Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cooley Family Origins

Thanks to The Cooley Genealogy, a two volume (1200 page) summary of the descendants of Ensign Benjamin Cooley published in 1941 by Mortimer E. Cooley, much is known about those who descended from him, but little is known about Benjamin’s ancestors. The records (e.g. birth and real estate) are clear about how Benjamin settled down in Springfield, MA, and that he and his wife Sarah produced eight children, all of whom were born in Springfield between 1643 and 1662. It is also possible to trace all of the descendants for each of those eight children, some for at least 12 generations. Here for example is my Cooley lineage:
For those eleven generations, the records are crystal clear. I am absolutely a descendent of Benjamin Cooley. Genetically speaking, my y-chromosome, which is passed on from father to son, is a copy of his. Knowing this, I wondered what might be learned from my y-DNA about the origins of Benjamin. This is important since the records of his history prior to his arrival in Springfield are not at all clear. In The Cooley Genealogy there is much speculation about his possible origins, but no hard data.

A web site established by Greg Parker has compiled DNA records from members of the Cooley family. One of his Cooley family groups, which he labeled CF02, includes seven of us with y-DNA results that are so similar that we must have a common ancestor, and that common ancestor is probably Benjamin Cooley. He definitely is for four of us in that group. Their similar DNA profiles illustrate the stability of the male lineage. So I decided to explore how DNA might help to clarify the origins of the Cooley family. We do not have Benjamin’s DNA, but we have the DNA from some of his direct descendants.

Steve Oppenheimer at Oxford University has done extensive studies of the DNA of those who live in the British Isles, and his book The Origins of the British, is a remarkable summary of his research. He has also established a laboratory which collects current DNA samples from individuals and reports back to them their results. I did that with the following result: “Using the Oppenheimer Clan Test for British and Irish origins, Stephen Oppenheimer has determined that you are male gene type R1b-12. This type is one of the nearly 50 clusters of male gene founding clans.” Clan R1b-12, also known as a haplogroup, is one of the indigenous people that migrated into the British Isles from Iberia between 15,000 and 5,000 years ago, who we know as Celts. Haplogroup R1b-12 is “strongly represented in Wales and Ireland, the Fen country, and along the Atlantic coast of Britain” according to Oppenheimer’s studies of current DNA distributions.

As Oppenheimer and others ( e. g. Bryan Sykes in Saxons, Vikings and Celts) make clear, during the Last Glacial Maximum, about 20,000 years ago, the only thing on British soil was a very large glacier, with no English Channel, no Irish sea, and no people. As the ice slowly melted (in an earlier global warming) people began moving in over the land bridges that were not yet flooded over. One series of migrations came up the Atlantic coast from Iberia, including Benjamin Cooley’s ancestors, the R1b haplogroup, beginning about 15,000 years ago. Our more specific haplogroup, R1b-12, emerged during the expansions of those early indigenous lines, about 4,000 years ago.

Another migration into the British Isles came down from Norway, haplogroup R1a1, about 5,000 years ago. This later migration included the ancestors of another Cooley Family Group in Greg Parker’s DNA collection, CF01. Their similar y-DNA indicates that they share a common ancestor (but not Benjamin). According to the Oppenheimer Clan Test that was done for one of the four Cooleys in CF01, this group of Cooleys is from the clan R1a1-2b, which moved to the British Isles from what is now Bergen, Norway. Comparing the DNA results for these two Cooley families (CF01 and CF02) illustrates how DNA profiles can inform the study of genealogical origins.

What we learn from genetic studies of human migration is that the ancestors of Benjamin Cooley were among the very early inhabitants of the British Isles. These Celts spread all over the British Isles, and were the indigenous folks which the Romans found when they invaded England at about the time Christ was born. Just exactly where our “Cooley y-DNA” was located at that time is unknown. Of course there is a big gap between a haplogroup moving up the Atlantic coast into the British Isles over 10,000 years ago and where Benjamin Cooley was living in the early 1600’s. Someday the rapidly expanding DNA databases may allow us to find more exact matches of British y-DNA to our own, and trace their lineage. Our CFAA genealogist, Doug Cooley, has been stimulating this new aspect of genealogy. Go to the DNA tab on the CFAA web site and find out how you can participate.

