Debates about kinship only made sense when there was no other way to disentangle the evidence. Then in 2008, a new tool for genealogical research was applied to theories about the origins of Cook/Cooke families appearing—as though independently—in Portaupique and Gays River.13 A chosen candidate, a direct heir of the first William Cook’s son John Cook of Portaupique, and another candidate, a direct heir of William Cook of Gays River, agreed to participate. The test was to be based on 37 markers or alleles. The results revealed a precise match of 36 out of 37 alleles, providing evidence to say:

  •     William Cook of Gays River was one and the same William who originally came to Portaupique with his father and Sidney Holmes.
  •     John Cook of Portaupique and William Cook of Gays River were brothers; both were sons of William Cook who drowned at Portaupique.

Most historians of the Cook/Cooke lines in Londonderry Township deal with James and Martha Cook and their heirs, while those interested in the heirs of William and Leah Campbell Cook of Gays River, Halifax County were, until recently, on independent searches.

Only in analyzing the estate papers of the first William Cook of Portaupique as well as Colchester and Halifax County land records, various Census records, vital statistics, community and family histories can one begin to sort out the relationships surrounding Sidney Holmes and her three husbands. Thomas Miller makes no mention of John and William Cook. The guardianship of two Cook boys absent from all other records to that time implies a first marriage for their father. And, some 250 years later, the tool of genetic testing could offer unequivocal evidence of their relationship, in spite of their families living in different counties and having become unaware of each other as kin. The Cooks of Portaupique and Gays River are genetically related, and the almost-overlooked brothers, John and William, turn out to be the progenitors of heirs in both Colchester and Halifax Counties and beyond.

1. The Belfast News-Letter, Tues April 21st 1761, Number 2471, Memorial University, St. John’s NF.
2. Gravestone inscription, Isgonish Marsh Burying Ground, Belmont, NS. “Native of Donegal Ireland/ Wife of David Marshall/ William Cook and Matthew Staples/ who departed this life Sept/ 1812 aged 82 years”
3. Thomas Miller, Historical and Genealogical Record of the First Settlers of Colchester County, Halifax, A.& W. MacKinley, 1873, (hereinafter, Miller) p.11-12.
4. Miller, p.12.
5. Miller, p.11.
6. Estate File for William Cook of Londonderry, Estate C 137, Probate Court, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
7. Allan E. Marble, Deaths Burials & Probates of Nova Scotians, 1749-1799 from Primary Sources, Vol I (A-K) 1990, Publication 14, Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia, Halifax.
8. Bernice C. Richard, Nova Scotia 1770 Census, Londonderry District, Chicago Genealogical Society, 1972 and 1975.
9. In 2009, DNA tests (Y-DNA37) from two heirs of James Cook Sr. were compared with (Y-DNA37) tests done the previous year from two heirs of William Cook Sr. Their matching genetic profiles gave scientific grounds for claiming emigrants James and William were brothers.
10. Registry of Deeds, Vol. A (1792-1800) p. 295 written 30th September 1795. Property of 45 acres in Portaupique Village, Lot #8, for £30 from John Cook to William Davison; “was originally granted to the heirs of William Cook and possessed purchased & occupied in fee simple by him the said William Cook one of said heirs.” Land Registry Office, Truro, NS.
11. Onslow Township Book, marriage of Susanna Cook and William Smith, 23 Jan 1821. Colchester Historical Society Museum & Archives, Truro, NS. [Susanna was the daughter of William Cook of Gays River. William, the son of Rebecca Cook and David Smith of Onslow. They are half-cousins because they share the same grandparent, William Cook Sr.].
12. Miller, p.12.
13. A service of Family Tree DNA, Genealogy by Genetics, Ltd. Houston Texas 77008, website at
Photos on pages 2 and 3 by: