Tag Archives: Nantucket Historical Association

Did I Find a Family for Joseph Coleman?

To continue from yesterday’s post, after Joseph Coleman died in 1775, Eunice Coleman and her family removed to Newburgh, Orange County, New York probably at the same time as her cousin, Benjamin Coffin sometime before 1790, when he appears in the census there.

To have a starting point, I need to assume that the data found at the Nantucket Historical Association is correct. That would produce the following family configuration:

Joseph Coleman married Eunice Coffin, 24 Jan 1760 in Nantucket. Joseph died in 1775. Eunice died after 9 Mar 1799 when Benjamin left her a legacy in his will. She was “widow Eunice Coleman” at that time so she apparently never remarried.


1. Tamar, baptized 1773

2. Elizabeth, baptized 1773

3. Jennette, baptized 1773

4. Eunice – unmarried, per NHA database

5. Joseph – possibly married a Polly, per NHA database

6. Mary Ann. Since there are no birth records for these children, for the time being, I am also going to assume that Mary Ann is the same child as Polly.

From the few records found in Orange County, NY:

Adolphus Van Duzer married Unice Coleman, 25 Sept 1783, but there is no documentation found, other than the record of marriage, for Eunice. Eunice is not nearly as common a name as Mary or Elizabeth, but it is too soon to say if this Eunice is the daughter of my family or an unrelated woman. As Eunice was probably born in the early 1760’s, 1783 would be a good fit for a first marriage for her.

Isaac Belknap married Elizabeth Coleman, 31 Jan 1786 at New Windsor Presbyterian Church. There is a gravestone for her giving 9 Jan 1816 as her date of death and her age as 47 years, 4 months and 10 days, giving an approximate date of birth as 29 Aug 1768.

Daniel Birdsall married Tamar Coleman, 7 Feb 1781 at New Windsor Presbyterian Church. As her father had died and they were apparently living with and/or depending on Benjamin Coffin, she may well have been only about 18 or 19 when she married. That would put her birth about 1762 or 1763. She may have been the first born child. Tamar also may have died before 9 Mar 1799 when Daniel Birdsall and Elizabeth Birdsall witnessed the will of Benjamin Coffin.

Chauncey Griswold married Mary Ann/Polly Coleman, 9 Feb 1795, also at the New Windsor Presbyterian Church. Assuming this was Mary Ann’s first marriage, and she was also young, she was likely born about 1774-1776 and the last child of Joseph and Eunice.

Jennet reportedly married Henry Watson, which I found on the NHA database, but no date was given and I have not found any information on this couple or even on a Henry Watson in the Orange County area post-Revolution.

Joseph‘s birth year, calculated from the age he gave on the 1850 census would have been 1772. In my experience, when someone’s age wasn’t known for certain and they passed away, their ages at death often had years added on to what their true age was. So, again assuming, let’s say that Joseph knew his date of birth and he was born about 1772. The NHA database said he possibly married Polly?, but no further information was given.

Based on the little evidence found so far, a possible birth order might be:

1. Tamar, about 1762

2. Eunice, about 1764

3. Jennet, about 1766

4. Elizabeth, about 1768

5. Joseph, about 1772

6. Mary Ann/Polly, about 1774

As a side commentary, there is little room for births after the December 1773 baptisms  of Tamar, Elizabeth and Jennet and their father’s death at sea on 17 Apr 1775. Then why aren’t Joseph and Eunice included in the baptismal record? I have no idea!

A preliminary search in Orange County for more information on mother Eunice, her cousin Benjamin Coffin and son Joseph Coleman produced little. Absolutely nothing was found for son Joseph Coleman, yet the NHA had the name of a possible wife for him, indicating they must have had some evidence that he lived to adulthood. This Joseph probably then removed from the area.

Eunice Coleman was found in only one record – the 9 Mar 1799 will of her cousin Benjamin Coffin, where he left her a legacy. His will was probated on 19 April 1802 so Benjamin likely died earlier that year.

The last clue that I have tying my Joseph Coleman to the families in Orange County is an Isaac Belknap, a cousin of his possible brother-in-law, listed in the 1790 census of Roxbury, Massachusetts. Like the Coffins, the Belknaps had deep ties to Massachusetts and some were mariners.

