December 19, 2009

James Coffey, son of Annister

Fred Coffey is the Coffey Cousins' DNA "guru."  Today he submitted the following with permission to publish here.  For back issues of the Coffey Cousins' newsletter, contact editor Bonnie Culley..


By Fred Coffey

An article by Bonnie Culley in the last CCC Newsletter, "Currents in the Stream", indicated that we were trying to use DNA to determine the paternal ancestry of James Coffey (born about 1735 in Virginia). James is the base born son of Annister, daughter of Edward. And now we know his father was probably "James Samuel"!

After earlier tries, DNA again became a promising tool after we were pointed to a Virginia court order book dated 20 Feb 1738/9 with a record "It is ordered that the Churchwardens of St. Ann's Parish do bind James Coffy a bastard child to James Samuel as the law directs".

The "James Samuel" referenced would be a man born 14 Jun 1690, died 16 May 1759, married Sarah Boulware on 5 Apr 1714. He was born, lived, married, and died in St. Ann's Parish, Essex County, VA – the same location as the above court record.

We now have in hand y-DNA tests on two descendants of James Coffey, and on one descendant of the brother of the above James Samuel. And this, combined with the court record, proves "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the father of James Coffey was someone from this "Samuel" family.

This is in many ways like the famous "Thomas Jefferson/Sally Heming" case, where DNA proves that some male from the Jefferson family fathered at least one of slave Sally Heming's children. It could have been any male "Jefferson", but the overwhelming "circumstantial evidence" suspect is Thomas himself.

Likewise, the father of James Coffey could be any "Samuel" male, such as a son or brother of the named James Samuel. But James Samuel himself must definitely be the most likely suspect?

I have been "chasing" James Coffey for quite some time, and have a lot more information on him than can be covered here, including more detailed discussion of the DNA. You're invited to visit at


Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally stumbles upon something fortunate, especially while looking for something entirely unrelated. (Wikipedia)

When looking for my "Walker Family" ancestry, I accidentally discovered records for "James Coffee" in Surry County, NC. I asked questions, and Bonnie Culley told me this James was likely the base born son of Annister Coffey, who later married a Chenault. And then two men who believed they descended from this James joined our DNA project. This suggested there might be "Chenault" DNA matches. We found Chenault tests, but no match. However this led me to start exchanging notes with Reverend John Chenault, a genealogist who had information on Annister, and who was Annister's descendant by her later marriage. Then John pointed out that he had seen the above court record connecting James Coffey with one James Samuel. This led to looking for and discovering the Samuel DNA match. This in turn opened communication with the Samuel family, who turned out to also have connections with the Powell family – the same family that Edward Coffey had married into. And thus a new path of information exchanges is opened – see Bonnie's notes from the last newsletter.

Oh, the Samuel exchange included a 1754 reference to one "Robert Taliaferro", which shows the Coffey/Samuel/Powell/Taliaferro families were all interacting no later than 1754. And that ties to another DNA article in the last newsletter tying a Taliaferro to the line of Jordan Coffey, born 1790.

And finally, midway through all this, a "Walker" genealogist did a Google search, and discovered postings I had made about James Coffee, wherein I mentioned my Walker search. And this led to more information exchanges and to a Walker DNA test. And that led to new sources of info on the origins of my "Walker" family!

So what will we stumble across tomorrow?

Sign up for our DNA Project, and maybe in addition to helping with your "Coffey" research, our note exchanges may turn up unexpected sources? Visit us at:

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