November 14, 2006

Robert Whitesides and Elizabeth Coffey

James Coffey was the first son and eldest child of John Coffey and Jane Graves. He was born Jul. 4, 1729 in Essex Co., VA and died Oct. 1786 in Wilkes Co., NC. James married Elizabeth Cleveland, a daughter of Alexander and Mildred Presly Coffey [some researchers dispute this union*; others claim that Elizabeth was a niece of Alexanders], born Feb. 1727 and died about 1827 in Bedford Co., TN. They are thought to have married about 1750 in either Orange or Albamarle Co., VA.

James and Elizabeth are credited with producing at least 11 children. Their eldest was Elizabeth (Betty), born about 1751. According to the work Male Whiteside(s) names in the United States from selected sources ca. 1690-1849 : and Whiteside place names, compiled by Don Whiteside, and published in Ottawa, Canada in 1971, Robert Whiteside[s] married Elizabeth about 1770 in Albemarle Co., VA. Robert died in 1810 in Kentucky, and Elizabeth died about 1812 in Wayne Co., KY.

Many researchers credit them with being the parents of at least eight children:

James, born Jul. 21, 1771, died Apr. 24, 1848, married Betsy Dick.
William, born about 1773, died 1824, married Lavina Singleton
Jonathon, born Apr. 13, 1776 in Burke Co., NC, died Jul, 17, 1796 in Madison Co., KY, married Thankful Anderson Jul. 17, 1796 in Madison Co., KY
Henry, born about 1780, died 1806
Lewis, born 1782, died between 1840 and 1850, married Sarah Dunn
Robert [some researchers claim that it was Robert who married Betsy Dick]
Mary (Polly)

The Whiteside compilation mentioned above does not name the last three as being children of Robert and Elizabeth.

*I received the following e-mail in 2004:

Jack, Please be aware that some of the information you are posting for the Cleveland family is incorrect. John Cleveland who married Elizabeth Coffey was the son of Alexander Cleveland and his wife Mary. She was not named Milly or Mildred and her maiden name was not Presley. The Cleveland's originally lived in Abingdon Parish, Gloucester Co VA and the parish register has the births of Alexander and his known children, including John.

Part of my reply:

There are at least two different genealogies (Edmund James Cleveland, 1899, The Genealogy of the Cleveland Families, and George A. Martin, Virginia Cleveland Ancestor Discovered, National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 46, Sept., 1958) that attempt to straighten out the Cleveland lines.

Cleveland's work appears to confuse two different Cleveland families. He is the source of the Presley name for Alexander's wife, but offers no evidence however, that Alexander existed. Martin cites the Abingdon Register and indicates that Roger and Dorcas Cleveland were the parents of Alexander who was the father of Rev. John who settled in Orange Co.

Whether Alexander's wife was Mary or Milley, it appears that her maiden name was Presley. I'd be extremely interested in any information that you have uncovered that disproves that.

To which the following reply was received:

Alexander Cleveland's wife is listed in the Abingdon Parish register as Mary. To date, this is the only document I have found giving her name. Traditionally, she has been associated with the Presley family of Northumberland Co VA. But I have thoroughly researched that family and come to the conclusion that it is simply impossible. Presley researchers do not include her in their genealogies and there is nothing to tie that family to Gloucester Co. In addition, the father usually cited for her (Peter Presley) died around the time she was most likely born, but there are no orphan court records for her (there are orphan court records for Peter's minor son). The 1899 Cleveland genealogies are riddled with errors on the Virginia Cleveland's. Several children are attributed to Alexander that probably aren't his. The children that you listed are the only ones that can be proven as his. Others were apparently just "stray" Clevelands with no obvious parents who got lumped in. One child, Elizabeth m. James Coffey has recently been shown by a deed to be Alexander's granddaughter. There are lots of records in VA for Alexander, they are all over the place (due to changes in county boundaries). Beginning in 1724 I have found Alexander and his sons Alexander Jr. and John in the records of Spotsylvania Co, then in Orange Co, and then later in Albemarle Co, where Alexander probably died about 1775. For several years he lived with his son-in-law Edward Coffey Jr and Edward received payments from the parish for taking care of him. The last record in the parish vestry book is from 1774. I'm sure he was dead by 1778, otherwise his son John would have probably mentioned him in his will. The Abingdon Parish register also shows a John Cleveland having children in the 1790s. He was either a younger brother or a much older son to Roger Cleveland. It is believed now that the Cleveland's who show up in other parts of VA in the 1720s and later are probably his descendents, not Alexander's. This would include the Jeremiah Cleveland that you mention.

There was at least one further exchange, but nothing consequential.

I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has solid evidence that 1) Elizabeth was/was not the daughter of Alexander, and 2) that Alexander's wife was/was not Mildred Presly.

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