Edward Coomer

I used my husband’s family to write a paper for my Genealogical College Certificate which I share here today for other Coomer researchers. There are many issues surrounding Edward, so this may be a multi-part topic. Coomer research is purely speculative and I have a lot of references that are not cited on this blog. I am happy to share if you reach out to me.

Edward Coomer’s Elusive Father

Many researchers of the Kentucky Coomer family have been stalled in their research before 1820. The line I am attempting to trace is that of Edward Coomer. For the purpose of this assignment I am attempting to identify: Who was the father of Edward Coomer born about 1824 in either Tennessee or Virginia and who moved to Wayne County, Kentucky probably in 1838?

Research in Kentucky has proved to be very challenging. Considered a border state during the Civil War, it suffered from various disasters during and after the war. Another big hurdle contributing to difficult research for the period surrounding Edwards birth and arrival in Kentucky was the harsh frontier lifestyle that lead to inconsistent record-keeping practices at the local level, produced prolific families, caused frequent moves, and lead to inadequate educational opportunities. These two combinations make locating records challenging. The generation of Coomers being researched was not prominent and few of them owned property. So with little to go on, the quest for the identity of Edward Coomer’s father started with two handwritten unpublished records.

These two unpublished records are a part of a loose-leaf collection of papers descended through Edward’s daughters, Rebecca Coomer and Mollie Coomer Wilson. It is generally believed by members of the Coomer family that these records were written by Rebecca, Edward and Darthulia’s oldest child.

In the first unpublished record, which is attached to her father’s 1905 funeral notice, Rebecca states:

“Mr. Ed Coomer was born in Abingdon, Virginia Oct 8th 1828 come to Wayne County with his Father in 1838 was married in January The 7 1851 to Miss Darthulia Tartar at Somerset, KY.”

The second unpublished record is written in the same handwriting and is very similar to the first one. It starts with “Married [m or w] January 22/1851” (the slash is extended under the 22 and “y” in January) then lists their children and key dates. The marriage date is presumed to be the marriage date for Edward and Darthula. Though their names are not associated with this event, the marriage date recorded is near the marriage date provided in the first unpublished record. The record ends with:

“Edward Coomer move from Wayne Co to Danvill [sic] in 1865.”

The names and ages of the children match census records and information on several of his children’s death records.

During the course of Coomer research, Rebecca’s knowledge of Edward and Darthula’s marriage year has been called into question and is either a mistake by Rebecca or a fib by Edward and Darthula (their marriage occurs in January and Rebecca’s birth probably occurs in February). By 1870 (at the age of 20), Rebecca’s birth year starts to get later and later. By the time Rebecca is 70, in the 1920 census, her birth year returns to 1850 and the age recorded on her death certificate supports a birth no later than July 1850. Her presence in the 1850 U.S. census, at the age of 6 months old, is clear evidence that she was born about February 1850.

An initial search of indexes and available online records for Kentucky marriages that cover January 1849 to January 1851 have not produced any results. This means Edward and Darthula were either:

a) married earlier than the targeted date range,
b) had Rebecca out of wedlock and married after the targeted date range, or
c) they were never legally married.

Until further evidence is found, their marriage date is accepted as probably January 1850 (a combination of the dates provided by Rebecca, and the year of their 1850 census household). Their place of marriage is either Wayne County (where they were living the year they got married and where their earliest children were born) or Pulaski County (as Rebecca claims). The next logical group of records to locate would be local church records. These types of records are not easily available and will require further research into types of religious communities operating in the 1850s and travel to Wayne and Pulaski counties to locate records. Marriage records have not been ruled out, since only records available online were consulted and additional originals could be available privately or at the local level.

Edward’s children lived most of their lives in Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky. Records are plentiful for the children beginning in the mid-1860’s, when they moved there. Many of them are buried there, to include Edward and Darthula, all in the same cemetery and very near to each other. Boyle County began recording death records as early as 1852. Records consisted of a simple ledger for the years between 1852 and 1904, before becoming the more modern formal death certificates by 1911 (when Kentucky initiated state legislature for recording deaths). Despite Edward’s death occurring after Boyle County began recording deaths (1905), his record of death is either missing or misplaced (there is a gap in records for Boyle County between 1904 and 1911). Early ledger style death records did have a column for the decedent father’s identity but these names were not consistently entered. These ledger style records also include place and date of birth, which would be beneficial in cross-referencing birth information against other known records for Edward.

Rebecca reported that they lived in Wayne County, Kentucky between 1838 and 1865, a census search for Edward Coomer was conducted in Wayne County for 1850 and 1860 (Edward is not listed in Boyle County census prior to 1870). The Pulaski County census was also searched for the same years because Rebecca reported Somerset, KY (Pulaski County) as their marriage location. Pulaski County is a county bordering Wayne County and counties in Kentucky are very small.

1850 U.S. Census

In 1850 we find one Edward Cooper/Coomer who is 26 years old (~1824), born in Virginia, is unemployed (at least no occupation is listed), and living in Wayne County, Kentucky with Darthula Coomer (aged 19, b. abt. 1831) and Rebecca Coomer (aged 6 mo., b. February 1850) in his household. This widens his birth year to between 1824 and 1828 and supports his origin as Virginia. Since there are no other Edward, Darthula, Rebecca family combinations found in Kentucky, this 1850 U.S. census has been accepted as the correct family.

