In working on the family group of John R. Colvin, I came across two names of two of his heirs seemingly being the same person. But a little further digging revealed they were two very separate people, with different wives, heirs, and other attributes.
John R. Colvin is part of the Midwestern branch of Colvins of this line which includes descendants located in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. In John’s case, he was born ca. 1820 in Montgomery County, Ohio to Boswell Colvin (1793-1878) and Lydia Hatfield (1801-1865). Boswell is part of the Colvin Culpeper, Virginia branch, the oldest branch. John R. was one of 14 children born to his parents – all of whom have been confirmed through census and other records. John was Boswell and Lydia’s second born and the eldest of six sons. Boswell married Lydia on 15 October 1817 in Montgomery County, Ohio, but prior to that had served as a private under Captains John McFee and James Ellis during the War of 1812. He’d enlisted 27 August 1812 and was discharged 10 March 1813. He re-enlisted six months later on 10 September, 1814 for another six-months and was discharged on 10 March 1815. His widow’s pension records show he received bounty land for his service. However, the military tracts used by the government as military bounty lands for veterans of the War of 1812 were located along Illinois westernmost border which was demarcated by the Mississippi river. That was two states away from where he married his wife in Ohio two years after being discharged and where, three years after that, John R. was born.
Sometime between 1830-1840, Boswell relocated his family to Rush County, Indiana. And it was here on 11 August 1842 that John R. Colvin married Mary Ann Pyle (1827-1912) an Indiana native, but about whose parentage little is currently known.
Like his father, John R. Colvin sired a large family: nine children in all, seven sons and two daughters. Two of the sons were Albert Colvin (1861-?) and Elbert “Bert” Colvin, (1861-1944). Confusingly, both appear to have been born in 1861, which has exacerbated a lack of care by some genealogists in distinguishing one from the other.  In reviewing some of their work, there is a clear habit of attaching attributes belonging to Elbert to Albert and vice versa. It is also the case, adding to the confusion that record keepers themselves have mislabeled Elbert for Albert and so forth.
However, a careful review of their individual family groups and other attributes will make clear these were two separate sons of the same father — John R. Colvin, and how to tell them apart.
To begin with, John R. Colvin, for example, is listed as the father on Elbert Colvin’s death certificate as is his mother, “Mary Ann Pyles”. Elbert’s wife, “Abbie” Colvin, is listed as “informant”. Albert Colvin’s death certificate, however, has not yet been obtained and so his death date has not not yet been fixed. But we can still see Albert is John R. Colvin’s son because he and Mary Pyle’s names are listed as parents on Albert’s marriage registry when he wed Etta L. Sowers (1858-1943) on 2 May 1886 in Adam’s County, Indiana. The two documents, in other words, show and confirm these two brothers had the same parents.
But wait, there’s more. Albert’s wife, “Etta” was the daughter of Joseph Sowers and Martha Howard. Elbert’s wife, conversely, was Abigail “Abbie” M. Pratt (1862-1943) whom he married 24 March 1886 in Allen County. She was the daughter of George H. Pratt and Hannah Hammond. In short, these Colvin men not only had different wives and different marriage dates, but also a different set of in-laws. Only their parents were identical which the documents reveal.
There’s still another way to help separate these two and distinguish them: their heirs. In no case do the heirs of Elbert Colvin ever turn up in the household of Albert Colvin nor vice versa. If Albert and Elbert were the same man, this would surly be the case. Albert and Etta had four children born between 1887 and 1902 which are consistent throughout census and other records:
Roscoe Arthur Colvin (1857-1958)
Della Myrtle Colvin (1889-1968)
Rudy Sampson Colvin (1898-1968)
Roy Lemuel Colvin (1902-1937)
In Elbert’s case, he and Abigail had only two children, a boy and a girl, found also in census records and elsewhere:
May Jetta Colvin (1887-1977)
Cody Carter Colvin (1889-1953)
In none of the census examined do these children ever appear in the households of the wrong parents. Most telling, when examining census especially, the wives names remain constant. Most often it is the father’s name (the head of house) which is misspelled or mistranscribed. Moreover, the burial location of the Elbert Colvin family group is known, with all members’ internment accounted for.  Albert’s burial location, regrettably, is not yet known. Still, owing to several documents, such as May Jetta Colvin’s death certificate and her marriage registry entry, which lists her father as “Albert” Colvin, rather than Elbert, it’s understandable some genealogists have been misled.
Also significant in helping to separate the two men is geography and their occupations: Between 1906-1910, Albert Colvin, with wife Etta, with sons Roy and Rudy (misspelled “Luttie”) relocated to Texas County, Oklahoma, where he is listed there as a farmer in the census. His brother, Elbert, in the same census, meanwhile, is still in Allen County, Indiana, with his wife, “Abbie” and their children, listed as “brick mason”. By 1917, Albert had relocated again, this time to Finney County Kansas, according to his son, Roy Lemuel Colvin’s WWI draft Registration card. Roy lists his nearest relative when he registered at the draft office located at Syracuse, Kansas as “Albert Colvin (father)” He gave his father’s address as, 6th and Maple, Garden City, Kansas.
Vigilant, patient research involving comparative analysis was essential in establishing the two different men and the family groups they headed. In doing so I have been able to show Albert and Elbert Colvin, though born of the same parents, clearly had very separate lives. This was established through a judicious review of extant primary documents and careful analysis of their contents, despite confusing data on some of them.