Researching my Coombs family line has been frustrating. There was a fire in 1882 in Upper Island Cove that destroyed St. Peter’s parish house and all its church registers. I am grateful for everyone’s help but obviously errors and bad guesses are all my own!
1. JOHN1 COOMBS was born about 1752, probably in southwest England. He emigrated to Newfoundland in the early 1770s, probably working as a fisherman in Harbour Grace. He had a wife named Eleanor who died in 1776. Subsequently, he married Alice MARTIN, who died in 1780 along with their five-month-old daughter. In 1781, John set up his own fishing operation (plantation) in Upper Island Cove and married again, this time to SARAH VOKEY. John died in 1825 in Upper Island Cove.
He had one child with Eleanor.
i. John Coombs, b. 1776. (Other people – and I previously – have placed this son in other marriages, but the dates don’t make good sense. I am assuming that Eleanor died in childbirth while her baby John lived.) John married Jane CRANE of Upper Island Cove in 1803. His children were:
a. William Coombs. Married Clara Mercer.
b. John Coombs. Married Mary Ann Young; had a daughter Elizabeth.
c. Eleanor (or Ellen) Coombs
d. Nathaniel Coombs. Married Ann Lundrigan.
e. Patience Coombs. Married Israel Janes and had 4 sons.
Children of his marriage to Alice Martin:
i. James Coombs, b. 1778
ii. Dinah Coombs, born and died 1780.
Sarah Vokey was probably from Jersey in the Channel Islands. She had probably emigrated to Newfoundland with her brother Philip. Children of John’s marriage to Sarah Vokey, all born in Upper Island Cove:
 i. Richard Coombs – see below
ii. George Coombs, b. 1789. I don’t know anything else about him. Possibly he didn’t survive into adulthood.
iii. Charity Coombs married William DROVER of Upper Island Cove. Her children were:
a. Aaron Drover (1805-1893) married Mary Ann Jones and had 5 children.
b. Thomas Drover (1811-1886) married Providence Jones and had 3 children.
c. William Drover (b. 1813) married Patience Barnes and had 4 children.
d. Charity Drover (b. 1814)
e. Jane Drover (1816-1897) married John Jones and had one son.
f. Richard Drover (b. 1817)
g. James Drover (1820-1898) married a woman named Elizabeth. They had at least ten children.
2. RICHARD2 COOMBS (John1) married MARY MINCHIONS of Bishop’s Cove, Newfoundland in 1811.
Richard inherited half of his father’s property. His children were all born in Upper Island Cove:
i. Diana Coombs, b. 1813. Married John GOULDING of Harbour Grace, Newfoundland.
ii. Sarah Coombs, b. 1814.
iii. Anne Coombs, b. 1819
iv. Elizabeth Coombs (1822-1896). Married Henry MERCER, Jr. (d. 1895). Her children were:
a. Elizabeth Mercer
b. Henry Mercer III
c. Elias Mercer (1847-1935). Married Jane Greeley and had 9 children.
d. William Mercer
e. Elijah Mercer (1849-1929). Married a woman named Mary and had many children.
f. Mary Ann Mercer.
v. Mary Coombs, b. 1822. (I don’t know if she was twins with Elizabeth, or just at opposite ends of the year.) She married William MERCER.
vi. Alexander Coombs (1824-1914). His children were:
a. Archibald Coombs
b. Isadora Coombs, b. 1866. Married George Lundrigan and had 3 children.
 vii. Richard Coombs, Jr. See below.
viii. William Coombs married Martha SMITH of Bishop’s Cove.
3. RICHARD3 COOMBS (Richard2, John1) was born in 1829 in Upper Island Cove. Richard died 23 January 1922 in Bishops Cove.
Richard Coombs was a laborer. He was married and had at least five children, but I don’t know who his wife was. In his old age, Richard Coombs went to live with his daughter Elizabeth Smith. His children were:
i. Henry Coombs (1856-1938). Married Emma GRIFFIN, who may have been Roman Catholic, and moved to Spaniard’s Bay. Their children, born in Spaniard’s Bay, were:
a. Richard Patrick Coombs (1887-1967). Married Anne Noseworthy and had 5 children.
b. Thomas Coombs (1891-1962 in Corner Brook). Worked for the telegraph company. Married Mary Finn and had 5 children.
c. Henry F. Coombs (1890-1964). Married Susanne Brazil and had 7 children.
d. Kenneth Francis Coombs (1894-1983 in Corner Brook). Married Sarah Williams and had 11 children.