Edward is living next door to Tipton Cooper and family. The transcription of Edwards surname as Cooper is possibly due to his living next to Tipton Cooper as well as the name appearing smudged on the original record. Darthula and Rebecca’s names are clearly written “Coomer”. Edward is within two households of William Coomer (aged 40, b. abt. 1810 in Kentucky) and his wife, Mariah Ashbrook. William is a shoemaker by trade. William is barely old enough to be Edward’s father (he would have been about 14 if Edward were born in 1824 and 18 for an 1828 birth), but their proximity suggests a possible relationship. William and Mariah were married in or before 1838 based on the birth of their first known child, Juretta.

Elsewhere in Wayne County in 1850, Andrew Coomer (aged 30, b. abt. 1820 in Kentucky) and Eliza Coomer (aged 21, b. abt. 1829) are found living in the household of Samuel Cooper and his wife America Tarter. Andrew is working as a shoemaker.

1860 U.S. Census

Edward Coomer (age 35, b. abt. 1825 in Tennessee) remains in Wayne County (Mill Springs) and his household consists of Darthula (aged 25, b. abt. 1835), and five minors (all named on Rebecca’s second unpublished record). In this census, Edward is a farm laborer. Two additional adults are living with them, Andrew Coomer (blind, aged 40, b. abt. 1820 in Tennessee) and Eliza Cooper [smudged]/Coomer (aged 30, b. abt. 1830). Edward and Andrew are close enough in age to be brothers. While Eliza is listed before Andrew on this census, their presence together in the 1850 Cooper household along with other records for an Andrew Coomer who married an Eliza Tarter in the same area, who fit both of their ages, implies Eliza in this household could be the wife of Andrew and should have been listed after him. Tennessee is now a possible place of origin for Edward.

William (aged 51, b. abt. 1809 in Kentucky) and Mariah are also found still living in Wayne County in 1860 (also Mill Springs). He is now working as a farm laborer but living a few more households away from Edward than in 1850.

There is a connection between the three Coomer contemporaries in Wayne County.

  • The proximity of residences to each other in 1850 and 1860. 
  • Both William and Andrew were shoemakers in 1850. 
  • Both William and Edward were farm laborers in 1860. 
  • Edward and Andrew have similar associations to the same surnames; both married Tarter women and both lived with or near Cooper families (one of whom had a Tarter connection). 

While all these correlations link these three men together, it does not identify a father. Unfortunately none of these men have been linked to a father through birth, marriage, or death records and no other researcher has provided enough evidence to support the various assertions. There are other Coomer’s found in both Wayne and Pulaski Counties, but there are too many candidates to make an easy guess.

Identifying a father through the process of elimination came next. Keeping the focus in Wayne and Pulaski Counties, the 1840 U.S. census was searched. Edward’s year of birth was narrowed down further to 1824/25 because his age in all censuses are consistently between the two. Only Rebecca provides a year of 1828. An 1824/25 birth year makes Edward about 16 years old in 1840. None of the 1840 Coomer households had males between the ages of 15 and 19, but several had boys between the ages of 10 and 14.

The table I created to use process of elimination.

There were nine Coomer households between Wayne and Pulaski County in 1840. Andrew and William were two of them. I ruled out Andrew due to his age group (the 1840 Andrew was in the right age group for the 1850 and 1860 Andrew) and the absence of a boy the right age in his household. Of the remaining eight, five households had males old enough to be Edwards father (this number excludes William, whose 1840 age group also matched the 1850 and 1860 William), but three of those men did not have boys the right age or near the right age in their household. The two households that had males old enough to be Edward’s father and boys in the 10-14 age group consisted of:

1. Ambrose Coomer with 1 male aged 10-14. Lived in Pulaski County, not Wayne County.
2. Amon Coomer with 2 males aged 10-14. Lived in Pulaski County, not Wayne County.

Even though the 1850/1860 William was not old enough to be Edwards father, because of his connection to Edward in those years and the presence of two boys near in age to Edward in his 1840 household, he was included.

3. William Coomer with 2 males aged 10-14. William’s is the only household in Wayne County with a boy who could be Edward.

The boys in these three households have not been identified in later records. All other boys in the 10-14 group from the other eliminated households have been identified in later censuses.

A fourth candidate was added to my pool who was living in Wayne County in 1840, then moved to Pulaski County in 1850.

4. Bryan/Bryson Coomer is old enough to be a father to William, Andrew, and Edward. While all of his sons in his 1840 household were identified in 1850 the following correlations make him a viable candidate:

He was born in Virginia and lived in Tennessee before coming to Kentucky.Rebecca claims he was born in Virginia, but census also indicates Tennessee.
He had a son named James M. Coomer whose name was misspelled as Cooper.Edward’s name was mistranscribed as Cooper in 1850 and he lived next to a Cooper family.
James’s son, Albert Coomer moved to Bloomington, Illinois.Edward’s son, Frank Leslie moved to Bloomington, Illinois at the same time.
Albert grew up in Wayne County.Frank grew up in Wayne County.
Edward also has a son named Albert.

Assuming William and Edward are brothers, it is plausible that Edward was living with William in 1840. If Bryson is their father and James is also their brother, it could explain how two men from different Coomer families moved to Bloomington, Illinois at around the same time.Of interest, other researchers have tentatively identified Daniel Coomer of Pulaski County as a candidate, however, nothing has been found that satisfies Genealogical Proof Standard to connect Daniel to Edward, Andrew, or William.  Daniel is old enough to be a father for all three men but has been found living in Pulaski County as far back as 1810. Additionally, all boys living in his 1840 household are either adults or under the age of 10. Unlike Bryson, there has not been any other correlation to make him a viable candidate.

Stay tuned for more on Edward.