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George, we hardly know ye

Okay, George Washington Cottrell, you’re getting me seriously annoyed now. I do not appreciate one bit the fact that I’m heading east out of Kentucky not a whole lot closer to finding your parents — my 3rd great grandparents — than I was when I arrived. What’s with you anyway?

First, some census taker in Tarrant County, Texas, in 1850 gets told that you’re 40 years old.1 By 1880, however, the next time the census guys find you, you’re only 59 — with a wife 15 years your junior.2 So which was it, George? Birth year of 1810 or 1820-21? You didn’t maybe fudge your age a little to be a tad more attractive to the young chick, now, did you, George?

I mean, I do have some reasons to doubt you, pal. Remember, you’re the one who applied for a Mexican War pension based on service that nobody can verify. Not the War Department back when you applied, first in 1887, not when you reapplied in 1890, not when your widow Louisa (Baker) Cottrell applied in 1897.3 And, sigh, not me when I poked through the Mexican War muster rolls of Texas troops.4

And you’re the one who once said you were married to Louisa Baker in Parker County, Texas, in December 1853.5 Then you said it was to Patsy Louisa Baker in Johnson County in December 1854.6 You do know the marriage was recorded in Johnson County in January, 1855,7 right? I know, I know. Details.

So when you told the pension folks that you were born on 5 March 1821 “3 miles from Lexington in Madison County, KY,”8 I don’t suppose it bothered you one bit that Madison County isn’t now, wasn’t then, and never has been within three miles of Lexington.

So okay… maybe it wasn’t within three miles of Lexington. But George, pal, buddy, your parents didn’t even leave footprints in that county, okay? No land records. No estate records. No deeds. No wills. No court records. Not even a hint on a tax record.

Maybe you really did mean three miles from Lexington, but you know what, George? That’d be Fayette County. And there’s not a hint of anybody named Cottrell in Fayette County, George! Not a Catrel, or Cattrel, or Catrell, or Cattrell, or Catral, or Cotral… you get the picture, pal?

Now don’t get me wrong, George. I’m deeply grateful to you for the fact that your DNA proves you’re really weren’t dropped off by space aliens. The Y-DNA you passed on to your great grandson, my uncle David, turns up with seven Cottrell-surname matches including two that are 67-for-67 marker matches. So I know I’m at least looking for the right surname.

But you know what, George? At least one of those 67-for-67 matches is to a descendant of the Shelby County, Kentucky, Cottrells. The same Shelby County Cottrells who had a son George who seems to have pretty much squandered his inheritance from his daddy in the 1830s and who’d high-tailed it out of Kentucky before 1840. Just about the time you showed up in Texas, George.

That Shelby County George showed up sporadically on the Shelby County tax rolls9 until his daddy died and then he popped right on there with all of his daddy’s acreage in his name.10 At least until his siblings forced the partition of the land in 1840.11

Seems to me that was a lot like the George Washington Cottrell who popped up in Colorado County, Texas, married the Gilbert widow and then showed up in the tax rolls there with all that lady’s acreage.12 At least until the bigamy rap in the county court there.13 You remember all that, don’t you, George?

Now I’m not saying that Shelby County George is you, George. He does seem to be just a tad older even than the 1850 census would suggest and it’s way too early in my research to be reaching any conclusions… but it does seem just a bit coincidental, now doesn’t it, George? You wouldn’t want to tell me anything about this, now, would you?

Sigh… someday you and I are going to have such a chat.


  1. 1850 U.S. census, Tarrant County, Texas, Navarro District, population schedule, p. 89 (stamped), dwelling/family 3, G W Cotril in the Archie Robinson household; digital image, ( : accessed 18 May 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 910.
  2. 1880 U.S. census, Parker County, Texas, Justice Precinct 6, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 139, p. 458(B) (stamped), dwelling/family 10, George W Cotrell; digital image, ( : accessed 18 May2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 1232; imaged from FHL microfilm 1255323.
  3. See pension application no. 7890 (Rejected), for service of George W. Cotrell of Texas; Mexican War Pension Files; Records of the Bureau of Pensions and its Predecessors 1805-1935; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C. See also widow’s pension application no. 13773 (Rejected), for service of George W. Cottrell of Texas; Mexican War Pension Files; RG-15; NA-Washington, D.C.
  4. Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the Mexican War in Organizations From the State of Texas, microfilm publication M278, 19 rolls (Washington, D.C. : National Archives & Records Service, 1959).
  5. Survivor’s Claim, 23 March 1887, pension application no. 7890 (Rejected).
  6. Ibid., Survivor’s Brief, 17 February 1890.
  7. See Weldon Hudson, Marriage Records of Johnson County, Tx. (Cleburne : Johnson Co. Historical Soc., 2002). Also, Marion Day Mullins and Norma Rutledge Grammer, “Marriage records, Johnson County, Texas, 1854-1880,” manuscript; FHL microfilm 227498 Item 5. And see “Johnson County Marriage Records, First Book,” Footprints vol. 11, no. 4 (November 1968) 125-128.
  8. Survivor’s Brief, 17 February 1890, pension application no. 7890 (Rejected).
  9. See e.g. Shelby County, Kentucky, Tax Roll, 1828, p. 17, entry for Geo Cotrell; County Clerk’s Office, Shelbyville; Kentucky Department of Library and Archives (KDLA) microfilm, Frankfort.
  10. Ibid., Tax Roll 1830, p. 22, entry for George Cottrell.
  11. Shelby County, Ky., Deed Book G2: 152, deed of partition; County Clerk’s Office, Shelbyville; KDLA microfilm.
  12. Colorado County, Texas, Tax Roll, 1844, p. 99, line 1, entry for G.W. Cotrell; Texas Comptroller’s Office, Austin, FHL microfilm 2282151.
  13. Colorado County, Texas, Criminal Court Minutes Book A&B, p. 217, Republic of Texas v. G.W. Cottrell, Criminal Cause File No. 251 (1843); District Court, Columbus
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