December 5, 2010

Caveat Emptor

I have been forwarded a few extracts from a book by Jim White who I believe lives in Missouri.  The book is ostensibly about the Boone family but contains some undocumented Coffey family lineage.

The author writes that Edward Coffey Sr. was the son of John Coffey, born in 1611, in Dublin, Leinster, Ireland, and died in 1674 in Essex Co., VA at age 63.  Instead of the usual Mary Joliffee or Rebecca Ireland spouse, author White names a new spouse for John:  Mary Julian, a daughter of William.

In another place, the author reports that descendants of Edward have ignored his eldest son and heir apparent, Edward Coffey, Jr. who White states was one full year older than his brother John who married Jane Graves.

Mr. White also seems to have ignored them.

The author also seems to have mixed descendants of Peter Coffee and Edward Coffey when he writes - without evidence except for the "sheer number of [Coffey] records in South Carolina" - that Edward Jr.'s wife, Grace Cleveland, moved from Caroline Co., VA to Charleston, SC.  He further states that other Coffey/Coffee families, all descendants of the North Carolina branch, moved to SC some 15 years after Grace and began using Coffee as their surname. 

One reason that Edward, Jr.'s children have been somewhat ignored is that no proof of who they were has ever been found.  Marvin Coffey speculated that Cleveland, husband of Elizabeth Coffey, residing in Orange and Albemarle counties from 1762 to 1774 is one of his sons.

Benjamin, born in VA in 1763, in the Burke Co., NC census from 1790 to 1850 (Caldwell Co. in 1850) was possibly a son.  Marvin pointed out that Grace would be been closing in on age 50 when Benjamin was born and that was somewhat late for a woman of that era to have been giving birth.

The possibility exists that other thus far unconnected Coffeys of the period could be Edward, Jr.'s children; e.g., James in the 1785 Botetourt Co. census; William in 1781-1785 Montgomery Co., VA and William of 1783 to 1797 Buckingham Co., VA.  The possibility is equally likely that they were sons of Peter.

Another possible son of Edward, Jr. was Jesse, found in Wilkes Co. from 1779-1786.  There was also an Isaac in Wilkes Co. from 1782-1796.  Jesse could be the one found in South Carolina in the 1790 and 1800 census.  He named his sons Cleveland, Edward, Joel, Elijah, Elisha and John.  All of these are common names among the descendants of Edward and Ann Powell Coffey so Jesse could be an Edward, Jr. son.

Mr. White offers no bibliography for his book.  He does post a warning on his website however, that readers should first consider his reasons for omitting it:

I'll try to summarize his "top three" reasons:
 - It is his opinion "that family historians need to provoke their own research."  By not providing sources, the author hopes to promote his book as a guide and, "not become the source of data, in and of itself."

 - When he states that an event is "documented" in his book, such as a marriage for some couple and a place is given, the reader should go to the place given to locate the record.

 - His "final point" states that owners of personal documents, with whom he consulted, did not want their names and personal contact information shared with others.  Makes one wonder how Mr. White came to meet them!?
To be fair, I have not read more of this book that the extracts sent to me for review.  I have looked at his website, and that of his publisher and Mr. White appears to be a prolific "author" with probably a dozen or more books, none of which will likely be on my list of books buys this Christmas season.

Whether Mr. White desires it or not, his book may become a "source of data...," and one more publication with probably well meaning but unsourced and often incorrect data.

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