e. Mary Coombs (1897-1907)
f. James Francis Coombs (1900-1946). Married and had 3 children.
ii. Elizabeth Coombs, b. 1864 in Bishop’s Cove. Married laborer Isaac SMITH, b. 1862 in Bishop’s Cove. They had 5 children, born in Bishop’s Cove:
a. William Smith, b. 1892. Married Flora Sheppard (b. 1893).
b. Elsie Isabel Smith, b. 1894. Married David Clarke (d. 1929).
b. Elijah Smith (1897-1961). Married Susannah Menchions (b. 1902).
c. Flora Smith, b. 1900
d. Mary Smith, b. 1902. Married Levi Lynch and had 7 children. Second marriage to Moses Drover.
ii. Ann Eliza Coombs, b. 1866 in Upper Island Cove. In 1887, she married fisherman Austin MERCER (b. 1863 in Upper Island Cove). They may have moved to Grand Falls, Nfld. Their children were born in Upper Island Cove.
a. Lavinia Jane Mercer, b. 1890
b. Harriet Ann Mercer, b. 1892. Married Murdock Jewer (1880-1956) from Burnt Bay.
c. Eliza Mercer (1894-1896)
d. Maud Mercer (b. 1897). Married Newfoundlander John Adams and moved to Nova Scotia.
e. Bessie Mercer (b. 1902)
f. Austin Mercer (b. 1903)
iii. William Coombs was a fisherman born in 1869 in Harbour Grace. In 1891, he married PHOEBE PYNN (born 1868 in Mosquito, Newfoundland). They had at least five children, all born in Harbour Grace:
a. Elijah Coombs (1891-1984). Married Edith Martin.
b. Nellie May Coombs, b. 1892.
c. William Henry Coombs, b. 1896.
d. Richard Coombs, b. 1898
e. Hettie Coombs married Richard Hiscott.
 iv. Eli Francis Coombs, see below.
v. John Coombs, a fisherman in Upper Island Cove.
vi. Richard Coombs, d. 1939.
4. ELI FRANCIS4 COOMBS (Richard3, Richard2, John1) was born on 22 May 1873 in Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. On 9 November 1893, he married BRIDGET CLARE at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Harbour Grace. He died 16 November 1956 in East Boston, MA.
Eli Coombs converted to Roman Catholicism to marry seventeen-year-old Bridget Clare, which created a rift between him and his parents to the extent that he left their names off of his wedding certificate. There was much Catholic/Protestant strife in Newfoundland at the time. Eli and Bridget married less than a decade after the 1885 Harbour Grace Affray, in which which five people were killed in a riot provoked by an Orangemen’s parade. No doubt these social prejudices contributed to the family rift.
In 1919, Eli emigrated to the Boston area, where he worked as a ship’s carpenter. He sent for his wife and children in 1920, and they lived the rest of their lives in East Boston. My mother remembered him making model ships. Eli’s and Bridget’s children were:
i. Mary Coombs (1895-2001). Born in Harbour Grace, Mary emigrated to East Boston in 1914, before her father, and worked in a shoe factory in Lynn, MA. Her friend Nora O’Brian emigrated with her. They boarded with Mary’s Aunt Annie Clare Whalen and they ended up marrying brothers. On New Year’s Eve 1922, Mary married Bernard COSTIGAN of Harbour Main, Newfoundland in a church rectory in East Boston. They were my grandparents.
ii. Henry Francis Coombs, b. 1898 in Harbour Grace. He was said to be a wonderful singer. Married Cecelia SHEA of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland.
iii. Annie Coombs (1905-1937). She married Thomas BURKE.
iv. Eli Coombs (1907-1991). He married Irene BOUDREAU.
v. John Coombs, b. 1904. He married Annie MURRAY of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland.
vi. Alexander Coombs (1912-1998). Called Sandy. Served in WW2. He married Mary COSTIGAN of Harbour Main, Newfoundland, the daughter of Patrick Costigan and Nora O’Brian. So basically he married his eldest sister’s niece.
vii. William Coombs (1913-1976). Married.
viii. Edward Valentine Coombs (1915-1995). Called Val. Married a woman named Eleanor in East Boston, MA. They eventually relocated to Florida.
ix. Winifred Coombs (1917-1978). Winifred married Leo McCORMICK, was widowed, and remarried to Willard SWAN around 1960.
Photo credits: The photo of Upper Island Cove was found in several online locations; I’m not sure whose photo it is.
The photo of Harbour Grace is courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Coll – 75, 5.05.159), Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Newfoundland. Detail from a photo by R. T. Parsons.
The other photos are my family photos.
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