The “Coffey Cousins Clearinghouse” has access to a very substantial database of information about families with the Coffey or Coffee surname, or those connected to such a family. This web page is intended to offer a roadmap to sources of information. It is not limited to a single genetic family.
Be aware that there are multiple unrelated Coffey-surname families. Some of our sources are specific to a specific family, some try to address the full spectrum of different lines. And be aware there are families with non-Coffey surnames, and that are connected by shared DNA.
You can review this as a discussion document by just scrolling down. As you read, it will offer many hyperlinks to the various sources. If you see a yellow reference, like Newsletters, it is a hyperlink that you can click on to take you to that detailed source. These hyperlinks may be repeated, as necessary, to support subsequent discussion.
As you scroll down, the big headings are meant to introduce discussion topics. Those who have been here before may just want to quickly jump down to a specific topic by clicking on one these. And each will offer to bring you back to this page by clicking on “Back to Home Page”:
Click here on Newsletters to jump to the opening page of this archive. These are a major source of information, and the Coffey Cousins Clearinghouse has been producing and maintaining these since 1981. There are now 167 issues, containing in total more than 2300 pages! Simply click on any issue when you see the opening page, and that issue will pop up on your screen.
Newsletter references are of a format like “111-7,8”. That just means to go to issue #111 and read pages 7 and 8.
There is a powerful search tool, to help you find information in the newsletters. Just click here on Text Search. It calls up a powerful hypertext markup file that lists for you the EXACT issue and page where it found your search string. You can use your computer's "FIND" function to search the text. This is "Ctrl+F" if you run Windows, or "Command+F" if you have a Mac. The search tells you how many references it found and will flag each such reference, and you can press your “return” key to tab through them (e.g., if you search for "Edward" it will tell you that is found that name more than 1000 times in the newsletters. Searching "Coffey County" only appears 10 times. And "Coffee County" shows up with 9 DIFFERENT references.)
There is an older Index covering all of the issues, and there are IndexSearchTips that will help you find issues that address specific names. Note this index has over 28,000 line-entries of data containing over 50,000 total links. An IndexForward tells you the meanings of abbreviations, etc., in the Index.
Bonnie Culley, the long-time editor of the above newsletters and a dedicated Coffey researcher, has been collecting notebooks full of information for ages. She used to bring a great stack of her notebooks to each Coffey Cousins Clearinghouse Convention. Many of those notebooks are now digitized, and you can browse her collection at the BONNIE CULLEY LIBRARY. There are 94 subject files, containing 4547 pages of information.
Bonnie wrote: “The cousins are going to have a good time digging through that stuff. You might remind them that this stuff is old. It is probably full of errors. Most of the cousins didn’t have computers when these genealogies were written. Some are better documented than what we find on Ancestry today though. These people went to the courthouses and libraries.”
(The information below is intended to summarize the Coffey DNA Project. However full detail, with more discussion of several topics, is available at our main web page. If you want maximum detail and discussion, click here, on CoffeyDNAProject.)
NOTE: We have considerable information on the various members of the Coffey DNA Project. I believe this is appropriate, because I believe all of us want to share and discuss our genealogy in order to learn about our ancestral connections. However, there is increasing concern in the world about privacy and data protection. Many agencies, including DNA testing services, are implementing something called GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which effectively gives our participants a “Right to be forgotten”, and to have their data removed. For more information, click here on GDPR.
If you are unfamiliar with DNA testing, I recommend you look at the CCCReview2022 report. This is a presentation that I prepared for the 2022 Coffey Cousins convention. It covers some of the basics, and then moves on to a discussion of geographic Irish origins for many of the various Coffey Surname families and origins. More discussion of the various family lines will follow shortly.
Various details will be discussed in a moment, but the best single image for understanding the scope of the Coffey DNA Project is the GenealogySummary. This summarizes the Coffey Family Lines for each of our y-DNA test subjects, grouped according to which family or sub-family they belong to. You may find it convenient to print out this 8-page document and have it in hand for the following discussions.
