Hiding In Plain Sight

Contributing Writer

Janet Wahlberg

I am in the middle of getting ready to go to Maine, my mother’s home state. While looking over the family history from Maine. I had an aha moment. My mother descends from 3 well-known families who were early settlers in the New England area. They were the Morses, Wings and Coffins and all came to the Massachusetts colony in the early 1600s. Gradually like all the early settlers, these families began to migrate throughout the New England area.

My mother’s father’s family, the Morses, traveled down east to Washington County, Maine. I have extensive records of this branch, all of whom remained in that area.

My mother’s family, the Coffins migrated to Prince Edward Island. They were Loyalists and from Nantucket Island. Again, I have extensive records for this side of the family.

What I found hiding in plain sight was a branch of the Coffin’s in Cherryfield, Maine. I had simply not noticed their name when reviewing records or reading books on the area. My curiosity was piqued so I wrote to the local historical society. It is very tiny but very helpful. I have worked with them in the past on the Morse family. I asked their research person, Kathy, to locate any records on the Coffin family so that I could determine my relationship to them. Within one week she sent me two documents on two of the earliest Coffin settlers to Cherryfield. This Coffin family definitely came from the same area of Massachusetts that my grandmother’s branch came from.

I now have my work cut out for me to answer serval questions:

  1. Why did they come to this area of Maine? It is quite remote.
  2. Did they serve in the Revolution? Or were they Loyalists who came back from Canada to the new country of the United States.
  3. What is their connection to my Coffin family who ended up in Prince Edward Island?
  4. Were there any marriages between the Morse and Coffin families in Cherryfield?

I will start by using the pillars of research, Ancestry and Family Search and looking at census records. Next, I will look at Find A Grave as many of these provide you with at least a few of the family members. Then I will go back to the books that I have that are specific to Cherryfield. These may be very helpful as the town is so small that I feel fairly certain that both families will appear in them. When I looked at the material that Kathy sent me, I noticed that the book title was one that I already own so can spend time reviewing it at my leisure.

I would challenge each of you to perhaps take a closer look at some of the records that you have. In particular, look at the page before and the page after your family in the census records. You may not only find a new branch of your family hiding in plain sight, but you may also break down a Brick Wall.

As I finish this article, I am back from my trip to Maine with new challenges and opportunities. When I visited the small-town library in Cherryfield where the local genealogy society houses its records, I was reminded of the fact that not all records are on the internet. With Kathy’s assistance and the use of local cemetery records I will hopefully be able to locate the name and burial location of one of my grandfather’s siblings. I suspect that there are many other questions that I may be able to answer.

As you work on your genealogy, do not forget to contact those small or not so small libraries that house information that is not located anywhere else. Good luck in finding facts that are hidden in plain sight.

To read Janet Walberg’s previous genealogy columns or to delve deeper into her writings and insights for searching out and recording your own family’s genealogy, please go to jamestowngazette.com and visit Janet’s own web page.