Anna Eliza Colvin (1835-1928): A letter

Transcription to pages 10-11 of letter from Anna Eliza Colvin to Lucille Dale ca. 1926

The following was received in 1926 by Lucille Dale (nee Drake), from the letter-writer, Anna Eliza Colvin. The letter was photocopied by Lucille’s son, John T. Dale, and sent it to Deborah Dale who posted it to her personal web blog at:  who provided the digitized copies to this researcher. Although this letter serves to confirm many findings in The Colvin Study, this example also serves to demonstrate how, even with the best intentions, family histories often relay the wrong information and how that information gets passed along the family circuit in un-corrected form. At the time of the letter, Anna Eliza was ninety-one years old. Because of its poor genealogical constructs, corrective annotations have been supplied  in the footnotes. See inset for digitized original letter.


Anna Eliza Colvin, age 91, digitized from copy of tintype.  ca. 1926.  Source: Deborah Dale, living descendant.

Anna Eliza Colvin, age 91, digitized from copy of tintype. ca. 1926.
Source: Deborah Dale, living descendant.

Now I am going to send you a few names of the Colvin family that your aunt Fannie &nd I have thought up guess I will make a labor out of it trying to explain it to you on paper but will do the best I sure we can’t remember very far back as we were both small when we left Va.

first my Grandfather Richard Colvin, who was your Great Great Grand “father.” his Brothers were William Colvin, Lawson Colvin, George Colvin, Edwin Colvin, Sisters, Mary Colvin Holmes, and Polly Colvin Peters who was my fathers mother. [1]

Digitized original of pages 10-11,  personal letter, Anna Eliza Colvin.  Source: Debra Dale, living descendant.

Digitized original of pages 10-11, personal letter, Anna Eliza Colvin.
Source: Debra Dale, living descendant.


Now Grand [?]other Colvin. His wife was Fannie Howison Colvin and her brothers were Sanford Howison, Colvin Howison, and Sallie Howison Thomas.[2]

Now Grandfather and Grandmothers Children was my mother

Annie Colvin Peters [3]

India Colvin Laws [4]

Mary Frances Colvin Gustus[5]

Clinton Colvin[6]

Richard Colvin[7]

George Colvin [8]

Henry Colvin[9]

Stephen Colvin[10]

I believe this is all that I can think of now If I could see you I might tell

[end of letter]

[1] Anna’s paternal grandparents were Richard Colvin, [Sr.] (1762-1825) and Lydia George.(1775-1855) Both are interred in the Colvin Cemetery in Catlett, Fauquier County, Virginia. Of the “Brothers”  she names,  two were omitted. The brothers of her father, Richard Colvin, Jr. (1818-1869) were (in birth order): George Colvin (1802-1873);  Hayward Colvin (1806-1872);  Lawson Colvin (1806-1860); William Colvin (1812-1888),  and James W. Colvin (1815-1892). Richard’s Colvin, Jr.’s sisters were (in birth order): Mary Elizabeth “Polly” Colvin (1790-1852);  Francis Colvin (1795-1858), and Margaret Peggy Colvin (1798- ?) Each of Richard Colvin Sr.’s children, including Richard Colvin, Jr. (1810-1869) received generous land parcels when his estate was probated in 1828 in Fauquier.  See: Richard Colvin, plat and survey of estate division , September 4, 1828 (microfilm), Surveyor, Zachery Cox, Fauquier County Will Book 12, 1831-1832,  pp 407, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

[2]  This lists refers to Anna’s mother, Francis “Fannie” Howison (1811-1901) and her siblings. Among period records there is evidence of a Will for Stephen Howison, III (1776-1862)  who was Frances’ father. An examination of  document in Prince William Will Book R, pg 2, will be necessary to help determine the names of Frances’ siblings. Nos. 3-10 represent the children of Francis  “Fannie” Howison, beginning with Anna Eliza, the letter writer and proceeding through her siblings.

[3] Anna Eliza Colvin (1835-1926) m James Mauzy Peters (1825-1891) May 11 , 1853, Fauquier County. They are interred in the Granbury Cemetery, Granbury, Hood County, Texas.

[4] India Colvin (1845 – 1908) m. Joseph Author Laws (1848-1910) January 21, 1869 in Fauquier County. They are interred at the Catlett Methodist Cemetery, Catlett, Fauquier County, Virginia.

[5] Mary Frances Colvin (1850 – ?)  m. William. S. Eustace (1845-1891) January 28, 1868. Their internment place is under query.

[6] Clinton Columbus Colvin (1837 – 1898) m. Sarah “Sallie” E. Cash (1844- ?) February 23, 1865, Fauquier County, Virginia. Some records referred to Clinton’s burial place vaguely as “Catlett.” He and Sarah’s internment location is under query.

