There is a song or poem, titled The Nantucket Girl’s Song that was written in the 19th century by one or another woman traveling in the south Pacific on a ship.  The poem appears in the back of a journal kept by Eliza Brock as she experienced life on the Lexington on a whaling voyage from May 1853 to June 1856.  She accompanied her husband Peter Brock who was master of the Lexington, out of Nantucket.  It isn’t certain who wrote the poem but it is transcribed into the journal with the name Martha Ford appended to it.  Martha Ford was the wife of a physician in New Zealand.  I first saw a part of the poem in an exhibit at the Nantucket Historical Society’s museum and it spoke to me.  A friend with wonderful creative skills made me a watercolor map of Nantucket with the portion of the poem inscribed over the island.

The portion reads:

“Then I’ll haste to wed a sailor, and send him off to sea,
For a life of independence is the pleasant life for me,
But every now and then I shall like to see his face,
For it always seemes to me to beam with manly grace,
With his brow so nobly open, and his dark and kindly eye,
Oh my heart beats fondly towards him whenever he is nigh,
But when he says Goodbye my love, I’m off across the sea
First I cry for his departure, then laugh because I’m free”

The independent spirit of women on the small spit of land that is Nantucket Island tells me about the some of the women who were my ancestors.  Three or maybe four of the women born on Nantucket migrated to the southwestern Ohio area just after Ohio became a state – two of my g-g-g grandmothers and two of my g-g-g-g grandmothers.  Two came with husbands and families (or maybe only one: the second one died in 1815 and either on Nantucket or in Ohio), one came as a young girl and the other came as a widow with several children, including her youngest son who was about 8 years old.  Although all had been members of the Society of Friends on Nantucket only some transferred that religion to Ohio.

My g-g-g-g grandmother, Sarah (Sally) Folger Coffin (1761-1822) was the wife of Isaiah Coffin (1757-1813).  She left Nantucket about a year after her husband’s death and migrated west to Cincinnati where 2 or 3 of her oldest sons and a number of other friends and relatives from Nantucket had already settled.  She was issued a certificate from the Nantucket Monthy Meeting of the Society of Friends in April 1814 and received into the Miami Monthly Meeting in August 1814.  Sarah and 3 children (Reuben, Eliza, and Christopher Folger) were received.  The records show that on the same date, and based on a certificate with the same April date, her son Benjamin along with his wife and 3 children were also received in the Miami Meeting.  The records become a little confusing though, since there is also another line showing Sarah Coffin and daughter Elizabeth, and Sarah Barnard Coffin also being received on a certificate with that April 1814 date.  Is this my Sarah and a daughter whose name doesn’t match any of the children I know about, or a different one?  And who is Sarah Barnard Coffin?  These questions are my latest Bright Shiny Object to chase – probably not related to me but intriguing nonetheless.  To be continued.

Sea LettersStackpole-cover_thumb.  Letters and Journals of the Captain Andrew Pinkham family of Nantucket and Ohio, 1813-1870.. By Renny A. Stackpole. Published by Maine Authors Publishing. 2013. 161 pages.

Mr. Stackpole writes in his introduction, “Sea Letters reflects this writer’s experiences exploring the letters of the Andrew Pinkham family of Nantucket, who emigrated  from their island home at the outbreak of the War of 1812.  They and eleven other families from Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard sought a new life in the rich farmlands of the Ohio valley.”

Mr. Stackpole writes about Captain Andrew Pinkham and his wife Deborah Bunker and their sons, focusing on detailing the lives of their sons, two of whom were in naval or merchant service.  He had access to a number of letters written to and from them, and a variety of other written materials including journals and diaries.  He weaves a narrative story of a period of history of this country and of the times of these people from a large collection of papers.   From Mr. Stackpole’s extensive knowledge of the family and the places, he is able to make inferences as to the Pinkhams’  thoughts and actions.

Captain Andrew Pinkham, in the honored tradition of Nantucket, was a seasoned mariner who had pursued whales in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.  He also served as the master of merchant vessels, sailing from New Bedford and from London at different times.  He was gone for long stretches of time, leaving his wife Deborah with 4 sons to raise.

Mr. Stackpole describes, briefly but persuasively, the experiences of the people of Nantucket from the American Revolution to the War of 1812 and the hardships they endured.  The ships of Nantucket, which provided most of its income, had suffered great losses of life and money during this period history and therefore the population of Nantucket had suffered.  Ships were captured or sunk, sailors were impressed into service by enemy ships, cargoes and the money they represented were lost.  Having endured his own losses, in the Fall of 1812 Captain Andrew Pinkham decided to move his family from Nantucket to the country, to Clermont County, Ohio where he purchased land.

I was immediately interested in this book when I saw this connection between Nantucket and Ohio.  This is the time period when my Coffin family made the same move and I have long wondered about their motivation.  There are tantalizing clues in this book from the brief history given in the Introduction and first chapter, and references to letters written between those who had traveled already to Ohio and those still in Nantucket which promise to answer some of my questions.

