Mystery Heirs in 1785: Cromwell Coffin & Ruth Coffin, Nantucket, MA

We’re spending one more day in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

The Coffin family was a bit confusing to trace because if they weren’t marrying each other, they often married into a small cluster of families, like the Barnards, Gardners and Bunkers.

In yesterday’s post, I brought together my two Coffin lines – Cromwell Coffin (1 September 1709-5 April 1783), son of Ebenezer and Eleanor (Barnard) Coffin, and Ruth Coffin (17 June 1716-3 October 1801), daughter of James and Ruth (Gardner) Coffin.

Cromwell Coffin married Ruth Coffin, his first cousin, on 25 November 1731. They lived their lives in Nantucket, but like many others on the island, their lives were also tied to the sea.

Children, all events in Nantucket, unless noted otherwise:

  1. Benjamin, child of Cromwell & Ruth recorded with no date; likely died young
  2. Susannah, born 11 October 1733; no further record
  3. Abigail, baptized 14 September 1735; died 26 March 1811; married James Gardner, 13 February 1752. James was born 9 December 1728; died 5 July 1803. They had no children.
  4. Caleb, baptized 22 July 1739; died before 10 September 1778; married Deborah Alden, 27 December 1766 (intentions). Deborah married (2) Isaac Belknap, 10 September 1778, New Windsor, Orange, New York.
  5. Eunice, baptized 18 July 1742; died after 1800, probably Orange County, New York; married Joseph Coleman, 24 January 1760. Joseph was born 30 September 1739; died 17 April 1775, off the coast of New Guinea, of yellow fever.
  6. Obed, born 17 December 1743; died 13 August 1747
  7. Mary, born 1746; died 6 April 1815; married (1) Thomas Brock, 28 November 1765 (2) Benjamin Fosdick Jr., 14 December 1769

A search for Cromwell’s and/or Ruth’s  probate records on FamilySearch produced two results.

I searched for Ruth’s first, simply because she outlived Cromwell by almost 20 years.


Ruth Coffin, Inventory on Right Side


Ruth Coffin, Inventory on Left Side

I am not even going to transcribe it because my goal was to find the names of any heirs, but none were listed. The appraisers were John Pinkham, James Coffin and Christopher Hussey.

Ruth did own five pieces of property, one of which was noted as purchased from the heirs of Samuel Coffin. I haven’t located a deed yet showing the Samuel Coffin heirs selling land.

I backtracked to the 1780s, as Cromwell died in 1785. I thought I hit pay dirt when I saw the heirs of Cromwell Coffin selling land.


(Left) Heirs of Cromwell Coffin to Isaiah Coffin, 1784
Source: FamilySearch

This deed is only one page long and it is the conveyance of water lot #5 from the heirs of Cromwell Coffin to Isaiah Coffin.

The huge mystery is this – who the heck are all these people?????

Richard Mitchell Jr., merchant
Abigail Aldrich, widow
Ruth Coffin, widow
John Coffin, cooper
Alexander Coffin Esq.
Ebenezer Coffin, mariner
Beriah Fitch, yeoman
Seth Macy, yeoman
Mary Fosdick
Benjamin Fosdick
Richard Russell
Lydia Russell
Miriam Coffin, spinster
Nathaniel Coffin, cooper
Eunice Pinkham
John Pinkham, mariner
Abigail Coffin, widow
Josiah Barker, merchant
Jonathan Burnall, yeoman
Josiah Coffin, yeoman
Judith Coffin
Mary Bayly

There are only two people on this list who make any sense. First is widow Ruth Coffin. Second is Mary Coffin who married Benjamin Fosdick in 1769 after her first husband, Thomas Brock, died not long after their marriage in 1765. Mary is Cromwell’s daughter.

I’ve done a bit of digging, trying to sort them out, but I haven’t been successful in determining why they are heirs of Cromwell Coffin.

Abigail Aldrich was the daughter of Jonathan Bunker and Elizabeth Coffin. She was the widow of both John Pinkham and William Aldrich, who she married in 1740. John Pinkham was the son of Jonathan Pinkham and Hepsabeth Gardner.

There is a Eunice Gardner who married Solomon Pinkham.

Josiah Barker married Elizabeth Mitchell, daughter of Richard, in 1752.

Jonathan Burnall married Jemima Marshall.

Josiah Coffin was the son of Ebenezer and Eleanor Coffin, so was a brother of widow Ruth Coffin. His wife, Judith Coffin, was the daughter of Elisha Coffin and Dinah Bunker.

Miriam Coffin, spinster, appears to be the daughter of Tristram Coffin and Jemima Barnard.

Alexander Coffin is either the man who married Judith Bunker or else he is their son.

Beriah Fitch, son of Jedediah Fitch and Abigail Coffin, married Deborah Gorham.

Richard Russell married Lydia Coffin in 1770. She was the daughter of Tristram Coffin and Jemima Barnard, so was the sister of spinster Miriam.

Abigail Coffin, widow, appears to be the daughter of Josiah Coffin and Elizabeth Coffin. She married Elias Coffin in 1762.

Mary Fitch, daughter of Jedediah Fitch and Abigail Coffin, married Thomas Bailey on 5 June 1727.

I realize that all these families are related by marriage through two or three generations, but I can’t figure out why they are all called heirs of Cromwell Coffin.

At the same time, Cromwell’s daughter, Eunice, had moved to New York, but that doesn’t disinherit her. The same can be said for Caleb Coffin’s children by Deborah Alden. They were also in New York.

I browsed the land deed index for the 1760s. There are several entries from that decade that are of interest because they contain many of the same names.

On 11 February 1765, land was sold by two groups of families. The first set of grantors were the heirs of Eunice Gardner. This Eunice was a Coffin, daughter of Peter Coffin and Abigail Starbuck. She married Ebenezer Gardner. Heirs included Uriah Gardner, Eunice Coffin of Edgartown, Peter Jenkins, Abial Jenkins, Solomon Pinkham and Eunice Pinkham.

The common thread here is that they are children/spouses of children of Peter and Abigail (Starbuck) Coffin.

The second set of grantors in the same deed are heirs of Abigail Fitch. Jedediah Fitch married Abigail Coffin, who turns out to be the sister of Eunice Gardner and therefore another child of Peter Coffin and Abigail Starbuck.

This land obviously must have come down through the family from Peter Coffin, who died in 1699.

The names that are repeated as the heirs of Cromwell Coffin are – at best – first cousins, once removed.

There is no other Cromwell Coffin with whom “my” Cromwell Coffin can be confused and both his widow and daughter Mary Fosdick are correctly named as heirs.

Please tell me – is there an important detail that I’ve overlooked? Under what circumstances would these people all be considered heirs of Cromwell Coffin?

 

 

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