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Introduction to the Capt. Cook Relationship Theory

by William Earl Cook


Capt. James Cook is known as one of the world's greatest explorers. It has been said that Capt. Cook added more land to the British Empire through exploration, than England ever won through war. A man of modest beginnings, Cook became a great explorer and navigator.

Capt. Cook has no known decendents, as his children either died young or died before having children. When I first heard my father, James Cook, say that we were related to Capt. Cook through a "first cousin relationship", I had doubts about the fact. That was about 35 years ago. Since, my father didn't know much about our recent ancestors beyond a few tidbits of information, I gave the proposition about a 10 percent chance of being true. Then about four years ago, I started doing genealogical research using the Internet and began to see that the tidbits of information led to where my father had suggested. After doing some rough calculations, I figured, at that time, that there was a 50-50 chance that we were related to Capt. James Cook.

I contacted the Capt. Cook Study Unit (now the Captain Cook Society) and requested information about possible family relationships to Cook. I was politely referred to the only accepted source of any relationship to Cook and that was through the Fleck family. James Cook's sister, Margaret, married a fisherman named Fleck but, I wasn't looking for a relationship through a brother or sister. And to their credit, the Captain Cook Society (CCS) is focused on the history of Capt. Cook's explorations and life rather than assisting excited genealogy researchers.

Today, Rod Fleck of Australia and a decendent of Margaret Cook Fleck is a participant in the CCS and has provided some useful information on the subject. Over the past two years, several more Cook descendents, particularly Lisa Milord and Shirley Cooper, have stated that they heard the same stories of a first-cousin or uncle relationship to Capt. Cook in their Cook families. Milord and Cooper have made some significant progress in several areas.

On a recent rainy weekend, I pulled out all the folders of my research with the many e-mails, printouts and notes that I have been collecting for several years. I had decided to chart what I knew starting with my family and working upwards and then charting what was known about Capt. Cook's family and charting downward. By using this method, I figured that I would be able to see how big the gap was in the hypothetical relationship and compare dates and compile all the research that others have found. If the gap was too big or did not seem to be plausable, I was prepared to abandon the research.

I also wanted to see where the Cook relation story had been passed down. Interestingly, Shirley Cooper's line is relatively close to mine as we share a ggg-grandfather, John Cook. If Lisa Milord's and my own theory are correct, she shares another gggg-grandfather, John Cook with Shirley Cooper and myself. So, in my charting out the Cook families, I realized that the gap was probably only one and maybe two generations apart. This website is a result of what I found.

I had traced my family as far back as my ggg-grandfather, John Cook. He was in a part of North Carolina settled by the Scotch and English. His son, Ambrose Cook married Elizabeth Campbell, a family of definite Scottish descent. Many in my family felt like we were English or Scotch-Irish. The early family were members of the Presbyterian Church, so I used that as another clue that our roots were actually Scotch, rather than Irish.

Naming patterns are a good clue when researching families where it was the custom to name the first son after the father. Naming patterns that exist in Capt. Cook's family are John, James and possibly William. The link that I had working upward ended with John Cook. The link coming downward from Capt. Cook's family ends with John Cook.

J.C.Beaglehole, the prominent researcher and biographer of Capt. Cook, stated that there was a possibility that Capt. Cook's father, James Cook, had other brothers, but their names were unknown. Rod Fleck recently added information from the Burial Register of St. Germaine's Churchyard. A John Cook was buried there in 1771 and James Cook, Capt. Cook's father, was buried in the same churchyard in 1779.

Since James' father was named John, it is logical to assume that this John Cook was the first son born to John and was James' brother and Capt. Cook's uncle. If we were descended through this John Cook, then it would be correct to say that we had a "first-cousin relationship to Capt. Cook".

In summary, my upward charting had ended with John Cook and my downward charting had ended with John Cook. I began to think that I was seeing a pattern. And, there is a recent theory by Lisa Milord that the gap existing in this scenario is a... John Cook, the possible father of my ggg-grandfather, John Cook.

I just read the information received from Shirley Cooper and Larry Cook and sent to the Captain Cook Society online forum about a line of the family that seems to be directly related to mine through my ggg-grandfather. They have dates that were very close to ones that I had and some of the names in their line were ones mentioned by my father. Their dates begin with an 'unknown Cook', who, if my theory is correct, is John Cook, my ggg-grandfather. Their source says that 'unknown Cook' (John Cook?) came to America at the age of 17 and was half-Scotch and half-English. If this is correct, then it helps to prove my theory that my Cook ancestors were Scotch / English as were Capt. Cook's family.

Many thanks to Lisa Milord and Shirley Cooper for their persistance in proving this theory and Rod Fleck for his kind assistance in this endeavour.

And thanks to the Captain Cook Society, an internationally supported research virtual assembly of experts and the curious that are impressed with the accomplishments of Capt. James Cook. This group consists of a group of honorable researchers and historians that continually exhibit respect, balance and interesting facts related to Capt. James Cook.

In ending, it is very fitting to say thank you to Capt. James Cook, for his accomplishments, his high standards and the proud heritage that he has provided a family whether or not we are related in history.
William Earl Cook
March 7, 2002

My father, James Cook (1905 - 1990), left bits of information about his ancestors. Luckily, a sister-in-law saved the scraps of paper that she had scrippled notes upon. Here are the bits of information that have driven my Cook research:

Clues left by my father, James Leslie Cook, Sr.:
1. His father, David C. Cook, a schoolteacher, was born in North Carolina and came to Georgia from Florida
2. His grandfather's name was “Ambrious” or something similar
3. He had an Aunt Lucinda, and uncles with the names Simon (Simeon) and Peter.
4. Our family had a “first-cousin relationship to Capt. James Cook”