The first 3 pages are mostly based on the descendants of Edward Coffey, who appeared in Virginia as an indentured servant in about 1699. Pages 1 & 2 are the descendants of Edward’s son John, and Page 3 are believed to be descendants of Edward’s son Edward Junior. Each line starts shown the tested person on the far left, and then leads back through his male Coffey ancestors (if known) to Edward.
The bottom of Page 3 adds descendants of Peter Coffee, who arrived in the early 1700’s separately from Edward. The DNA has long told us that Peter’s descendants are related to Edward.
Page 4 refers to people with “Edward Connections”. There are several people who acquired the Coffey name from Edward, but not his DNA. And several who have non-Coffey names but have DNA they inherited from Edward.
Page 5 covers the fact that Edward and Peter groups have many y-DNA matches that link back in time to well before Edward or Peter arrived in America. (Our “extended family” includes a dozen non-Coffey names. Scroll down to the section below on “Edward/Peter deep ancestry” for more discussion.
Pages 6 and 7 cover groups that are quite separate from the Edward/Peter lines. They generally have a Coffey surname, but are genetically quite unrelated to Edward. We’ll talk about each of the family groups.
Finally, Page 8 shows mostly people who have not (yet) been found to be connected to any of the preceding major groups.
To repeat, this is a “Big Picture” summary of some things to be discussed below. (If you later want details on the test results, there is also a companion DataSummary available.)
Now let’s expand our discussion about Edward’s descendants. Edward got to America early, and he and his descendants tended to have quite large families. There are huge numbers of Edward descendants in America!
Our greatest source of information comes from Jack Coffee, who created a huge project tracking and reporting on the descendants of Edward. He called it the “Edward Coffey Project”, or “ECP”. He reported, in 2020: “The current edition of The Edward Coffey Project on USB contains 49882 people, 17564 families, 118458 events, 8072 places, 2561 sources, 62091 citations and 14534 multimedia items. It also contains over 20000 other documents and photographs.” Wow!
Jack is now deceased (see the obituary and other information in Newsletters for December 2020).
I have worked with Jack’s son Chris, to make the ECP, and all of Jack’s backup information, directly accessible online. You can click here on ECPACCESS to get in. (You can read the Newsletters (September 2021, Page 12) to see an example search of the ECP.)
Jack refused to be involved with ancestry.com for genealogy, because it includes so much really bad information. I agree with his overall assessment, but find it is worthwhile to sometimes check for what is available there. Don’t ever trust any undocumented information you see there, but you will find that many trees there carefully link to GOOD historical records. It’s just another tool. Also, sometimes just a simple Google search will also turn up something useful.
The Newsletters are of course a major source of information on any Edward Coffey descendant. As noted above, there are good search tools. Probably about 80+% of whatever is reported in the Newsletters is somehow related to the Edward lines.
Recommended Newsletters Reading List: (Issues/pages for articles discussing Edward)
155-2 139-5 116-4 116-8,9 114-15 115-12 118-11 110-13 96-9 63-14 50-12 44-10 40-10
We also have some “odds and ends” of genealogy reports which generally tie back to Edward. One that might be of some interest is the report by myself and Kevin Coffey about the people living in and around RussellCounty, Kentucky, in the 1800’s. We did this for the 2009 Coffey Convention, held in Russell County. This link contains maybe 200 pages of information.
And if anybody is curious, you’re welcome to look at my OWN family tree - FredsTree. Of course, you need to be aware that “Coffey” is just one small branch of my tree, and the casual viewer may quickly get lost in the non-Coffey maze. (The first half-dozen generations of my Coffey ancestors will be widely in common with other Coffeys, and some of you may be interested in what I specifically wrote about Edward, EdwardJr, Chesley, Salathial, Eli, and NewtonEli. (And I would be interested if any others out there have published essays of broad interest, for similar posting here.)
Not enough data? I also undertook to develop a database of every descendant of my 16 Great-Great-Grandparents, who appeared in any census from 1850 through 1940. I found over 600 who could claim descent from the above NewtonEli . And, of course, that excludes those born after 1940! You’re welcome to look at MyBookofCousins! (At some later date I may update to include the 1950 census that is now available!)