[7] Richard Howison Colvin (1840-1933) m. Clara C. Coldwell (1848-1939) May 5, 1874, Kerr County, Texas. Richard is interred at the High Street Cemetery, Benson, Cochise County, Arizona. Clara’s burial location is under query.

[8] George Washington Colvin (1842-1905) m. Mollie B. Melson (1852-1930) September 17, 1884, Gillespie County, Texas. They are interred at the Nichols Cemetery, Ingram, Kerr County, Texas.

[9] William Henry Colvin (1848-1925) m. Virginia Catherine Colvin, a 1st cousin (1848-1912) January 21, 1869, Fauquier County, Virginia. They are interred in the Colvin Cemetery, Catlett, Fauquier County, Virginia.

[10] Stephen Charles Colvin (1853-1917) m. Lydia N. Maxwell (1858-1927) December 14, 1876, Hood County, Texas. They are interred in the Granbury Cemetery, Granbury, Hood County, Texas.

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George Davis consent for Nancy Davis marriage to George Colvin, December 26, 1810

George Davis consent for Nancy DavisIf you’ve never seen an actual parental consent note from the early 19th century, now is your big chance. This one shows George Davis, father of Nancy Davis (1791-1861). informing the clerk of Harrison County, Kentucky, that his daughter has his permission to marry George Colvin.(1784-1863). [1] If the child was under-age, (under 21) they had to get parental consent which came in the form of a permission slip like this.  There are several reasons why these documents are important. Firstly,  they can clear up uncertainties. Often times, when one finds a marriage listing in an index, there is often no information about the original record, and sometimes the county where the marriage took place is wrong, or the date is wrong. Original records clear that up nicely. In this case, a twenty-six-year-old, George Colvin,  was  marrying a nineteen-year old girl. That wasn’t particular unusual, but without this records, we’d never know.

The note reads:

“Please to let Mr. George Colvin have licence to mary [sic] my Daughter Nancy Davis and with so doing you will much oblige your George Davis.”

William More,  clerk of  Harris County signed and sealed and recorded the note, and George Colvin’s name was also attached, as were those of witnesses who signed with a mark.

Note also, the date at the bottom: December 26, 1810 as well as the language in use: that syntax was somewhat standard  in these kinds of notes with oft-repeated legal phrases such as  “Please to let…to have license… to marry my …and you will much oblige….”  Curiously, here the clerk omitted the phrase, “your humble servant,” which one usually sees in consent forms only twenty years earlier, as in:, “and you will much oblige your humble servant,” . But this note is from 1810, and these folks were no longer under British rule, so here’s clear evidence of a shift in  language use as the idea of non-servitude under an aristocracy takes root.  Thus  the phrase in use becomes, “you will oblige your George Davis,” which sounds rather clunky, but it’s very telling, reflecting the language changes clerks were adopting.

Records from this period were always hand written and space was always at a premium as was ink and paper. Thus,  for these simple documents  you grabbed whatever was handy to scribble these notes on and dashed it off. Note there is no particular order to where  “Mr. William More[sic]”  the clerk of  Harrison County signed his name. It’s just there to make it official. He even seals it with his own little scribbly-mark. Also, if you look at the bond just above the note, notice the spelling and handwriting difference.

The actual registry listing for this marriage has not yet been located, but in all likelihood the couple married within a few days.  Nancy’s brother, Steven Davis, along with her fiancé, George Colvin,  paid the £50.00 to the clerk for the standard surety the next day, and that stage of the marital process was complete. All that remained was for the couple to take the un-signed licence to the minister who’d  perform the wedding ceremony, for the couple to sign the marriage registry, and for the minister to “return” the signed licence to the same clerk who’s issued the bond but who would now record the signed licence among his list of ministers “returns.” From this process we get the idea of civil records of marriage “bonds and returns” in older records.

Original records like these offer more than just genealogic data; they also offer a small window into the lives of those involved in their creation in a way a simple  index entries compiled years after the event never can.  Unfortunately, too few genealogists seek out these primary sources, preferring instead to use less reliable records: un-cited online indexes and family trees. The accuracy of their results, needless to say,  are rather predictable.


[1] George Davis digitized original consent,  December 26,  1810, Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954,

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A Case of Mistaken Identity: Sanford Colvin vs. Sanford Carter, and an evidentiary conflict resolved.

Mary Colvin household, 1850 Federal Census, Stafford County, Virginia.  Many researchers have confused Sanford for a Colvin, thanks to this census..

Mary Colvin household, digitized original of the 1850 Federal Census, Stafford County, Virginia. Many researchers have confused Sanford (line 12, hh 258, ) for a Colvin, thanks to this census.

