History of our Cooley Family

It seems that an interest in tracing our particular Cooley family began long before I took it up as a challenge in the early 1980's. As a child I remembered hearing my grandmother speak of Cooley's Hotel and my mother told me where it was and that we were related to the family. But of course as often happens, I didn't pay enough attention to stories around me until it was too late and my direct sources were no longer with us!

Mr Clive Cooley (grandson of Thomas Charles) has information suggesting "Our Cooley family originated in County Clare in Ireland (now Eire) where the original name was Mochuille. It was thought the Cooley's moved from Ireland into England during the 18th century and became caught up in the big depression. The name Cooley is now very rare in Ireland. Some of the Cooley clan became Irish Rebels and were transported overseas to USA, Canada and Australia". Clive also located the Coat of Arms for the Cooley family, a copy of which was in the possession of the late Mr Thomas C.T Cooley (Clive's older brother) of Launceston.

Cooley Family in London and Hertfordshire

Thomas Todd Cooley, a common ancestor of many hundreds of Australians by now I would think, was born in Little Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, England in 1806 and transported to Van Diemens Land in 1824. We take up the story below with an excerpt from a story written by Foster Budworth (husband of Cooley descendant Nancy Budworth).

Excerpt from "The Thomas Todd Cooley Story"

by Foster Budworth, 1994

Thomas Cooley's original Convict Record immediately after his conviction (CON 23/1) describes him as 5' 7 and 1/2" tall with brown hair and blue eyes. He had a scar on his left breast and the little finger of his left hand was crippled. In later years there was a story commonly repeated in press and magazine articles that in his hotel he had fought off four bushrangers single-handed with his fists and sustained permanently twisted fingers as a result. In the light of the original description of him, this may have been a legend.

CON 23/1 also says that he was a Farrier and Horseshoer by trade and that his native place was Tadderden, Herts. There is not and never has been such a place - it was in fact Little Gaddesden, Herts, only 2 similar letters different. There were many Cooleys over the years on the Herts/Bucks border in the villages and hamlets of Little Gaddesden, Ivinghoe, Tring, Ivinghoe Aston, Aldbury and Frithsden. Nearly all were blacksmiths.

Cooley's Convict Record from Van Diemens Land (CON 31/6) says that he was once in Newgate Gaol for stealing an umbrella but was acquitted. His father and mother (John and Sarah Cooley nee Morris) were said to be resident in East Street, Finsbury Market, father's trade being Master Farrier employing 3 men. (Elsewhere his father is said to be a "farmer" but this surely is a misreading of an "r" and an "i" as an 'MI.) There was but is no longer an East Street in Finsbury Market in the area of Shoreditch, just north of the City of London, though it is not specifically named on any maps of the period. It does appear in some trade directories, though no Cooleys are shown. However there are gaps in the house numbers and it is possible that entries in such directories had to be paid for. It does seem logical that at that time there would be a farrier in a market area.

Before going any further it is necessary to explain that in the International Genealogical Index, which together with Bishops' Transcripts and Parish Records has been the main source of data, Cooley appears under the generic heading of 'Cowley'. Colley and Coley also appear under this heading. Varied spellings of the same name were common in earlier periods and this must be taken into account when researching family history. Cooley was also a surprisingly common name. In the Greater London I.G.I. alone there are no less than 92 pages under the Cowley heading. CON 31/6 says "proper name Cobley'' but this variation has not been seen in any other records.

Foster has spent countless hours researching and writing about his wife Nancy's Cooley family, and I thank him for his painstaking work which I have reproduced here with permission.

More information and family connections

More information about the Cooley family has been provided by a distant cousin living in Hertfordshire. His name is Brian Lake and he has kindly supplied me with all his family tree files.

Recently I have been contacted by Peter Cooley of Ashford in Kent, England who is descended from Charles Easter Cooley. Peter is investigating the use of DNA in family history and is going to keep me informed of how that is going.

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