Tag Archives: Joseph Coleman

A Bit More Mystery: Joseph Coleman & Eunice Coffin

That’s me – a dog with a bone! And I can’t let it go!! It’s funny how research can sometimes take you down a completely unexpected path. While piecing together the Coffin families, new information about my Joseph Coleman emerged.

Joseph Coleman married Eunice Coffin, daughter of Cromwell Coffin and Ruth Coffin from last week’s mystery deed.

The lives of Joseph and Eunice (Coffin) were quite straightforward up to 1775. Joseph Coleman was a Nantucket, Massachusetts mariner, likely a whaler, who traveled far and wide – I mean really far to Africa – and was gone from home for long periods of time.

Joseph Coleman was born 30 September 1739. Eunice Coffin was born 18 July 1742. They were born in, married on 24 January 1760, and raised their children together in Nantucket.

At least they did until 1775, when the Nantucket vital records list Joseph’s death from yellow fever.

Source: American Ancestors

The Massachusetts vital records series do give source citations, at least generally. This entry is marked P.R. 38 and P.R. 63, which means Private Record. P.R. 63 is the William C. Folger collection, which in 1910 when this book was published, was housed at the Nantucket Historical Association. It also notes P.R. 63, which corresponds to:

Source: American Ancestors

I’ve spent countless hours trying to locate this manuscript, but I haven’t found any place that claims it in its collection today.

Between the two records, Joseph’s death date is given as 17 April 1775, assuming that April is the fourth month and not July. It’s difficult to tell; no annotations have been made in the record itself.

While in the morass of Coffin deeds, I came across two deeds recorded by Joseph Coleman and Eunice Coffin. Both piqued my interest because of the dates.

Coleman Deed on the Right
Source: FamilySearch

The sale isn’t of any interest, but the date certainly is:

Joseph and Eunice Coleman both personally appeared on 17 April 1775 and the deed was recorded on 24 April 1775!

Joseph may well have died of yellow fever in 1775, but not on 17 April. It looks like I’d be safe saying Joseph died AFTER 17 April 1775, based on the deed date, yes?

Take a look at the second land deed I found for Joseph and Eunice.

Coleman Deed on the Right

This time, Joseph Coleman and wife Eunice, along with Timothy Coleman and wife Mary, are selling land that was part of the estate of their deceased father, Joseph Coleman.

So far, so good here, too, as Joseph and Timothy were sons of Joseph Coleman.

Look at the date, which is problematic for two reasons:

Either the clerk lied when he said “the above named Joseph Coleman & Wife personally Appeared before me. . . .on June Second 1788 or Joseph Coleman didn’t die of yellow fever off the coast of Guinea in 1775 or maybe ever!

Somehow, I don’t think the clerk made up a date, as he also noted the appearance of Timothy and Mary Coleman on 21 March 1789.

The second problem is that Eunice reportedly removed to Orange County, New York with her cousin, Benjamin Coffin, and other friends and relatives no later than 1781, when Joseph’s and Eunice’s daughter, Tamar, married Daniel Birdsall on 7 February 1781 in New Windsor, Orange, New York.

Eunice is last mentioned in 1799 in the will of her cousin, Benjamin Coffin, who died in Orange County, New York, and called her the widow Coleman.

There is no doubt that Eunice and her children removed to Orange County, New York, as there are documents that support their life in that locale.

Until I found this 1788 land deed, I had no evidence that Joseph Coleman ever left Massachusetts unless he went to sea, and, what occupation would a mariner follow in landlocked Newburgh, New York?

It is for certain that Joseph Coleman died before April 1791, as both the probate court in Nantucket and the court in Ulster County, New York (which borders Orange County) note Eunice Coleman as administratrix of the estate of Joseph Coleman, deceased.

These records beg the question then – exactly when and where did Joseph Coleman die?

Phew! I thought I was pretty much finished with researching that one Coleman family.  I need to take a step back and re-examine all of the records I’ve now accumulated about the family of Joseph and Eunice Coleman. Until today, I thought they were a stable family, having lived in Nantucket for generations, and life didn’t really change until Eunice was widowed in 1775 and chose to move the family to Newburgh, New York. That decision was one made by many Nantucket families, as they felt like they were sitting ducks, living on the war front and on an island no less,  during the Revolution.

More on this family is coming up soon.