On or about August 24, 1850, a Federal enumerator visited his 258th  household in the Eastern Census District of Stafford County, Virginia.[1] That day he met with or was told about the occupants. There was Mary Colvin, the head of household, sixty years old allegedly, overseeing a home composed almost entirely of females – all of them her descendants – three generations worth. There were also men folk. One, her son Alfred Colvin, at thirty  years old, was a seeming confirmed bachelor. And there were two other men: Richard Carter, and an odd duck, Sanford Colvin. These two, Richard and Sanford, according to how they were tallied in the census, appear to be oddly similar. They are, for example, the only two “laborers,” on what was clearly a subsistence farm – the term in such records implying day laborers — men hired by the day, week, or season, typically when there was planting or harvesting to do. Alfred, Mary’s son, conversely, was listed as “farmer” which implied he was a permanent resident of the location. The two laborer males were also some thirteen years apart in age – close enough to pass for siblings. But with different surnames, that appear, at first glance, unlikely. Thus far, compelling but indirect evidence strongly suggests Mary Colvin was the likely spouse of John Colvin in whose household, according to the 1820 U.S. Federal Census, three young males (most likely sons,) resided.[2] Two members of the trio were between 0-10 years old; the third was age 16-18. Careful analysis of that census and other records from 1810-1860, reveal that George Colvin (who by 1840 had relocated with his family to Ohio ) and Alfred Colvin, (who died in 1870) are very likely the two sons of John who appear in the 1820 census.[3]

That obviously leaves Sanford Colvin as the 3rd son – or does it? To answer that question, a little cross-referencing is in order: we must return to the 1850 Federal Census where Sanford is enumerated as being age “43.” If correct, Sanford would have to have been age thirteen in 1820. If correct, however, this also creates a conflict since no male appears in the 1820 John Colvin census age 10-16, despite there being a column for such a listing. Further, if age thirteen  in 1820, that would mean that by 1823 — when Sanford would turned sixteen — one would expect to find him as John’s tithable beginning in that year’s annual county personal property tax lists, and every year thereafter for at least another four or five  years. Yet Sanford never appears in these lists as John’s tithable. The reason for Sanford’s conspicuous absence from the tax lists cannot, however, be deduced by studying census records where Sanford does not comfortably fit into the John Colvin household. His absence from those records is better explained instead by analyzing the tax list of the 1820s where Sanford first turns up in a  March 9, 1829 entry.[4] His surname, like Mary Colvin, (who rather expectedly appears,) was misspelled Calvin. Yet analyzing these lists over subsequent years, reveals that Sanford’s surname was misspelled in a way different from Mary’s. After following the entries, the pattern becomes clear: Sanford’s surname was not being misspelled, like Mary’s, by the single letter “a” but by several letters. Although it was on more than one occasion listed with the Colvins, it more rightfully belonged with the Carters. In fact, from 1839 – 1850 Sanford is routinely listed by tax enumerators as a Carter with the exception of 1829 and 1841 when his surname was mutated into Calvin.[5]

Like census enumerators, tax commissioners and their aides, made multiple copies of their lists. In Virginia at least four copies were required – each likewise being hand-written. But unlike the census, the names were not listed in the order in which the homes were visited, but in alphabetical order – and even then not entirely in orderly fashion — all occurring after the commissioner’s rounds were made to collect the sworn statements of who owed what, and their tallies returned to the clerks. In Virginia, the original 1st and 3rd copied sets of lists are no longer extant; thus, the microfilmed copies ordinarily consulted by researchers are those of the 4th and final copied list – those that went to the state Auditor’s office in Richmond. Ergo, from a purely clerical perspective, it’s easy to imagine how all the required hand-copying (hundreds of names copied four times each,) was destined to generated errors. Fortunately, because more often than not the clerks managed to spell Sanford’s surname correctly as Carter, the pattern in the tax lists explains why, after all, he doesn’t (and shouldn’t,)  fit comfortably in the John Colvin census of 1820, and why, moreover, he is absent from John’s tithes in the tax lists thereafter. He was not a Colvin. It also explains why, in the Mary Colvin household of 1850, he and Richard Carter seem so similar in age and occupation: they were very likely brothers.


[1] Mary Colvin household,  1850 U.S. Federal Census,  August 24, 1850, Eastern District, Stafford County, Virginia, (microfilm) Line 11-19, household 258. Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Houston, TX. Hereafter “CLCGR”.

