Sunday, January 27, 2019

From a North Sea tribe


Given the paucity of records that have thus far been immediately available to me (which isn’t to say that they don’t exist or that they have been neglected by other members of the family!), genetic genealogy has been rather instrumental in tracking down some of my Cooper family connexions. In particular, the Y-DNA test (which traces back the direct paternal line ancestry, through mutations transmitted on the Y-chromosome in men) helped me confirm a direct relationship with the line descending from the William Jacob Cooper who left Bucks County, PA and moved his family to the Quaker settlement at Bush River, SC.

The Y-DNA test also helped me to confirm a certain ‘branch’ of my more distant ‘Cooper’ ancestry (though, of course, the surname wouldn’t come into existence until much, much later), to a certain man who lived around 2200 BC somewhere on the continental European coast of the North Sea, likely in what is now Frisia. This man belonged to the Western European R1b Y-haplogroup, and transmitted to his descendants a Y-DNA mutation called R-Z18. Significant clusters of the modern male-line descendants of this ancestor can be found in the modern-day Low Countries, southern Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden, Norway), Scotland and the historical region of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. R-Z18 is genetically ‘downstream’ of the ‘Germanic’ (disclaimer: these labels attributing modern cultural characteristics to pre-historic people are inexact and possibly inappropriate) common ancestor R-U106, and descendants of R-Z18 seem to account for only about five percent of modern-day progeny of R-U106. R-U106 is subsequently ‘downstream’ of R-M269, a mutation associated with human remains belonging to the nomadic Yamnaya culture of remote Eurasian antiquity, which lived between 3300 and 2600 BC in what is now southern Russia, Crimea and the eastern Ukraine.


Imagined depiction of a Yamnaya burial rite, Viktor Vasnetsov, 1899

Again, having only dabbled thus far in genetic genealogy, I am not even certain I am representing even this small sliver of the genetic history with anything close to the needed degree of epistemological humility, but it does provide a fascinating glimpse into the distant prehistory of the ‘spear-side’ forebears of the Cooper family.

Friday, January 11, 2019

What’s in a name?

I recently came across one of these social-media ‘challenges’ on Facebook, and, because it seemed relevant, thought I would share my response here. I have added the links and formatting, of course, but what follows the blockquote is my answer more or less unchanged in content. This was the content of the ‘challenge’:
What’s in a name? And what does your name mean, both literally and to you, personally? Does your name, in your mind, tie you to a particular people or heritage, imprinting you as the recipient of a unique chain and legacy, or serve as a mark of your individuality, if you go by a name you’ve chosen for yourself?

Across all cultures, peoples the world over have sought to honor their God or gods, their notable ancestors, or their favourite relatives and friends by naming their newborn children after them. In cultures which practise formal adoption rites, the bestowal of a new name often indicates the acceptance of and granting of a new group-based community identity to the new adopted person, while the retention or discarding of one’s “old name” in this context serves as a marker of group conformity or assertion of lineal genetic individuality.

In all cultures, from the earliest examples we have of autobiographical writings down to today, great import has historically been given to the naming of newborn babies, around which entire elaborate religious rites and ceremonies exist in five of the world’s largest religions involving Scripture recitation, water, fire, honey, flowers, etc. Similarly, for any coming of age / initiation ceremonies, such as confirmation / chrismation for Christians, bar and bat mitzvah for Jews, or hafiz /Qur‘anic memorisation or tariqah initiation for Muslims, the young person will either take on a new initiatic name of a patron saint or holy person of the religion, or be told aspects of the inner meaning of his or her birth name. The hope, in all societies, is that children will grow up in the character and likeness of the names with which their parents bestowed them.

So: what’s in your names? What is the etymology of your first, or personal name, and your surname or family name? Do you have a patronymic, or a clan whose lineage you’ve been told about and kept alive? Are you named for a relative, or is your personal name the first of its kind in your family? What of any saint or holy name you yourself took on? What do these names mean to you?
I was named Matthew by my parents for Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew (and was born on 21 September, which is the feast-day of Matthew for the Western churches – though this was serendipitous; my parents had no knowledge of it being the saint’s day when I was born). Etymologically, the name comes from the Hebrew Mattityâhu מתתיהו meaning ‘Gift of Yah’; its first bearer in the Scriptures was the priest Mattityâhu ben Yôhânân the High Priest of Israel, father of the Maccabee brothers who led the Hebrew revolt against the Seleucids which established the Hasmonean Kingdom. I kept my birth name and consciously adopted the patronage of Holy Apostle Matthew on my conversion to Orthodox Christianity. His approach to the Gospel was to stress the continuity of the Hebrew Scriptures with the life of Christ – and continuity and tradition were then something I deeply valued (and still do). I also sympathised and to some degree identified with his background as a great sinner, and admired his travels in Ethiopia and Persia to spread the Gospel.


Holy Apostle Matthew

Franklin was my grandfather’s name (also my father’s middle name). Franklin Cooper was: a poor South Carolina sharecropper, a navy medic in the Pacific theatre in WWII, and a professional pharmacist who put himself through school with the help of the GI Bill after WWII. My grandfather is sadly no longer with us. I miss him in some rather unexpected ways; for example, I find I wish I could have talked with him more about his life growing up and the experiences he had of the massive social changes he lived through.


