September 15, 2011

The Georgians: Genealogies of Pioneer Settlers

This book was compiled by Jeanette Holland Austin and apparently originally published by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. in 1984.  It was reprinted for the Clearfield Company, Inc. by Genealogical Publishing in 1998 and again in 2002.

It is an ambitious work but not without errors.

Beginning on page 84, the compiler provides a descendants list for Peter Coffee, born in Ireland between 1690 and 1700, who came to VA c1730 aboard the ship “Forward Galley.”  This is documented on page 188 of the 1981 work by Marion and Jack Kaminkow, Emigrants in Bondage.  In this work, it is stated that Peter was received on board the ship October 28, 1730.

Austin ends the Peter Coffee descent with the family of Michael Coffee, of Rockingham Co., NC and dates his will to June 23, 1804, proved Nov., 1810 in Rockingham Co.  In the will, Michael names wife Margaret and children:  Michael, Robert, Thomas, John, Sophia, Mary and Margaret.  She tells us that Michael was a son of Joshua Coffee, born 1745 in Prince Edward Co., VA, later of Granville Co., NC.

Clearly, I am not a Peter Coffee expert, but have read some fairly well documented work on this line.  The one that I most often refer to when asked about Peter is the compilation completed and privately published by Gene Brewington (dec’d).  His wife was a Peter descendant.  Gene named only five children for Joshua and wife Elizabeth Graves:  William, born Sep., 1768, died before 1797; Thomas Graves, born 4 Sep. 1769 in Prince Edward Co., died 1846 in Lauderdale Co., AL; Elijah, born 1770, died before 1797; John, born June 2, 1772 in Prince Edward Co., died in Florence, Lauderdale Co., AL on Jul. 7, 1833.

John Coffee was a life-long friend of Andrew Jackson, and they engaged in many business affairs together.  John raised a regiment of volunteers to help Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans in Dec., 1814.  After that battle he was promoted from Colonel to Major General, and in 1817 was appointed Surveyor-General of Alabama.  He moved to Huntsville in that state and in 1819 moved to Florence in Lauderdale Co.  He died at the family home, "Hickory Hill" north of Florence.  William T. Hale wrote a bit about Gen. Coffee in his work A History of Tennessee and Tennesseans, published in 1913 by Lewis Publishing Co. of Chicago.  Coffee Co., AL is named for him.

Joshua’s brother, Peter, Jr. also named a son John who also became a General.  The two Johns are sometimes confused with one another.  Peter Jr.’s son was most famous in GA and served from there in the War of 1812.  He was also a US Congressman.  Coffee Co., GA is named for him.

Austin continues with the genealogy of Michael Coffey by writing that he married Margaret, last name not given, and cites his children as Thomas who married Mary Coffee, a daughter of Hugh Patrick Coffee whose last will and testament was written on June 15, 1828 and proved in August, 1828 at Rockingham Co., NC; John; Michael; Robert; Sophia; Mary; and Margaret.  She ends there, but writes that “The family in Wilkes Co., N. C. are descendants of either Peter, or Joshua, sons of Peter Sr.”

As far as I know, all of that could be correct.  However, following the above quote, Austin appears to tell us that James Coffey who married Elizabeth Cleveland was a descendant of Peter.  All Edward Coffey research that I know of, tells us that Rev. James Coffey was a son of John Coffey and Jane Graves, John being the eldest son of Edward and Ann Powell Coffey.

James is one of the better researched of the known children of John and Jane Graves Coffey.  He was referred to as Reverend because he was a Baptist minister in Wilkes Co., NC.

Many researchers have assumed that James and Elizabeth were married in Orange Co. about 1750, and more specifically Aug. 30, 1750.  However, no source has been given for this date, and a record has not been found in Orange Co. marriage records.

James can be found on the Orange Co. "List of Tithables" in 1749, but not in 1754 meaning that he and Elizabeth moved [to Albemarle Co.?] soon after their marriage.

The first deed record found in Albemarle Co. is dated 1758.  They bought 124 acres from James' father John, at the head of the middle branch of the Hardware River.  (Many early Albemarle Co. records are missing making it impossible to determine the exact date that James settled in Albemarle Co.)

James did enter land on July 26, 1765 for 262 acres "on the head branches of Meechums River, under the Ragged Mountains."    This date is probably much later than actual purchase because James had already moved to Amherst Co. the year prior to that date.

James made his will on Sep. 13, 1786 and it was proved Oct. 26 in Wilkes Co.  All of his children are named except he mentions the "heirs of my son Archelaus."  This indicates that Archelaus died prior to Sep. 1786.

Elizabeth is said to have gone to TN with her son Rice where she died about 1827, at about 100 years of age.

From Virginia DAR Book; Big Blue Book, 1970, page 469:
James Coffey -- Born 1726 Ireland; Died 1813 Wilkes County, North Carolina; Married 1746, Prince Wm. Co., Va., Elizabeth Cleveland, born 1728, died 1828.
James Coffey served as a Private under Capt. Alexander Peoples.  Five of his sons were Revolutionary soldiers.  (Penn. Archives, 5th Series Vol. VI, p. 57).  He resided in Pennsylvania during the Revolution.
The accuracy of that DAR biography is very questionable.
Some researchers have mistakenly given James the middle name of Bluford or Edwen [sic].  I have even seen Ervin as a middle name for James.  Middle names did not become common in America until long after the Rev. War.  It became somewhat common only after the mid-1800’s.  I do not believe anyone can produce documentation that any of our early Coffey ancestors had middle names.  The proliferation of such errors as middle names in web-based genealogies is, in my opinion,  the result of copying undocumented work without question.
In a following paragraph, Austin then seems to name Thomas Coffey, another son of John and Jane Graves Coffey as a descendant of Peter.  I believe that has been proven to not be accurate in the work by Dr. Marvin Coffey, a descendant, in his 1984 work, James Bluford Coffey:  His Ancestors and Descendants in America as well as in Thomas Coffey and His Descendants, compiled by Laurence H. Coffey of Lenoir, NC (pub: Newell Sanders, Chattanooga, 1931).
If she knew differently, Austin may have simply miswrote (e.g., badly worded) or perhaps should have omitted all together the comment about the Wilkes Co. Coffeys being descendants of Peter.  I’m afraid that comment has mislead some to erroneously conclude that some of Edward’s descendants were actually Peter descendants.

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