A lot of people have problems with some of the earliest generations associated with Edward, and some comments are warranted:
First, you may discover that many genealogies claim to know that the father of Edward was a John Coffey, who came to Virginia in 1637 as an indentured servant. That is WRONG. Researcher Marvin D Coffey in his 1984 book reported going back to original records and showed that this was a miss-reading of the name “Scoffin” or “Coffin” from Virginia land patents. The name was absolutely NOT “Coffey”. NO information naming an ancestor of Edward has EVER been found.
Second, many genealogies claim a “Chesley Coffey” as the ancestor of several early Coffeys:
Chesley Coffey Senior
Joel Coffey (1730? - 1789) and Martha Stepp (Sealey?) (4 y-DNA tests on descendants)
Salathiel Coffey (~1750 – 1784) & Elizabeth Gore (7 y-DNA tests on descendants)
Chesley Coffey Jr. (1755 – 1818) & Margaret Baldwin (2 y-DNA tests on descendants)
Nebuzaraden Coffey (1757 – 1797) & Elizabeth Hayes (3 y-DNA tests on descendants)
Nathan Coffey (1760 – 1823) & Mary Sanders
Martin Coffey (1765 – 1867) & three wives (3? 6? y-DNA tests on descendants)
Jesse Cleveland Coffey(2 y-DNA tests on descendants)
These listed “presumed sons of Chesley” are all documented, although some have significant uncertainties in their details. We do think they are all probably brothers, but that’s not proven. And as shown above we have 20+ y-DNA tests on their various descendants. That DNA absolutely proves they all SOMEHOW descend from Edward.
The “problem” is with Chesley Senior, whom we now doubt ever existed. (In which case the very real brother called “Chesley Coffey Jr.” is not actually a “junior”!)
If you descend from one of these men, you should do some background reading in the Newsletters. The article in issue 97-13,14,15 by Tim Peterman is the best discussion, with article 111-7,8 offering some follow-up. Also, while Jack Coffee and I (Fred Coffey) agreed on the nature of the uncertainty, we often displayed the connections differently. See discussion in article 144-8,9.)
Edward Coffey Jr. was married to Grace Cleveland (who may or may not be the parent of the above), and we have the following identified as the descendants of Edward via Grace Cleveland. A newsletter article in 149-9 discusses DNA testing on one descendant. There are also considerable uncertainties about many of the following, as discussed in Jack Coffee’s Edward Coffey Project (ECP):
Edward Coffey JR. (ca 1701 - aft 1774) & Grace Cleveland (1 Sep 1716 - )
Joel Coffey (ca 1725 - 1760) & Martha Seely
Elizabeth Cleveland (Feb 1727 - BET 1826 AND 1827) & Rev. James Coffey (4 Jul 1729 - 1786)
Cleveland Coffey & Elizabeth
Jesse Cleveland Coffee (bef 1755 - ca 1807) & Nancy Alexander (bef 1765 - ) (2 y-DNA tests on descendants)
Benjamin Coffey (ca 1763 - ) & Leah (ca 1760 - )
I find it almost amazing that we have so much stuff on the Edward line, and relatively little on the Peter line. For some reason, the Edward descendants were super-prolific in populating the country with Coffee/Coffey people.
However, there is considerable “Peter” information in both the newsletters and the DNA Project.
Recommended Newsletters Reading List: (Issues/pages for articles discussing Peter)
Early Peter: 111-10,11 109-9,10 108-15 107-11 42-3
Memo: Jerry Coffee (Peter line) was a prolific writer to these newsletters, and often wrote about descendants of Peter: 124-9 123-8 121-12 120-8 110-11 109-5 103-9 101-5 97-10 95-13 93-18 91-13,14 88-10 82-9,10,11 68-14 46-12,13,14 41-8
DNA: See 163-8,9 for recent updates on Peter group.
There are also several “books” in the BONNIE CULLEY LIBRARY which contain material about Peter. A Peter researcher may want to go there and look specifically at the references BCL069 through BCL074:
DNA tells us that Edward and Peter were related, and in addition tells us that they are connected to the Keogh families (including name variations). There is a recent introductory summary in Newsletters 160-13,14, with extended discussion in 161-7 and 163-8. There is a bigger, and more complicated study at Origins:CoffeyKeoghFamilies. This was just updated in July 2023.