The Origins of the British A genetic detective story: the surprising roots of the English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh. By Stephen Oppenheimer Carroll & Graf, 2006 534 pgs

Saxons, Vikings and Celts The genetic roots of Britain and Ireland by Bryan Sykes W. W. Norton, 2006 307 pgs

Mapping Human History Genes, race, and our common origins by Steve Olson Houghton Mifflin, 2002 293 pgs

Cooleys in Ireland and England

This is a summary of a trip that my wife Cynthia and I made (May 2008) to visit Cooley related sites in Ireland and England. I also met with researchers at Trinity College Dublin who have been active in surname-DNA studies, and with the cofounder of EthnoAncestry, a genetics lab based in Dublin and Edinburgh which does DNA testing for genealogical purposes. I have prepared this report for my new found cousins in the Cooley Family Association of America (CFAA).

One of the reasons I wanted to go to Ireland was to explore the Cooley Peninsula, which is about 50 miles north of Dublin, in County Louth. I thought that would be a good place to find possible relatives. I also wanted to find Cooley Point, which is the eastern tip of the Cooley Peninsula. We have a summer place in New Hampshire which is on a point of land on a salt water bay in Durham, NH, which we named Cooley Point, without knowing that one existed in Ireland.

My main discovery of this trip is that all of the Cooley references in and around County Louth, where the Cooley peninsula is located, have nothing to do with the Cooley surname, but are based upon the place name Cuailnge, which is Irish for Cooley. This location is very famous because it is where the “Cattle Raid of Cooley” (the best known Irish epic in the Ulster Cycle) took place. So there is the Cooley Distillery, the Cooley Lodge, the Cooley Tractor Festival, the Cooley Mountains, and of course Cooley Point, all derived from that famous epic myth, with no relationship to any Cooley family name whatsoever.

One of my meetings in Dublin was with Dr. Katherine Simms of Trinity College. She is a co-author of several papers on the DNA-surname relationship that have come out of the Smurfit Institute at Trinity. She is a medieval historian who has specialized in the study of Irish surnames. She pointed out to me that the Cooley Peninsula was a dead end as far as locating Cooley families, and my visits there confirmed that. For example, we visited the Cooley Distillery, tasted some great Irish whiskey, and learned that the founder and owner was a Harvard grad who named his firm after the Cooley Peninsula, a place name, not a family name. We found no Cooley families in County Louth.

Dr. Simms suggested that County Galway and County Clare would be good places to find Cooley families, and that they would be derived from the Irish clan MacKilcooley. A property survey of Ireland (1848-64) confirms that. There were more Cooley households in those two counties than in all of the rest of Ireland. But she doubted that this Irish clan was the source of our Cooley family founder Benjamin Cooley, since Benjamin is more likely an English first name, and the Irish Cooley clan is Catholic, and Benjamin was a protestant.

My other meeting in Dublin was with Dr. Gianpiero Cavalleri, who with Dr. James Wilson, founded EthnoAncestry. They are leading population geneticists, who “bring the cutting edge of genetic research to [their] customers through development of new markers, identification of new genetic signatures and by providing authoritative interpretation of deep ancestry.” He was fascinated with the summary of Cooley DNA results which Greg Parker has established for the CFAA, and the stability of the DNA profile for the descendents of Benjamin Cooley, regardless of which of the four sons of Benjamin we each represented, eleven or more generations later.
He encouraged me to use existing databases (such a y-base) which are growing every day, and look for matches with our Cooley model haplotype. I have begun to do that and so far our Cooley y-DNA profile is a better match to samples from central England than it is to, say, the Irish Modal Haplotype, which is well established in the literature.

