In 1960 George C. Greer published his reference, Early Virginia Immigrants, 1623-1666. In that work, Greer wrote that John Coffee came to Virginia in 1637 as the indentured servant of one Nicholas Hill.
In 1969, Nell M. Nugent, in her work, Cavaliers and Pioneers, Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, Vols. I-III, transcribed the same information, but recorded the name as John Coffin or John Scoffin.
Marvin Coffey, in his work of 1984, James Bluford Coffey, His Ancestors and Descendants in America, wrote that he went to the original records, and found that Nugent had copied the name correctly; e.g., Coffin in one place, and what appears to be Scoffin in another. Marvin observed that whatever the name, it is not Coffee or Coffey!
Many Coffee/Coffey genealogists have accepted that John found in Greer's work was the earliest Coffee in America. Some researchers have given him a wife, often two wives; either Mary Jolliffe or Rebecca Ireland.
Records found, in York Co., VA, mention a William Ireland, in that county from 1633-1648. And, there is a John Jolliffee in Nansemone and Isle of Wight counties in 1653 (see Nugent). But, after all of the research, by literally hundreds of Coffee/Coffey researchers over several decades, no one has related any credible evidence that 1) there was a John Coffee/Coffey in that time frame, and 2) that a Mary Jolliffee or Rebecca Ireland ever existed.
Edward is first found mentioned in the 1699 will of William Mosely. The will was proved in Essex Co., VA on April 16, 1700, and in September, 1700 Edward received his "freedom, corn, and clothes" from the Mosely estate. Mosley transported many indentured persons to Virginia from about 1660 until the 1690's. Edward was likely one of his servants.
Edward Coffee/Coffey remains as our earliest known ancestor in America.
Anyone with evidence to the contrary will certainly be hailed by the large and growing family of Coffee/Coffey researchers!
Sometime after I wrote the above, and following questions posted on a well known genealogy forum, I asked Marvin Coffey to revisit this question. He submitted the following:
"Peter Rigllesworth had a will in which he mentions a daughter Mary. It has been said that this Mary married John Jolliffe but I have seen no record to substantiate it. John Jolliffe appears in the deed records of Nansemond and Isle of Wight cos., VA in 1653 and in Lower Norfolk co. in 1661, the latter being just a renewal of the patent of 1653. I have not yet seen a list of John's children or that he had a dau. named Mary, but I think it likely he did."
"The record of a John Coffee(y) arriving in Elizabeth City co. VA in 1637 with a patentee being Nicholas Hill was misread as the original record clearly says "Coffin". I have found no Coffee(y), John or otherwise in early or middle 1600s in Elizabeth City co., Norfolk co. or any closely surrounding ones, except for a John Coffe(?) on an inquisition or jury in Surry co. in 1669. There was also in the same county an Anthony Koffey(?) on a jury in 1654 and a John Coffer in 1665. The ? after the first two names is not mine, it is of the person recording it from some original. It indicates that this person couldn't read it and was guessing at the spelling. There is also a John Coffin in Isle of Wight co. in 1697 and several Coffers, inclcuding a John about this time."
"Going further north in Virginia the records of Northumberland and Lancaster cos. have several Coffins, Coffers and Coffee(y)s in the mid to late 1600s and early 1700s. None of these seems to be a John except a John Coffin or Coffins in 1669-70. In the early 1700s we find Edward Coffee(y) in Essex co. and later his sons John & Edward, Jr. in Spotsylvania and other counties."
"In sum I have seen nothing to demonstrate that there was a John Coffee(y) in the area where this Jolliffe family lived or a Mary who married a John Coffee(y). If anyone should have any further records on this matter I would appreciate them corresponding with me as I would like to solve this problem. Finally, it should be noted that even if there were a Mary Jolliffe-John Coffey marriage there seems to be no connection with Edward in Essex co. who was most likely an immigrant and indentured servant, and not a son of some Coffey already in Virginia."
More information about various Coffee/y families can be found at: