. Ok, this is a possible hit, but there’s nothing jumping out. There are no other people named Matthias in our Cooper tree, and often, names were handed down There are also no boot makers in our tree. Occupations were often handed down from parents to children as well as names – not always, but it did happen quite often. Holborn is reasonably close Clerkenwell, but it’s not so close that it’s a dead cert. So at this stage Matthias & Sophia could be considered possible parents.

We also find a William Cooper, born 22 March 1813 in Seward Street, Islington, baptised 2 May 1813 at St Luke’s Islington. Parents are John Cooper & Sophia. John is an enameller. Are there some clues here? An enameller was someone who worked with glass powders and finely detailed artifacts or jewellery, often with gold paint or maybe gold leaf. Might a goldsmith or gold chain maker (which William later became) be a related trade? That seems possible, doesn’t it?

1813 Baptism, William Cooper,2

Up until this point the name John has appeared twice as a middle name in our Cooper family tree. William John Cooper, b. Montreal 1867 (son of William James Cooper, the soldier), & William John Cooper 1896-1916, killed on the Somme in World War 1 (son of the previous William John Cooper b.1867). It could be that John is a family name and a hint that we’re on the right track. This birth & baptism record shows us that John Cooper & Sophia were living in Seward Street when William was born and he was baptised in St Luke’s. So, where exactly are these places? If they’re close by to where we’ve been so far, it could mean we have the right people.

Seward, St James, St Lukes

If we zoom out a bit, we can fit Holborn into the picture…


As you can see, Holborn, where Matthias & Sophia Cooper lived, is a little further away, in the bottom left corner. I just don’t feel that this fits. So, speculatively at this stage, I went with John & Sophia Cooper of Seward Street. (It would remain speculative for quite a while). St Luke’s Islington, is a stones throw from St James Clerkenwell – literally just down the road. It’s the neighbouring parish. It seemed most likely that this may be the correct way to go.

Seward Street Sign

Sophia Cooper, a sister?

Having searched for birth records of William Cooper using Sophia as a mother, what happens if we search for birth records of Sophia Cooper as a sister of William? With unknown parents, born in Middlesex about 1810, with a range of 10 years +/- each side. Among the results, I find a Sophia Cooper, born 8th August & baptised 6th September 1801, at St Lukes, Islington. Her parents are John Cooper & Sophia. No occupation for John is listed. No street address is listed. Is this the same John & Sophia who are William’s parents? It seems likely, meaning that we appear to have found a sister for William. Even if we are wrong with our speculation that John & Sophia are the correct parents of our William, it does seem that this John & Sophia are parents to both a William & Sophia. All we need to confirm now is if this William is our William. And if he is, it could be that the Sophia Cooper in William’s marriage paper is either his mother or his sister, as there are now TWO Sophia Cooper’s. But there is another Sophia waiting to be discovered who will confuse things even more…

Cross Reference Searching

I find that if I search for these same people, using different parameters, different years, dates, locales etc, I always end up with the same results and the same set of confusing ‘other’ results on the outer fringes. So I slowly began to feel more confident with my conclusion that, unless any more information came to light, William’s parents are John Cooper, the enameller & Sophia. More exciting stuff about this later, as more information does come to light!

Brothers & Sisters

So, as we have speculatively gone with John & Sophia as the parents of our William & his sister Sophia, did William have any other brothers or sisters? If we search for other Coopers born to parents John & Sophia in that 20 year span from 1800 to about 1820, do we find any other results? The answer is yes.

John Cooper, born 31st January 1807, baptised 1st March 1807 at St Lukes Islington. His baptism record simply reads “John, S (son) of John Cooper & Sophia” and is accompanied by the above dates. There is no residence and no occupation given.

Mary Cooper, born 22nd August 1810, baptised 23rd September 1810 at St Lukes Islington. Again, Mary’s baptism record simply reads “Mary, D (daughter) of John Cooper & Sophia” and is accompanied by the above dates. There is no residence and no occupation given.

Why would only William’s baptism record contain John’s address & occupation? It may simply be that, as William’s baptism is the last of the four, the style of the baptism record had changed by that time. It may also be that the Priest in charge of the writings had changed, but the hand writing does seem similar in all records. Indeed, the baptism record that has been filled out for William is of a different style to the previous ones, with more columns for address & occupation. I don’t think it’s a case of having mixed up records of different families. All records are from St Lukes Islington over a 13 year time span. So, in my opinion, it does seem likely that we have found four children for John & Sophia: Sophia (1803), John (1807), Mary (1810) & William (1813). What we still don’t know for sure is if this William is our William? For now at least, we are saying that he is.

Out of curiosity, what do we find if we search for other children of Matthias & Sophia Cooper, born in the same 1800-1820 time frame? We’ve got William born in 1815, as mentioned above. Are there any other results? Yes there are. We find James (b.1803), Thomas (b.1805) , Sophia (b.1809), Mathias (b. 1811) Allan or Allen (b.1818) and Ann (b.1820), all born in Holborn. On some records Matthias is spelled Mathias. I’ve tried to follow this family in later census’s to be sure they aren’t our Cooper’s. I may have found this other William Cooper in the 1881 census as a widow – his occupation is wine cooper.

So there were are, making a little progress in what I was hoping was the right direction…

Seward Street off Goswell Road
Seward Street entrance, off Goswell Road.



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