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It really shouldn’t be this hard…

She was born 110 years ago today in a little town in Wichita County, Texas.

Or maybe not.

And The Legal Genealogist is getting really annoyed at finding these gaps in the research files…

Typically on a family Saturday around here, I’ll open up a terrific little program called On This Day. Written by John Cardinal, it’s an add-on to The Master Genealogist, the genealogy software program I still love and use despite the fact that it hasn’t been updated or even supported for some time now.

And when I did that first thing this morning, there were a number of events On This Day that I could have chosen to write about. The burial 11 years ago of a beloved uncle. And I’ve written about Billy before.1 The death 145 years ago of a third great grandfather, and I’ve written about William Battles before.2 And tucked in between those two the entry for the birth of Myrtle Maud Holley.

Now there, I thought, was a worthy candidate: the second child — and only surviving child — of Henry Dixon Holley and Nettie Hyburnia (Cottrell) Holley — Myrtle Maud Holley was my mother’s cousin, my first cousin once removed, and she didn’t have an easy life.

She never knew her only sibling, who was born and died before Myrtle was even born. Mary Holley was born with hydrocephalus in April 1907 and didn’t live even seven months. She died 3 November 1907 and was buried at Riverside Cemetery in Wichita Falls, Texas.3 And Myrtle lost her father to tuberculosis when she was barely school age,4 and lost her mother to a horrific house fire in 1934.5

So it seemed a natural choice. Write up Myrtle’s life.

After all, I even knew what she looked like from photos like this one:

Myrtle and Cottrell kids

That’s Myrtle Holley with her much younger cousins, from left to right, my aunt Cladyne, my uncle Monte, my mother Hazel, called Totsy, and my uncle Billy.

And the snag came right at the start.

With that minor little issue.

Just exactly when and where was Myrtle Maud Holley born?

Oh, I have a citation in my database for her date of birth, all right. And… sigh… it’s the 1910 U.S. census of Wichita County, showing her as one year old.6

Um… that doesn’t exactly get me to 2 March 1909, does it?

There’s no entry for a Myrtle Maud Holley in the Texas Birth Index for 1903-1997.7

There’s no age recorded on her marriage license and return when she married H.L. Haag in 1938 in Brazoria County, Texas.8

Her death notice in the New Orleans Times-Picayune gives her date of death — 27 July 1971 — but doesn’t give her age or date of birth.9 And 1971 Louisiana death records aren’t yet available to folks as loosely related as I am.10

So… where in the world does the March 2 date come from?

Now I know. After an awful lot of wheelspinning this morning, the answer came in an unindexed book of birth records from Wichita County, Texas, now digitized on FamilySearch.

Clerk’s No. 812, Date of record March 2, 1909. Date of report March 31, 1909. Name of child: No name – Female – White. Date of birth: March 2 1909. Place of Birth: Burkburnett, Texas. Legitimate. Father: American. Mother: American. Name of Father and Mother: H.D. Holley, Nettie Holley. Born: Alive. Reported by: R.J. Dill, Burkburnett, Texas.11

And it’s not just the names of the parents that make me sure it’s the right child — it’s also because of what’s written in a much different handwriting underneath the entry for No name – Female – White in the column for the name of the child: Myrtle Maud Holley. Myrtle apparently got a delayed birth certificate issued in her full name in 1964.

And yes, I am entering this information this minute in my database, so I don’t spin these same wheels again down the road.

Sigh… if I’d known then what I know now…

Document, document, document…

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Birthing a cousin,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 2 March 2019).


  1. See, for example, Judy G. Russell, “One veteran’s tale,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 9 Nov 2013 ( : accessed 2 March 2019).
  2. See, for example, ibid., “On with the Battles,” posted 13 April 2014.
  3. Wichita County, Texas, Record of Deaths 1: 17, 5 Dec 1907, entry for Mary Holly, no. 167; County Court, Wichita Falls.
  4. Texas State Board of Health, death certificate no. 14222, Henry Dixon Holley, 17 June 1915; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.
  5. See Judy G. Russell, “Remembering Nettie,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 8 Mar 2014. See also Texas State Department of Health, death certif. no. 14160, Mrs. H.D. Holley, 8 March 1934; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.
  6. 1910 U.S. census, Wichita County, Texas, population schedule, Justice Precinct 5, enumeration district (ED) 233, p. 73(A) (stamped), sheet 13(A), dwelling 180, family 180, H Dixon Holley household; digital image, ( : accessed 14 Oct 2011); citing National Archive microfilm publication T624, roll 1597.
  7. “Texas Birth Index for 1903-1997,” ( : accessed 2 Mar 2019).
  8. Brazoria County, Texas, Marriage License and Return, no. 834, H.L. Haag and Myrtle Holley, 23 July 1938; digital images, “Texas, Select County Marriage Records, 1837-2015,” ( : accessed 2 Mar 2019).
  9. New Orleans Times-Picayune, “Deaths : Haag,” 28 July 19871, p. 16, col. 7; digital images, GenealogyBank ( : accessed 2 Mar 2019).
  10. Request a Birth or Death Certificate,” State Registrar & Vital Records, Louisiana Department of Health ( : accessed 2 Mar 2019) (“Under Louisiana law, … death records are strictly confidential until 50 years after the year of the death”).
  11. Wichita County, Texas, Record of Births 1: 82, No. 812, Female Holley, 2 Mar 1909; County Court, Wichita Falls; digital images, “Wichita County Texas, index to births, 1860-1942 and birth records, 1860-1933,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 2 Mar 2019).
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