[2] For John Colvin household composition, see: John “Calvin” entry,  February 11, 1828, Stafford County, Virginia., Personal Property Tax List, (microfilm) Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. This is John’s last appearance in the tax lists.  See also: Mary Colvin entry,  March 9,  1829, Stafford County, Virginia. Personal Property Tax Lists, Library of Virginia. Given the intersection of John’s last appearance and Mary’s first appearance, this is the strongest (though indirect,)  evidence that Mary was John’s widow. See also: Mary Colvin household, 1830 U.S. Federal Census, Falmouth, Stafford County, Virginia. Mary appears as the head of household because only single widowed females or those of legal age and unmarried with property would have been counted in the tax or census records as heads. Ordinarily, females were not a part of the tallies.  See also: John Colvin household, 1820 U.S. Federal Census,  Stafford County, Virginia. CLCGR, Houston, Texas.

[3] George Colvin household, 1840, U.S. Federal Census, Jackson, Monroe County, Ohio; Alfred Colvin entry, August 12, 1870, Stafford County, Virginia Death Register, 1853-1875, Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

[4] Sanford “Calvin “entry, March 9,  1829, Stafford County, Virginia., (microfilm) Dept. of  Taxation, 1814-1838, CLCGR, Houston, TX.

[5] Mary “Calvin” entry, February 14, 1831, Stafford County, Virginia. Department of Taxation, 1814-1838, (microfilm) CLCGR, Houston, Texas. As with previous entries, the Colvin surname is misspelled “Calvin” due to obvious clerical errors. See also: John “Calvin” entry, February 11, 1828, for another example. For Sanford with his correct surname “Carter”  see entries, March 11,  1839; March 18  1840; March 5,  1842; 1847, [no date]; 1848 [no date] 1849 [no date] and 1850, [no date] Stafford County, Virginia Personal Property Tax Lists (microfilm) 1839-1850 CLCGR, Houston, TX. Of the eight  times Sanford is listed between 1839-1850,  on only two occasions is his surname misspelled as “Calvin”.  Most telling of the two incidents, however, in that of the  March 20, 1841 list where Sanford  is among the Carters.

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George Colvin and the 1820 Ohio Land Act

George Colvin land patent 1 of 2

George Colvin Land patent — one of two — issued 7 November 1837.

A recent inquiry by a living Colvin descendant pointed me in the direction to George Colvin – long believed to be the progenitor of the Ohio branch of this family. Family lore has it that George left his Piedmont-area Colvin clan, disturbed by the idea of chattel slavery and whippings and headed in the 1830s with his wife Sophia ____  in tow, northward to Pennsylvania where he stayed briefly, where Sophia bore a daughter, Eliza Jane Colvin (1835-1915)  and from whence he headed West finally settling in Ohio. While difficult to determine his motives, George has been tracked in the federal census and land records, and it is known that he fathered at least three children – Eliza Jane, Charles, and Roseberry Colvin between 1835-1842, Eliza Jane Colvin truely having been born in Pennsylvania in 1835.[1] Much is known of these heirs as well as of George’s spouse, Sophia ______, including where and when she died and where she is interred.[2] Much less is known of George aside from that bit of family lore already noted. We know a bit of his family composition from census records. But thus far no marriage records have been found regarding his marriage to Sophia or, for that matter, even where she was born – although un-sourced claims abound.[3]

Yet, sometimes even land records offer clues to a person’s whereabouts, and George’s patent records offer a worthwhile lesson in how to begin establishing one’s ancestor at a fixed time and place.

In George Colvin’s case, the first thing one notices on the patent is the Land Act under which the land was purchased. In other words, the  piece of legislation that governed the land sale offer. In George’s case, it was the Ohio Land Act of 1820, which we can tell because of the language used: “…according to the provisions of the Act of Congress… 24 April 1820.”[4]  That’s boilerplate legalese for Land Act.

Next, it’s necessary to know something of that bit of lawmaking, to understand its historical context. In other words: what caused that law to come into being?

The Land Act of 1820

During the early 1800s, many Ohioans purchased land on credit. During the War of 1812 and afterwards, for example, farmers bought many acres of land from the federal government. This land had been part of the Congressional Lands, set aside by the national government as it organized the Northwest Territory. It was not difficult for Ohioans to make payments on their loans as long as the economy remained strong, but by the late 1810s the state was in the midst of severe economic problems. During the Panic of 1819, for example, there was a shortage of currency that made it impossible for many farmers to make the necessary loan payments. In addition, other parts of the nation were also experiencing these economic problems, making it difficult for farmers in Ohio to sell their crops. Many people feared that they would lose their farms as a result.