New Year’s Gift – Joseph Coleman of Nantucket and 18th Century Records

Joseph Coleman has been a big stumbling block in my family tree for a number of years. I have made progress piecing this family together and have written three posts about my travails – Did I Find a Family for Joseph Coleman,   Delving into 18th Century Original Sources, Part 1 and Delving into 18th Century Original Sources, Part 2.

Through preponderance of evidence, I am satisfied that my Joseph Coleman, born in Massachusetts c1768-1772 and died in Bowdoinham, Maine on 15 April 1852 is the son of Joseph Coleman and Eunice Coffin of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Joseph Coleman was born c1704 and died the 10th day, 11th month of 1756 in Nantucket. He married Rachel Norton, born c1707, about 1729. she died 16th day, 10th month of 1767, also in Nantucket. The Norton family is described in Nantucket records as being “of the Vineyard.”

Joseph and Rachel (Norton) Coleman had eight children:

  1. Lydia, born 28 July 1730; died 25th day, 8th month, 1800; married Jonathan Upham, 4 December 1746, Nantucket.
  2. Abigail, born 15 February 1731/32; died 20 November 1812, Nantucket; married William Wyer, intentions filed on 18 January 1755 in Nantucket.
  3. Ebenezer, born 20 September 1734; died 6th day, 7th month of 1794, Nantucket; married (1) Mary Gardner, intentions filed 29 January 1757 (2) Lydia (Pinkham) Long, 28 November 1780, all in Nantucket.
  4. Deborah, born 23 November 1736; died 16th day, 10th month of 1758; married Isaac Myrick, 19 December 1756, all in Nantucket.
  5. Joseph, born 30September 1739; died 21 April 1775, at sea; married Eunice Coffin, 24 January 1760.
  6. Timothy, born 13 May 1742; died 1st day, 6th month of 1795; married Mary Bunker, 17 February 1763, all in Nantucket.
  7. Phebe, born 20 April 1745; died 14 November 1826; married Francis Worth, intentions filed 1 December 1764, all in Nantucket.
  8. Christopher, born 2 April 1748; died young

The three linked posts above trace my research, but I still had some loose ends. The biggest one was the probate trail from Nantucket to Orange County, New York. The Nantucket court allowed the option for widow Eunice Coleman to have Joseph’s estate administered either in Massachusetts or New York, but I couldn’t find evidence of it having happened in either place.

Then my New Year’s gift arrived! MyHeritage sent me a hint that connected to the FamilySearch Family Tree. I don’t post anything on that tree because it is riddled with errors and anyone can change information whether it is correct or not, but I do check there regularly for hints.

A memory was attached to Joseph Coleman, who had a death date of 1791 in Orange County, New York. Aside from the fact that he died in 1775, this is my man!

The reason I couldn’t find Joseph’s probate administration is because it was filed next door to Orange County in Ulster County, New York! I know that FamilySearch has digitized images for New York probate records. From this printed page, I knew that his packet was in Box 7.

I found 9 pages in the file. Although his heirs are not named, with the exception of widow Eunice who was the estate administrator, it was very helpful in documenting that this Joseph is Joseph of Nantucket.

The pages were a bit of a mess and because the microfilmer didn’t lift each page separately to film so there are overlaps.

It is much easier just to refer to the printed page from the book. What I noticed immediately, though, is that many of the names on the debtor/creditor list are Nantucket names, e.g. Gardner, Coddington, Coffin, Folger, Coggeshall.

In addition to those names, two other familiar names are on the list. Jon. Upham (Jonathan) on the list was the husband of Lydia Coleman (born 28 July 1730) so was Joseph’s brother-in-law. The Uphams also lived and died in Nantucket. William Wyre married Abigail Coleman (born 15 Feb 1731/2), Joseph’s sister, also in Nantucket, so another brother-in-law. Finally, Francis Worth is on the creditor list – he married Joseph’s sister, Phebe. I’ve no doubt that if I investigated more names on the list, they will belong to Nantucket residents.


Delving into Original 18th Century Sources, Part 2

Yesterday, I presented the idea of searching for original 18th century records to look for further clues about the family of Joseph and Eunice (Coffin) Coleman, who lived in Nantucket, Massachusetts in the 1700s.

The sources cited in the Nantucket vital record book were linked to the baptism of three of the Coleman children, Tamar, Elizabeth and Jennette, and to the death of Joseph Coleman, who died of yellow fever in 1775 off the coats of Guinea.


PR38 PR63

The first pertinent record, C.R. 3, states that the baptisms were entered in the books of the First Methodist Episcopal Church.

