Mid North Coast Pioneers - Newcastle to Lismore and beyond

The Cooper Family of Madras, India

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The Cooper Family of Madras, India

The following is a copy of an article written by John R Kane and published by the Genealogical Society of Queensland Inc., in the September 1993 edition of their quarterly magazine "generation", Volume 16, No. 1

"EAST INDIA COMPANY RECORDS

The following notes illustrate just how much information on an ancestor is available if that ancestor happened to work for the Honorable East India Company. Perhaps experienced researchers knew this, but I did not, when I decided to look into my wife's Cooper forebears. These notes are presented in case there is someone else in the same position as I was, quite unaware of the amount of documentation recorded by the HEIC.

My starting point was "The Cooper Chronicle" published by the late Stan Cooper which gave a lot of data on my wife's great-great-great-grandparents, Leonard and Maria Cooper. (My copy of the "Chronicle" does not carry an ISBN number and may have been only privately circulated.) Maria was a Russian who used the French version of her surname, de Smirnoff, rather than the Russian form, Smornova. She married her first cousin, Leonard Cooper. Leonard's mother and Maria’s mother were sisters from the Masson family.

My big mistake was to deduce - quite wrongly - from the lack of HEIC data in the "Chronicle" that it must be difficult to get any records from the Company. Nor was there anything to change my mind from books in my library.

The Coopers were a real Honorable East India Company family. At least eight Coopers worked for the Company. Stan had collected many bits and pieces about Maria and some material from India itself, but apparently nothing directly about the East India Company. Nor was there anything to change my mind in the two books on English genealogy that I had on my desk. ·mere was nothing about the East India Company in my "Family Tree Detective A Manual For English Ancestors" (Rogcrs, 1983). The second book was "Debrett's Guide to Tracing your Ancestry" (Currer­Hriggs and Gambier, 1982). ·n1is book had a chapter on tracing people in the forces. but did not seem to mention the East India Company. The hook had no index so I did not at first notice, in an appendix which listed Archives in England, that there was a reference to a certain "India Office Library and Records, Foreign and C.o. mmonwealth Office, London" (p. 198).

In Johnson & Sainty's 1985 G.R.D. I noticed an advertisement by Chris Barrett who would search archives in the Indian Office. At this stage it was not clear if the Indian Office had anything to do with the East India Company. I decided to take the easy way out and ask this Chris Barrett to check out the Indian Office for me. The following is largely a report on the sorts of things he found for me.

Because I did not really know what to expect, I set Mr Barrett four main problems.

  1. We knew of 11 children. Could he find the missing 12th child of Leonard (II) and Maria?

  2. Could he find anything about Leonard (I) Cooper. the father-in-law and also uncle of Maria?

  3. I thought that I knew enough  about  Leonard (II), Maria's  husband, through Stan Cooper's work,  but  could  he find out  something about  Leonard (II)'s  brother, John  Chamier who was also in India?
    
  4. Could he find out anything about one son of Leonard (II) and Maria, Samuel Cooper, who left no trace after the family migrated to Australia?

In one day's work, Mr Barrett simply looked through indices in various records. Some of the records available are:

Madras Civil Servants, 1780-1839 Madras Almanac East India Company Register, 1800-1860 India Office Lists Directories of Madras 1811-1861 Register of Madras Baptisms, 1828-1853 Register of Madras Burials Madras Army Military Fund - Officers Families (Army Pension Fund) Madras Army Service Records

The list of documents might have a value by itself in indicating to researchers just how much is available in one place, the India Office Library. "This could save a lot of effort by reducing the amount of time otherwise spent finding and writing to various addresses in India.

One or two of the early Cooper researchers who gave the results of their labours to Stan had found information about early 1800s difficult to get by approaching Madras directly. Given the exchange rate of the Australian dollar, it is also particularly gratifying to see how much data can be assembled from simple indices, before any time (and money) is spent looking at the full documents to get a complete story.

Now for the information that Mr Barrett provided for me from these indices.

  1. The Twelfth Child:

One of our problems was solved quickly by Chris Barrett’s work. Maria had claimed in 1848 to have born 12 children, three of whom had died. Stan had published 11, but could find nothing about the twelfth, who was one of those mentioned by Maria as having died young.

From the Madras Baptisms Index seven of Maria’s 12 children were immediately obvious. The year of baptism, volume and page in the Register were listed. However, not only were the other four known children missing (a new problem; were they born elsewhere?), but the twelfth was also missing. A quick look in the Burials Register provided the answer. There was an infant Ann, buried in 1828, who must have been Maria's first child, born a year after her marriage. She would have been called after Maria's sister Ann, who remained in Russia.

  1. Leonard (l) Cooper:

There was much information about Maria’s father-in-law, also Leonard. whom I shall call Leonard (I). Leonard (I), son of Samuel and Margaret, was baptised on 6 April 1783 at St. Marylebone, London.

Other volumes recorded details of Leonard I's career. He was appointed a cadet in the East India Company of 4 Feb. 1800 at the age of 17. (Madras Certif. No. 4). The Madras Almanac noted that he was a Lieutenant in the 13 Regiment of the Madras Native Infantry in 1803. He was Captain from 1817. He was Adjutant at Black Town (the mainly Indian suburbs of Madras) from 1815 to 1819; town Adjutant 1820.