Congress responded to the farmers’ concerns with the Land Act of 1820 and the Relief Act of 1821. The Land Act essentially reduced the number of acres that Ohioans had to purchase from 160 to 80 and the cost from $2.00 per acre to $1.25, in an attempt to encourage additional land sales. The Relief Act permitted Ohioans to return land that they could not pay for back to the government, granting a credit towards their debt for the returned land. Additionally, Congress extended credit to the buyer for eight more years. The government hoped that with the time extension, the economy would improve. Farmers would then be able to sell their crops and make payments on their loans. By allowing the return of land that Ohioans could not afford, Congress helped farmers not lose everything that they had worked for. People could often afford a smaller acreage, but not the 160 acres originally mandated by the Land Act of 1804. Overall, the federal government’s policies were successful, and many Ohioans were pleased that Congress had taken action to help them.

But, where did the settlers make their land purchases? That also changed with each new Land Act. Thus, in 1820 or thereafter, a purchaser (also known in period land jargon as an “entryman”)  would have gone to the Federal Land Office in Chillicothe, in Ross County. There he’s make his payment or down payment (he was required to buy a minimum of eighty acres for the federally-guaranteed price of $1.25 per acre price,) and his name and some particulars recorded in what were called “land entry books.” Basically transaction logs. We do not yet have the land case files, for George Colvin who managed to received two patents in  1837 and 1843 respectively thus we cannot yet know exactly when George took out the patents which helps to establish his settlement in Ohio.  We know only that, he was able to satisfy all of the rigorous requirements necessary to have the patent issued despite the various delays in said patients being delivered. It’s worth noting that the 1820 Land Act patents also had to each be signed by the President of the United States, adding to their delay in being returned to the Land Office in Ohio who thence dispersed them to the patentees.  Many patentees never claimed their hard-earned patents and thousands languish today in the National Archives — returned to Washington, D.C. and voided when they went unclaimed.  It’s also important to remember that the date of the patent ought never be confused by researchers with the date patentee arrived in the state where it was issued.   In all likelihood  such a settler would have arrived years earlier and begun the settlement process.  In the case of  George Colvin, his entry would likely be in the Land Tract Books of Ohio which are held by the Eastern States Office, Bureau of Land Management[5] In the case of his patents,  The Colvin Study already has the digitized originals in its database. (see inset.) Obviously, our next step will be to acquire the land entry data if it is extant. A review of addition period tax records may also help to establish his arrival in Ohio. Thus, personal property and land tax records for the period will also be explored. The microfilmed originals are currently held with the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus. [6] Other microfilmed copies are available through Family History Centers for rental fees.

With luck, these land entry and tax records should aid in helping to fix George’s settlement  in Ohio; afterward will be the task of trying to establish when he died – or at least where, neither of which are currently known. See update here.


[1] Digitized original of Jacob Rowles household, 1900 Federal Census, Grandview, Washington County, Ohio line 79, hh 203. Eliza married Jacob Rowels (1833-1914) ca. 1857 in Ohio. In this census, Eliza gives her birthdate as May, 1835, and place of birth as Pennsylvania. This birth year also appears on her  grave marker in the New Matamoras Cemetery in Washington County, Ohio where she is interred beside her husband. Digital images of both headstones are on file with The Colvin Study.

[2] Sophia [–?–]  was interred in the Whitten Cemetery, Belpre, Monroe County in February 1893. The inscription on her obelisk reads: ” Sophia wife of G. Colvin born Oct 20 1807 died Feb 10 1893 Aged 85 Y 3M 20D”  It can be viewed in situ at her memorial. # 6364632. The Colvin Study also has a digitized copy of this headstone image on file.

[3] Tina Kitlack, “George and Sophia Colvin”  in  Monroe County,  Ohio Families,  Monroe Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society of Woodsfield Ohio, 1992. pp 106. Kitlack makes numerous claims regarding George, his wife, and their heirs, none of which are cited. See also Tina Kitlack,  “Colvin-Elliot” entry, pp 106.

[4] Ohio History Central  website at:

[5] The National Archives website has an excellent overview of these land records and how to obtain them. See: “Land Records: Introduction and Links to Resources on Land Entry Case  Files and Related Records,”

[6] Newly emerging  data from census records suggests  Charles Colvin, Jr. (Charles B. Colvin),  Charles Colvin, Sr.’s eldest son, may have pre-dated George’s arrival by several years and thus may usurp George Colvin’s place as the progenitor of this line’s Ohio branch. This possibility remains under inquiry.

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Charles Colvin’s appearance in early Pendleton County, Kentucky Order Books expands Colvin Study knowledge base.

