An Examination of the Coffey Families Living in and Around Russell County, Kentucky, in the 1800's.


By:      Fred Coffey (comments may be sent to )

And:    Kevin Coffey


Memo: The note you are now reading is posted at:


The Coffey Cousins Convention 2009 took place in Russell County, Kentucky, on May 1 & 2, 2009. As background for this, and because of our family roots in Russell and adjacent counties, we undertook to examine ALL the Coffey names found in the 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses. We also examined as many abstracts of other early 19th century information as we could find. And we attempted to connect them all to a Coffey Family Genealogy.


This project includes Adair, Casey, Clinton, Cumberland, Green, Pulaski, Russell and Wayne Counties (and their predecessor counties). You can see a map, and see how these county borders have changed over time, if you click on the following. (This is a fairly large file, with graphics, so be patient. It is actually intended to be a notebook cover, should you decide to create a notebook with all the good stuff we are about to reveal.J) (1 page, 640 kb)



Our examination to date suggests that all of the Coffey families in these counties descend from Edward Coffey, who was first found in Virginia in about 1699. And further, they are all believed to all descend from two of Edward's sons - John and Edward Jr. Many genealogists believe John and Edward Jr. were twins.


The genealogy of John's descendants is better known than that for his brother Edward Jr. And three of John's sons, Benjamin*, William and James, are represented with descendants in these counties. Son William is represented by descendants of his son Osborne. And James is represented by descendants of his sons Joel, John, Lewis, and Reuben.


*(Through Benjamin's daughter Jane. Her presence in Kentucky was a late discovery, not yet fully worked into this report.)


Edward Junior is a bit more problematic. We know he existed, but know little about his family. Genealogists have typically believed he had a son Chesley, and that Chesley was the ancestor of another very large group of Coffey Cousins. But it's hard to even find any solid evidence for the existence of this Chesley. Perhaps the men believed to be Chesley's sons are actually the sons of Edward?


I can't resolve that issue here. So I will just adopt the "generally accepted wisdom" of prior genealogists. I will assume Chesley DID exist, and that Chesley's sons included Salathial, Chesley Jr, Nebuzaraden, Martin and Joel. And all of these had some presence or descendants in these counties.



For convenience, we are going to use a shorthand label to summarize the early origins of the people we find. After a couple of quick examples, you'll grasp the concept:


For example, when we say "Ed/EdJr/Che/Sal" we are talking about people who descend from the patriarch Edward, through his son Edward Jr, through his son Chesley, through his son Salathial.


And if we say "Ed/John/Jam/Joel" we are talking about descendants of Edward, through his son John, through his son James, through his son Joel.


And all the names you will encounter in the first four generations are highlighted in the preceding section. Got it?



We're going to bury you in information shortly, but first we'll offer a very short summary document with our findings. Click on the following link. (It is recommended you print this file before continuing reading:) (3 pages)


The first two pages show, by census year and by county, the origins of the people with Coffey names.


The overall population picture is apparent:


The "Ed/EdJr/Che/xxx" families were mostly found in Russell and Adair Counties (Russell was part of Adair until 1826).


The "Ed/John/Jam/xxx" families favored Wayne County.


And the "Ed/John/Wil/xxx" families particularly liked Casey County.


The third page shows the number of "Coffey Cousins" that are found in later census (1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930) – these are years that we have not tried to link to our Genealogy. Also we have shown the various creative ways the census takers or the census indexers have found to screw up the Coffey name!



We created a "book" and shared it at the Convention. A hard copy of that book is now in Bonnie Culley's CCC Library.  You're now invited to print your own copy from the following.  (Or, if the printer load scares you, you can view each of the documents electronically on your computer.)


I would recommend that you click on each of the following links, print the documents, and lay them side-by-side (or insert in a notebook):  (31 pages)   (4 pages)   (5 pages)   (6 pages)   (7 pages)   (8 pages)   (10 pages)   (11 pages)   (12 pages)   (4 pages)   (23 pages)


There are three more files, whch are meant to be combined into a single package:   (21 pages)   (13 pages)   (1 page)


Hey, if you go the notebook route, use the "CoffeyCover" document introduced earlier for your cover. And, if you buy a set of "Avery Ready Index Reference Dividers – 15 Tabs" you can use the following for your index tab labels and for a notebook spine insert. CAUTION: Print a copy on plain paper as a test first, before inserting the actual Avery index sheet into your printer! There may be an alignment problem with the "pdf" file. If it doesn't work, you can recreate within a few minutes by following the instructions that come with the Avery dividers.   (2 pages)


Oh, the discussion you're now reading can be printed and inserted behind the first tab. Excluding this discussion, the total printer load will be over 150 pages! Suggest you buy a notebook that can contain up to 200 pages.




