Old family letters written to John Hughes Van Cooten in Australia from family in England (clearly in response to his questions of them) relate a variety of information regarding his family history.

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

He [Hendrik Van Cooten] married a London merchant's daughter (rather to the disgust of his father & his royal mother). She his wife was a "Miss Martha Keane Smithers". Miss Smithers was considered a great beauty. I never saw my grandmother. She went out to the "West Indies" when Uncle Eugene was a baby and although she returned to England, she refused to return to her husband and children.

Her youngest sister Mrs Hannah Green, the widow of a Col. Green kept house for her. I should say for Grandpapa & the boys & girls. After a while Aunt Maria (fathers eldest sister) joined her mother, and never again returned to her Fathers house. I believe Grandmama had several very handsome brothers & sisters. The brothers were London and Colonial merchants and their offices were in the Minories. Anyway Uncle Henry Smithers were.

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

Henrique Van, Van Cooten married "Anna ----" of Madagascar and had issue Jan Van Van Cooten
Jan Van Van Cooten married Martha Keene Smithers *

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

Eldest son of above Dr Jan or John V. Van Cooten married Martha Keane Smithers - eldest daughter of Henry Keane Smithers - Merchant of London - residence Manor House, Wolworth (now the Police Station)

Martha Keane Smithers

Child of
Sibling of
Spouse ofJohn Van Cooten
Parent ofJohn Lucius, Maria Anna, Sydney Silicae, Rosalie Virginia, Henrique, Eugene Celadon

The transcripts of the parish registers for St Woolos (Newport), Monmouth, Wales covering the period 1754-1823 show a marriage of John Van-Cooten of Chelsea, Middlesex to Martha Smithers of St Woolas, Newport on 23-Jul-1808. The baptisms transcripts for 1769-1837 show no Van Cooten births. The burial transcripts for 1769-1843 contain no Van Cooten burials.

Inference on the 1851 census and Martha's death certificate (both below) gives a birth date of approximately 1790, and a birthplace of Southwark, Surrey.

Martha is not listed in the 1841 (7 Jun 1841) UK Census for St Martins, Guernsey, that lists John Van Cooten's household at La Bouveé.

In a letter to the Church Missionary Society, dated 18 August 1846, from Eugene Van Cooten (Martha Van Cooten's son) writes "My Mothers address is 13 Elizabeth St Eaton Sq."

The 1851 (30 March 1851) UK census for St Luke Chelsea, London, England, HO 107 - 1474 p 328 lists residents of 9 Draycott Street as:

Parish of St. Luke, Chelsea
Names Relationship to Head Condition Age Sex Profession Where Born
Martha K. Van CootenHeadMarFemale61AnnuitantSurrey Southwark
Anna M. Van CootenDaurUFemale38Monmouthshire Newport

I have located a death certificate for Martha Van Cooten:

Certified Copy of an Entry of Death given at the General Register Office
Registration District of St Giles in the Fields & St George Bloomsbury
1854 Death in the Sub-district of St George Bloomsbury in the County of Middlesex.
No. When and where died Name and surname Sex Age Occupation Cause of Death Signature, description and residence of informant When registered
265 eighth January 1854
3 Henrietta St
Martha Keene Van Cootanfemale64 yearsWife of a GentlemanPleuritis, 7 days, CertifiedW. E. Brooks
present at the death
3 Henrietta St, Bloomsbury
ninth January 1854

Sydney Smithers

In a letter to the Church Missionary Society, dated 18 August 1846, from Eugene Van Cooten (Martha Van Cooten's son) writes that his mother is "at present supported by my Mothers brother who is in a position to do so having been for upwards of twenty years the confidential steward of the Duke of Devonshire."

Henry Smithers

The 1817 London Post Office directory lists a H. K. Smithers, Auctioneer & Accountant, 1 Castle Court, Birchin Lane. This is either Martha's father or brother. Johnstone's London Commercial Guide for 1817 lists a H. K. Smithers, Accountant & Merchant at 1 Castle Court - Birchin Lane.

The Times, London, for 15 December, 1835 contains a notice for the Commercial Dock Company signed by H. K. Smithers, Jun., Chief Clerk. This is either Martha's brother or nephew. The Times, London, for 13 June 1836 lists the marriage "On the 11th inst., at St Mary's Newington. Mr Henry Keene Smithers, Jun., to Alice, eldest daughter of Mr. Benjamin Lance." The 1845 London Post Office directory lists Smithers & Co. merchants at 3 Crescent, Minories, 1 Hammet St. This is also the address recorded for the "Society for relief of Widows & Children of Dissg. Mnstrs, Hen. K. Smithers, sec". The Commercial Directory listing records "Smithers & Co. merchants & Genl. agts. 3 Crescent, Minories".

The 1850 Post Office London directory lists "Smithers, Hy. Keene, jun., sec. to Coml. Dock Co, 106 Fenchurch St". The street directory section lists at 106 Fenchurch St "Commercial Dock Co.'s Office, H. K. Smithers, jun. sec". Mr. H. K. Smithers is listed as a member of a deputation from the Commercial Dock Company to Lord Stanley of Alderley, in the Times, London for 22 January. 1858.

In the Times, London, for 15 June 1858, the trial of Henry Keene Smithers, embezzlement from his employers, the Commercial Dock Company. Henry Smithers pleaded guitly to three indictments, and was sentenced to six years imprisonment. Henry is described as "45, a gentlemanly looking man". This implies that he was born in 1813, and thus likely to be the nephew of Martha. A report from the Commercial Dock Company to its shareholders describing its investigation of the Smithers embezzlement is reported in the Times, London, issue of 19 October 1858.

Child of
Sibling of
Spouse ofJohn Van Cooten
Parent ofJohn Lucius, Maria Anna, Sydney Silicae, Rosalie Virginia, Henrique, Eugene Celadon