John Coat was an early immigrant to South Australia, arriving in Adelaide in 1848 aboard the Princess Royale. He was born in 1826 at Huntspill, Somerset, England to parents Marmaduke Coat and Amy Hewlett. Two years after his arrival in the colony of South Australia he married Elizabeth Richards in Adelaide. Elizabeth was also from Somerset England. John and Elizabeth had 12 children together with many descendants. They are my 2nd great grandparents.
Early Life and Ancestry
John was christened in the English parish of Huntspill, Somerset on 22 August 1826 as John Cote, parents Marmaduke and Amy, of Coat Corner, Huntspill. The village of Huntspill is situated near the mouth of the river Parret, on the high road from Bristol to Exeter, Coat Corner being a small hamlet in the parish.
John was 13 at the time of the 1841 census, living at Cote Corner with his parents and siblings Marmaduke 20, Emma 15 and Caroline 10. His uncle John and aunt Elizabeth were living on the adjoining property. Both Marmaduke snr and his brother John snr are described as labourers. Coat Corner is very close to the village of Coat where we visited in 2011.
There has always been confusion about the spelling of the Coat name. Many variations exist in the records including Cote, Coate, Coats and Coates. These variations have perpetuated down the line and it has been common for descendants to adopt all sorts of variations. According to my mother John had a fight with his father and when he emigrated to Australia, as an act of defiance dropped the ‘s’. This story is inconsistent with some census records including the 1841 census which clearly records the name at that time as Coat. However, the old map shown above suggests early inhabitants may have gone by the name of ‘Cote’, consistent with Johns baptism.
It was always said that Johns father was related to the Scottish Coats family who founded Coats Cotton; as well as to a baronet, believed to be a French Huguenot who escaped to Ireland before settling in England. Cote could be a French derivative of the Coat surname.
James Coats was from Paisley in Scotland and set himself up in business in the early 1800s, founding J. & P. Coats Ltd in the 1830’s. I haven’t yet been able to connect our Coat line to this family and so far DNA results about the origins of the male Coat line have been inconclusive, but more on that later!
My mother always said that Sylvia Coat confirmed the connection when she contacted someone from the American branch of the Coats Cotton family when they visited Australia. Sylvia was the wife of my fathers uncle Charles Coat. Unfortunately, no records exist of what she discovered!
The French baronet story is likely to be a reference to the ‘de Cogan’ family who occupied Huntspill Manor until 1382. If so, the Coggan family are not relations on John’s side but are possibly connected via his wife Elizabeth’s maternal grandmother Elizabeth Coggan. The Coggan and Coat families were close. There are a number of instances further down the line where they come together in marriage, so anything is possible!
On Johns mothers side, relationship is claimed with Judge Jeffreys, known as the ‘hanging judge’ for his readiness to condemn prisoners to death. This is a doubtful honour given Judge George Jeffreys 1645-89 is remembered in history for his injustice and brutality. John does have ancestors with the Jeffreys and Jeffries names, but these are on his paternal grandmothers side, via Hester Leaker. George Jeffreys was in Somerset during the time of the Assizes but was born in Wales. Both the Jeffrey and Jeffries lines are well entrenched in Somerset and whilst we have traced them back into the 1600’s, not quite far enough to be certain of a connection or not. Somerset is very close to Wales so it is possible. Of course the anecdote could be correct and it may be on his mothers line somewhere!
Here’s Johns immediate family tree which includes relevant DNA inheritance paths – click on the link below to view the full tree @ Wikitree.
Emigration to Australia
Around the time John emigrated, South Australia was promoted as a place where ‘good health is in every countenance‘. The colony was booming following the discovery of precious metals however the prospects for farming were considered mixed due to the prevalence of both barren and fertile lands. Many however were attracted by the opportunities offered by a colony free from convicts and with good prospects of purchasing land. John may well have read this book that was published in 1848 outlining the potential of the respective colonies before making his final decision.
John travelled from Plymouth in England to Port Adelaide, aged 22, arriving on 14 June 1848 onboard the Princess Royale. At that time, the population of Adelaide was about 38,000. His future wife Elizabeth was already living in the colony having arrived in 1847. It is unclear whether they knew each other back in Somerset, but considering the close marrying between the two families it is likely they were acquainted. John and Elizabeth married at Holy Trinity Church in Adelaide on 14 Jan 1850, John signed his name as ‘Coates’. Witnesses to the marriage were E and Mary Gould.
John and Elizabeth had 12 children together, 4 dying in infancy. The first two children were William born in 1850 and Albert in 1851. Both their births were registered at Little Para, near Tanunda. Next came twins Marmaduke and John in 1854, their births were registered at Chain of Ponds. The first son named Thomas was registered at Tulunga in 1855 but died in infancy. The second Thomas was born in 1857 at Mount Pleasant with the remaining children being born in the Coromandel Valley at Upper Sturt. Emma in 1859 who died in infancy, then another Emma in 1860, twins Charles and Caroline in 1863 and finally another set of twins Elizabeth and Frederick in 1864. Caroline and Frederick also died as infants.