We do NOT claim this volume is correct. I went out and found the biggest "Chesley" genealogy I could find, and then started trimming and modifying it to suit my needs. I have since pulled in genealogies and data from MANY sources, as was needed to find a home for everybody – this included using Jack Coffee's "Chesley Project" and his "Edward Project", both of which can be found at the Coffey Cousins Clearinghouse. But in almost all cases, there is at least SOMEONE out there who as published a genealogy that believes some part of each segment is true!


The left nine columns indicate how some of the people in this genealogy can be found in source documents. I'll discuss each of these shortly.


The next column gives a very brief cryptic reference, such as "132 Ed/EdJr/Che/Sal/Eli". This, at a glance, tells you the person on "Line #132" is believed to descend from Edward Coffey (Ed), through his son Edward Junior (EdJr), through Chesley (Che), through Salethial (Sal), through Eliazar (Eli). THIS NUMBER AND REFERENCE WILL BE EXTENSIVELY USED BELOW TO LINK CENSUS, ETC., TO THIS GENEALOGY TABULATION.


You will soon observe that the first four links, "Ed/EdJr/Che/Sal", are among those introduced in the earlier "Shorthand" discussion.


I said "almost" all cases. I couldn't find ANYBODY who claimed to know where the family of our Coffey Cousins Convention 2009 host Danny K. Coffey came from. His ancestors Jackson and Sidney Coffey are found in the 1850 Russell District 2 census at household #209. I did find one genealogy that linked the people found in houses #209, #210, and #211 to each other. So I used that genealogy, and made a wild guess they were linked somehow to the descendants of "Ed/EdJr/Che/Mar", because of their living proximity to those families and because they used some similar names. Anybody got a more plausible idea?


You'll find this family on pages 19 and 20.


Pages 20 and 21 list several other "Small Genealogies" that I did find, but that I cannot yet link to our "Ed/EdJr/Che" or "Ed/John" families. Look them over. If you've got any ideas for these, let me know!


There is one more scrap of information on the Genealogy sheet. Scan down the list of people, and you will see there are a few living people who are highlighted in yellow. These are the men who are participating in our DNA project. You will see there is a good scattering throughout the genealogy. And all of these people test as being RELATED. (However this likely only proves "Edward", and sheds no light on the "Chesley mystery".)


You can read more about the DNA project at:


Now, note the far left column of the Genealogy pages. This tells you whether the person on this line can be found in the 1810 census, our next discussion item:



If you find someone in the Genealogy who is indicated as being found in the 1810 census, make a note of the name and line number, then turn to the 1810 Census section. You will be able to quickly scan down the "Genealogy Sheet Link" column to the right, and should have no trouble spotting the number and name of the person you are seeking.


This census did NOT give names of spouses and children. We have used information from the Genealogy and other censuses to try to attach names to the head count. Some of the families we think we know fairly well, but there are several with major blanks! Comments from anyone who can help would be most welcome!



This is very similar to the 1810 census, and also has a number of unidentified families. Most obvious problem is that there are FOUR families headed by a "Joel Coffey", containing a total of 35 people, and we get a headache trying to distinguish them! We'll talk a bit more later about this "Joel Puzzle".



The genealogy page gives a cryptic reference, like "R-P6/L10". This simply says that the person on this line can be found in the 1830 census for Russell County on Page 6, Line number 10. This page and line number can be important clues about family relationships. Usually it just records the ORDER in which the census taker visited his houses, but adjacent or close numbers may suggest relatives living close to each other? The above example was found on "Line 10" involving one Eli Coffey, and (at least if you're from my OWN family) you will soon realize that the house two doors down, on "Line 12" is occupied by his oldest son, Willis. And the one between, Fielding Coffey, is a first cousin of Eli.


Again, look to the far right column. This offers a link back to the Genealogy sheet, in the format discussed earlier. So you can easily go back and forth. If this Genealogy link column is blank for a family, it means we have not (yet) been able to figure out the connections for that family. We'll take help from anybody who has an idea!



It's pretty much like the 1830 census.



For 1850, the approach used for links to and from the Genealogy sheet is very similar to that used above. However in 1850 the census collectors finally named EVERY person in the household, so our task was much easier.


The first column shows the census County and District. Russell and Adair each had two districts in the 1850 census. (I'm pretty sure that Russell District 1 is closest to Jamestown, because I know some of the people I see there lived on "Greasy Creek", which runs near Jamestown.)


The second column shows the census Household Number. Note this is not an address, it is simply the order in which the census taker visited the houses. However there is a good chance that if households have nearby numbers, they probably lived near each other. This can sometimes help identify relatives.


