Somewhat recently I received a query from someone researching George Colvin (1804- ?) husband of Sophia (_____?). This George was one of the early Colvin pioneers of Monroe Country, Ohio, having taken advantage of the 1820 Ohio Land Act and bought several acres and received two separate patents in the mid and late-1830s. George, it is believed, hailed from Stafford County, Virginia, made a pit stop in Pennsylvania enroute to settling in Monroe County where generations of descendants followed. In fact, many present day Ohio Colvins can trace their lineage directly to George. This was apparently what my inquirer was also attempting to do, but had hit a brick wall sometime back in trying to connect his direct ancestor, Casbitrand Colvin (1840-1889) and his alleged sister, Nancy Colvin (1830-1867) to George as their father. Thus, the inquirer was hoping for my help.
I offerd what I knew about George and his known heirs of which there were three: Eliza Jane (1835-1915); Charles (1837-1913), and Roseberry (1842-1923) I base that claim on what I’ve found in the census, rather than on what is popularly published on the web. In my reply, explained that I’d seen the pervasive Casbitrand / Nancy Colvin claims around, but nothing in the way of sources cited for those supposed connection. I should also point out that these persistent claims are little more than slavish copies of one another with little hard evidence offered up.
So, intrigued, and in the interest of research integrity, I dashed off on a cyber-hunt. I looked for Casbitrand and Nancy Colvin. I found interesting things. For example, Nancy Colvin, apparently married a ne’er-do-well by the name of Elson Hissom who, in the 1870 Monroe County, Ohio census is a jailed convict. On another website, I found the transcribed article of the May 3rd 1870 account published in the Spirit of Democracy newspaper which provided the escape notice of Hisom’s jail break and in another account in the same periodical was the testimony by Hisom’s daughter, Isabelle, who at her father’s hearing explain how dear ol’ dad had tried to rape her; testimony was also given by Hisom’s son, James, who testified he’d stabbed father dear repetedly in self-defense, after being savagly whipped, etc., etc. Pretty dreary stuff, but in my cyber-sleuthing I found nothing connecting them to George. I did find Casbitrand Colvin in the home (at age 21) of Elson and wife Nancy in the 1860 census of Monroe County, Ohio, so I saw why folks linked them as siblings. But at this point I found nothing even indicating Nancy was a Colvin. I reported all this back to my inquirer who quickly said there was a death certificate for an heir of Nancy ca. 1933. I quickly sought and found said certificate, (see inset.) Sure enough, the decease’s mother was the Nancy Colvin of my inquierer and her maiden name was Colvin, and so I reported again to my inquirer that, yes, Nancy was a Colvin (and that’s always a plus,) but, alas, that does not establish her as an heir of George nor that Casbitrand was her brother. For that, I explained, we need better evidence. So I suggested a search strategy. Other items to consider are: (which I have never seen cited in those ubiquitous cyber family trees connecting the said Nancy/Casbitrand/George dots,) any probate documents related to George, his death notice, obit, or other evidence that that satisfies a reasonable proof standard. I’m speaking of course of some evidence that was generated near the time of an event which provides the link. That evidence would be far more welcome and trustworthy than hearsay generated a century and a half after the fact.
It’s also worth pointing out that, in the 1850 Agricultural Schedule Elson Hissom and Sophia ___ are farm neighbors in Jackson TWP, Monroe County Ohio. A Nancy is with Elsom of course. In that year’s population schedule, Sarah Colvin, age 44, is also listed as being one neighbor over from Sophia, their farms separated by Sophia’s 1st cousin, William Colvin (1823-1887) who is shown with his wife Cazanda (Bradfield) (1826-1895.) But Sarah Colvin was actually not a Colvin at all — that was her married name. She was the widow of Hanson Colvin (1804-1850) and William’s mother, and in that year’s population schedule, it lists all of her children still with her. It’s true that the Colvins tended to cluster wherever the lived, but this ought not automatically imply a direct relation among them based on proximity alone. This is certainly the case with Charles Colvin (~1745 – 1810) who is found in several 18th century records in Culpeper County, but whose familial linkage to the numerous other Colvins there remains unknown. So it is — for now — with Nancy and Castraband Colvin.
Thus, we are reminded that stating unfounded claims as unassailable gospel because we found it in someone’s family tree published on the Internet no more establishes the proof of a thing than is clever speculation based on mathematics or geographic coincidences. If the Castraband/Nancy/George/Sophia Colvin connection exists, it’s recorded in some way, somewhere. But that’s a big IF. George died 1840-1850. And I suspect he died intestate. Even so, a probate may have been performed. We know George died during that time frame because Sophia turns up in the Monroe County 1850 census as a widow, with her three children, and by 1893, she is buried in the Whitten Cemetery in Belpre, Monroe County. One can visit her obelisk headstone and see that she is there alone, because where her husband’s grave site is located remains as mysterious as his death date, despite efforts by many to find him. Thus, what can we learn from this little excursion down genealogy lane? Jumping to conclusions is a bad health care plan. Make connections stick by carefully gathering verifiable evidence. If one does not know where to look, ask. But never presume a connection exists because you saw it in someone’s online family tree. It is better to leave the question open-ended than to try to prove an assumption based on flawed heresy. In short, the task of those who believe Casbitrand and Nancy Colvin are both siblings and heirs of George is simple: find and provide the evidence. Many Colvin descendants and researchers, including this one, will thank you.