Let’s now talk about families that have a genetic connection to Edward, but in unusual ways. Refer to Page 4 of the GenealogySummary, which shows our best estimate of genealogical connections. Some of the highlights:
The “Samuel” Family Connection: Edward had a daughter, Annister, who had a son out of wedlock in 1735, and whom she named "James Coffey". DNA tests showed that James was likely fathered by one James Samuel, born 14 Jun 1690, died 16 May 1759. We offer a paper about JamesCoffee/y. And we have been exploring the complicated descent from Annister in recent newsletter articles. (You might try doing a newsletter Text Search with the HTM tool looking for newsletter articles about “Annister”.)
Recommended Newsletters Reading List: (Issues/pages for articles discussing Annister)
116-3 109-11,12,13,14 105-12 40-10,11,12,13,14
Annister later married Stephen Chenault. There’s quite a lot of discussion in this ChenaultConnection link.
The “Taliaferro” Family Connection: Here's a similar case, also previously suspected: Jane Coffey (1760, VA) was a great-granddaughter of Edward. Jane passed on her Coffey name to son Jordon, but of course not the y-DNA. We now know the father was a "Taliaferro", based on DNA tests and on the presence of Taliaferro men in the same county where Jordon was born. The Taliaferro's know their genealogy. They have Italian roots. Their ancestor arrived in America before the Coffeys, and the family members were often close associates of the Coffey families. And guess what else is interesting: The DNA of the Taliaferros, and of the matching Coffeys, is Haplogroup "E1", which says they are of NORTH AFRICAN origin. How would an Italian get North African y-DNA? Hey, remember your history lesson, where Hannibal came from Africa and led his army across the Alps to invade Rome? His army stayed for 15 years.
The “Estes” Family Connection: Lucinda Coffey (born about 1830-35, NC) may offer a story similar to Jane. She is a GGG granddaughter of Edward. The parentage of her son Jasper Pink Coffey has long been subject to question. And the DNA test on Jasper's GGG grandson, Ben, indeed came back "no match" to the Coffey DNA. Ben then decided to upgrade to "67-markers", to see what would turn up - and the result came back with a large number of excellent matches to the "Estes" family! Further, census data showed there were MANY Estes families living in Johns River, Caldwell County, NC, as neighbors to Lucinda and her father, Enoch. And Ben now even has a prime suspect, one "Joseph Estes" who lived next door.
The “Berry” Family Connection: And next, William Coffee Berry (1796, NC), and his sister named Mary Coffee Berry, are firmly believed by genealogists to be the children of Rice Coffee (a great-grandson of Edward), via a relationship with Elizabeth (Fields) Berry, who at the time was married to Bradley Berry (or was his widow, accounts vary). This was apparently an open secret. The genealogy is supported by William's middle name "Coffee", by reported recognition in Rice's will, and by an autobiography written by William himself. Anyway, the living descendants’ surnames are "Berry", but as expected the y-DNA was "Coffey". For extended discussion, see Newsletters issue 70, pages 11-15.
The “Adams” Family Connection: And then there is an "Adams" connection. This dates back to 1888 in Wilkes County, NC, when Charles Robert Burke/Adams was born. (His mother originally gave him her surname of "Burke", but in later years he changed it to his stepfather's name of "Adams".) The family had been searching for the identity of his birth father, and the DNA clearly says "Coffey" from the Edward Group.
The “Wilson” Family Connection: For many years, we had known there was a y-DNA match to Edward involving a “Wilson”, but we thought it had to be back in Ireland. Not so! It’s a complicated story, so call up Newsletters issue 142, pages 8 & 9.
The “Jackson” Group: This involves an adoption, and it is still under study. The GenealogySummary, shows this is the shortest known genealogy (one person). And it has generated the longest discussion article in the history of our newsletters. The story is beginning to sort out, but is still incomplete. For a fascinating discussion with lots of twists and turns, read Newsletters issue 148, pages 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14.
