Calling All Coffins, or, How My Coffin Lines Are Related

I recently connected with a possible relative through DNA testing.  Our mitochondrial DNA looks vaguely like there is a connection, so we have been emailing about possible shared ancestors.  While exchanging surnames, the Coffin line looked promising (although not my maternal line, so not the mitochondrial connection) and we went on to exchange spreadsheets of our Coffin lineages.  I have to admit here that I copied her spreadsheet as a template (thank you, cousin Diana!).

I have always known (well, for a long time) that I had ancestors who had married, each of whom came from a line of Coffins.  I also have ancestors who came from the same line in the Justice family, and they married into the Coffin family, just to make it more complicated.  I had never taken the time or effort to try to chart these complex relationships in any way.  When I thought about writing a post about this, I thought I could just show the spreadsheet I filled in and that would be it.  However, since I can’t include/insert the whole spreadsheet which is more than one page wide, I was stuck trying to think of another way to illustrate the relationships succinctly.  Then it occurred to me (this is a “Duh!” moment) that I can capture a screenshot of each set and include them sequentially.  So here they are.

Note: there are dates here that I haven’t fully verified myself.  Most of them come from a compiled genealogy on the Coffin family by Louis Coffin1 Some individuals don’t have dates or full ones, anyway, although I have guessed broadly (e.g., 17xx or 18xx) in some cases.  On the first set I have noted relationships between spouses, and then on the second any additional ones.  I tend to think of my Coffin line as running back to James, since that is the line that carried the Coffin surname the closest to me, however these are presented by age of the child of Tristram and Dionis, oldest to youngest.  Also: the relationship between my great-grandmother Katie Coffin and her husband John Clifford Salt is the result of their sharing a Justice great grandfather, Jesse Justice Sr., not a Coffin ancestor.
Coffin, Peter - line of descent

  Coffin, James - line of descent
Coffin, Mary and Stephen - lines of descent

  1.  Coffin, Louis (Ed.).  The Coffin Family.  Nantucket, MA: Nantucket Historical Association, 1962.
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June Genealogy To-Do

May was a fairly productive month, but much of what I accomplished was organizational so doesn’t show much.  I need to better divide my time into organizational and research time.

I did finish the draft of the William Boorman will, which is pretty exciting because it names children including my ancestor Ann Boorman who married William Denman.  I’ve sent the original and the transcript off to my cousin Claudia to have a fresh pair of eyes read the original and make sure I’ve been accurate in my transcription.

I also have two new Denman relatives in the DNA pipeline and am impatiently awaiting results (even though one was only mailed from England last Friday).  I hope both of these will produce interesting results and I will be writing more about them.

For this coming month, I will continue to work on the upcoming wedding family tree.  I have the groom’s in pretty good shape and need to make sure the bride’s is in matching good shape.  I will still need to pester their parents for family pictures.  Then I need to make decisions about a visual presentation for the new couple.

I also will try to spend some time on my husband’s lines this month.  We have a family reunion coming up for his side in early July, and I want to know what my questions are as well as to refresh my memory about the people and connections.

These two projects along with some further work on my organization will keep me as occupied as I have the time for this busy month.

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Susan Wilcox Justice (1797-1881)

Susan Wilcox Justice

Susan Wilcox Justice

Susan Wilcox was the last of my direct female ancestors to have migrated from Nantucket to Cincinnati in the early 1800s.  She was about 14 years old when her mother (Phebe Foye), step-father (Thomas Myrick), and 3 half-siblings moved off the island she was born on and moved West.  Her father had died young, perhaps at sea which wasn’t uncommon for Nantucketers, but there is no record showing this.  She was the only child of Reuben Wilcox and Phebe Foye.

It is likely that the young Myrick family first settled in Clermont county, Ohio for at least a few years.  They may have then moved into Cincinnati, or maybe Susan moved in to live with a relative to be in a more settled area.  Whatever the reason, Susan was said in an obituary to have lived in Cincinnati from 1811 (when the family migrated West) to 1845 before moving across the Ohio River to Newport, Kentucky where she lived out her life.

We don’t know how Susan met Jesse Justice, Jr., possibly in Cincinnati through one or another social interaction.  Jesse was the son of a Methodist circuit rider and preacher, and they were married on 3 June 1819 in Clermont county, Ohio by Andrew Pinkham, J.P.  Andrew Pinkham would have been a Nantucket friend of Susan and her family (see the post on Sea Letters).  At that time Jesse lived on a farm in Clermont county and the young couple probably first settled on his farm.  Jesse later moved into Cincinnati and had a grocery business.  The move was presumably before September 1830 when he wrote to his mother who was still in Clermont county that he had sold his farm and needed her to sign a quit-claim deed.

Susan and Jesse had 7 children in all, but only 3 lived into adulthood.  The other children died in infancy or as a young child; three of the 4 died between 1833-1834.  Susan was in her mid-30s when these deaths occurred, all in Cincinnati.  Her last child, a son, was born in April 1840 in Cincinnati.  The family likely moved to Newport, Kentucky across the Ohio River from Cincinnati soon after that.

