Five entries in a database

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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15 Responses to Five entries in a database

  1. Tim Campbell says:

    Thank you: not for myself but for the future family members who will be searching; who will know a daughter/sister/cousin once existed but seems to eluded us. I have made it a point to publish reports on people I have found who do not have any descendants. I hate to think that someone could live and die and then be forgotten: that would have to be one of the greatest tragedies of genealogy and humanity.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Nicely said, Tim. We all have a duty to those who came before us to tell their stories, particularly if they left no direct descendants to do it.

  2. Debi Austen says:

    And what a beautiful photograph it is!

  3. Julie says:

    Thank you so much. This was a lovely tribute to her. I have a great fondness for people in my family tree who died young and didn’t leave any descendants. They deserve to be remembered, too.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      They do deserve it, Julie, and it’s nice to see so many of us stepping up to make sure they are remembered.

  4. Well put. I’ve been working on some individuals related to my ancestors’ lines currently–particularly in hopes of tracing some health syndromes–and have run into a number who died young, unmarried, with no descendants–in other words, no one left to remember them. There is a particularly plaintive cry that seems to emanate from these entries in my databases, too…

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      It really does seem that they reach out to us, doesn’t it, Jacqi? Somebody to tell their stories…?

  5. Shelley says:

    I enjoyed reading about Bonnie! Now she is known!

  6. At her father’s side. Quite lovely, and a brave expression on her face. A death of pneumonia at this time might have meant she was plagued by “weak lungs” or some form of TB, and that was why she was not attending school. One of my grandmothers died of TB in 1924, and the other spent some time in the 1910s in a sanatorium. You express it well, that she never really had a chance to live.

  7. Kathy says:

    A lovely tribute. I’m always so happy when a picture is found to put a face with cursory entries of dates – and especially those photos that include other members of the family.

  8. Stephanie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing her story. I’m new to genealogy and appreciate your blog very much. My family story includes Hockley county so it was a pleasant surprise. Because of genealogy I’m learning so much about this area of the world I never knew, and I’ve lived here all my life. Greetings from the Dust Bowl!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Stephanie! Good to hear from someone else with family in Hockley County!

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