Child ofJohannis (Jan) van Cooten and Maria Hendriks Bos (Bosch)
Sibling ofCornelia, Klaas, Anthonij, Petronella, Geertruij, Willem
Spouse ofAnna Richardson?, Dorothea Nicols
Parent ofCornelis, Hendrik, Jan, Nicholas, Anthony, Lucius, Ann, Theodorus Hermanus Hilbertus, Cornelia

My original research was based on the information contained in old family letters written to John Hughes Van Cooten in Australia from family in England (clearly in response to his questions to them) relate a variety of information regarding Hendrik Van Cooten. In 1885 John Lucius Van Cooten (John Hughes' father) wrote, referring to his own father John Van Cooten:

However I have heard him say that his father was the youngest son of a brother of I think the father of the late King of Holand & had it not been that his brother left issue, his fathers eldest son must have come to the throne & as he died young, his would of course have reigned but as it was there was no chance but being highly educated & no fortune he went to the West Indies, under the auspices of the Dutch Government & surveyed the colony & sent home so excellent a chart of the same and the river Demerara that the government gave him #1000 and an unlimited grant of land, i.e. so much frontages & back west he could clear & put under cultiture annually.

In 1893 Elizabeth Gorsuch (John Lucius' daughter and John Hughes' older half-sister) wrote:

We were originally inhabitants (as the name tells) of Amsterdam, where so far as I can learn they held a high position. The reason of their leaving Amsterdam has only come to me in two ways. One reason assigned was that they offered offence politically to the then reigning family of Holland. The other was that our great grandfather went to the West Indies on a royal Commission. What that Commission was I do not recollect, and that having fulfilled the mission of his government he received a [grant?] of land that as much as he could bring under proper cultivation became his own. This was termed an "Unlimited grant".

He married a Madagascan lady said to be of royal blood (very wealthy) and by her he had a numerous family of sons and daughters (22).


Our father was the Eldest son & heir to all the property. The names of the Estates were "Better Hope, Sheet Anchor, Brides Lust ". I don't know the date of the year in which my mother and father were married but I believe it was in the November of 1835 or 6 .

and in 1903 Elizabeth writes

Just a few lines to say I was very pleased to receive your letter. You ask your Grandfather's name? Well!! He was "Jan" or John Van, Van Cooten M.D. - formerly of "Brides Lust" , Demerrara - and eldest son of Mr Henrique Van, Van Cooten by his wife Dorothy of the same address.

An undated family summary, presumably sent with one of Elizabeth's letters, after 1889, says:

The Van, Van Cootens of Brides Lust &c, Demerara, West Indies, formerly of Amsterdam (* 1st)
Henrique Van, Van Cooten married "Anna ----" of Madagascar and had issue Jan Van Van Cooten

and another, presumably sent with one of Elizabeth's letters, after 1899, says:

Jan or John Van Van Cooten "Brides Lust &c &c Demerara" married Madagascian Lady - name unknown. I fancy it was Richardson - (English Father). By whom he had 22 children sons & daughters

Although this information is clearly at a distance to the events described, there is enough evidence to determine that it quite believable. It is evident that the reference above to "Bride's Lust" is a mishearing of "Vryheidslust" - the Dutch for "yearning for freedom".

Based on information contained in a division of the estate of Hendricus Bosch and Pieternella van Nieuwendaal which connects a Hendrik van Cooten residing in Demerara with his family in Utrecht, I now know Hendrik's origins. This information is consistent with other information found in British Guiana Colonial newpapers.

According to transcripts of the Doorn Baptisms produced by Mrs Gerda Brouwer, Hendrik Van Cooten was christened in Doorn on 5 July 1750. He was the child of Johannis (Jan) van Coten and Maria Hendriks Bos. His older sister Cornelia was christened on 1 June 1749, and surviving younger siblings were Klaas (christened 30 Jul 1752), Anthonij (christened 23 June 1754), Petronella (christened 27 March 1757), Willem (christened 24 October 1762) and Geertruij (christened 25 November 1764). Johannis van Coten of Nederlangbroek and Maria Bos of Doorn were married in Doorn on 10 November 1748.

