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.

Zebulon B. Coffin

Zebulon B. Coffin was one of the first ancestors I learned about, going back to when I was about age 8 or 9. His picture was in the old-fashioned hard-covered thick-paged photo album that my mother kept in the linen closet. (I don’t know why she kept it there.) Although he was relatively young in this picture, he looks much the way he seems to have always looked.

When I got more serious about genealogy and family history, I figured out that Zebulon was my great-great-grandfather. He was also grandfather to the little girl in the tintype I wrote about earlier who so intrigued me, Mary Alice Dalton. So she and were related, how exciting!

Zebulon was born in Cincinnati, not long after his family had arrived there from Nantucket. He was the second son to carry that name. His next older brother who had been named Zebulon died in August 1814 and my Zebulon was born November, 1815. I wonder what they would have named him if his brother hadn’t died? I don’t know anything (yet) about his earliest life, although I assume he went to school and did what most other boys of the time and place did. When he was about 13 years old his next older surviving brother died at age 18. His remaining two older brothers who were still in the Cincinnati area were 8 and 10 years older than he was. His oldest brother, Telemachus, was 13 years older, and already out of the house and traveling the world. (He will be part of a later Coffin story.)

Zebulon (often listed as Z.B.) was married, to Catherine Elizabeth Justice, in October 1839 a month before his 24th birthday and 2 months before her 18th. I don’t know exactly how they met and courted, but her father owned a business in Cincinnati and was active in the community. Zebulon went into the grocery business around the time of his marriage, and had his own business for his whole working life. He was not listed in the Cincinnati city directory for 1836-37, but was in the 1839 directory. He was a hard worker, who was active in his community and church. He was a member of the Cincinnati Independent Fire Engine and Hose Company, one of the early volunteer fire groups.

fire hydrant opener

In 1846 he was made an Honorary Member for life. The picture is of a large (maybe brass?) tool that was used for opening the water hydrants when a fire broke out. It is engraved with Zebulon’s name and the date 1835.

For much of his adult life, Zebulon was the patriarch of the Cincinnati-based family. His mother died in 1858, and his wife and father in the next ten years. At the time of Catherine’s death, his older daughter was married with a young daughter and his son Henry and younger daughter Katie still lived at home. Henry was just 20 years old and Katie was not yet 14. Henry left home to go to South America right around the time of his mother’s death. This will also be part of a later Coffin story.

Zebulon and his family had moved across the Ohio River to Newport, Kentucky by the time of the federal census of 1850. Susan Justice, his mother-in-law, and Anthony Burton, a young man “adopted” by the family lived nearby or with Z.B, at different times. Daughter Jessie Dalton and her family also lived either next door or with him after he was widowed. The family belonged to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Newport and Zebulon and his daughters were active in the Church.

Although Zebulon was widowed for a long time, just about 39 years, there were no family stories or any documentation that he had any other relationship. He never remarried. He kept his store until after his 70th birthday. He got interested in the family history and attended the 1881 family reunion of Coffins on Nantucket. In 1880 he was appointed by the Tristram Coffin Reunion Association along with William E. Coffin as the Executive Subcommittee tasked with creating a Coffin genealogy. He worked long and hard on this endeavor, sending out letters to all Coffins asking for information. It was the resulting manuscript that was the base for the book edited years later by Louis Coffin, entitled “The Coffin Family” which was published by the Nantucket Historical Association.

Judy asked me a couple of questions about the post I wrote about Ruie or my Aunt Susan (as I grew up thinking of her). The questions were good ones, and I decided to write the update, or the rest of the story as I know it.

Aunt Susan as she looked when I was young

I knew my Aunt Susan to the extent any child knows an adult in her life, especially one who does not live close by. We lived in the Midwest and she and Uncle Bill lived in North Carolina and Florida. So I knew her mostly from being told about her, and from gifts and cards. This was long enough ago that there were many obstacles to communication for family living far apart. Long distance telephone calls were only made in emergencies and maybe occasionally for holidays. There was no Internet or email or Skype or texting. So we wrote letters and sent cards through the mail – what we now call snail mail. Occasionally they would travel to visit us or, more rarely, we would visit them. My family’s first real traveling vacation was to North Carolina to visit them.

Aunt Susan (which is what my father always called her; she was my great aunt) had been part of my father’s life from his birth. She was 25 years old when he was born, and was serving in the Army in South Carolina. So, presumably, she didn’t actually meet him until he was a year old. However, from that time forward she was an active presence in his life. From my grandmother’s scrapbook and photo album and from Aunt Susan’s photo album come a number of pictures showing the two of them. This one was from my grandmother’s scrapbook.

Aunt Susan and a young Clifford

Aunt Susan not only visited them, but she took my father traveling with her on occasion. I don’t know for certain, but I think the first trip they made may have been when my father was 10.  From my grandmother’s scrapbook we know in the summer of 1929 Aunt Susan took him to New England, probably for historic and family reasons (the Coffin side had come from New England to Ohio).  He would have been about 10 and a half. My father saw the ocean, and swam in it, for the first time on that trip.

Aunt Susan also had growing concerns about my grandmother’s mental state as my father was growing up. She kept in touch with the physician who my grandmother did practical nursing for, and she helped make the decision that my father should go away to school when he was ready for high school. He was sent to the Ohio Military Institute, in Cincinnati, which was not very far away but was a residential school. I’m certain that this was difficult for my grandmother and probably my father (although he didn’t talk about it).

It was to Aunt Susan that my father went when, at the end of his first year at college, it became clear that my grandmother could not live on her own at home any longer. Aunt Susan was very supportive and helpful in this difficult time. Her nursing experience and knowledge must have come in very handy in helping know what needed to be done, and who to contact, etc. From this point on, it is clear that Aunt Susan took responsibility for my father, standing in as a parent.

A year or two before this, Uncle Henry Coffin had died and it was his death that changed life for Aunt Susan financially. Uncle Henry never married and he had taken financial responsibility for his sisters (Kate Coffin Salt being one) and their children. With this he also took responsibility for dictating much about how they lived their lives.

It very likely was the death of Uncle Henry that allowed Aunt Susan to buy her house in Florida. And it was certainly his death and the deaths of both his sisters that finally allowed Susan to decide to marry. Her remaining cousins did not have the same authority the older generation had.

Uncle Bill and Aunt Susan about the time of their marriage

So did she live happily ever after? I think so. In general, she and Uncle Bill seemed to be pretty happy together, although of course we didn’t see much of them. I’m sure that there were adjustments required, as for any marriage and especially if you have been used to being independent as both of them had. They were married for 35 years. Susan gave up her nursing job, I think probably about the time she and Bill decided to marry. However, I think it is telling that she kept her original nursing license from Kentucky active into the 1970s, when she was into her 80s.

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