A wedding photo of Frank Cooper and his first wife Vera Danzer

Etymologically the name ‘Franklin’ has two possible meanings. It is either a diminutive of Francis, meaning ‘Frank’ or ‘Frenchman’. Or it is an occupational surname referring to a free-born (but not noble) landowner in mediaeval England – as, for example, the ‘Franklin’s Tale’ in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. More than likely, however, my grandfather was named after Philadelphia inventor and American statesman Benjamin Franklin.


A sheep pasture in Low Ellington, Yorkshire, England - ancestral home of the Coopers

Cooper is the sixty-fourth most common surname in the United States, and most commonly it is an occupational surname referring to an urban or village tradesman who made barrels. The Quaker Cooper family I descend from – the one which this blog concerns – however, is said to be Lowland Scottish in origin, even though William Cowper emigrated from Low Ellington in Yorkshire (shown above). The occupational etymology, of course, still applies to the Scottish branches of the Cooper surname, but there is another possible derivations as a topographical surname: referring to someone from Cupar in Fife.


Cupar in Fife

Monday, January 7, 2019

Featherquake – by way of introduction


Middletown Meeting House, Bucks County, PA

My name is Matthew Cooper. I’m an Orthodox Christian; husband; father of two; native of Madison, Wisconsin; machinist; schoolteacher; lefty blogger at The Heavy Anglo Orthodox, Front Porch Republic and Solidarity Hall; philosophy buff; and China nerd. This blog, Featherquake, will be my fourth attempt – hopefully my second successful one – at writing a separate blog based on a separate interest from my usual political-philosophical and general history fare.

I have been interested for a long time in family history and have dabbled a little bit in genealogy. I come by this honestly, on my mother’s side at least – though my interest was really spurred after my visit to Qazaqstan (where family history and jüz membership is intensely valued). The Doane family of northern Vermont does indeed have a long and beautiful tradition of closeness to their roots; it is largely due to the careful efforts of my extended family members on the Doane side of the family – which is allied to the equally tight-knit extended Camp family through the marriage of my great-grandfather Tennyson Doane to Floy Camp – that the history, and the individual stories of the people who make up the tapestries of both families, has been so well-preserved and so well-recorded, going all the way back to ‘Deacon’ John Done of Plymouth Colony (and probably originally of Alvechurch, Worcester, England).

As a complete amateur, therefore, I started to undertake research into the Cooper family tree, which is not particularly well-attested – my immediate Cooper side relatives not generally having been as interested in preserving genealogical records. The Coopers were, after all, poor landless sharecroppers in the South Carolina backcountry – specifically, Travelers Rest in Greenville County. However, through some investigations into the connexions between the Coopers and a couple of other allied families – notably the Watsons – I was able to (tentatively) track back the Cooper line. In the broad strokes: the Cowper family – headed by William Cowper – came to southeastern Pennsylvania from Low Ellington (near Masham in Yorkshire) on the passenger ship Britannia in 1699. A convert to Quakerism, he came here with his wife Thomasine (née Porter) and his eight children – all teenagers to adults – seeking a haven among the fellow Friends in the colony founded by William Penn. He had an estate in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and was – it seems – an intermittent member of Middletown Monthly Meeting near Langhorne.

Jonathan Cooper – William Cowper’s third child by Thomasine, who was twenty-three when he made the voyage over the Atlantic from Yorkshire – married Sarah Hibbs in Pennsylvania Colony and had at least seven children, the youngest of whom was William Jacob, born in 1731, who took up trade as a wheelwright. William Jacob married a woman named Elizabeth Ann Clark at the age of 21. It was apparently Elizabeth Clark’s idea to move the family to South Carolina, and this happened around 1770 in advance of the brewing war. Moving to the backcountry likely seemed a good way to stay neutral and well clear of the fighting. There was a haven established in Bush River in Newberry County – and William Cooper is mentioned among the early members of the Bush River Monthly Meeting.

However, Elizabeth’s aim to keep her family out of the Revolution did not seem to have succeeded. At least two of her children with William Jacob were disowned by the Friends for joining either side. Jacob Cooper – my direct paternal line ancestor – was disowned on 27 June 1778; family tradition has it that he was killed by a Tory, but an enemies list compiled by Colonel Brandon for the colonial Committee of Safety indicates that he joined the Tory militia in the backcountry. Two other sons of William Jacob Cooper – Samuel (disowned 1781) and Stacey – fought in the militias on the Whig side. Jacob Cooper survived the war and died in Spartanburg County, South Carolina in 1829.

In the broad strokes, that’s how the Coopers I’m related to ended up in South Carolina, and that is where they stayed. Family records kept by the Watsons suggest my descent from Jacob Cooper, and genealogical DNA tests I’ve done positively confirm that I’m related on the paternal side to a descendent of William Jacob Cooper now living in Texas. Well – that’s a bit of background on me, and perhaps enough for an introductory blog post!

By way of explanation for the name of this blog: Featherquake is a play on words. The fun visual displayed in the blog banner came rather naturally to mind after the name did! ‘Quake’ comes, of course, from the Quakers to which the Coopers belonged. ‘Feather’ is a common anglicisation of the German surname Vetter, which belonged to my Rhenish great-grandmother, Clara Vetter, on my mother’s side.