Her husbandJustice, Susan - 1881 - obituary Jesse only lived to age 55, dying in July 1850.  She lived on in Newport, consistently next door to her only daughter’s family.  Her youngest son was only a few months older than her daughter’s first child and these cousins grew up together.  Susan became the matriarch of the two families and was particularly important for the younger of her granddaughters.  Susan’s daughter, Catherine Justice Coffin, died of tuberculosis at a young age, having been sick for some time and her younger daughter (my great grandmother Katie) was not yet 14 when she died.

Susan lived to age 84, dying in July 1881 at her home in Newport.  There were a number of newspaper notices and obituaries reporting on her life and her death.  This is one that provided some information about her life.

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May Genealogy To-Do

In April I managed to:

1. Finish renaming all the computer files in my Salt surname folder and sub-folders, and started adding birth-marriage-death evidence to my direct ancestors and a couple of closely related people.  Yay!!

2. Make a lot of progress on one of the two new family trees I’m creating for the upcoming Fall wedding.  This is a family that had lots of children in each generation and although I won’t use all the information for the new display tree I want to create for the couple, I do want all the information in the database.

3. Finish the first draft of transcribing the William Boorman will.  There are still places where I had trouble reading the handwriting so it isn’t complete yet.

For the coming month of May, I will:

1. Finish adding all my direct Salt ancestors vital information from my computer files and Evernote.  Trying to decide whether to do the same level of adding with my other direct ancestors before trying to complete a surname.  It all needs to be added to my RootsMagic database and it is starting to make sense to me that I should focus on the direct ancestors first.  (Maybe there will be somewhat fewer Bright Shiny Objects and rabbit holes that way!)

2. Go back to the Boorman will, having left it for a few days, to see if I can decipher any of the words I couldn’t read the first time around.  I wish I had someone to put a fresh pair of eyes on this one – my will expert in Sussex was very helpful for the Denman and Martin wills.  I will try to think about who might be willing.

3. Continue to work on the latest up-coming-wedding family trees.  I have a good start but want to get it finished with plenty of time to figure out how to present it.

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Abigail Butler Coffin (1783-1858)

Coffin-family-dag-cased_thumb.jpgAbigail Butler Coffin is my third female ancestor who migrated with her husband and children from Nantucket to Cincinnati in the early 1800s.  She came with four or five young children (the birth date of one son isn’t well recorded).  Her oldest child and son was born in 1802 and the family likely migrated in 1811.  I say likely because there is little solid evidence and no family story passed down about their migration or their early life.  I have discovered that there is at least one letter held in the Nantucket Historical Association’s research library (referenced in Sea Letters by Renny Stackpole) that mentions the migration of Cyrus Coffin and family as well as others.  At the time the young Coffin family reached Cincinnati it was a very young town in a very young state.

Abigail was born 30 April 1783 on Nantucket, to Rev. Zebulon Butler and Anna Starbuck Butler.  It was at the end of the American Revolution and Nantucket had been severely economically stressed by the War so life was difficult for many on Nantucket.  Abigail was not yet 4 years old when her mother died.  Her father remarried, to Elizabeth Woodbury, 2 years later but he only lived about 6 months after that marriage.  It has been said that he suffered a long sickness before his death but I have not found any more details.  Elizabeth Woodbury was likely a relative of Anna Starbuck, perhaps her aunt (her mother’s sister).  The records I have seen are not clear.

So, Abigail, the youngest of the three children of Zebulon and Anna Butler, was left with a step-mother.  Elizabeth must have provided the majority of her care from the age  of 6, 7 when her father died.  Her sister Nancy was 14 when their father died and so she and Abigail would have been left with Elizabeth.  Abigail’s brother John was lost at sea the year after their father died.  There is no record that Elizabeth remarried after Zebulon Butler’s death, and she died in 1822.

The Rev. Zebulon Butler family was most probably not part of the Religious Society of Friends (or Quakers) in Nantucket.  Zebulon was called Reverend although I have not seen a particular church affiliation mentioned, and the Society of Friends would not have designated him as a reverend.  Abigail did not seem to have been raised in the Society of Friends.

In March 1802 she married Cyrus Coffin, son of Isaiah and Sarah Folger Coffin.  Their marriage does not seem to have been recorded in any of the local church records that are cited in the Vital Records of Nantucket Massachusetts to the Year 1850, Volume III, Marriages (A-G).  Since it is known that Cyrus’s parents were Friends, it is possible that he was disowned or censured by the Society for marrying outside the discipline.  Certainly Cyrus and Abigail were not members after they migrated to Cincinnati, and did not raise their children as Quakers, although Cyrus’s mother Sarah continued to be a member in Cincinnati.

The image at the top of this post shows Abigail seated next to Cyrus, with their son Zebulon standing behind them.  It is not dated but must have been done between about 1845 and the second half of 1850, certainly no later than 1858.  Abigail died in 1858 at age 75 and doesn’t appear to be quite that old here.  She was buried in the Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati in the family plot.


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