Understanding one of this line’s earliest progenitors, requires a critical understanding of how he fit socially into his culture. A review of some of Pendleton County, Kentucky’s early Order Books aids that understanding greatly. Order Books, essentially, were the minutes of meetings among county officials, often County Commissioners, who oversaw the infrastructural and civic needs of the county, although other items appear such as lawsuits and settlements and other legal items. In this case, there were 10 “districts” – geographic jurisdictional regions over which one or more commissioners were elected to manage. Among their various tasks, was the delegating of certain civic tasks, usually by appointment, to individuals in the region who were considered responsible and trustworthy. Such tasks were typically given to the more established members of the community rather than to the younger, less stable ones, although one frequently finds older and younger members of the same family involved in a given task, the younger one, however, is more typically part of a subordinate crew rather than the appointed leader.

Charles Colvin was clearly one of these “established” individuals, which the frequency of his appeared in these records makes clear. On two occasions he was likewise given a commission by the Kentucky Governor, another indication of the respect he held within the community.  Charles migrated into the Pendleton region in his senior years, after working in both Fauquier and Culpeper Counties as an overseer. In Pendleton County, he settled in the Four Oaks region near Falmouth, and is considered among the earliest pioneers. He died there in 1810 where his will was also probated. Generations of his heirs remained in the area, many buried among the county’s oldest cemeteries.

What follows is a table of compiled data giving the date of Charles’ appearance in the record from the first instance to the last and his assignment. The Lewis Colvin named (1799-1834) is likely Charles  grandson, and is belived to be a son of Charles B. Colvin (1770-1840) Charles’ third eldest son.  The table entries are taken from the transcribed original Pendleton County, Kentucky  Order Book “A” (1799-1805) Order Book “B” (1805-1814)[1], and Pendleton County Kentucky Wills (1799-1871)[2] abstracted and annotated by Janet Pease.

Charles Colvin Order Book table

[1] Janet Pease, “Kentucky County Court records : Grant, Harrison, Pendleton, Vol. 1″  pp 243-298,

[2] Janet Pease, “Kentucky County Court records : Grant, Harrison, Pendleton, Vol. 3″ (Sec. III, pp 3)

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New records added to CS database expand knowledge of Kentucky Colvin line.

Charles and Jemima marriage registry listing. Source:

Charles and Jemima marriage registry listing. Source: “Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954,”

A few months ago, I began collecting data on the heirs of  Charles Colvin (III) (1802-1885) who’s interred in the Old Powersville Cemetery, Powersville, Bracken County, Kentucky. Charles’ spouse, Jemima Ashbaugh, (1804-1878) is also there as are two of their heirs.[1]  Charles is a grandson of  Charles Colvin, Sr. (~1745-1810) through his son, Charles B. Colvin (1770-1840).  School studies interrupted that collection, but since last week was my last final for the semester, I’ve been able to return to collecting data and scans of original documents and the results are impressive. In terms of  his spouse and heirs I’ve been able to locate and verify all  eight of  the them which consist of four girls and four boys born between 1830 and 1843. Among the males, two served in the Civil War in Company A, Jenkins’s Cavalry.

One particular troublesome question was the maiden name of Charles (III)’s wife: Jemima Ashbaugh. Some indexes listed her name as Blades, which struck me as bizarrely incorrect given that one of Charles’ daughters,  Hanna R. Colvin (1837-1880) had married on December 20, 1880, a  James William Blades (1842-1920).[2] Fortunately, the  digitized 1829 Bracken County marriage  registry revealed Jemima’s true maiden name, although the handwriting was slightly illegible. [See image].

Another digitized original record located was the full pension records of  Charles “Charley” Hamilton Colvin, (1843-?) Charles (III)’s youngest son which gave his CW service particulars and even noted how his cavalry unit had surrendered to Federal troops in 1865[3] His digitized Index Record cards also substantiate his military service.[4]  Luckily, Charles spent no time as a POW and was  paroled within days. From the same batch of military records, I was able to see that  Charles’ second eldest son, Levi A. Colvin, (1838-1930) had also served in the same cavalry unit as his brother,  “Charley.”[5] Both men survived the war.

In addition to marriage and military records, digitized census records reviewed between 1850 and 1920 for this family group  helped to establish the heirs’ birth order, and who married and who remained single. For example, although Charles Hamilton Colvin was of age to marry by 1864 when he enlisted into Jenkin’s Cavalry, he remained single even up to the time he applied for his pension in 1912, by which time he was sixty-nine years old.[6] Such was also the case for his sister, Mary J. Colvin, who, in 1880 at age fifty-four was the sole caregiver for her father – by then a widower , age seventy eight.[7]  His wife, Jemima had died two years earlier in 1878.[8] Within five years of that census, Charles himself passed away in 1885, and Mary J. Colvin died the next year in 1886.  They are both interred in the Old Powersville Cemetery, in Bracken County, Kentucky.