The “Boone” Family Connection: And next, there is a Boone Family connection, but the details are still elusive. This involves a line of Boones that descend from the family of Israel Boone (the elder brother of the famous Daniel Boone). The Coffey and Israel Boone families were neighbors in North Carolina, and one Boone line acquired Coffey y-DNA. For an extended discussion, see Newsletters issue 152-5,6,7,8,9.
The “Holt” Family Connection: And we find a Holt Family connection - - or actually two of them. First, we found a person named Holt who tested an excellent match to the Edward group. Then, in the process of exchanging notes with that person, we found ANOTHER researcher had documented a Holt/Coffey family connection, but it proved to NOT be connected to the first tested Holt family. Then we found someone from the second line to test. Both had Coffey DNA. If you want the LONG version of this story, along with speculation and clues, click here on HoltConnections.
The “Hickman” Family Connection: This involves a “Hickman” family that starts with a J. Taylor Hickman family that is found in Wayne County, KY in 1830. The family then moves to Morgan County, IN. Both of these locations have large numbers of Coffey families living in the same vicinity – we can document more than 100 “Coffey Cousins” who live in the combined areas, leaving many opportunities for Coffey + Hickman relationships. For more discussion, see Newsletters Issue 143, pages 13 and 14.
The ”West” Family Connection: This involves an adoption, with only two generations known. For more discussion, see Newsletters Issue 147, pages 9 and 10.
The “Mills Group”: (This group is actually on Page 4 of the genealogical summary; but it is connected to Edward.) It refers to descendants of Lilburn Coffee. who is an ancestor of Jack Coffee, the owner of the Edward Coffey Project. Jack explains his connection via a “Personal Comment” in Newsletters Issue 131, pages 14 and 15. There is additional discussion of Jack’s connections in issue #157.
As noted, there are several large groups of “Coffey Surname” families described on pages 6 and 7 of the GenealogySummary. And each group is quite unrelated to any other Coffey family.
One of these groups is for descendants of HughCoffey. The autosomal analysis is the HughCoffeyProject, which is managed by Terri Stern, contact HughCoffeyProject@gmail.com. Terri also coordinates a HughCoffeyWikitree page. We recently had a breakthrough on the Hugh line and believe Hugh came from the Ards Peninsula in Northern Ireland. See Newsletters
Recommended Newsletters Reading List: (Issues/pages for articles discussing Autosomal DNA)
143-18 141-10,11,12,13,14 152-10
There are also several “books” in the BONNIE CULLEY LIBRARY which contain material about Hugh. A Hugh Coffey researcher may want to go there and look specifically at the references BCL035 through BCL037.
So far, we’ve been talking about various Coffee/Coffey groups who have a very long presence in America, going back to the early 1700’s -- the Edward, Peter and Hugh lines. There is now one more that was recently discovered, which I have started calling the “Maryland Coffee/ey Group”. The American patriarch of the group, named John Coffee, arrived before 1727 and settled in Frederick, Maryland. And they are quite unrelated to any of the groups discussed above.
There is extensive discussion of this group in Newsletters Issue 157-8.
Terri Stern, HughCoffeyProject@gmail.com has created a "Coffey Cousins Clearinghouse" Facebook Group for anyone who has a Coffee, Coffey, or similar surname or is researching their ancestors with these names.
Above, we have discussed some groups with a long presence in America. As noted, there are several other large groups of “Coffey Surname” families described on pages 6 and 7 of the GenealogySummary. I’ll discuss these in the context of their origin in Ireland – although they each have various descendants living in America. Each group is quite unrelated to any other Coffey family. Here are the highlights:
THE TIPPERARY/KILKENNY GROUP:
This Tipperary/KilkennyGroup actually involves three separate Coffey-line families, with complicated Coffey and non-Coffey connections.
THE MUNSTER GROUP:
The MunsterGroup relates to an ancient region of southwest Ireland, which included what are now the modern Counties Kerry and Cork. DNA says they are quite unrelated to any of our other groups. There is evidence that this may be the most ancient Coffey Clan in Ireland. Discussion and links to ancient genealogy is covered in the discussion of EdmundCoffey and his ancestors and descendants. (Before DNA testing proved me wrong, I was really hoping that our Edward Coffey would prove to be connected to this ancient clan!)
THE MEATH/WESTMEATH/ROSCOMMON GROUP:
I often call this the CountyMeath group, but it actually refers to three relatively distinct groups that are clearly related, but somewhat distinct in their DNA differences. I suspect this also reflects a really ancient Coffey Clan, that has been in the same general area long enough to evolve in different directions. In this, Group A includes Ambrose Coffey descendants. Ambrose has long been known to Coffey genealogists as an Irish immigrant who became moderately famous by fighting with Daniel Boone. By the way, there is also an “Ambrose” who descends from Edward. DNA says they are QUITE unrelated to each other.
THE “UNGROUPED” GROUP:
We have a significant number of DNA-tested men, who have not shown matches to any of our major groups. We continue to watch for any significant matches to show up.
By the way, one of the tested people here is Larry Coffey, who has served as the President of the Coffey Cousins Clearinghouse. Larry descends from John Coffey, who arrived from Ireland between 1850-53, and settled in Lawrence, Mercer County, NJ. Hang on, Larry, we’re still looking for your cousins to show up!
One of these “Ungrouped” tests is for Brian Coffey, who so far has no y-DNA matches. But he is of special interest because he descends from an ancestor George Raymond Coffey, who claimed to be from Scotland. But the Coffeys are Irish! After study, I agree he came from Scotland, but he was likely born in the vicinity of County Down, Northern Ireland. Read the article in Newsletters page 139-10, with a partial update in 161-6.
I am interested in all families with the Coffey or Coffee surname, even if their genealogical or genetic connection is unknown. And of possible interest are black families that descend from Coffey slave masters, who adopted the Coffey surname.
Read the article in Newsletters pages 146-9,10.
I am interested in all families with the Coffey or Coffee surname, even if their connection to other families with that name is unusual or nonexistent. And believe it or not, the name Coffey or Coffee may apply to descendants of Jewish immigrants from Poland.
Read the story in Newsletters issue 148-21.
I have a couple of “tools” that I use when I’m looking at large numbers of “Coffey Cousins”, such as when I’m trying to sort out multiple family lines and answer questions. Most readers may not see the value in complicated research over so many multiple families. But for anyone with an interest, I am prepared to share these tools:
Two of the tools are Excel spreadsheets. And there are some awkward complications in trying to download spreadsheets. Therefore, I will just “advertise” what I have. And I will transmit either or both spreadsheets to anyone who simply asks and gives me their email address:
“CoffeyCensusKY.xlsx” (file size 2.3 MB) summarizes and accesses 7000 Coffey-related census records for Russell County Kentucky, and the surrounding counties, for every census year from 1810 through 1950. It’s an easy way to follow people or families through census records year by year. And (provided you have access to Ancestry.com) you can click on any name, and it will pull up the actual complete census report. And maybe offer suggestions for other sources to explore.
“ECPSourcesList.xlsx” (file size 4.1 MB) is a tabulation of the 33,000 references that Jack Coffee cites in his Edward Coffey Project (ECP). Why is this useful? If you start using the ECP, you will see that each page offers many “Source References” that offer supporting details. You can click on any such reference number, and the ECP will call up the reference citation. But be aware the system is overburdened by the sheer volume of Jack’s 33,000 references, and you will have to very patient while it seeks the one you want.
This “ECP Source List” spreadsheet can find the reference you want within a couple of seconds. Then you can copy the reference text and paste it into your own work. And it can search across the full text of all the references looking for repeated entries. Like you might search for all “Ohio County Marriages” if that’s a special topic of interest.
I do offer two useful sources of information that you CAN get for free simply by clicking on the following links: MarvinCoffeyVol2.pdf: and MarvinCoffeySupplement.pdf are the full text of two of Marvin Coffey’s books. You can ask your computer to search within the text of either document for any word or phrase, and then allow you to copy the references you find and post the information into your own documents.