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Musings for the birthday of a much-loved uncle

It’s one of The Legal Genealogist‘s favorite family pictures.

In part, because of what it tells us about the boy in the picture.

And in part because of what it tells us about the woman who took the picture and whose handwriting appears on the back.

You can write some of the story yourself, just by looking at the photo:


Yes, indeed, that is my uncle Jerry — my mother’s younger brother — the ninth child born to my Cottrell grandparents, Clay Rex and Opal (Robertson) Cottrell.1

And, yes, indeed, that is my uncle Jerry tied to a tree.

It was taken in Medicine Park, Oklahoma, just an hour or so northeast of the part of Oklahoma where my grandparents had lived when they met.

With the caption carefully written on the back, in my grandmother’s unmistakable handwriting:


Yes, indeed, my uncle Jerry was a handful.

He’s the one, for example, who dared to speak up after my grandmother laid down the law after dinner one day. “The next person to criticize my cooking,” she told everyone, “gets to do the cooking from now on.” The very next morning, at breakfast, it was Jerry who uttered the words: “This gravy is salty!”

The entire table grew silent. My grandmother stared at the boy. It took him a second to realize just what he’d done. He looked up, got that smile on his face and — being Jerry — did what he had to do.

He said: “And that’s just the way I like it.”

Yes, indeed, my uncle Jerry was a handful.

Now that’s no real surprise. He was the ninth-born child, and the seventh to survive. The first-born, Ruth, died as an infant, in Texas.2 Another child, Donald, died in 1932 of smallpox.3

But there were six other strapping Cottrell kids in that household when Jerry was born. Just by virtue of the numbers, Jerry would have been a handful.

So it’s no wonder that his name on his original birth certificate isn’t Jerry.

It’s La Stone.

Think about that for a minute.

Spell it out.

L – A – S – T   O – N – E.4

That original birth certificate is dated 82 years ago… tomorrow.

Happy birthday, Uncle Jerry.

And many happy returns of the day.


  1. Texas State Department of Health, Birth Certif. No. 54941 (1934), La Stone Cottrell; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.
  2. Dutton Funeral Home (Iowa Park, Texas), Record of Funeral, Baby Cottrell, 22 February 1918; digital copy privately held by Judy G. Russell. Also, interview with Opal Robertson Cottrell (Kents Store, VA), by granddaughter Bobette Richardson, 1980s; copy of notes privately held by Judy G. Russell.
  3. Texas Department of Health, death certificate no. 35631, Donald Harris Cottrell (1930); Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.
  4. Except that he wasn’t. There were three more children born after Jerry…
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