It is understood the Coat family had originally owned land in Rundle Street but eventually sold it to buy their farming land in the Coromandel Valley, in the Adelaide Hills. It was there that they flourished as orchardists.
It was during his time at Mount Pleasant that John is recognised as the first ‘poundkeeper‘ in the district. Poundkeepers were authorised to impound unregistered, stray or unattended animals roaming across district boundaries. We visited the historic area at Mount Pleasant in 2009 where Johns contributions are recognised, together with replicas of the original Pound structures.
DNA – Autosomal Testing
A number of descendants have undertaken autosomal DNA tests that have confirmed the accuracy of our pedigree back to John and his wife Elizabeth through four of their children – siblings Thomas, Emma, Charles and Elizabeth.
So far there is only one small triangulated DNA match that confirms his ancestry back to Marmaduke and Amy. More matches are needed to increase the confidence level that both Johns parents are correct. If you are a descendant and have had your autosomal DNA tested, please contact me so we can include your results in this analysis.
DNA – Y-DNA Testing
Y-DNA is passed down from fathers to sons and testing provides information on the origins of the patrilineal line. Extensive Y-DNA testing (including the Big-Y) has been undertaken for the Coat line thanks to two male cousins, results indicating Johns haplogroup is R-Y82698. So far, results from the Australian Branch have been consistent, confirming the male Coat line back to our immigrant ancestor John COAT. Beyond John however remains unconfirmed. Our closest matches are to two families from the United States, who descend from Henry Bennett c1629 of Ipswich, Massachusetts and John Locke c1695 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania respectively. What is our connection to these families? Are we Bennett or Lockes or should their name be Coat? We have established a project at FamilyTreeDNA to help answer this question – Bristol Channel DNA Study.
The Y-DNA signature of our line is unusual compared to most of the other Coat families from Somerset, having marker DYS393 = 12. This marker has a very low mutation rate and is believed to suggest roots in the Anglo-Scottish Border region. Many of those with the DYS393=12 marker also have blood type B (consistent with my father). Some suggest this marker may have first appeared in Britain at the time of the Roman invasion, hence its prevalence along the Scottish border. Given its uniqueness, consideration is being given to the creation of a new Y-DNA haplogroup for those with the DYS393=12 marker.
A study by Tyrone Bowes in 2014 predicted the paternal ancestral homeland of our genetic Bennett, Coat and Locke group was probably centred upon the town of Burnham on Sea, just 8 kms from Huntspill. It is in close proximity to the villages of Coat and Curry Rivel where many others carrying the Coat surname lived.
In about 1606/7 there was a tsunami like flood event at Burnham-On-Sea causing the sea bank to break with 30 villages being utterly inundated, their cattle destroyed and many people died. Could our family have moved further inland at this time?
Most of those participating in the Coats Y-DNA study trace their ancestry back to Henry Coate 1595-1662 of Hambridge, Curry Rivel, Somerset. Our Y-DNA kits don’t match descendants of Henry, but there is another Australian Coate line closely associated with the Coggan family who does! George Coggan Coate emigrated to Victoria some time between 1859-1862. He is my 2nd cousin 4 times removed, a cousin on Elizabeth Richards’ side (John’s wife) via her maternal grandmother Elizabeth Coggan. Y-DNA matches at 111 markers between an Australian descendant of George with many US participants in the Coats Y-DNA project recently enabled them to get ‘across the pond‘ and confirm their genetic connection to their Somerset ancestor. George also has ancestors that marry into the Locke family, going back to a John Locke living at Combe Florey Somerset in 1623, probably born before 1600. Given the closeness of all these families – could this be our connection somehow?
But what about the Coats cotton people? The suggestion that our line may have originated in Britain from the time of the Roman invasion gives greater credence to a connection with Scotland, perhaps different branches moved north and south over time?
In the 1840’s the company J. & P. Coats was prospering, selling high quality sewing cotton around the world. According to their website they began sending members of their families to America to act as selling agents, whilst not specifically stated it is presumed the photograph below is of their family. Why are there no descendants from this line in our Y-DNA study? Could these people be related to me somehow? If you can identify any of them I would love to hear from you! If you are a male descendant of this Scottish Coats family carrying the Coats surname (or variant) and are willing to undertake a Y-DNA test, please contact me to help rule this theory in or out!
DNA – mtDNA Testing
We don’t yet know the mtDNA haplogroup for John, he would have inherited his mtDNA from his mother Amy Hewlett but as a male he does not pass it on to his children. So, we are looking for a descendant from one of Amy’s daughters who is descended via all female lines (Amy’s daughter’s, daughters, daughter etc) to help identify his mtDNA to aid further research. If you think you meet this criteria and are willing to undertake a DNA test, please contact me! Known descendants of Amy can be found on Wikitree, but please be aware this is not a complete list.