Lconard (I) married three times, each event being listed in the Pension Fund. Firstly (date not given, while he was active in India, he married a Sarah, who was actually Maria's aunt, Sarah Masson. The couple had three sons and a daughter. Sarah's death is given in the Register of Deaths as 1829.

I.conard (I) retired in 1834 with the rank of Lieut-Colond. A second marriage was listed as occurring in that same year, presumably after his return to England. Wife number two was not named, but died in 1839. A third marriage in1842 to an Elizabeth (b. 1818, d. 1895) resulted in four children:

Ellen, born March 1843, m. 24 July 1867; George. horn 24 Nov 1844; Sophia. born 7 April 1846, d. 8 May 1856; Edward, born 10 Feb 1848.

Lieut-Colonel Cooper. Leonard (I) died in 1853. Such personal facts were of course important to the Pension Fund.

  1. John Chamier Cooper:

John, a younger brother of Leonard (II) was born on 21 December, 1809 at Madras. He became a cadet in 1825 in the 51st Regiment, Madras Native Infantry. As a professional soldier his career progress was recorded as follows:

Ensign, 5 February 1826 Arrived in India 24 June 1826 Promoted to Lieutenant 24 November 1832 Promoted to Captain 14 March 1845 Major, 24 January 1851

Some details of quite a notable career were gleaned. His active duties included: 2nd Sikh War siege of Multan. Gujerat (for which he received a medal and two claps).

He took furlough from 9 April 1851 to Oct 1853.

John Chamier Cooper. then close to 50 and no doubt finally with sufficient money, married on 19 Dec 1854 at Bombay. Francis Smith, daughter of S. Smith of Twickenham. (Perhaps the wife was arranged for him by his father, before his death in the previous year, and while John was in England on furlough).

Marriage must have suited him. His career continued to flourish. John Chamier Cooper was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, 22 May 1856. He was given command of the 57th Regiment in July 1856. Unfortunately, he was about to be involved in the Indian Mutiny. He disarmed his Regiment at Peshawar on May 1857. They mutinied on 18 August 1857 and fled to the Khyber Pass. John pursued them but died of heat stroke on 28 August 1857.

  1. Samuel George Teed Cooper:

The Madras Baptismal Records show that Samuel George Teed was born 19 June 1833 and baptised on 1 Feb 1834. His father Leonard (II) had his job given assolicitor. Sponsors were Samuel Cooper (an uncle. and hence the baby's first name); Lady Mary Cooper (a great-aunt. wife of Sir George Cooper. and hence the second name); and Charles M. Teed (hence the third narne ). Sponsors were no doubt carefully chosen. They were designed to elicit an interest from wealthy relatives in the child, an interest that might turn out to be of value later on.

Samuel’s application to join the E.I. Company Service, dated 19 January 1850, mentioned that he had received a classical education "at home". This is confirmed by a letter of Maria's which said that Leonard (Ill) and Samuel lived in England for 14 years. Furthermore. The will of Samuel's grandfather, Leonard (I), mentioned money owing to him from Leonard (II) for providing education to Samuel and Leonard (Ill). Grandfather did not become rich by wasting money on his grandchildren.

Samuel joined the 13th Regiment of Native Infantry that his grandfather had been in. Notes say that he was ensign in 1849. He became a Lieutenant on 16 Nov 1854 at Serangapatam. He took furlough in 1856. After the usual two years allowed for furlough, he was dismissed on 8 Jan 1858, no doubt simply because he did not return to his regiment after completion of furlough.. His whole family had in the meantime migrated to Australia, so that it was a natural presumption that he had migrated with them.. It is clear from some extant letters to Australia. however, that Samuel was at least some time later in England. Letters refer to him as "poor Samuel" and as needing constant watching. (Many authors refer to the short life expectancy of English soldiers of that era in India, and of the diseases to which they succumbed).. As Chris Barrett points out, there will be records of the court-martial to be read, and no doubt further details to be discovered.

Stanley Wolpert in: "A New History of India" (1988) explains that "several hundred annual appointees...spent two years of indoctrination at Haileybury between 1809-1858 learning their first phrases in Persian and Hindusthani. taking their lessons in Indian history...Officer candidates for India's anny were similarly trained at Addiscombe" (p.215-216). There should be records at Haileybury School and at Addiscombe to consult as well (if money becomes available).

This multitude of cold facts taken largely from simple indices, when placed in a context of history and of the personal emotions gleaned from extant letters. conspire to give a warm picture of a family struggling with their own upbringing and ambitions to find jobs and to cope with mouths to feed, in the face of always impending disasters. The details are different, but the basic life problems are very similar to those facing us today.

So there it is. The main points in the story came from the research of Chris Barrett. My main reason for telling the story was to show how much information can be found in one place, the India Office Library.

John R. Kane"

Given names Surname Sosa Birth Place Death Age Place Last change
Ann COOPER
1828191Madras, India018281910Madras, India
Leonard COOPER
1805214England, United Kingdom11185216747Madras, India
Samuel George Teed COOPER
June 19, 1833186Madras, India0
Maria De SMIRNOFF
Maria COOPER
Maria SMORNOVA
11about 1883136Wingham, , New South Wales, Australia
Given names Surname Age Given names Surname Age Marriage Place Last change
Leonard COOPER
23Maria De SMIRNOFF
Maria SMORNOVA
191Madras, India12