Per the Social Security Death Index, Sherrianne Coleman was born 10/29/1944. Sherry married William Nicol and they resided for many years in Bradenton Florida.
I remember expressing concern to her about the hurricanes which seemed to hit their state every weekend one summer. Sherry was passionate about her work in Coleman family history and made a great effort to amplify the earlier work of Judge Solon Bernard Coleman on the descendants of one Robert Coleman who settled in Gloucester County, Colonial Virginia, near the shores of Mobjack Bay. Her efforts culminated with the publication of her work, a two volume set, about 2 inches thick total of 8.5 by 11 inch paper chock full of facts about the Coleman Family and known descendants of the Robert Coleman of Mobjack Bay.
Her web site today captures the text and images of the work she published at her own expense in 1998.
This is the story of how I, the web curator of Sherry's site, got to know the author. I was doing a personal web site of my own which featured what I knew about my Coleman line and what materials I had found in
Sherry found my web site and suggested I should list her book. I suggested she send me a copy so I could see what I was endorsing. She did. I did. And we became fast friends. A few years later, with help from others who saw my site, I realized I was probably descended from the Robert Coleman of Nansemond County, Colonial Virginia, mid to late 1600s. When I told Sherry, she was delighted and said "YOU MUST WRITE THE BOOK!"
You see, there were four such Robert Colemans in
Colonial Virginia in the 1600s. There were books on two of these. A third had no
known male heirs. So all that was left was for some adventuresome soul to come
along and write the book on the descendants of the fourth, the one who first
settled in Nansemond County. Sherry’s work inspired me, and her words to me in
emails encouraged me to undertake the task. I put an outline on my personal web
site for a time. I got more help from other Coleman researchers. I then
created the web site that exists today,
Descendants of Robert Coleman of Nansemond County, Virginia 1684 – 1930. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~nansemondcolemans/
As Sherry suffered the ravages of diabetes and was becoming blind and bedridden a few years ago, I believed the most urgent need was to get her work published on a companion web site like my own. I encouraged her to stop waiting for others to come out with an update and just take the 1998 work and get it online. Before she lost her eyesight, we settled on a layout and were done converting the files to web format. We got the work online as Sherry lost the ability to even discern shadows. Her back became worse and so painful she could not get out of bed much. Her husband and grown children provided for her. Her kids and friends would come and stay with her for long periods.
I know Sherry had suffered a stroke and had difficulty speaking when I tried to call her on the phone in early 2007. I knew that a long battle with pain and suffering was quickly drawing to a close. But before things got so bad, back when I was trying to convince her to let me help her get a free, permanent web site for her work, like I had done for mine; we used to email about her ills. I admired her long suffering and determination to go on. I would joke with her using the lines from a folk song "The old gray mule, she ain’t what she used to be, many long years, ago!" Now, today, I know that sounds cruel. But back when we were sharing and joking around with one another, it was my way of getting her to laugh and persevere through difficult times that sapped her strength and took away her desire to pursue genealogy research any further. Though I understood what she was saying about the loss of interest and lost energy, I believed the best thing to do would be to allow everyone the benefit of her work by having it online and indexed by Internet search engines. That was the task I set out to accomplish. Together, Sherry and I did it.
I have no regrets and only admiration for the work she did. Now, her web site remains a lasting tribute to a great woman. From stories she typed to me, she painted a verbal self-portrait of a stubborn, passionate researcher. But she was an encouraging good friend, an inspiration, and a fellow Coleman history researcher and author.
Per the Social Security Death Index, Sherry died 06/24/2007 at age 62.
Before her decline became so severe, several fellow researchers said they would take on the task of updating her work. This has never born fruit. A few sent me vague ideas they had about the addition of something. I've never been familiar with details of Sherry's work or the issues or controversies she had with others over the years. So I wasn't enthusiastic about changing it, had no knowledge the contributors assumed I had, and had no benefit of prior knowledge of the controversies Sherry referred to in correspondence.
Sherry's web site was never a forum for exchange of ideas. For that, I would use the Coleman Family Forum of GenForum. However, many earnestly seek to have bits of information added to expand on their branches of the work. I've decided it would be useful to add links to web pages that provide additional information online that is creditable to a person who can defend the information, the source of that information and show or explain a connection to Sherry's work. As long as it is clear that the added information belongs to and is controlled by another individual, it should be clear that this is not part of what Sherry assembled, and is not an endorsement of the position, simply a link to it as related information.
Family DNA research is rewriting what we believed we knew about the early ties of various Coleman lines. Genetically speaking, there are two different Coleman groups in Sherry’s work, as well as in my own. Together, there is no common male ancestor for the four lines. While this may seem surprising, it should not be since, in the earliest times, Colemans from different origins became neighbors in the colonies, and later, the early United States. These neighbors create confusion over the relationships between neighboring Colemans. Adoptions and extra-marital relations may have occurred to create the observed genetic diversity. Perhaps it’s a wonder that only two genetic groups were found in Sherry’s work and in my own! The picture is more of the early effort of an expressionist painter. Recall the expressionists used dots of color to reveal a pattern of their design, the realization of an image they conceived. Family DNA testing creates one dot in the genetic family picture for each individual tested. With so few dots, it’s a bit early to say what the final image is that will ultimately develop. However, it is of interest to learn what is known about Coleman Family DNA here.
It is my hope that Sherry's foundational work can benefit others who will let it point the way to insight into who they or a loved one of theirs is and where they came from.
If you want, you can send me web site links that amplify a branch or appear to connect to this work. Just don’t send me puzzles connected to Sherry's work. If I read them, I won’t eat much or sleep much until I solve them! So I probably won't read them.
Web builder, Coleman researcher and author