While much information has been collected through the digitized records, much remains unknown. Charles Hamilton Colvin’s death date and place, for example, is something of a mystery, as is the death date and place of Charles Colvin III’s first born: Rachael C. Colvin. Likewise the wife of Levi A. Colvin is something of a mystery, however, a recently located birth record of his daughter, Martha Jane “Mattie” Colvin (1876-1935) gives the mother’s name as Mary E. Jett.[9]   Thus, the quest  to fill in these and other blanks in the family history record of these descendants remains  ongoing.

[1] The internments of Charles Colvin (III), his spouse, as well as their daughter, Mary J. Colvin, and their son, Jacob W. Colvin, are identified at their respective memorials. During my initial visit,  few were linked to one another, and much info was missing. Thus, digitized records were supplied to the memorialist by this researcher who graciously made many corrections and linked the various family members together. Of the remaining six  children, three of their interments have been located; three have not.  The burial places of Joseph Allen Colvin (~1841-1916), Charles Hamilton Colvin (1843 -?), and daughter, Rachael C. Colvin (1830 – ?) remain unknown.

[2] James Wm. Blade and Hanna R. Colvin marriage bond. “Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954,”

[3] “Charles H. Colvin” pension record,

[4] “Charles H. Colvin” military service records,

[5] “Levi A, Colvin” military service record,

[6] “Charles H. Colvin” pension record,

[7] Charles Colvin household, 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Brooksville, Bracken County, Kentucky,

[8] Jemima Ashbaugh Colvin memorial,

[9] “Martha Jane Colvin” birth registry listing, 12 August 1876, Bracken County, Kentucky,

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John Russell Colvin vs. John Richard Colvin: a comparative analysis using 19th Century Federal Census:

This analysis was conducted to determine if John Russell Colvin (1845-1922)[1] and John Richard Colvin (1847-1930)[2] were siblings in the family group headed by James Madison Colvin (1809-1888)[3] or if John Russell Colvin was an heir of Howard Mason Colvin,  (1811-1883)[4]  a sibling of James Madison Colvin.


A comparative analysis was designed, based on digitized copies of primary source records with The Colvin  Study held by the researcher.[5] In addition online digitized original records were used, as well as digitized images of tombstones. For the census examined, forty years’ worth of Federal Census were examined, and  tabulated for the number of times each target subject appeared in the James Madison Colvin household and the Howard M. Colvin household then  compared for patterning such as age changes and geography using pre-established locations and  ages based on birth, death, marriage and  other records. (Fig. 1).  In addition one addition individual in both households was tracked to insure the correct household was being studied as transcription errors and name misspellings are common in period Census. For example, in the 1870 census, what had been “Colby Colvin” in the 1860 census of the Howard M. Colvin household became “Covley  Colvin” in the 1870 census.  In the James Madison household,  William Danial Colvin, (1883-1905) was tracked. In the Howard M. Colvin household, William Mason Colvin (1843-1913) was tracked. They, in addition to the heads of households  served as the baseline against which the target individuals’ appearances were compared. Census used were the digitized copies of microfilms of original Culpeper County, Virginia  Federal census, 1850 through 1880.  The originals are held with Library of Virginia.

Historical Context:

John Richard Colvin first appears by name in the 1850 James Madison Colvin household in Jeffersonton, Culpeper County, Virginia as “John R Colvin” and thereafter as “John R. Colvin” in the 1860, 1870, and 1880 respectively. In the 1880, John is innumerate as a “widower” although his 1st wife is not yet known. In 1881, the next year, he married Ann “Annie” Elizabeth James (1865-1923) daughter of  John Pierce James and Martha Ann Burke, by who he had one known son, Earnest Adam Colvin (1882-1936).[6]  In the 1880 census, John was enumerated as a “farmer,” no doubt of great aid to his father, James Madison Colvin,  who was enumerated as being afflicted with “Dropsy” – a condition today we might today call cognitive heart failure,  the symptoms for which include painful swelling of the lower extremities. That condition would have made him all but unfit for many everyday tasks, let alone the rigorous toil of farm labor in  a pre-mechanized agricultural setting, especially at  age 71, although the enumerator gave his age as “72”.

John Russell Colvin  first appears in the 1850 Howard M. Colvin household in Orange County, Virginia as “John Colvin” and thereafter as “John Colvin” in 1860, “John R. Colvin” in 1870, where, at 23, he was working as a baggage handler for the railroad near the Continental Hotel in Upperville in Fauquier County and living apart from home. By  1880,  at age “34” his fortunes had changed considerably, but he was still enumerated as “John R. Colvin”, and still based in Fauquier. However ,  by time he was a railroad conductor, and a father of  three, having married on July 25, 1871, there in Fauquier County, Judith Amelia Johnson (1850-1826) the daughter of William Johnson and Sarah Cordelia Marshall.