On 26 April 1771 (the records also mention a date of 15 July 1771) a Hendrik van Cooten was officially recognized as a chartered land surveyor ("landmeter") by the provincial government of Utrecht, seated in the city of Utrecht [Muller, E and Zandvliet, K page 79.] The charter of the province of 1771 can be viewed as a state exam. His place of birth or residence is not mentioned in the archival source used for the book.

Hendrik would have been almost 21 when he was registered as a surveyor.

One possibility is that Hendrik was a student of the Fundatie van Renswoude in Utrecht. The Fundatie was founded by a rich widow with the aim teaching poor boys and orphans a technical profession. Many land surveyors and carpenters were trained there in the second half of the 18th century. A number of the Renswoude pupils were afterwards hired for work overseas. However, the City Archives in Utrecht have no record of Hendrik as a student at the Fundatie van Renswoude, nor any further information about his admission as a "landmeter". We know that Hendrik wasn't an orphan, nor was he poor.

The Utrecht Archives contain a map drawn in 1772 described as "Kaart door H. van Cooten van een hofstede met bijbehorende percelen land, gelegen tussen de Goyer en de Ameronger wetering onder Overlangbroek" - "Map by H. Van Cooten of a homestead with associated plots of land, between the Goyer and the Amerongen streams below Overlangbroek" (my rough translation). This narrows down the date that Hendrik left for the colonies. Hendrik's testimony at John Smith's trial indicates that most probably he arrived in the Demerara colony in early 1773.

Any early map produced by Hendrik in the Demerara Colony is a map of Plantation Rynestyn dated 28 January 1777.

The Department of Maps and Drawings of the Nederlands Nationaal Archief manages the maps and drawings of the central government offices and the governmental and provincial institutions in the province of Zuid-Holland, which are older than 50 years. This site contains other information about these maps.

Hendrik Van Cooten has contributed to a number of maps contained within the Nationaal Archief archives. They are:
VEL15081775Kaarte van de Plantagien geleegen aan de Westwal van Demerary, tusschen de Kreeken Hobabo en Camoeny enz
VEL15101776Kaarte van de Plantagien geleegen aan de Westwal van de Rivier Demerary, van den mond der rivier af tot aan de Kreek Hobabo
VEL15121776Kaarte van de Plantagien geleegen aan de Westzeekust van Demerary, tusschen de Kreek Boerasirie en de mond der rivier
VEL15221776Kaart ven de Plantagies toebehoorende den heer B. Albinus, geleegen op de Westpunt aan den mond van de rivier Demerary
VEL15231776Kaart van eenige stukken land gelegen langs de Kust, tusschen de rivieren Demerary en Essequebo
VEL15591769Kaart van het land van de Brandwacht, geleegen aan de Oostwal der riviere Demerary
VEL1564Not statedGrondteekeningen en opstanden van Militaire en Burgerlyke gebouwen te Demerary, van verschillende groote en afmeetingen
VELH57723 Februari 1776"Kaarte van de plantagien geleegen aan de west-zeekust van demerary tuschen de kreek Boerasirie en de mond der rivier Demerary" (quater)
VELH57823 Februari 1776"Kaart van de plantagien geleegen aan de westwal van Demerary tuschen de kreeken Hobabo en Camoeny" (bis)
VELH5791776Kaart van de plantagien geleegen aan de westwal van de rivier Demerary van de mond der rivier af tot aan de kreeken Hobabo (ter).
VEL14991792Kaart van de rivier en zeekusten van Demerary; de rivier strekt tot de hoogte van 't vierde eiland; de Oostelijke zeekust tot de Kreek Mary en die ten Westen tot de Kreek Boerasirie.
VEL15011792Kaart van een gedeelte der rivieren zeekusten van Demerary, met de langs geleegen plantagien enz.

Note: The Leupe entry for VEL1559 states 1769, however the date on the microfilmed version of the map is clearly 1779.

The Netherlands Nationaal Archief houses records of the Second Dutch West India Company (WIC) (inventory number 744). References to H. van Cooten appear in the minutes for 10 Nov 1777 and 2 Mar 1778 regarding correspondence concerning payment for surveying activities.

