Incredible India! 15 Beautiful Photos of Northern India

In February of 2012 we set out on a trip of a lifetime backpacking across Northern India. We traveled only by train since my great grandfather had been involved in building the railroad in British India. It was a trip to celebrate my completion of my graduate degree program and would be the last trip we took as a couple before we became a family of 3. 

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All images © 2012-2016 Jessica Solomatenko

Genealogy: The Family Story in British India Starts to Unfold

Our trip to Myanmar was booked for the beginning of February 2016. Prior to our trip I wanted to see what I could find out about the family’s time in Myanmar. My mother’s cousins in both Canada and England had started the search and I extended on it as well as mapped out the family tree more. The search is ongoing and there are missing pieces and likely mistakes as well in the research but at this time, this is what I have. Considering we knew nearly none of this in advance, I think we’ve done a pretty good job! In a later post I will be sharing just how we found this information.

The Family of Daisy Forbes

Daisy Forbes, my great grandmother, was born December 26th in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh India. Though she did have Scottish heritage, she herself was not born in Scotland as we originally believed her to be, nor does she appear to have ever lived there. Her father William Forbes was born December 8th, 1851 in Scotland but on February 2nd, 1881 he married Daisy’s mother Charlotte Carlton in Rawalpindi, Punjab, Pakistan. The exact date that he came to British India is not known.

Daisy’s mother Charlotte was born in Bangalore, India on September 28th, 1854. Her father Samuel Carlton (born around 1811) was from Rotherhithe, England as was her mother Sarah Brennan (born around 1815). Sarah and Samuel married in Bangalore, India though and the two of them lived out the rest of their lives there. 

Charlotte eventually moved to Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, India where she married James Gouldsworthy. She and James had 3 children but only her daughter Clara survived past infancy. James too died young at only 30 years old in 1883 in Peshawar, on the North West Frontier of Pakistan. There seems to be some confusion with the records though as her marriage to William Forbes is recorded as taking place February 2nd, 1881 and their first daughter was born the same year in October. Both the marriage and the birth took place in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Perhaps the date of death for James is incorrect.

Going to Pakistan? Check out hotels on TripAdvisor! 

One of the original theories as to why my grandmother and her sisters kept quiet about their past in British India was that they were ashamed that their father had had a wife prior to being married to their mother Daisy. Considering Daisy’s own mother was married twice, this seems unlikely. Throughout the family tree there are multiple instances of family members getting remarried after their spouse passed away. Many of them died young so it was a very common occurrence at the time and hardly a family scandal.

My great grandmother Daisy was the 3rd child out of 6 to be born to Charlotte and William between 1881and 1891. The first two were born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, the next 3 in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, India and finally the last in Sialkot, Pakistan. The family moved around a fair amount in those 10 years but at this time I have not looked into the occupations of family members that far back in the history so the reason for these moves is unknown. William’s death is recorded in Umballa, India shortly after or around the time his last child was born and a few years later in 1897 Charlotte also passed away. It seems that Daisy remained in Pakistan after the death of her parents as this is where she married Joseph.

The Family of Joseph Plato Cooper

Daisy’s family history was relatively easy to trace. Joseph on the other hand was a completely different story. There is no birth certificate that has been found but other records indicate that he was born some time in 1870. His parents were also difficult to identify. On Joseph’s marriage certificate to Daisy, his father is listed as George James Cooper.  Eventually through the hard work of Beverly who is a volunteer at FIBIS a will was found for a man of the same name. His name is actually listed as both George James Cooper and James George Cooper in the same will. In his list of surviving children there is a name that looks like Joseph Ralte or Ralto Cooper. No record of any Joseph Ralte Cooper has been found and the family connected to this will lived in the same area as Joseph. So, it is very likely that this is his father’s will and that “Ralte” is a transcription error.

Page of names in will

The final name in list of George James Cooper's children in his will looks to be Joseph "Ralto" Cooper

If my great grandfather Joseph’s connection to this will is correct, then Joseph is the son of George James Cooper and Isabella Laetitia Hampton. George was born December 15th, 1826 in Agra India. He was an Honorary Surgeon as part of the Subordinate Medical Department. He passed away July 3rd, 1877 in Shoay Gheen, British Burma which is now Shwegyin, Myanmar.

George’s wife Isabella was born in India (September 9th, 1830) and both of Isabella’s parents had been born in Agra, India in the early 1800’sShe passed away in Utah, USA in 1889 though. In 1899 Isabella and George's oldest son John Henry Cooper (born October 9th 1848) married his second wife in Utah. His first wife Lydia Georgiana Cooper (born March 19th 1857) had passed away in 1882 and is buried in Yangon, Myanmar. It appears that after his wife passed away, John made his way to America and his mother Isabella who was a widow by this time, traveled with him.

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I was not aware of the family connection to Agra when we visited the Taj Mahal in 2012 on one of the foggiest days I've ever seen.

My great grandfather Joseph was the last child of 10 to be born to George and Isabella. As no baptismal or birth certificate has been found yet, I do not know where he was born but of his siblings who do have birth certificates, they were all born in Bengal, India (the North Western section of modern day India, near Bangladesh). He eventually made his way to Yangon, Myanmar as on August 29th 1892 his membership is registered with the United Grand Lodge of England Freemason’s at the Victoria in Burma Lodge. His occupation at the time is listed as a mechanic.

free mason mechanic

Sometime around 1898 Joseph had a daughter named Gladys Edith May Cooper. There is no record of him getting married though, nor is there any sort of birth or baptismal certificate for Gladys. The only record that can be found for Joseph’s connection to this woman is his name on her marriage certificate. We do know that she married James Raphael Senneville Desaubin (also listed as Seuville James Desaubin on other documents) May 28th 1923 in Bombay, India and James was from the Seychelles.

When Joseph married my great grandmother Daisy, his marriage certificate indicated that he was a widow. His daughter Gladys would have been only 6 at the time of their marriage. What happened to her before and after her marriage to James is a mystery. My grandmother Audrey never made any mention of a half-sister. Perhaps they never met or Gladys was away at school and they didn’t know each other well.

Another theory that has been suggested as to why there is no additional record of Gladys or her mother that we can find is that perhaps her mother was not British. Interracial marriages during the British Raj were not uncommon or looked down upon terribly but over time opinions shifted and it became something that families just didn’t talk about. With such a long history in British India, one would almost expect that there must have been at least one interracial marriage in the lot at some point! But of course, Gladys’ being the child of such a relationship is just speculation at this time. The fact remains though that she is my grandmother’s half-sister and no one currently can remember any mention of her.

Follow the link to read more about the family history we found!

Follow this link for suggestions on where to start your family search!

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Myanmar (Burma) travel guide, 12th Edition Jul 2014 by Lonely Planet