Given the similar names of these two cousins, and their closeness in age, it would be easy to confuse them, were careful attention not given to the nuanced differences between  trades and subtle changes in ages and locations.  Their fathers were brothers – thus  both cousins shared a  paternal grandfather, Mason Colvin (1761-1853) who with his wife Elizabeth Hawkins, (1819-1902) raised eleven children in Culpeper. In 1833,  the county was sliced in half and from the second half was created Rappahannock County.  This cleaving and new county boundary line explains how Mason Colvin can appear in records to have been born in Culpeper but died in Rappahannock, when in fact he never moved at all.  The county line had moved.

Quantitative findings:

A study of this types leaves room for interpretation certainly, however, based on the study design, the following findings were reached:

In the James Madison Colvin household, the individual who most consistently appeared during the study timeline matched the ages one would expect from an individual born in 1847: John Richard Colvin.   No other individual in the household studied closely resembled this pattern either in age or name.

In the Howard M. Colvin household, the same pattern held true for what one would expect in predictable age changes for someone born in 1845: John Russell Colvin.  In the James Madison household, the baseline individual, William D. Colvin (1838- 1905) appeared consistently  in 75% of the entries examined.  In only one census, the 1880,  is he absent from his father’s home, by which time he would be approximately 42 years old.  This is explained by the fact that in 1871, he married Mary Thomas Mathews (1852-1939) in Culpeper on September 7, 1871, and was now heading his own house with children of his own. He was found with his wife, Mary and  the first three of their six children in Culpeper, enumerated as age 41, as expected of someone born in 1838.

The examination of John Richard Colvin’s age variations in the census over a four decade were consistent during 75% of the period examined.  In only one case, was there a deviation to this pattern: in the 1860 census his age was enumerated as “21” in what should have been age 13. In all other census examined however, the ages of  John Richard Colvin were consistent with what one would expect of an individual born in 1847.

In the Howard M. Colvin Household, the baseline individual,  William Mason Colvin appeared consistently  in 100% of the entries examined. However, in the 1880 census he is now head of  his household supporting his widowed mother.  No other individuals are present in the household.

In the case of the target individual, John Russell Colvin, he appeared consistently in 50% of the households examined, leaving his father’s house between 1860-1870 and marrying Judith Amelia Johnson (1850-1926) in Culpeper on July 25, 1871. Thus, in the 1870 and 1880 census he is found heading his own house in Culpeper. However, in both cases,  his ages consistently match what one would expect of someone born in  1845.







(Click image to view in new window.)

Given this examination, it is reasonable to conclude that there is a high probability that John Russell Colvin was likely the son of Howard Mason Colvin, and that John Richard Colvin was the  son of James Madison Colvin.  The two men were likely first cousins.



[1] John Russell Colvin’s  full name is displayed on his tombstone in the Warrington Cemetery, Warrington, Fauquier County, Virginia. His obituary appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch, May 9, 1922.

[2]  John Richard  Colvin and his 2nd wife, Ann Elizabeth James,  are buried in a private cemetery on Alamance Dr., Culpeper County. Their dates of birth and death are visible and are consistent with dates found in various census.

[3]  James Madison Colvin, in various records is referred to as “J. Colvin”, “Madison Colvin” and in other cases, such as Agriculture schedule of  1880, as “James M. Colvin.”

[4] Howard Colvin appears with his wife in various records such as Census, and city directories. He married Elizabeth Fichum February 12, 1839 in Rappahannock County. However, the marriage records have not yet been examined. Nevertheless this date correlates to years of marriage given to enumerators on census. Their burial places are not yet known.

[5] “James M. Colvin” household, 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Culpeper County, Virginia, lines 10-15; “Mathius Colvin”  household, 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Rappahannock County, Virginia, hh 173;  “James M. Colvin” household, 1870 U.S. Federal Census,  Jeffersonton, Culpeper County, Virginia, lines 21-28; “James Colvin” household, 1880 U.S. Federal Census, lines 19-21, hh 177. Jeffersonton, Culpeper County, Virginia.

[6]  “Earnest A. Colvin” appears with his parents in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, “John R. Colvin” household, Jeffersonton, Culpeper County, Virginia, line 63-65, hh 240. Earnest also appears in 1910-1930 Census. His WWI Draft Registration card  of  September 12, 1918, provides his full name and date of birth, and shows “John R. Colvin” to be his nearest relative. His 1st wife,  Gertrude Lawrence,  was buried in the Colvin Cemetery on Alamance Drive in Culpeper. Earnest is buried with his second wife, Ritchie Elizabeth Lawrence in the same cemetery.   Gertrude and Ritchie Lawrence were siblings.

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