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A cousin lost

She entered this world 98 years ago tomorrow — on the 21st of April 1915 — in Texas. And she left it 76 years ago today, on the 20th of April 1937 — one day shy of her 22nd birthday.

And there may be no-one alive today who knew her well.

Her name was Bonnie Mae Cottrell. She was my grandfather’s first cousin.

And it pains me to have to admit that, so far, I have only five entries in my Master Genealogist database on this cousin.

Her birth, on 21 April 1915, most likely Iowa Park, Wichita County, Texas, daughter of George Washington Cottrell (Jr.) and Birdie Jane Moss.1 She was their last born child; the couple only had one other surviving child, Luda Pearl, born some five years earlier.2

I’ve never found this family on the 1920 census, so the next entry I have is her residence, in Kiowa County, Oklahoma, with her family, in 1930. Bonnie was shown as age 16, born in Texas. She hadn’t attended school within the prior year and the word “none” was written in the column for her occupation. By 1930, her father was 63 years old, shown as a farm laborer. Her mother was age 50. Living with them was her sister Pearl, age 20, Pearl’s husband Ellis Jackson, a 24-year-old farm laborer, and the Jacksons’ three-month-old daughter Eva Mae.3

Then I have the one I treasure. It’s the link to the image you see here:

This is the only photograph I have of this cousin. It was kept by the Jackson family, perhaps in the keeping of one of the children in the front. Taken sometime in the 1930s, showing Bonnie at her father’s side.4

And then there are the last two entries.

Her death, on 20 April 1937, of pneumonia, in Levelland, Hockley County, Texas.5 And her burial at the Levelland City Cemetery, in an unmarked grave, next to the unmarked graves of her parents. Buried on her 22nd birthday.6

She never married. Never had children. Never saw the world beyond a small part of Texas and Oklahoma. Never really had a chance to live before she was taken.

And can be remembered only through five entries in a database … and — thank heavens for the Jackson family — one beautiful photograph.


  1. Texas State Department of Health, death certificate no. 21650, Bonnie Mae Cottrell, 21 April 1937; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.
  2. See generally Social Security Death Index, Luda P Jackson, 4 Feb 1991.
  3. 1930 U.S. census, Kiowa County, Oklahoma, Dill Township, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 38-4, page 240(A) (stamped), sheet 9A, dwelling 179, family 181, G.W. Cottrell household; digital image, ( : accessed 19 April 2013); citing National Archive microfilm publication T626, roll 1909.
  4. Photograph, Bonnie Mae Cottrell and G.W. Cottrell with other family members, inscribed “Mid 1930’s, Aunt Bonnie, Grandpa Cottrell;” held by Jackson family members in Texas; digital copy provided to the author, June 2006.
  5. Texas Dept. of Health, death certif. no. 21650, Bonnie Mae Cottrell, 21 April 1937.
  6. See Levelland City Cemetery, Hockley County, Texas, Cottrell family markers; memorials, Find A Grave ( : accessed 19 April 2013).
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