A table of plantation owners in the Demerara region from 1785 found in the Nationaal Archief archives records a "van Cooten" as a plantation owner, born in Holland i.e. one of the VII provinces, and "zoon van een Timmerman & Landmeter" - son of a carpenter and surveyor. This may well be Hendrik, in which case his father may also have been a surveyor. Further evidence of this is suggested by the reference on page 20 of "Overlangbroek op de kaart gezet" (Overlangbroek put on the map) by Kees van Schaik to "De opbouw van z'on brug over de wetering is bekend uit een bestek van Jan van Cooten uit 1758" - "the construction of a bridge over the stream is to a design by Jan van Cooten in 1858". This Jan van Cooten was probably a carpenter. It is conceivable that this is Hendrik's father.

On 10 June 1785, a H.J. Cooten is a signatory to a letter of protest, sent in 1785/6 by a group of settlers/sugar planters in the former dutch colonies of Essequibo and Demarara to the Directors of the Dutch West Indian Company in several Cities in Holland. The copy referred to is in the central archives of the City and Province of Groningen. The settlers complain in their Letter about their Problems during the fourth Anglo-Dutch war (1780-1784). During this period, Essequibo and Demarary was occupied by the English and the French. After the war the colonies were returned to the Dutch West Indian Company. However, the company set up an new governor, and took the ancient right of the planters away.

The 24 December 1803 issue of the Essequebo and Demerary Gazette announces the impending marriage of Catharina Elisabeth van Cooten, daughter of Hendrik Van Cooten.

The book "Tears of Blood" by Emilia Violetta da Costa documents the slave rebellion in Demerara in 1823. A Henry Van Cooten is a participant in these events. The book contain refers to the involvement of Henry Van Cooten and also is a valuable reference for other sources of information. Quotes referring to Hendrik Van Cooten have been extracted. Importantly, the reference to having been in the colony fifty years in 1823 implies an arrival year of about 1773.

The London Missionary Society archives are available on microfilm. They contain correspondence to and from Hendrik Van Cooten, newspapers reporting events in Demerara, and journals of the missionaries.


31 Aug 1807

Forbes. J

Extract of letter from H. van Cooten concerning: Population of Demerara; proportion of white people to black; Mr Post's religious doctrines.


5 Sep 1807

Forbes. J

Extract of letter from H. van Cooten concerning: proportion of English to Dutch owners in Demerara and Essequibo; Opposition and help from Planters. Languages spoken.


2 May 1808


Declaration by Managers, etc, on East Coast Plantation, regarding the Rev. John Wray and the probable results of his teaching.

Hendrik was a witness on behalf of John Smith at his trial for inciting the slave rebellion. References to Hendrik (Henry) appear in the biography of John Smith, and also in the proceedings of the trial.

The trial was also reported in the local newspapers. An extract of Hendrik's evidence contains some genealogical information. In particular, it indicates that that Hendrik's statement of being fifty years in the colony is not intended to be an approximate indication, but that he arrived in the colony in February, 1773. It also indicates that he has several sons, and a married daughter.

Hendrik's will is contained in the court copies of wills from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury available from The National Archives of England, Wales and the United Kingdom Documents Online. This will has been transcribed. This will was proved in England because Hendrik had property or investments in England to bequeath, as well as in Demerara.

The will names Dorothea Nicols as being Hendrik's wife. It names Cornelis, Hendrik, Jan, Nicholas, Anthony, Lucius, Ann Townsend, Theodorus Hermanus Hilbertus and Cornelia Bennett married to J.L.T. Playter as being children. It is possible that Cornelis and Hendrik are children of a previous relationship as they are treated quite seperately. The will is dated 13 August 1825, and was opened 7 March 1826, so it may be inferred that Hendrik died not long before this date. At the time of writing the will, Hendrik's wife and named children were all alive. The will implies that Cornelia has children. Nicholas and Lucius were presumably still living when the will was proved on 25 May 1827.

Child ofUnknown
Sibling ofUnknown
Spouse ofAnna Richardson?, Dorothea Nicols
Parent ofCornelis, Hendrik, Jan, Nicholas, Anthony, Lucius, Ann, Theodorus Hermanus Hilbertus, Cornelia