25 January 2014

Jacob Cooper’s Loyalism, or: Search your feelings, you know it to be true!

In our family, the Doane side genealogy (my mother’s side) is incredibly well-documented, but the Cooper side, really not so much. Much of the Cooper side story has been based on my own research, in large part by using the Fowler family’s documentation on Ancestry.com - from this, as far as I could ascertain, the Coopers were Quakers who came over to Pennsylvania in the wake of the Williamite Revolution and the Lockean Act of ‘Toleration’ (which notably and explicitly barred Quakers and Catholics from holding high office). However, I could not be certain of these results, in part because so much of the documentation was lost, of our family’s history before my grandfather Franklin’s enlistment in the medical corps of the navy during WWII. There was Oscar Reid, my great-grandfather, a family tradition of connexion to the Watson family through his mother, and then... well, nothing. So I recently took a Y-DNA test from Family Tree DNA, to determine which Cooper lineage I belonged to.

Well, the results have been quite interesting to say the least. My closest relative on FTDNA (genetic distance of 0 at a 37 Y-DNA marker resolution; essentially, solid proof of a common paternal-line ancestor within the past ) is a fellow from Texas who traces his ancestry back to Sarah Ann Phillips and John Calhoun Cooper of Union, South Carolina, the son and heir of Stacey Cooper, who in turn was a younger son of William Cooper and Elizabeth (or Lydia) Ann Clark of Bucks County, PA. The Jacob Cooper the Fowlers list as my direct paternal-line ancestor was also their son, and brother to Stacey Cooper. Interestingly enough, even though Stacey is listed as a veteran of the War of American Independence on the Whig side, Jacob made the ‘Enemies List’ of Whig militia Col. Thomas Brandon, making his estate legally forfeit by the South Carolina rebel government.

The family history in these records is fascinating; I am tempted to visit Union, Spartanburgh and Travelers Rest next time I’m back in the United States to see where and how the folks lived. The reconstruction of the genealogy of my father’s family has taken quite a bit of poking, especially since going back to Joseph Cooper (Jacob’s son) they were, as landless sharecroppers, little better-off than slaves themselves and essentially on the losing end of Dixie’s slave-based economic system (which, sadly and shamefully, my great-great-great-grandfather Joseph Delan Cooper fought to keep intact). One of the first things to be lost in the crushing grip of intergenerational poverty is the family history. There is little use for it when one’s family is but a season away from starvation.

They say one’s social views and views on morality are rooted somewhat in heredity; I’m still somewhat sceptical of that claim. However, it has been a pleasant surprise to discover that communitarian conservatism (that of the Loyalist streak) runs strong in my family, both on my father’s side in South Carolina and on my mother’s in Pennsylvania. Searching my feelings, I know it to be true. (It’s good to have the genetic proof all the same.)

However, my light-sabre forms still need some brushing up.


  1. Matthew, just found my way to your blog by way of John Medaille's recent linking of your essay "Awakening to a Nightmare.". You have lots of interesting things to say. Please keep it up. I find your genealogical musings to be of great interest, as well. I have some Quaker roots, some Union County, SC connections, some Loyalists back there, etc. as well. I have been a serious genealogist for over 40 years, so if I can ever be of assistance with any of your research problems, please let me know. I am a Texan, age 59, Orthodox convert of 8 years, traveler, etc. Best, Terry (John) Cowan

  2. Hello, Terry! Many thanks for the comment, and I'm glad you enjoy the blog!

    Sounds like we have quite a bit in common; and it's always good to make contact with another fellow Orthodox convert! Many thanks for the offer of assistance, there are still some questions I have about specific bits of the history - I'll have to draw up a list later. Can I contact you by e-mail or on FB? That might be the easiest way.

    All the best,