In the May 29 edition of The Weekly Genealogist, we featured an article by Michelle Marchetti Coughlin in the online journal Common-place about her research on Mehetabel Chandler Coit. Ms. Coughlin's 2012 book, One Colonial Woman's World: The Life and Writings of Mehetabel Chandler Coit, “reconstructs the life of Mehetabel Chandler Coit (1673-1758), the author of what may be the earliest surviving diary by an American woman.” Born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, Coit moved to Woodstock, Connecticut, at the age of fourteen and permanently settled in New London, Connecticut, when she was twenty-one. (More information about Mehetabel Coit is available at OneColonialWomansWorld.com.) Coughlin's article described how she learned about Mehetabel's diary in an 1895 book and began a tenacious search for its whereabouts. I thought that Weekly Genealogist readers would appreciate this tale of successfully pursuing a centuries-old primary source.
A few days after The Weekly Genealogist was sent, I received an email from Ms. Coughlin, who is an NEHGS member and enews subscriber. She reported that she received several nice emails from enews readers — as well as a rather astonishing one from a Coit descendant who owns a letter-book purportedly kept by Mehetabel's mother, Elizabeth (Douglas) Chandler (1641–1705).
The Coit descendant is Eleanor Hoague of Seattle, Mehetabel's great-great-great-great-great granddaughter. Eleanor and her husband have preserved hundreds of letters and other manuscripts that were passed down lovingly from Coit to Coit. (Many of these letters have provided fodder for other genealogical works: Digging for Gold Without a Shovel: The Letters of Daniel Wadsworth Coit from Mexico City to San Francisco 1848-1851 and An Artist in El Dorado: The Drawings and Letters of Daniel Wadsworth Coit.)
Eleanor was thrilled to read the article about Mehetabel on the Common-place website, and she contacted Ms. Coughlin to let her know about the letter-book. Eleanor kindly sent Ms. Coughlin photographs of the eighteen pages of the letter-book, which dates to the late seventeenth century. Ms. Coughlin is now transcribing the letters. She will need to try to identify some of the senders and/or recipients, who are named only by initials, and who in some cases don't seem to have anything to do with Elizabeth Chandler.
Michelle Coughlin has pronounced this new find, “quirky but also fascinating.” I'm very pleased she has agreed to write an article that will present her findings for a future issue of American Ancestors magazine.