Almost 22 years have passed since I began the search for the ancestors of my Revolutionary War grandfather, Spencer Coleman. During those years, I've seen a lot of strange theories regarding our immigrant ancestor, Robert Coleman of Mobjack Bay, Gloucester Co. VA. With so many people posting their Coleman family tree on the Internet, it's important to get the facts straight. (Please refer to Judge Solon B. Coleman's 1959 Coleman family manuscript and my 1998 book "The Coleman Family of Mobjack Bay, VA", both available through the inter-library loan program from the VA State Library.) I hope the information from this posting will be helpful.
Sir James Coleman of Braxton Mango, Sussex, England was not the ancestor of Robert Coleman of Mobjack Bay. Henry Coleman of Elizabeth City, VA was not the ancestor of Robert Coleman of Mobjack Bay. Richard Coleman was not the father of Robert Coleman of Mobjack Bay. There is no evidence (yet) that a descendant of Col. Nicholas Spencer of Westmoreland Co. VA married into the Mobjack Bay Colemans. (Col. Spencer's wife was Frances Mottram, not Mothan.)
Robert Coleman of Mobjack Bay did not live in Fairfax Co. VA. That county was not formed until 1742, many years after his death.
In all existing records, our immigrant ancestor is listed as ROBERT COLEMAN, not Robert Edward Coleman. No middle name, no middle initial. (This is also true of his son Robert.)
If you see any of the above information posted on the Internet or on someone's family tree, request the sources and verify them.
The known facts about our immigrant ancestor (supported by records) are:
Robert Coleman's name appeared on a list of headrights on 2 Mar 1638 in Upper Norfolk Co., meaning he was in VA by that date. His name later appeared as a witness to York Co. records between 1646-48. Robert Coleman was among the early colonists in Gloucester Co., which was opened for white settlement on 1 Sep 1649. Robert died in Gloucester Co. sometime after 6 May 1682, the last mention of him in any existing record. During the War Between The States, Gloucester Co. records were taken to Richmond for safekeeping and were destroyed when Richmond was evacuated and burned. But the few records in existence are evidence that Robert Coleman lived in Abingdon Parish, Gloucestor Co. VA.
When Robert and his wife, Elizabeth Grizzell (marriage date unknown), crossed the York River to Tindall's Point in what became Gloucester Co., they probably settled along the Severne River between Tindall's Point and Mobjack Bay. In the early days of the colony, rivers and tidal streams provided the easiest means of transportation for settlers. The waterways also provided a source of food and a means of shipping tobacco, Virginia's major exportable commodity.
During Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, the Abingdon Parish Register was destroyed, forever denying us the facts about any children born to Robert Coleman and Elizabeth Grizzell. (VA law required that all births and deaths be reported to the parish minister.) Based on available evidence, the six known surviving children of Robert and Elizabeth Coleman were Thomas, Robert, Joseph, Grizzell, Daniel and John.
There is no evidence anywhere of Robert Coleman's birth year. However, he was not born in 1620 and did not marry Elizabeth Mott in Ireland or anywhere else. Records from Brent-Eleigh Parish in Suffolk, England prove this and are reprinted on pgs. 15-17 in my book. I'll be happy to e-mail a copy of this information to anyone who is interested.
The birth year of Robert Coleman of Mobjack Bay was more likely ca. 1630, and he was brought to VA as a young boy. He may have been a son of the Edward Coleman whose name appeared on a Lower Norfolk Co. headright list in 1637, and on a 1638 list of ages of people residing in that county. But this is only speculation and should not be posted on the Internet as fact. For anyone interested in pursuing the ancestry of Robert Coleman of Mobjack Bay, they should start with the Edward Colman of Suffolk, England whose will was proved in 1596. (See p. 15 of my book.)
There has also been a lot of misinformation posted on the Internet and on family trees regarding the descendants of Robert Coleman and Elizabeth Grizzell. If anyone is interested in what is curently known (until evidence proves otherwise) about their descendants, I would be willing to post separate messages to this forum.
The most ideal situation when trying to solve any genealogy puzzle would be to find exact answers that would enable us to fill in gaps on our family tree. In reality, that situation almost never happens. And if it did, genealogy would be a lot less interesting. The lack of answers does not mean it's okay to "make up" names or dates regarding an ancestor, and doing so truly defies logic. If you see anything posted on the Internet or on family trees that you do not know from personal knowledge is supported by evidence, request a source and verify it.
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