George Vancouver


George Vancouver : biography

22 June 1757 – 10 May 1798


  • HMCS Vancouver Halifax-class frigate of the Royal Canadian Navy
  • TS Vancouver, Australian Navy Cadets
  • 47 RCSCC CAPTAIN VANCOUVER, Royal Canadian Sea Cadets

Early career

In 1770, George Vancouver became involved in the Royal Army. Vancouver’s first naval service was as a midshipman aboard , on James Cook’s second voyage (1772–1775) searching for Terra Australis. He also accompanied Cook’s third voyage (1776–1778), this time aboard Resolution’s sister ship, and the first European sighting and exploration of the Hawaiian Islands. Upon his return to Britain in 1779, Vancouver was commissioned as a lieutenant and posted aboard the sloop surveying coastlines.

In the late 1780s the Spanish empire commissioned an expedition to the Pacific Northwest. However, the 1789 Nootka Crisis intervened. Spain and Britain came close to war over ownership of the Nootka Sound on contemporary Vancouver Island, and of greater importance, the right to colonize and settle the Pacific Northwest coast. Henry Roberts and Vancouver joined Britain’s more warlike vessels. Vancouver went with Joseph Whidbey to . When the first Nootka Convention ended the crisis in 1790, Vancouver was given command of Discovery to take possession of Nootka Sound and to survey the coasts.Robert J. King, “George Vancouver and the contemplated settlement at Nootka Sound”, The Great Circle, vol.32, no.1, 2010, pp.6–34; name="Allen">

Origins of the family name

There has been some debate about the origins of the Vancouver name. It is now commonly accepted that the name Vancouver derives from the expression van Coevorden, meaning "(originating) from Coevorden", a city in the northeast of the Netherlands. This city is apparently named after the "Coeverden" family of the 13 – 15th century. An alternative theory is that Vancouver is a misspelling or anglicized version of Van Couwen, a Dutch name."The story of a Norfolk Sailor" (pamphlet) by G.H. Anderson, Published in King’s Lynn in 1923 (copy available at )

In the 16th century, a number of businessmen from the Coevorden area (and the Netherlands in general) did move to England. Some of them were known as Van Coeverden. Others adopted the surname Oxford, as in oxen fording (a river), which is approximately the English translation of Coevorden. However this is not the exact name of the noble family mentioned in the history books that claim Vancouver’s noble lineage: that name was Coeverden not Coevorden.

In the 1970s, Adrien Mansvelt, a former Consul General of the Netherlands based in Vancouver, published a collation of information in both historical and genealogical journals and in the Vancouver Sun newspaper."The Vancouver – Van Coeverden Controversy" by Adrien Mansvelt, The British Columbia Genealogist (published February 1975 Vol 4 No.1,2,3)"Vancouver: A lost branch of the van Coeverden Family" by Adrien Mansvelt, BC Historical News, VI (1973) 20–23’Solving the Captain Vancouver mystery’, and "The Original Vancouver in Old Holland" by Adrien Mansvelt, Vancouver Sun, Published 1 September 1973 Mansvelt’s theory was later presented by the city during the Expo 86 World’s Fair, as historical fact.

Mr. Mansvelt’s theories, however, are based on many assumptions and possibilities that may be flawed. Genealogy is the study or investigation of ancestry and family history, with undeniable proof of traceability through family lineage of birth, marriage and death records. Mansveld bases his research on no such proof and uses the words "assumed", "possible" and "may" time and again throughout his essay. (see ) This problematic information was then used as rock solid proof for Mr. W. Kaye Lamb to write his book A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean and Round the World, 1791–1795.

W. Kaye Lamb, in summarizing Mansvelt’s unsubstantiated 1973 research, suggests evidence of close family ties between the Vancouver family of Britain and the Van Coeverden family of Holland as well as George Vancouver’s own words from his diaries in referring to his Dutch ancestry: