Monday, April 10, 2017

Reasonably Exhaustive Search- Jacob Coffman

Jacob Coffman was a contemporary of the parents of Abraham Lincoln.
Jacob Coffman and Thomas Lincoln were married in Washington County, Kentucky in 1805 and 1806, respectively.

Despite a busy week, I have managed to maintain my focus on the "reasonably exhaustive search" for records pertaining to Jacob Coffman, my frontiersman ancestor who lived from 1780-1852.  After reviewing the Clayton Library catalog for Washington County, Kentucky, I found that my favorite branch of the Houston Library system had a long list of titles related to the early history of the county.

Washington County, Kentucky was established in 1792 becoming the first new county to be created by the Assembly of the State of Kentucky.  Jacob Coffman was married in Washington County in 1805 and left the county for Illinois in 1818.  My research goal was to find records that would document the presence of Jacob Coffman in Washington County, Kentucky. I gathered 16 books from the Washington County shelf at the Clayton Library on Saturday. On the list of titles for the county were several books written by Faye Sea Sanders including the following:
  • Sanders, Fay Sea. 1995. Washington County, Kentucky marriages, 1792-1825. Louisville, Ky. (311 Sage Rd., Louisville 40207): F.S. Sanders.
  • Sanders, Faye Sea. 1991. Washington County, Kentucky deed abstracts. Louisville, Ky. (311 Sage Rd., Louisville 40207): F.S. Sanders. V. 1 1792-1803; V. 21803-1811; V.3 1811-1814; V.4 1814-1818
  • Sanders, Faye Sea. 1987. Washington County, Kentucky wills, 1792-1853. Louisville, Ky. (311 Sage Rd., Louisville 20207): F.S. Sanders.
In addition there was a list of taxpayers from 1792-1799 that looked like it might hold some promise.
  • T.L.C. Genealogy (Organization). 1992. Washington County, Kentucky, taxpayers, 1792-1799. Miami Beach, FL: T.L.C. Genealogy.
The only mentions of Jacob Coffman in the books available at Clayton Library were the following:
  • 1805 marriage to Arey Fowler with permission from her father, Thomas Fowler
  • 1810 census showing Jacob Coffman as head of household and tick marks for family members which appear to match the known genders and ages
  • 1815 Deed Book E, Page 55; Dated 30 August 1815; Indenture between Stephen LEE of Claiborne Co., Tennessee & Archibald DOROTHY of Washington County conveying for $1.00, 150 acres in Washington County on Chaplin Fork adjoining Glens Creek and Plum Run. Signed: Archibald DOROTHY; Witnesses: Robert DOROTHY and Jacob COFFMAN
Another source by Ms. Sanders provides an interesting tidbit about Jacob Coffman's father-in-law, Thomas Fowler.
  • Sanders, Faye Sea. 1996. Washington County, Ky. court order book. Louisville, Ky: F.S. Sanders.
On page 49 of the above book, Ms. Sanders transcribed as follows: "Ordered that William BRYANT, Thomas FOWLER, John BOND and Archibald DORRITY [sic] or any three to view the most convenient way from the Frankfort road on the dividing ridge to Beauchamps Mill and report; Present: Charles WICKLIFF."  This seems to tie Archibald DOROTHY as a neighbor of Thomas FOWLER.  We also know that Archibald DOROTHY married Elizabeth FOWLER as follows:
  • Sep 17 1791 Dorter, Archibald to Fowler, Elizabeth, "Baltimore County Marriage Licenses, 1777-1798" Dawn Beitler Smith, p. 52, LDS #975.251 V28s. 
Another mention of Thomas FOWLER is in the will abstract book which is cited as follows and includes the following information on page 28 regarding the will of Archibald DOROTHY:

  • DOROTHY, Archibald - Will: dated 9 Dec 1815, Probate: dated 8 Jan 1816; Leg: Wife Elizabeth; Children: Thomas and Robert, two oldest boys, others: Nancy, Sally, Kitty and Archibald; Executor: Wife- Elizabeth; Witnesses: Thomas FOWLER, Stephen RAY, and William HARDISTY; Signed: Archibald x Dorothy.
  • SOURCE: Sanders, Faye Sea. 1987. Washington County, Kentucky wills, 1792-1853. Louisville, Ky. (311 Sage Rd., Louisville 20207): F.S. Sanders.

It is important to note in what records Jacob Coffman does not appear.  For example here is a summary of those negative records:
  • Aside from the above mentioned 1815 witnessing of a deed, Jacob Coffman does not appear in any deeds between 1792 and 1818 in Washington County, Kentucky
  • He did not appear in the list of taxpayers between 1792 and 1799. However, it is important to note the introductory information from the taxpayer book because it states that taxpayers were "all white males over 21."  If Jacob Coffman was born in 1780 as indicated by the 1850 census record and his gravestone, then he would not have turned 21 until 1801. He should appear in taxpayer records from 1801 to 1818 when he left the county.
There were also very few records in the early years of Washington County, Kentucky for anyone with the surname Coffman.  The only records found for persons named Coffman were the following:
  • 1819, 9 December; The marriage of William C. SHOCKLEY to Elizabeth COFFMAN by a Baptist minister named Richard Elliott is recorded in Book 1, page 187
  • 1807; Deed Book C, Page 315 Indenture dated 18 October 1807 between Charles DOYLE of Nelson County, Kentucky and Isaac COFFMAN of Washington County, Kentucky; The consideration was forty five pounds for 100 acres on Chaplins Fork of Salt River. This parcel was part of 500 acres in the name of WEST and BANKS which was deeded to DAY and from him to DOYALL[sic]. Recorded 4 Jan 1808. This transcript is from Family Search Microfilm #7900657
LDS Film #7834519 includes early tax lists for Washington County, Kentucky and it has been digitized. Image 530 of 1188 shows Jacob COFFMAN in 1806 not owning any land but in possession of two mare horses.  His line on the 1806 tax record showed tick marks for white males above 21 and the horses but there were no marks for white males above 16; Blacks above 16; Steed horses; rates of covering (sp?); retail stores; tavern license; or value of lots.  There is also Abraham COFFMAN on the same page and he does not own any land either.

Now that I know these tax lists are available online, I have my work cut out for me to browse through them for Coffman listings.


  1. Hi "Cousin," I've often wondered if there's any connection to the Jacob Coffman listed in this article:,_Kentucky

    Lawrenceburg is very close to the Chaplin River and Anderson County was formed from Washington & Mercer Counties. I'm hoping your expertise could shed some light.
    All the best,
    Cindy (Coffman) Grinberg

  2. Cindy- I was recently pursuing Jacob Coffman of Lawrenceburg which was known in 1792 as Coffman's Station. I have decided that we do not descend from that person. Jacob Coffman who was killed by Indians in 1792 had a son named Jacob Coffman but he died 21 JAN 1854 in Iowa and is buried in a cemetery located on the Mary Manatt Farm Northwest of Kalona, Iowa according to his descendants. We also are not DNA matches to this group of Coffmans.

    I know you have been working on this too for many years. Tell me more about the Chaplin River neighborhood. I am looking at tax lists right now and it appears that Jacob Coffman did not own land. Jacob's father-in-law, Thomas Fowler also does not appear to own land. Perhaps they worked the land of Archibald Dorothy or they were hunting, trapping and digging the ginseng.