The Old World Origin of Immigrant Ancestor Benjamin Cooley

(1615 - 1684)

A CFAA Position Statement

Many of us descend from Benjamin Cooley who arrived in Springfield, Massachusetts ca. 1643 when the birth of his daughter Bethia(h) is recorded in the early vital records.  The quest to discover from whence Benjamin came has been on-going for many years.

In 1987, The CFAA engaged the services of Debrett Ancestry Research, Ltd., of the U.K. to investigate/research ancient records to determine Benjamin’s origin.  The following information was documented to The CFAA in their 1987 report:

  • A Benjamin Cooley was baptized in Tring, Hertfordshire, England 25 Feb 1615/6, coinciding with the approximate age of the immigrant ancestor.
  • There is no record of his marriage or death in or around Tring.
  • His parents, William and Joan, died intestate (there is no record of a will).
  • The following 6 baptisms are found in the parish records:
  • Children of William and Joan baptisms:
    • 7 Feb 1607/8 Ledia dau of William Colley
    • 10 Nov 1609 Pheobe dau of William Coolye
    • 18 Apr 1613 Jonathan son of William Collye
    • 25 Feb 1615/6  Bengimen son of William Coley
    • 11 Oct 1618 Joseph son of William Colley
    • 5 Dec 1619 Anne and Joyce daus of  William Coley
  • From the parish marriage records
    • 9 Feb 1608/9 William Cooley and Joan Arnott
    • 11 May 1640 John Randall married Joyce Cooley

Note: There is no record in Tring of a marriage between William and his first wife Joane.

  • From the parish burial records
    • 25 March 1607/8 Lidia dau of William Colley buried [b. 7 Feb 1607/8]
    • 16 Apr 1608 Joane wife of William Coalye buried
    • 6 Dec 1618 Josep son of William Coley [b. 10 Oct 1618]
    • 9/10 [?] 1622 a child of William Coaly
    • 9 Aug 1630 Jone wife of William Colley
    • 9 Mar 1640/1 William Coolye

In 2007 The CFAA once again engaged the services of Debrett hoping that after 20 years more information may have become available.  Nothing new was discovered.

In 2009 The CFAA asked Debrett to pursue Benjamin’s origin by investigating further his parents and other related individuals.  This investigation did not uncover anything to help affirm or refute the 1987 report.  Debrett did conclude based on all available data that the Benjamin baptized in Tring is very likely the same Benjamin who made his home in Springfield.

The early to mid-17th century was a period of immigration beginning in 1620 with the Pilgrims.  The Great Migration brought thousands of people to New England in the 1630s.  Some of those ship manifests do not document the names of the passengers.  By 1641, both parents of our suspected Benjamin were deceased.  For many reasons (politics, economics, etc.), a young Englishman of that time might well be motivated to seek his fortune in the New World.

For the following reasons, The Cooley Family Association of America voted formally to accept the recommendation of its genealogist, Doug Cooley, that Benjamin Cooley of Tring is the immigrant ancestor documented in The Cooley Genealogy:

  • There is no mention (marriage, death) of Benjamin in any parish records (or in any other record) in the vicinity of Tring after his baptism.
  • And there is no mention of Benjamin in any public record (court, probate, etc.) in England; therefore he likely removed from the area.
  • A Benjamin (of unknown origin and of the correct age) appears in Springfield coincidental with a time of great migration to New England from England.
  • Benjamin had the skills of a weaver – a trade predominant in the Tring area.
  • Many of the planters of Springfield, whose origins are documented, came from the same general area in England.

The circumstantial evidence of a Tring origin is compelling, but it is not conclusive.  We understand that as time passes, other evidence may surface in support of our position or pointing us in a different direction.  We will consider such new evidence at the appropriate time should it arise.

We have accepted the scenario that Benjamin of Tring is the Springfield Benjamin, and we do not intend to devote further effort or resources to the investigation of this question.

NOTE:  DNA evidence has disclosed the existence in the United States of several Cooley lines other than the Benjamin line.  The CFAA is interested in the genealogy of all Cooleys.  By putting the matter of Benjamin’s origin to rest, perhaps we can investigate and document other Cooley lines.