Select Page

Two… or only one?

So The Legal Genealogist is in Frankfort, Kentucky, today for the 41st annual seminar of the Kentucky Genealogical Society.

We’re going to have a lot of fun talking about basic court record, federal court records, copyright and even how to find — and when to tell — the rest of the story.

But that’s not all I want to do in Kentucky.

I also want to find clues, if clues can be found, to one of the family’s most perplexing mysteries.

The question of George.

Now you’ve heard me complain about George before.

George Washington Cottrell is my second great grandfather. He married my second great grandmother Martha Louisa Baker in Parker County, Texas, in December 1853.1 Or maybe it was in Johnson County, Texas, in December of 1854.2 No matter that it was recorded in Johnson County in January of 1855.3

How.manyGeorge is the one who first appears in the Texas records in an 1842 marriage in Colorado County,4 followed soon thereafter by — sigh — his indictment. For bigamy and adultery.5

He skated on that charge, and on others, and ended up next door in newly-created Wharton County where, in 1847, he got himself in even deeper hot water: he was accused of murder.6

He was indicted,7 but took off — and was never tried for the crime. The charge was ultimately dismissed in 1857.8

So… where did he come from?

Now George himself said he was from Kentucky. Born in fact on 5 March 1821 “3 miles from Lexington in Madison County, KY.”9 Except that Madison County isn’t — and never was — that close to Lexington. And except that — sigh — there isn’t even a hint of a Cottrell family in the rich, deep and well-preserved records of Madison County.

But there was a George in Shelby County, Kentucky. A George who — from the records — appears to have squandered his inheritance in the 1830s and hightailed it out of Kentucky before 1840.

That Shelby County George showed up sporadically on the Shelby County tax rolls10 until his daddy died and then he popped right on there with all of his daddy’s acreage in his name.11 At least until his siblings forced the partition of the land in 1840.12

Now it sure seems to me that the behavior of the Shelby County George is an awful lot like the behavior of the early Texas George. And the Shelby County George disappears only a short time before the Texas George shows up.

But are we dealing with one man here… or two? One George who lived in both places… or two Georges who just happen to both be scoundrels?

Gotta love these family mysteries…

And oh… by the way … if you’re a male descendant of the Shelby County Cottrells, let’s talk. I have a DNA test with your name on it just waiting…


  1. Survivor’s Claim, 23 March 1887, 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.
  2. Ibid., Survivor’s Brief, 17 February 1890.
  3. 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.
  4. Colorado County, Texas, Marriage Book B: 38, Cotrell-Gilbert; County Clerk, Columbus.
  5. 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.
  6. See From Texas, New York Daily Tribune, 22 Dec 1847, p. 1, col. 4; digital images, “Old New York State Historical Newspaper Pages,” Old Fulton Post Cards ( : accessed 8 Jun 2012).
  7. See Wharton County, Texas, District Court Minute Book A: 9 (13 October 1848); County Clerk, Wharton.
  8. Wharton County District Court Minute Book B: 7, 28 October 1857.
  9. Survivor’s Brief, 17 February 1890, pension application no. 7890 (Rejected).
  10. 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.
  11. Ibid., Tax Roll 1830, p. 22, entry for George Cottrell.
  12. Shelby County, Ky., Deed Book G2: 152, deed of partition; County Clerk’s Office, Shelbyville; KDLA microfilm.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email