One of our site-seeing stops in Dublin was their City Hall, a beautiful neo-classical building designed by Thomas Cooley (1740-1784). Checking his biography I discovered that he was a London architect who won the competition for a new building for the Royal Exchange, which eventually became the City Hall. He moved then to Dublin and in 1775 he was appointed Chief Architect to the Board of Works in Dublin. Checking the vast National Library in Dublin for his origins I learned the he was born in England of unknown parents.

After a wonderful week in Dublin, we boarded the Jonathan Swift Ferry to Holyhead, Wales. In Holyhead we got on a train direct to London. While in London, the main Cooley-related experience was a short train ride north to Tring, the probable birthplace of Benjamin Cooley in 1615. Through the CFAA I had previously made contact with David Cooley who had visited Tring in January of 2007, and he was very helpful in planning our visit. Tring has many charming English Tudor style buildings. For example, across the street from the Tring Parish Church is the Rose and Crown Hotel, which has existed on the present site since the 16th Century. We enjoyed a nice lunch there before we began our explorations of Tring. The town is full of history, with names like Rothschild and Washington (George’s great-grandfather), having once lived there. It should be noted that the Tring Parish Church (also known as the Tring Church of St. Peter and St. Paul) is in the Diocese of St. Albans, which explains the references to St. Albans in the Cooley family history.

It was a real thrill to walk around the ancient grounds of the Tring Parish Church, which is over 700 years old, with its knapped flint stone work exterior. The grounds are filled with tombstones, but none with legible dates earlier than 1800. Their parish records go back to 1566, and the CFAA has studied those records quite extensively (e.g. Debrett, 1987). They indicate that Benjamin Cooley was baptized there in February 25, 1615/16, son of William Cooley and Joan Arnott, who had been married in the parish in February 1608/9. [By the way, I puzzled over why recorded dates sometimes had double years. What I did not realize was that prior to 1752 the New Year began on March 25, so dates earlier in the year than March 25 were ambiguous, depending how one counted. All dates in the church records later than March 25 had only the single year.] No other records for Benjamin were found (e.g. marriage, burial, wills) so it seems safe to assume that Benjamin migrated to Massachusetts circa 1640 in his early twenties.

William Cooley had at least two other sons besides Benjamin: Jonathan and Joseph. Since there are Tring Parish records regarding the subsequent activities of those brothers, it is very possible that some of their descendents remained in the Hertfordshire area. When David Cooley visited Tring in 2007, he had found phone numbers for a number of Cooleys in that area, but was not successful in establishing their connection with our family. Prior to his visit, the CFAA had posted a plea in a UK genealogy site, asking for possible descendents of William Cooley to identify themselves and agree to DNA testing which the CFAA would pay for. There were no replies.

In my Trinity College interviews and in reading their surname-DNA studies, I learned that when they recruited individuals with a particular surname, the Trinity researchers would simply mail out DNA collection kits (simple cheek swabs) with an explanation about the purpose of the study and a promise to provide them with their own DNA results and keep their individual results confidential. I was amazed to learn that they had a thirty percent response rate. Apparently an interest in their family surname and getting a free DNA test were sufficient incentives for that high rate of response.

When I got back to Pittsburgh I re-read the first 158 pages of The Cooley Genealogy by Mortimer Cooley. What a remarkable and informative work that was. After my trip and my review of our genealogy and subsequent DNA studies, I have concluded that our best bet in finding Cooley relatives is not in Ireland, but in the area around Tring. I also believe that DNA profiles are a good bet in narrowing down where Benjamin Cooley emigrated from.

The Great Puritan Migration to New England

Between 1630 and 1642, over 20,000 Englishmen migrated to New England. William Pynchon, the Puritan founder of Springfield, Massachusetts was one of them. So was Benjamin Cooley, the founder of the Cooley family in America, of which I am a member. Mortimer Cooley, in his remarkable two volume work, The Cooley Genealogy (1941), clearly documents Benjamin Cooley’s early days in Massachusetts and how we all descended from Benjamin and his wife Sarah.

