> William Cooke 1791-1867 William Cooke  


As many of you know, William Cooke of Barnstaple,Devon was our first Cooke ancestor. We all owe our existance to he but what do we really know about this man ? There are family stories but they are of dubious origin and without any proof to substantiate them.

William Cooke is supposed to have come over in 1801 from England with 6 ships. He was said to have established a fishing and trading company in Newfoundland. After a few years and losing 3 ships to storms, William lost his 3 remaining ships on one voyage. This put him out of the fishing business. He then is said to have gone to Melbourne, Quebec in the Eastern Townships southeast of Montreal to teach school for a year. The following year he left for New Carlisle to become a schoolmaster and a farmer.Frankie Cooke, who did extensive research on the Cookes before her death, said that William arrived in Newfoundland with the aforementioned ships PLUS his older brother Samuel, 2 slaves and 80,000 pounds sterling. This would have been an absolute fortune. I have found that there is some truth to these stories and a liberal amount of embellishment. I found that we are related to most of the English families of New Carlisle and many in the surrounding towns of Paspebiac, Shigawake and Hopetown. I will state exactly what is fact and what is fiction below.

I must first say thanks to Emma Ernestine (Cooke) Wadleigh, Aunt Ernie. She gave me her research papers and got me started on the right track. Thanks as well to Arthur B. Cooke, my father for his advice and help putting all this together.

The founder of the Cooke family was William Cooke. He was the second son of George and Betty Cooke. His baptism on 29 Sept. l791 and that of his brother Samuel the year before are recorded in the church registers for Atherington, a small parish south of the port of Barnstaple in Devonshire, England. William's three sisters, Sarah, Charlotte and Maria were all baptised in the neighbouring parish of High Bickington. The registers there refer to the parents as " George and Betty Cook of Langley. Langley may be the name of the estate they lived on. Modern maps show a Langley Barton and a cross roads referred to as Langley Cross.. I haven't been able to find a marriage certificate so I do not know Betty's family name. George and Betty do not appear to have been married in the county.


From our viewpoint we might ask why anyone would choose to leave England for the rigors of life in Newfoundland. Barnstaple merchants had been trading with Newfoundland since Elizabethan times.I read this in a book about Barnstaple "Much of the salt they imported from France was used to prserve fish from Newfoundland, in return for which the fishermen and settlers were probably glad for the warm clothes Barnstaple could send them." Newfoundland cod was such an important part of the Devon economy that people had the cod fish incorporated into their family coat of arms and carved into the mouldings of their new country manors.

William ended up in Paradise,Plecentia Bay in southern Newfoundland. More about William's life in Newfoundland can be found here

When William left Devon for Newfoundland we do not know. 1801 does not seem likely as he would only have been 10 years old.After 1812 would be a good guess as he would have been 21 and could have inherited some money. Whenever William arrived in Newfoundland is not sure but he was there for quite a few years. In the l861 census for New Carlisle, William is the only member of the family born in England. His wife Lucinda Power, and all nine( and possibly ten) of their children were born in Newfoundlland. The children were born between l820 and l837. William and Lucinda's children :
i     Ann Eliza (l820-l864) married Matthew Caldwell
ii     Louisa (1829-1898) married Hugh Chisholm
iii    Julia Ann (l821-l891) married Jesse Caldwell
iv    Mary (l823-l873) married Amasa Beebe
v     William (1825 -l901) married Judith Chatterton.
vi    George (l837- ?) a sailor, no known marriage.
vii    Alfred Wood (l834-l860) died unmarried
viii   Charlotte Rosa (l835-l854) married James William Milne.
ix    (Charlotte's twin ?)no more info.
x     John no more information

More on the Cooke family

My cousin, Bill Cooke's addition to Cooke Family knowledge

The Caldwell Connection to the Cookes

Cooke and related families BMD's