Kentucky to Tennessee to Texas?
Genealogists, truth be told, have favorite ancestors.
We don’t always admit it — we feel somehow we should love and honor them all equally, the way a parent is supposed to love the children all equally.
But we all really do have those special folks hanging from some branch of our family tree who just call to us.
Mine… mine is George.
My rascal of a second great grandfather who has led me a merry chase for years.
George Washington Cottrell, who died in Texas in 1891, may very well never have told the truth to anybody about anything.
He said he was born on 5 March 1821 “3 miles from Lexington in Madison County, KY.”1
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.
And if he was born in 1821, why does the 1850 census show that he was 40 years old?2
Which, by the way, doesn’t square with the only other time he got found by a census enumerator — in 1880 — and then was recorded as age 59.3
He gave a whole ration of different information about his marriage to Martha Louisa Baker. The marriage — which was actually recorded in January 1855 in Johnson County, Texas4 — was in Parker County, Texas, in December 1853.5 Or maybe in Johnson County in December 1854.6
And we won’t even get into the question of the Mexican War pension he tried to get — with absolutely not a single shred of evidence that he ever served in the Mexican War.7
But one thing about George is still a real mystery: who were his parents?
I really don’t think he was from Madison County, Kentucky. But there is a candidate George from Shelby County, Kentucky. He fouled up his handling of his father’s estate and hightailed it out of town. Very much like the behavior of the George of Texas.
And where did that George go?
According to one record — an 1840 deed — he landed in Hamilton County, Tennessee.8
Tennessee… where I am sitting, at this moment, writing this blog post, and getting ready to speak at the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society.
George… I’m coming for you, buddy.
You and I really need to get together.
- 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. ↩
- 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, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 May 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 910. ↩
- 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, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 May 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 1232. ↩
- 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. ↩
- Survivor’s Claim, 23 March 1887, pension application no. 7890 (Rejected). ↩
- Ibid., Survivor’s Brief, 17 February 1890. ↩
- I wrote a whole article on that little tidbit. See Judy G. Russell, “George Washington Cottrell of Texas: One Man or Two?,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 105 (Sep 2017): 165-179. ↩
- Shelby County, Ky., Deed Book G2: 152, deed of partition; County Clerk’s Office, Shelbyville; KDLA microfilm. ↩
Loved this one Judy! Ol George is going to be surprised when his great niece exposes all those stories he has spread around. Give it up George, she is relentless.
Unfortunately, it looks like the George who went to Hamilton isn’t my George — that George appears to have stayed in Tennessee and died there (at least it looks that way now) so that couldn’t be my guy who went on to Texas. Sigh… George is such a rascal to lead me on this merry chase!
I know what you mean about “favorites”. My favorite, although a distant relative with the same surname as my Mother, was also a rogue. His adventures keep my smiling. He was arrested in Russia for being a Spy. He wasn’t but he was detained for a short time. He built the Vandome Hotel in Knoxville, TN, and got into trouble over that. He sent a telegram to his wife telling her to get a divorce because he had found a “rich widow”, etc., etc. All of these things and more were recounted in various newspapers. He was Dr. Herman G. Bayless and for some reason, I love the man. He keeps me smiling!
They are total rogues… and we love them dearly, don’t we? Not sure we’d have been so amused by them had we lived in their time, but… 🙂
We probably would have disowned Herman in the day and insited that our surname was spelled differently. In fact, maybe this sort of thing is what resulted in the many variations in the surname BAYLESS – Lol!
Thank you for the excellent presentation Saturday in Brentwood, it was the first time I had heard you and I (80) + learned a lot, the cousin that brought me had attended your class in Raleigh this summer and said you were an excellent speaker and you are. I had a question for you but there were already some people standing in line and we needed to get on the road back to Cookeville .. My question was , if someone turns up as a close relative in you DNA and no one in the family has every heard of the name, where do you from there? Thank you again for a wonder day.
Bettie Sue, the reality of DNA testing is that there are many families discovering that they have relatives they didn’t know about: often children given up for adoption during the time when an out-of-wedlock child was a cause for great consternation in the family; sometimes just branches of the family that lost contact. So the tested people need to contact each other and — carefully and with consideration for the emotional impact on both sides — explore where the connection might have been and where and how it might have been broken. There are some great support groups on Facebook and elsewhere to help guide families through this process.
my grandfather was an orphan. Census 1900 and 1910 always says born 1878 in Philadelphia, PA.May have been in Germantown Orphanage, Phil. PA area. He was murdered in 1916. I did find his parents names on his DE. wedding license/cert. But, so far, no one except one in Texas has that name. My question- since he was never adopted , What organizations, that you mentioned in previous post, can help me from these yrs 1878-1916.?
Your best bets are the records of the orphanage where he was and the courts in that area.
I know what you mean by a “favorite” ancestor, though mine is a gg uncle, who “ran away from home” in his twenties, and told tall tales about where he and his family were from. I’ve got his father’s Family Bible, and he was boringly born in central Illinois in 1859, to a father born in Dutch New York and a mother born in what’s now Cleveland, Ohio. The 1860 census is missing, but in 1870 and 1880 he’s 10 and 20, as he should be. Then he disappears from IL. In place of the 1890 census, he shows up in the family records of an English woman who emigrated to New Mexico in 1887! She had an unusual name and so did he, so my third cousin, his g granddaughter, and I, are sure it’s the right couple when they marry on a ranch near Ruidoso, New Mexico in 1890. A photograph taken on their wedding day shows him looking almost exactly like his father, and her like sisters left behind in England. In all the later NM censuses, though, he’s changed everything except his surname. Either he had no sense of arithmetic, or he was always out on the range and his wife told the enumerator his age, as it was always off by at least 15 years younger than reality, and sometimes the same from one census year to another. He always said he was born in Louisiana, his father in France—France!—and his mother anywhere from Louisiana to “unknown.” Between my third cousin and myself, we have a handful of letters one or the other of the couple wrote to family members back in IL. All were either to sisters—he had no brothers—or he waited until his father’s death in 1884 to write to his mother. In this case, we think we know what happened. The question is why. My third cousin and I suspect that some time in his early 20s, in the early 1880s, he and his father had a falling out, perhaps over what his father, known to be strict, wanted him to do with his life, and he lit out in order to live his life as he chose. The fact that we’ll never know for sure continues to intrigue us both.
Oh that sounds like a fun guy to chase, Doris!! 🙂
My great-grandparents took pains to obfuscate, mislead, and disinform regarding their family history. Their daughter, my great-aunt, in fact once told me to not concern myself with that information. I have, however, been able to piece together a few things about them, including a Philadelphia port of entry manifest showing a woman whom I believe with 95+% certainty to be my g-g-m, along with her daughter Pessie, and also her b-i-l. “Pessie” is consistent with the Hebrew inscription on my g-aunt’s grave marker (though she went by “Betty” or sometimes “Elizabeth” during her life), and my grandfather spoke on a number of occasions of a brother of his father who ended up in Cleveland.
My g-g-f’s death certificate shows his birthplace as Odessa, consistent with a few things I had heard in my younger days. That the physician who completed the death certificate was my uncle (i.e., his grandson) gives that factoid at least a small modicum of credibility.
This gives me a few leads to try to track down at such time as I become better postured to do so, currently being abroad as I am.
Good luck, Ken! And good luck in figuring out why they wanted this obfuscated!