I've spent some time over the last couple of weeks investigating my great (x2) great-uncle, William Copeland, and today have added to the site a page about him. He was my Great Great Grandfather's elder brother, and I suppose might have been hoped, even expected to have passed on the Copeland surname, but he had two daughters and, very sadly, they both died as infants. His life appears to have been one of sadness, and you can see what I have discovered thus far on this page.
There are few things one can be certain of in genealogy, especially who the fathers of ancestors really were, and for this reason some people favour research into the female line. I hope that the DNA test I am about to take will not throw a spanner in the works of my research. However, whatever the outcome of DNA tests, and even if there were already any doubt as to whether the men who had them before us were the real fathers, if we can find the male ancestors we can be certain as to where our surnames came from. That was one reason why I became interested in family history more than 30 years ago, wanting to find out where the Copeland surname originated.
In the course of my recent research into William it suddenly dawned on me that as he had had no sons, and as his nephew Tom had only one (H Rob Copeland, who I mention in several places on this site), who in turn had no children, then the male line that descended from Thomas (born 1813) passed down through my grandfather, Alec Calvert Copeland. Alec did have a younger brother, Cyril but he too had no sons, and only one daughter. The Copeland surname therefore passed down through my father, the only child of Alec and my grandmother Marjorie and whilst I have two younger brothers neither of them have had sons. With my father's death in 2014 I am therefore the eldest Copeland who carries that surname and descends from Thomas, born over 200 years ago.
This should explain it:-
Thomas 1813 to 1884 - died age 70
His son William - Born 1840. Became eldest male Copeland in 1884 at age 44 on death of his father. He died 1911 - age 71
Thomas's second son Henry - Born 1842. Became eldest male Copeland in 1911 at age 69 on death of his brother. He died 1921 - age 79
Henry's elder son Tom - Born 1869. Became eldest male Copeland in 1921 at age 52 on death of his father. He died 1939 - age 69
Tom's older son H(enry) Rob - Born 1902. Became eldest male Copeland in 1939 at age 52 on death of his father. He died 1988 - age 86
Rob Copeland had no children and Tom had had no other sons.
Douglas Calvert Copeland - son of William H P's eldest son - Became eldest male Copeland in 1988 at age 64 on death of Rob, his 1st cousin once-removed. He died 2014 - age 90
Me, Jonathan Calvert Copeland - son of DCC - born 1950. Became eldest male Copeland in 2014 at age 64 on death of my father.
OK, I have two brothers (neither of whom have had sons), and I have two sons myself, and between them they have three sons, so the Copeland surname has a good chance of going on for a generation or two more, but I find this whole thing slightly unnerving, a salutory reminder of the fragility of life and the speed with which it passes.
(I should add that I am certainly not the oldest living descendent of Thomas Copeland as there were many daughters born into the generations after him, and including him, and my father had cousins - sons and daughters of his father's sisters - who are alive and older than me. No doubt Thomas has other descendents I do not know about as well, but none will have his surname.)