The other two records noted the death of Joseph, found first in the William C. Folger records, in the possession of the Nantucket Historical Association and in the Hon. Isaac Coffin records, in the possession of the Nantucket Atheneum.

It is important to note here that those repositories held the records as of 1925, when the Nantucket vital records book was published.

My first step, then was to verify that the records were indeed in those places. Both the Atheneum and the Historical Association exist today. I checked WorldCat for the First Methodist Episcopal Church records and this entry appeared:

Note the bottom left corner!
“Sorry, no libraries with the specified items were found.”

This is not a good start. Next, I phoned the Nantucket Historical Association, but left a message, which was returned the next morning. I spoke with a reference librarian, who had already begun to research my request. She told me that the First Methodist Episcopal Church wasn’t established on Nantucket Island until 1796, when the first minister arrived there. I asked about the possibility that earlier records had been lost, but she said she could find absolutely no reference to that church denomination until 1796. That is a full 21 years AFTER the Coleman children were baptized. Hmmm.

Obviously, something is wrong here. The most logical explanation would be that there was a typographical mistake when the book was published and the source was not C.R. 3. That means the children were baptized either at one of the Congregational Churches or the Society of Friends and since the Quakers don’t practice baptism, that leaves either the North or South Congregational Church.

The next step is to try to locate those records, but if you noticed the WorldCat entry description, the First Congregational Church records were included with the First Methodist Episcopal Church in the Church Records Collection:

Churches on Nantucket Collection, 1761-1986

Next step is to see if the Nantucket Historical Association has that set of church records.

However, the William C. Folger collection is, indeed, still housed at the Nantucket Historical Association and archivist Elizabeth Oldham was kind enough to track down the entry about Joseph Coleman’s death:


1739 (born)  – Joseph Coleman died of yellow fever


Entry listing the wife, children and spouses of
Joseph Coleman

The problem here is that no sources are given for this entry, which matches the information in the NHA database online. I have no doubts that the family removed to Newburgh, Orange County, New York and I located marriage records for Tamar, Janette, Mary Ann (Polly) and Elizabeth. However, I have no primary proof of the names of Polly, Eunice and Joseph Jr. I suspect that they might be named in the papers of  Isaac Coffin, Judge of Probate.

I am not at all sure that my Joseph married a Polly. You see, there was an unrelated (as far as I can tell) Joseph Coleman living in Orange County by the 1760s and he had a son, Joseph, born about 1774, close in age to my Joseph and I can’t find a marriage record in Orange County for any Joseph Coleman in the 1790s. It appears that this Joseph Coleman and others in Orange County at the time were descended from William Coleman who settled in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

I also googled Isaac Coffin to locate where his papers might be. The Atheneum didn’t appear to include them in their collection. It looks like the Isaac S. Coffin papers, 1820-1866, at the Peabody-Essex Museum might be the papers I am looking for, but correspondence from them indicated that they did NOT have this manuscript.

Considering that New England research is so “easy,” this has taken a lot of hours and days. These two posts cover 48 hours, but I have worked on and off for three months just to get this far!

However, I am not yet out of options, as a reasonably exhaustive search to me means leave no stone unturned. There are two remaining “stones” to be turned – the Nantucket Town Clerk and the Nantucket Probate Clerk (even though a search of probate records on microfilm in Salt Lake City yielded no estate administration for Joseph Coleman.)

The first phone call went to the Town Clerk, hoping that maybe that office might have some record, but nothing was located there.

My last hope was the Nantucket Probate Clerk, Susan D. Beamish. Register, who made my day! She discovered a one page probate administration entry for widow Eunice Coleman, who had already removed with her cousin, Benjamin Coffin, and her children to Orange County, New York!

It’s not the manuscript of the Hon. Isaac Coffin, Judge of Probate, but it’s even better because it is the ORIGINAL record!

Joseph Coleman Probate Administration, 1791

Unfortunately, this one page document only mentions widow Eunice Coleman, her deceased husband, Joseph Coleman, mariner, and the fact that she resides in New York. She was given the option to present an accounting either to the court in New York (Orange County) or to the Nantucket Probate Court between April and October of 1791.

I have no idea why it took so long for her to file for letters of administration, when Joseph died in 1775. I could understand if she filed at the close of the Revolution, but that was in 1783. I wonder if son Joseph, turning 21 about that time, had anything to do with the timing?