Mr. Stackpole’s book will appeal to early Ohio and Nantucket historians, as well as those interested in life on the seas and naval history.  The use of so many letters (and careful references), which are written so well, gives us a window into lives and events as they happened, and will likely draw an even wider audience.

This is one of those years when I am not going to get Christmas cards written or sent. The fact that I haven’t yet done anything about cards is a clue. There are many who would be surprised to hear that I ever send cards. There are some who won’t be surprised to hear that I’m not getting it done this year. I am not a very faithful correspondent by the written word – and often not by phone or any other means, although email has made some difference in this.

In coming to the conclusion that it wasn’t happening this year, I found myself thinking as I sometimes do, of the people in the past who sent cards. My mother was, as far as I know, very good about sending Christmas cards to a wide number of people in her life, from childhood friends to next-door neighbors. Her address book certainly supports my picture of her as a correspondent.

Among my older family treasures are a selections of cards from even earlier than my mother’s collection. These come primarily from Auntie, my great great aunt Jessie M. (Coffin) Dalton. Auntie’s collection of cards that came down to me was from her daughters and household, and included one from her Grandma Justice. Most of them were not sent through the Post Office but hand-delivered.

This is the earliest one I can date. It was from Grandma Justice (Susan Wilcox Justice) at Christmas 1877. Jessie was her first grandchild, and the only one for 6 years, so likely petted and spoiled some. In 1877 Jessie was 37 years old, married with two daughters. She and Grandma Justice probably lived either next door to each other, or almost that close, in Newport Kentucky.

This one either lost its envelope or was an extra in the household. It is copyright 1890.
I love the little one in the middle with the glasses.

This one is sort of mysterious. It is signed Louise, A.D. 1907, and has an envelope addressed to Mrs. Jessie M. Dalton. I originally thought that it was from her granddaughter, my Cousin Jessie who was

Louise to Jessie M. Dalton

also known in her younger days in the family as Louise. The problem is that the handwriting looks adult, and Cousin Jessie was only 10 years old in 1907. So my assumption seems to be wrong.

This one is also a little mysterious. The note on the back makes me think it was given to Auntie, by the names and relationships noted, but it is signed “your loving sister Lou” and this doesn’t fit with anyone I know. The card was from the early 1900s,

from "your loving sister Lou"

and produced by the Whitney Made Worcester Mass company. Worcester is a fair distance from the Cincinnati/Newport KY area, but this company was a noted one and probably sold to stores in Cincinnati.

The one possibility I have come up with so far is Jessie’s uncle Harrison’s wife, Louise, who was actually 9 years younger than Auntie. I know that Harrison and Auntie’s brother Henry were friends and given the similarity in age perhaps the 3 Coffin children and Harrison thought of each other more as siblings. Harrison Justice was born about 6 months before Jessie M. Coffin. Louise Riley and Harrison Justice were married in 1893. Possibly it was this Louise who sent the card above as well.

And this one, the last in my series here, was from her daughter Alice in 1930.

"for my Mamma"

By 1930 Alice was living in Florida and Auntie may have been with her for the Christmas season or may have been at home in Newport Kentucky. Any envelope is long gone so I can’t tell.

Research
* Look for census records for Telemachus B. Coffin, to add to what I know about where he was at different times.
* Start trying to find the Kiernan family that Telemachus’s wife came from.
* Continue to look for live relatives in the Scheier line.
* Figure out what events in direct line are next to find sources for. Order more original records from LDS for direct lines.

Organization
* I always forget to put this one on, but it is the most important! Back up the blog. I always put this on my calendar, and try very hard to back up on the first of the month.
* Go through the three inboxes on my desk and see what is lurking there to be put away, entered into the database, etc. [No progress on this one in November, so it stays on for December.]

Education
* Watch one online video or webinar about genealogy. [November was a challenging month to get any genealogy-related activity accomplished. We were away on vacation for 2 weeks and got home just in time to start obsessing about Thanksgiving and hosting. However, I discovered that there were 2 Legacy Family Tree webinars that had been presented and were only available free for the rest of the weekend after we got back. Both were a topic I wanted to hear. So I listened to both Mary E. Hills on organizing your research, and arian Pierre-Louis on breaking down brick walls, all on one Sunday afternoon after creating my holiday menu. Whew!]
* Start to learn about using genetics in genealogy. [I had an email from 2 different relatives at Thanksgiving about doing a test; that’s enough momentum to convince me that I need to know more about how to use a DNA test. Stay tuned.]

Although I meant to write about Uncle Henry Coffin, it is clear that his story needs the “backstory” to provide the beginning. The story of Henry Bernard Coffin and his role and influence in the family starts with his going to South America as a young man. The short story is that he got rich there (at least rich by the rest of the family’s standards), and took on the responsibility for supporting all the female relatives (both sisters and two/three nieces) who had no other means of support. Meaning they had no husband supporting them, not that they didn’t work themselves. This is, of course, much more complicated than the short story.

