Did It Really All Start In Scotland?

Editor and Translator's Note: The following is a translation of a short note by E. Huisman that appeared in the Dutch genealogical magazine De Nederlansche Leeuw, Maandblad van Het Koninklijk Nederlandsch Genootschap voor Geslacht- en Wapenkunde in the Aug/Sep edition of 1962. It appears there under the rubric "Korte Mededelingen".

Apparently the author of this note went to Scotland to research what could be found there to either support or disprove the assertions made by W. Wijnaendts van Resandt as to the Scottish origins of the family.

In his document "Het Geslacht Couperus in Nederland" (1953) W. Wijnaendts van Resandt attempts to demonstrate the reliability of the documentation according to which the Scottish Minister in Edinburgh, John Couper, is the founding ancestor of the Friesian family Couperus, (of which, amongst others, the author Louis Couperus is a descendant.)

According to this, John Couper, who was the son of a merchant who had moved from London to Scotland, and was also the brother of the Bishop of Galloway, was the same person as the preacher Johannes Johannes who first preached the Reformed Teachings in Burgwerd in 1580.

Jan Janssen Cuijper, who lived in Sneek from 1619 to 1674 and who most likely is the father of amongst others Dr. Dirk (Theodorus) Janssen Couperus would be a son of the above John Couper. He was born around 1590-1595, and was registered in Sneek in 1619 as an unmarried burgher, having moved from Bolsward which is in the immediate neighborhood of Burgwerd. The family documentation indicates that John Couper, alias Johannes Johannes who was married to Theodora Hay daughter of the preacher in Piebles, died in the following year i.e. 1620.

In so far as Wijnandts van Resandt does not demonstrate that the evidence of this documentation about the origins of a preacher who fled from Scotland is any more than circumstamtial, this was motivation for the undersigned to pay a recent visit to that country and investigate what is known there about John Couper. In the Register House, seat of the Registrar General for Scotland, it appeared that indeed his name is known, specifically in de Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae, the succession of ministers in the Parish Churches of Scotland, from the reformation A.D. 1560 to the present time by Hew Scott. Included with the ministers (preachers) of the Old or Great Church is the name of John Cowper or Couper, son of John Cowper who was a merchant tailor in that town and Marion Duncan .

Of this John Sr. it is recounted that he forswore the teachings of Rome early on, and raised his family according to Protestant principles. Another son was William who was Bishop of Galloway from 1612 until his death in 1619.

John Jr. fulfilled the need for a preacher in the High Kirk for which on 22nd June 1586 he received a stipend of 100 merks (a silver coin) and received from the Town Council on the 23rd of November that year of his appointment, a salary of 200 merks as of the preceding August 1st ("commencing at Lammas last"). Because as a Protestant, he refused to pray for the well-being of Queen Mary when her life was in danger, he was advised by the King to vacate his seat as preacher. Subsequently he was imprisoned in Blackness Castle. On the 28th of February 1587 he was appointed preacher of St. Mungo's Cathedral in Glasgow, which he remained until his death on 25th December 1603. He was married to Elizabeth, sister of John Livingston (also written as Levingstoun) of Baldovane, and had two children: John who was a bursary student in 1603 at the University of Glasgow, and Janet who married Joseph Laurie, Minister at Stirling. (Also in Scotland.) In his will made the the day before he died and which is now in the Historical Search Room in Ediburgh, his wife and her brother are named as executors, and John Wallace of Corsfalt "... my father in law ..." was named as overseer. The executors received contol over the posessions (such as the library) without any rules or direction being specified. "... as for my body, I commit it to my honest friends to be buried beside my bairns ( = children)..." which indicates that at least some children had predeceased him.

As is apparent from the above, something must have been known about the Scottish preacher John Couper when the family notes about the Frisian Couperus family were made. It is indeed possible that that he had been an evangelist in Friesland before he became preacher in Scotland, and became known there as a result. Whether this is the same person as Johan Johannes who lived there in 1580 in Burgwerd is an unanswered question. In any case, the family notes and the facts recorded in Edinburgh are are sufficiently in conflict that the relationship between John Couper and the family Couperus can be relegated to fantasy in the absence of any further proof.

E. Huisman