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Y me???

With a second great grandfather like George Washington Cottrell, DNA testing was an obvious choice for The Legal Genealogist.

George — my favorite ancestor — is my rogue. My rascal. My family scoundrel.1

3d render of dna structure, abstract  backgroundAnd he’s undoubtedly my nemesis. He said in a Mexican War pension application that he was born in Madison County, Kentucky, in 1821.2 But there are really good records for that time period in Madison County — deeds, wills, tax records — and George’s family (if it was there at all) didn’t even leave footprints in Madison County.

And once I saw his criminal record history — starting with an indictment for bigamy3 and ending with an indictment for murder4 — one thing that occurred to me is that his name — my family name — might have been something he thought to change.

Nope. The one crime George didn’t commit was the genealogical crime of changing his name. My family member with the Cottrell surname who directly descends from George shares the same YDNA with tons of other Cottrell-surnamed men. YDNA, remember, is the type of DNA that is passed from father to son to son with few changes over the generations.5

And while we have that annoying break in our paper trail, some of the other Cottrell-surnamed men have excellent paper trails back to one Richard Cottrell who died in Virginia in 1715.6 And given those paper trails, the most recent common ancestor for many of these men is this earliest Richard or one of his sons, Richard or Thomas.

In other words, very early 18th century.


So why am I annoyed with my Cottrells today?

Because of another set of YDNA results that just came in.

A perfect 67-for-67 match with my Cottrell and several other Cottrell-surnamed men.

Except he’s not a Cottrell. Well, not by surname, at any rate.

And he’s a close autosomal cousin in an entirely different line. My grandmother’s Battles line, instead of my grandfather’s Cottrell line.

This other line begins its paper trail with a Revolutionary War soldier who went by the name William Battles or Noel Battles or William Noel Battles or Noel Battlesby or… He was born most likely in Albemarle County, Virginia, around 1757.7

He named a son Archibald in his will and one of Archibald’s descendants with a perfect paper trail down to today has YDNA tested and is a 36-for-37 match with another Battles man who descends from an ancestor of mine on my grandmother’s side.

And they both — both of these Battles men, whose most recent common ancestor to each other is William Noel Battles, born in 1757, and whose families split up and went to different parts of the country by the mid-1800s — match the Cottrells.

All of the Cottrells.

Including the folks with the perfect paper trail back to the early 18th century.

Now there’s no break in the overall Cottrell paper trail starting with Richard (looking, of course, at the other Cottrell men’s records). There’s no data on William Noel Battles before his own birth, but a lot of speculation that he was illegitimate and possibly of mixed blood — part Indian, perhaps, part mulatto more likely.

In other words, we likely have a Cottrell man fathering an illegitimate Battles child somewhere between 1735 (if William Noel’s father) and 1757 (if William Noel himself).

And their descendants — my grandmother (from the Battles side) and my grandfather (from the Cottrell side) meeting and marrying in the early 20th century.

Could my ancestry get any more complicated?


  1. See generally Judy G. Russell, “Darn it all, George!,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 18 May 2012, and “Oh George… you stinker!,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 9 Jun 2012 ( : accessed 8 Nov 2014).
  2. Survivor’s Brief, 17 February 1890, 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Wharton County, Texas, District Court Minute Book A: 9, State of Texas v. G.W. Cottrell, Criminal Cause No. 9 (13 October 1848); FHL microfilm 1012537.
  5. ISOGG Wiki (, “Y chromosome DNA tests,” rev. 5 Mar 2014.
  6. See generally Richard J. Cottrell, “Richard and Mary (Anderson) Cottrell of New Kent Co., VA” ( : accessed 8 Nov 2014).
  7. Noel Battles, no. S.12960 (Pvt., Capt. Shelton’s Company, 10th Va. Reg.); Revolutionary War Pensions and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, microfilm publication M804, 2670 rolls (Washington, D.C. : National Archives and Records Service, 1974); digital images, Fold3 ( : accessed 22 Mar 2014).
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