The purpose of this paper is to briefly summarize what was going on in England in the first half of the 17th Century that led to that great migration, and why I have become convinced that Benjamin Cooley was among them.. Estimates of the size of that migration range from 20,000 to 26,000, most of whom were English Puritans. When that large a group decides to do something as dramatic as abandon their homes and sail for several months across the Atlantic to an unknown future, there is a temptation to find a single cause. But it seems there were many factors involved: political, religious and economic.

Let’s begin with 1603, when Queen Elizabeth died and King James succeeded her. A big difference between these two monarchs was that the Queen allowed considerable religious freedom, while King James tried to force the Puritans to conform to the policies and practices of the Church of England. King James did sponsor and promote an English version of the Holy Bible in 1611, but in general his religious policy was aimed at maintaining conformity and state control of the Church. This was troublesome because the Puritans believed that the Anglican Church had not been sufficiently purged of the theology and worship practices of the Roman Catholic Church.

Then in 1625 King James died and his son Charles I inherited the throne. Charles had even stronger Catholic sympathies than his father James. This was made worse by his marrying a Catholic Queen, and his appointment of William Laud as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Laud enforced his high church discipline and persecuted the Puritans extensively. Laud regarded Puritanism a greater threat to the Church of England than Catholicism. “By 1630, reconciliation of Puritan viewpoints and those of the Church establishment was impossible.” (Bremer, 1995) Eventually the Puritans gained control of Parliament, and Laud was eliminated. Then King Charles was tried and executed as a traitor to his countrymen in 1649.

But before that happened, in 1629 the Massachusetts Bay Company received a royal charter from King Charles. John Winthrop and 27 other leaders of the company signed the Cambridge Agreement, signifying their willingness to migrate to New England if they can bring the charter and powers with them. William Pynchon, then of Springfield, Essex, was one of the original patentees. Over the next year they had weekly meetings planning for their migration to New England and arranging their ships. In 1630 seven ships carrying about 1000 Puritans left England for Massachusetts. Known as the Winthrop fleet, they sailed into Salem Harbor in 1630, with William Pynchon aboard.

The Cambridge Agreement was essentially a home rule decision, and soon after they arrived in Massachusetts, Winthrop established Boston as the seat of the new colony and assumed control as governor of Massachusetts. “Clearly, the emigrants to New England were not a band of adventurers, but sober rural and urban middle-class folk. From the status of disaffected minority in their native land, these Puritans became the foundation of New England.” (Beamer, 1995, pg. 47) Philbrick(2006), in his fascinating account of the Pilgrims, who preceded the Winthrop Puritans by ten years, describes the Puritans as “more well-to-do and ambitious” than the Pilgrims, but who left England for very similar reasons.

In 1635, from his initial base in Roxbury, Massachusetts, Pynchon and two others conducted an exploratory expedition up the Connecticut River looking for a good place to establish a beaver trade. They found it at Agawam, and his two colleagues remained there for the winter to get things started. Both Burt (1898) and Swift (1969) provide abundant documentation of Pynchon’s dealings with the Native Americans as they established their beaver operations.

In the following spring (1636) Pynchon led a larger expedition to create a settlement on the banks of the Connecticut River. In 1640 that settlement was named Springfield, after the town in Essex where Pynchon was from. Burt (1898, pg. 20) reports that several of the new settlers in 1640 were married prior to their arrival in Springfield, among them he lists Benjamin Cooley. This explains why there is no record of Benjamin and Sarah’s wedding in Springfield. Unfortunately their names have not been found on any ship passenger list, but many ships arrived in New England at that time without a surviving record of passenger names. The first official record of Benjamin’s Springfield presence was the birth of their daughter Bethia on September 16,1643.

In order to build a viable, self-sufficient settlement, Pynchon recruited skilled craftsmen using his agents back in England (Swift, 1969). His hometown, Springfield, was in the county of Essex. Essex and Hertfordshire were neighboring counties just north of London, and at that time were connected with extensive waterways, including tributaries of the Thames, so communication among these towns was easy. (Hill, 1982)

Benjamin Cooley was baptized in the nearby town of Tring in 1617. As a young lad he must have been trained as a weaver, for soon after his arrival in Springfield, MA he took on an apprentice weaver named Samuel Terry. We also know from Benjamin’s will that tools of the weaver craft was a big part of his estate. As Mortimer Cooley (1941, pg. 72) reports, “there is ample evidence that Benjamin Cooley was a skilled worker in both flax and wool.” So it is very probable that Pynchon’s agents in Essex and Hertfordshire (Swift, 1969, pg. 16) convinced a young weaver named Benjamin Cooley to move to the new world. That recruitment may have been fairly easy for a number of reasons.

