Early life and family
James Cook was born on 7 November 1728 (
N.S.) in the village of
Yorkshire and baptised on 14 November (N.S.) in the
parish church of
St Cuthbert, where his name can be seen in the church register.
 He was the second of eight children of James Cook, a Scottish farm labourer from
Roxburghshire, and his locally born wife, Grace Pace, from
 In 1736, his family moved to Airey Holme farm at
Great Ayton, where his father's employer, Thomas Skottowe, paid for him to attend the local school. In 1741, after five years' schooling, he began work for his father, who had been promoted to farm manager. For leisure, he would climb a nearby hill,
Roseberry Topping, enjoying the opportunity for solitude.
Cooks' Cottage, his parents' last home, which he is likely to have visited, is now in
Melbourne, Australia, having been moved from England and reassembled, brick by brick, in 1934.
In 1745, when he was 16, Cook moved 20 miles (32 km) to the fishing village of
Staithes, to be apprenticed as a shop boy to grocer and
haberdasher William Sanderson.
 Historians have speculated that this is where Cook first felt the lure of the sea while gazing out of the shop window.
After 18 months, not proving suitable for shop work, Cook travelled to the nearby port town of
Whitby to be introduced to friends of Sanderson's, John and Henry Walker.
 The Walkers, who were
Quakers, were prominent local ship-owners in the coal trade. Their house is now the
Captain Cook Memorial Museum. Cook was taken on as a merchant navy apprentice in their small fleet of vessels, plying coal along the English coast. His first assignment was aboard the
collier Freelove, and he spent several years on this and various other
coasters, sailing between the
Tyne and London. As part of his apprenticeship, Cook applied himself to the study of
astronomy—all skills he would need one day to command his own ship.
His three-year apprenticeship completed, Cook began working on trading ships in the
Baltic Sea. After passing his examinations in 1752, he soon progressed through the merchant navy ranks, starting with his promotion in that year to
mate aboard the collier
 In 1755, within a month of being offered command of this vessel, he volunteered for service in the
Royal Navy, when Britain was re-arming for what was to become the
Seven Years' War. Despite the need to start back at the bottom of the naval hierarchy, Cook realised his career would advance more quickly in military service and entered the Navy at Wapping on 17 June 1755.
Elizabeth Batts (1742–1835), the daughter of Samuel Batts,
keeper of the Bell Inn,
 and one of his mentors, on 21 December 1762 at
St Margaret's Church, Barking, Essex.
 The couple had six children: James (1763–94), Nathaniel (1764–80, lost aboard
HMS Thunderer which foundered with all hands in a hurricane in the West Indies), Elizabeth (1767–71), Joseph (1768–68), George (1772–72) and Hugh (1776–93), the last of whom died of scarlet fever while a student at
Christ's College, Cambridge. When not at sea, Cook lived in the
East End of London. He attended
St Paul's Church, Shadwell, where his son James was baptised. Cook has no direct descendants—all his children died before having children of their own.