How the Coffins got to South America

I have never heard anything substantive about how the Coffins went to South America, or why they ended up in Argentina. Recently I found a brief manuscript written by C. Louis Coffin. In this manuscript, he described some of the Coffin story before his time and provided some information that I have never learned anywhere else. Of course it raises as many (or more) questions as it answers. Cousin Louis (1884-1972) was the son of Bernard, grandson of Telemachus, and grandnephew of my g-g-grandfather Zebulon. Bernard and Uncle Henry were first cousins.

The story from Cousin Louis was that when his grandfather, Telemachus (1802-1891) was old enough to go out on his own, he was sent to New Orleans by his mother (Abigail Butler Coffin). My guess would be that he was around 18-20 years old when this happened, so between about 1820-1822 and not many years after the family had migrated to Cincinnati. His mother had purchased a flatboat and loaded it with produce. She reportedly told her son to sell the contents and the boat and to seek his fortune. He did as she had bid. Once in New Orleans, Telemachus found a whaler, which was captained by one of his Nantucket uncles, and he signed on as cabin boy. This is undoubtedly what he would have done had he still been on Nantucket. He was said to have made voyages to “the Western Islands”, Africa, and Brazil, and the River Plate (the Rio de la Plata) in Argentina.

In Argentina Telemachus met and married Brigida Kiernan (c 1811-1884) in 1831. Her father was described as having been a Deputy Collector of Customs in St. John, New Brunswick before migrating to Argentina because he could not advance in Canada. The Reform Act of 1827 was cited as happening after this migration and because of Mr. Kiernan’s job limitations. I’m guessing that he was from Ireland and that was a strike against him in the late 1700s and early 1800s in Canada. The date of the Reform Act suggests that the Kiernans left Canada before 1827. Brigida was born about 1811, perhaps in England (on Louis’s death certificate), perhaps in Buenos Aires, The Argentine (the Barney Genealogical Record at the Nantucket Historical Association website seems to suggest this).

I do not, yet, have anything that documents their marriage or where it took place. It seems likely that it was in Argentina. I have found a passenger list from 1832 that shows Telemachus, Brigida, and a 15 month old baby arriving in New York from Buenos Aires.

passenger list, the Brig Orient

I do not have any pictures (that I know of) of either Telemachus (click his name) or Brigida (click here), but found these miniatures on the Nantucket Historical Association website. These paintings were probably done right around the time of their marriage. A quick study of some Cincinnati city directories helps place Telemachus in Cincinnati from about 1834 to 1842. He was not listed in directories for 1819, 1825, 1829, and 1831. He was also not listed in directories from 1846, 1859 and 1885. My guess is that he was living in Argentina around 1830, lived there with his new wife and family until about 1832, and then came back to Cincinnati to introduce his wife and daughter to the family. It looks like they lived in Ohio from about then to about 1843. After that he and his wife and family returned to Argentina.

There is a record in the Nantucket Historical Association’s Research Library website that describes Telemachus’s bankruptcy in 1843 in Ohio which may be connected to this. It seems likely that this bankruptcy was related to his business in Cincinnati with his brother H.B. Coffin (who died in 1841). I haven’t yet found the documents associated with with bankruptcy.

Louis wrote that his grandfather had accumulated a fortune trading with the U.S. (presumably from Argentina) but lost it through his partner in New York. Telemachus reportedly sent his son, Bernard (1832-1917), presumably from Argentina to the U.S., to salvage what he could for the family.

Although Bernard was born in Cincinnati, he had lived for some time in Argentina. He was the only child of Telemachus and Brigida to survive to adulthood. He had spent about the first ten years of life in Cincinnati and he was close friends with a number of his Coffin cousins as a result. This included Jessie, Henry, and Katie Coffin, the three children of Zebulon. It was likely during this trip to figure out the family fortunes, that Bernard met and married Mary O’Shaughnessy. Mary’s half-brother, Richard Dalton, was married to g-g-grandpa Zebulon’s older daughter, Jessie.

As Louis reported it, his parents were married in 1874 in the Cathedral of Cincinnati (St. Peter’s Cathedral). Bernard and his wife also lived mostly in Argentina, traveling to visit family in the Cincinnati area when possible and sending some of their children to school at times in Cincinnati. Two of their children, Louis and his oldest sister, were born in Cincinnati while the other children were born in Argentina.

At this point I am left with a series of questions about Telemachus and his life in Argentina. I think Telemachus owned land and raised cattle, which would be what he traded with the U.S. In order to get Uncle Henry’s story in order I need to know more about this. I know that Uncle Henry went to him as a young man, about 1866, and learned from him. So the story is to be continued.