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Word-picture postcards of a life

They are among the most precious gifts a genealogist can ever receive.

Those snippets that help breathe life into the names and dates and places of our research.

In late August 1908, The Legal Genealogist‘s great grandfather Jasper Carlton Robertson went to Texas from his home in Tillman County, Oklahoma. The snippet — published in the local events column of the local newspaper — tells why: “J.C. Robertson has returned from Texas, where he was called to see his mother, who was seriously hurt in falling from a wagon. She is slowly improving.”1


Except that she didn’t improve. Isabella (Gentry) Robertson died less than a month later, at the home of Jasper’s sister Fannie, in Hopkins County, Texas. We know that from other snippets, published in tiny Texas newspapers.2 And we now know what likely contributed to her death.

We knew that Jasper had been a farmer in Oklahoma; we have his homestead papers where he set out what improvements he had made to the property he acquired in the Big Pasture land opening in 1906.3 But the snippets tell us he didn’t stay a farmer:

• In January 1910, he sold off farm animals and implements.4

• In June 1910, his business in Hollister was listed as having charge of a store house for the Lewis Ice Company of Frederick.5

• In November 1910 he’d traveled to Arkansas to buy a car of apples for his store.6

• In February 1911, Jasper’s business had bought a half interest in the H.H. Lewis stock of general merchandise and had moved its own stock and the post office to the Lewis building.7

• In March of 1911, “the building formerly purchased by the J.C. Robertson grocery” was sold to E.L. Looman.8

None of which I would have had a clue about — except for the snippets.

There’s more — so much more — in those little notes in those little newspapers.

I didn’t know, for example, that Jasper was involved in politics — he’d been elected as a Wilson delegate in the Democratic precinct meetings in Tillman County in February 1912.9

I didn’t know that the illness that ended his life early — he was not yet 42 when he died in 1912 of a liver abscess — had been as long and as hard as it was. He was first reported as “quite sick” on 1 March 1912,10 a doctor from Frederick was reportedly called in by 8 March,11 and yet another doctor who was called in by the 15th concluded that “an operation would not be of any help” and that “Mr. Robertson is a very sick man.”12 On the night of March 21, Jasper died at his home.13

I didn’t know that my grandmother — Jasper’s daughter Opal — and her future husband, my grandfather Clay Rex Cottrell, were in the same grade in school. They graduated together from eighth grade in July of 1913.14

I didn’t know that Jasper’s widow, my great grandmother Eula, and her son, my granduncle Fred, had been sued because of the failure of an Oklahoma bank in the early 1930s15 — and had lost the case.16

And those are just a few of those snippets.

Filling in the details beyond name and date and place.

Telling the rest of the story.

Word-picture postcards of a life.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Those snippets,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 12 June 2021).


  1. “Farmingdale,” The Frederick (Okla.) Leader, 28 August 1908, p. 8, col. 2; digital images, ( : accessed 12 June 2021).
  2. See e.g. “Sulphur Bluff,” Sulphur Springs (Texas) Gazette, 2 October 1908, p. 3, col. 2; digital images, Portal to Texas History ( : accessed 12 June 2021).
  3. See Homestead Proof–Testimony of Claimant, 29 August 1908, Jasper C. Robertson (Tillman County, Oklahoma), cash sale entry, certificate no. 246, Lawton, Oklahoma, Land Office; Land Entry Papers, 1800-1908; Records of the Bureau of Land Management; Record Group 49, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  4. “Public Sale,” The Frederick (Okla.) Leader, 28 January 1910, p. 3, cols. 2-3; digital images, ( : accessed 12 June 2021).
  5. Ibid., “Hollister,” 10 June 1910, p. 4, col. 4.
  6. Ibid., “Hollister,” 2 Nov 1910, p. 2, col. 5.
  7. Ibid., “Hollister,” 9 Feb 1911, p. 1, col. 1.
  8. Ibid., “Hollister,” 9 Mar 1911, p. 1, col. 6.
  9. Ibid., “Tillman County was Carried by Wilson,” 16 Feb 1912, p. 1, cols. 1-2.
  10. Ibid., “Hollister,” Frederick (Okla.) Weekly Enterprise, 1 Mar 1912, p. 5, col. 2.
  11. Ibid., “Hollister,” The Frederick Leader, 8 Mar 1912, p. 4, col. 5.
  12. Ibid., “Hollister,” Frederick (Okla.) Weekly Enterprise, 15 Mar 1912, p. 8, col. 4.
  13. Ibid., “In Memoriam,” The Frederick Leader, 22 Mar 1912, p. 4, col. 4.
  14. Ibid., “County Eighth Grade Exercises July 17,” 11 July 1913, p. 3, cols. 5-6.
  15. Ibid., “More Bank Cases,” The Frederick (Okla.) Press, 20 Jan 1933, p. 4, col. 2.
  16. Ibid., “District Court Judgments,” 21 Apr 1933, p. 1, col. 7.
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