Southern East Anglia (which included Essex and Hertfordshire) was the center of the coarse cloth industry. Unfortunately during the late 1630’s the weaver trade in the areas around Tring, had fallen on hard times. For example, in nearby Colchester a Dutchman built a factory that employed 500. He was so hated by the independent weavers that they burned down his mill when times got tough. New factories were not the only problem, East Anglia traders found it increasingly profitable to sell raw wool abroad, instead of finished cloth. (Wedgewood, 1955)
The political climate in Hertfordshire and Essex at that time was also a problem. A doctoral dissertation by Hankins (2003), who made an extensive study of the local government and the social life in those two counties circa1590 to1630, concluded that changes made by the central government in England caused great tension. “By the late 1620’s, the lords lieutenant, their deputies, and the justices of the peace [in these two counties] were stretched to the breaking point by the open-ended threat of economic, political, religious, and social innovations imposed from above.” (Hawkins, 2003) It was also true that In 1629 England suffered bad harvests that resulted in a slump in the cloth trade. (Bremer, 1995)

Cross-channel traffic brought in the flax and hemp from Normandy and Brittany and exported it as sail cloth and buckram (a fine cloth for clothes in the middle ages). (Wedgewood, 1995) But then government regulation rendered the English economy inflexible. In 1631 the Hertfordshire Justices of the Peace protested that this strict control of markets made the markets smaller. Much of the resentment against Charles I’s personal government sprang from objection to this autocratic and ineffective interference from Whitehall in local affairs.” (Hill, 1982)
Various epidemic diseases were also a problem at this time. Vaguely defined as plague, there were over 10,000 deaths in the London area in 1636. (Wedgewood, 1995). So for many reasons the 1630’s were not happy times for folks in Hertfordshire. It is easy to see why a young weaver would be willing to join the great migration of Puritans to New England.

Of course not everyone left the Tring area. Not even all the Cooleys. Benjamin’s probable father, William Cooley, and his wife Joan, had other children besides Benjamin, and Tring and nearby Parish records reveal that some of them stayed in the area. It would be very important to genealogically seek other male relatives (either ancestors or descendents) of William Cooley and determine if their DNA matches the DNA profile of the descendents of Benjamin. The latter has been well established by Greg Parker for the Cooley Family Association of America. The y-chromosome profile that Benjamin inherited from his father and brought with him in the great migration has held up well through over 11 generations of Cooleys in America. If, for example, Benjamin’s probable brother Joseph received that same y-DNA profile from William, then finding and testing descendents of Joseph would be very confirming evidence for the Tring origins of Benjamin Cooley. I was trained as a statistician, so I am very comfortable with probabilities. Hence this paper. But for those who want more convincing evidence, that would do it.

Burt, Henry (1898) The First Century of the History of Springfield: 1636 to 1736 Michigan Historical Reprint Series.

Bremer, Francis (1995) The Puritan Experiment University Press of New England.

Cooley, Mortimer (1941) The Cooley Genealogy Tuttle Publishing Company.

Hankins, Jeffery (2003) Local Government and Society in Early Modern England: Hertfordshire and Essex, C. 1590-1630. Doctoral Dissertation, LSU, Dept. of History.

Hill, Christopher (1982) The Century of Revolution: 1603-1714 W. W. Norton.
Philbrick, Nathaniel (2006) Mayflower Penguin Books.

Swift, Esther (1969) West Springfield Massachusetts: A Town History West Springfield Heritage Association.

Wedgwood, C. V. (1955) The King’s Peace: 1637-1641 Book-of-the-Month Club.