The next 14 columns simply show the information collected by the census taker. And the far right column contains some observations we made about connections between the families.


However the penultimate column once again refers to "Genealogy Line# and 1st 5 generations". This tells you where each of these people can be found in the Genealogy.


There are far fewer "unconnected" people in the 1850 census. Many of those that I can't connect are individuals living in the households of other families - it's much harder to identify an individual without seeing the context of parents, siblings and children.



Hey, by now you understand the system. There's not much else to say.



Now there's an interesting new wrinkle in 1870. The slaves have been freed, and there are some 70 people with the Coffey name who are blacks – they would probably be people who had been in a Coffey household in 1860. We don't know enough to research their genealogy.



This census added a neat new feature: It tells us the relationship each person has to the head of the household. Now we have help in figuring out who in the household is a sibling, a step child, a cousin, a daughter-in-law, etc!



Bonnie Culley sent us the list of tombstones and cemeteries in Russell County – this is the list that she is presently publishing in the CCC Newsletters. And there is a similar list of Adair burials, also provided by Bonnie. We've tried to link as many as possible to the Genealogy.



Finally, we've constructed a rough index of all the names included herein.


If you're looking for a specific ancestor, this Index may be helpful in determining of he/she was part of our analysis. And the index shows you where to look in the Genealogy, and shows which census reports might be of interest.


(Here's a statistic that measures our degree of success in connecting the Genealogy to the census reports: There are 1643 names in this index, and we found 918 of them in one or more census reports.)



I (Fred) live near Houston's Clayton Library, which has a large collection of abstracts taken from records in these various counties. Plus I was able to pick up a few additional items from the Russell County Library in Jamestown. I worked through these, and created an additional set of files on "abstracted abstracts", which are now part of this package. That file has its own name index, and you may want to keep them together.


These files try to identify where the people are in the Genealogy discussed earlier. And in that Genealogy you will see a red "A" in the column before the "Line Label & Summary Descent" indicating which names have been found in these abstracts. So you can flip back and forth.


You'll see quite a few blanks in the Abstract column labeled "Genealogy Sheet Link". These Coffey families were keen on naming their kids after each other, and I found it impossible to sort out the roots of all the Coffey people named James, John, Joseph, Martin, Nathan, Nathaniel, Sail, Salathial or William. And especially "Joel".


There's a sheet here titled "The Joel Puzzle". It seems that one generation of presumed brothers each decided they needed a son named "Joel", and these Joel's were all alive at about the same time. Even the tax assessors of the time had a problem. One of these "Joels" they called "red head" or "red", another was "Bogy" (don't know what that meant). There was an "M Bro", a "B" (short for Bogy?), plus a couple of "Sr" and "Jr" references.


Help from anybody who can sort out these names and references would be much appreciated.



Also offered here are selected maps that you may find interesting:


You got a short summary of the historic county boundaries if you printed the cover discussed earlier. However there is a more detailed version at the following: (1 page, 812 kb)


This next one is a bigger picture of the modern counties:  (1 page, 368 kb)


If you are curious how the Coffey name is distributed around America, you might find this next one interesting: (1 page, 336 kb)


And the final two are pretty specific to my own (Fred) family connections, but if you have ancestors who lived on "Greasy Creek" or "Crocus Creek" you might find these topographical maps interesting:  (1 page, 788 kb)  (1 page, 952 kb))



We will probably go no farther forward than the 1880 census, since the lost census of 1890 (it got burned in a fire) leaves a big and awkward gap to bridge. The section on "Statistics", however, does tell you roughly how many "Coffey" people can be found in each later census.


Our primary focus was on households containing someone with the name "Coffey" (including spelling variations). This, of course, overlooks all the females who started out with the Coffey name, but then married and changed their name and moved to a different household. Thus a huge number of people with Coffey ancestry are left out*. It would be possible to track many of these, but the task would be overwhelming and would yield an exponential growth in names. No plans at present.


*(The speaker at the Convention made the point: No matter what your name, if you have Russell County ancestors, you almost certainly have Coffey ancestors. The Coffey families got here early, and were very prolific, and married with every other family.)


Of course, if someone else wants to pick up the pieces and go forwardÉ


We will however make updates and corrections as we discover them, or as other people offer comments.



We did most this on an Excel spreadsheet. I (Fred) will send that source to anyone who wants it. However this spreadsheet is very volatile, and will likely change frequently. What I send you may not be the same as this published web information, and may also be different if you ask again later. (And please don't make changes and then send the spreadsheet back to me – we'll NEVER be able to catch up with your changes if we've moved on - send your comments separately.)


We want and welcome all your comments.


Best wishes,

Fred & Kevin