Could this be the explanation of how Joseph came to be the only Coleman in Roxbury when he married Ruth Spurr there in 1793?

I have no proof-positive answer right now, but when I visit the Family Search Library in Salt Lake City in December, I will be scouring every record I can find to support my belief that Joseph Coleman of Bowdoinham and Richmond, Maine was the son of Joseph Coleman and Eunice Coffin of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Not a single puzzle piece has yet been found to disprove this theory.


A New England Brick Wall – Joseph Coleman

My grandmother Hazel’s Coleman family seemed to me to be an easy line to research, given that they lived in New England. I had an easy time working my way backward:

Hazel Ethel Coleman, born 7 Feb 1901, Calais, Maine

Hartwell Thomas Coleman, born 27 Dec 1869, Calais, Maine

William Coleman, born 10 June 1834, Nelson, Northumberland, New Brunswick, Canada

Thomas Coleman, born 23 Jan 1800, Richmond, Sagadahoc, Maine

Joseph Coleman/Colman, born between 1768-1772, Massachusetts, with his age on the 1850 census putting his birth about 1772, but a note from the Bowdoinham, Maine town clerk saying that his gravestone gave his age as 84 years and one month when he died on 15 Apr 1852. At least I had a birth month of March and noted that he was the husband of Hannah (second wife.)

I also found Joseph’s marriage record to his first wife, Ruth Spurr/Spur in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1793:

Three land deeds in what was then Lincoln County, Maine (and now Sagadahoc County) proved the migration of Joseph and Ruth Coleman from the Boston area to southern Maine shortly after their marriage.

I spent years searching the Suffolk County, Massachusetts and Lincoln County, Maine areas for clues to Joseph’s parents and possible siblings and came up with nothing. I read court minutes, land deeds, census records, church records, anything I could find. One by one, I eliminated every Colman/Coleman family I came across and I was out of options. Joseph must have been dropped off in Massachusetts by martians.

Every so often, I looked again at my Joseph Coleman brick wall. During one of these return visits, I happened to chat with a gentleman on the phone at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. We talked about all the items I had researched with no success. I had a time frame for Joseph’s birth – probably in March and likely between 1768-1772. I also knew from my years of Coleman hunting that Joseph was an uncommon given name in that time period in the families that I had found EXCEPT for Colemans found in the Nantucket area, most of whom appeared to be descended from Thomas Coleman, resident there from about 1660 until he died in 1682.

That’s when I learned about the Nantucket Historical Association. I wrote just the other day about overlooked gems, including local historical associations.  If you have Nantucket roots, the website for the Nantucket Historical Association is a must-visit site. They have been in the midst of building an on-line searchable database of early Nantucket families. I clicked on “Search Collections” and then “Genealogical Information” at the top right.

Then, I chose “Search Our Online Barney Genealogical Record.”

Up came a Surname Index, so I scrolled down until I found “Coleman.”


One of the Coleman men who was listed was “Joseph Coleman, Jun., born 1739, died 1775.” He was married to Eunice Coffin, with a family of seven children – six daughters and one son, Joseph Jun. Joseph was a seafarer and the record notes that he died of yellow fever off the coast of Guinea.

Here was a new Coleman. He was even named Joseph and was the right age to be the father of my Joseph. I was used to finding heads of Coleman families by now so I followed my usual pattern – what could I find to eliminate this prospect as the father of “my” Joseph?

Delving further into Nantucket records, a marriage date popped up. This Joseph Coleman married Eunice Coffin in Nantucket on 24 Jan 1760. I could not find birth records for their children, but did find that Elizabeth, Tamar,  and Jennet, children of Joseph and Eunice Coleman, were all baptized on 19 Dec 1773. The NHA database also attributed Polly, Joseph, Eunice, and Mary Ann to this couple and noted that this family MOVED to Newburgh, New York.

Something had to be wrong here, because I couldn’t find any obvious way to strike this family off my list of possibilities! Hmmm. Parents are the right age, father died when children were small and this Joseph only had sisters. This could definitely explain why I never found any apparent familial ties in the few written records that Joseph left behind. If he married Ruth Spurr in Roxbury, Massachusetts, how did he end up there if he was part of the family that moved to Newburgh, New York?

More digging was needed so I will continue with Part 2 in the next post.