Albert Colvin vs. Elbert Colvin: Establishing the Two Sons of John R. Colvin (1820-1876).

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).[1] 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.[2] 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.[3]

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. [4] 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”.[5]  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.[6]  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.[7] 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:[8]

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[9]:

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. [10] 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.[11] 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”.[12]  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.


[1]  No known birth record exist for John R. Colvin; there is known to  exist a family bible with a “birth” listing, however, the resolution of  the digitized original  when reviewed by this researcher was of such poor quality when enlarged, no date could be ascertained. However, John gave his age in the 1850 federal census for Whitley County, Indiana as “30” and his birthplace as “Ohio”. That census features, along with his wife,  his 3-month old son, David, (1850-1850) who did not survive the year,  and  his three eldest sons: William (1843-1911);  Henry (1845-1934), and Jesse (1848-1870).  See: John R. Colvin household, 1850 U.S. federal census, Taylor, Howard County, Indiana, hh 4, (no line numbers) In the John R. Colvin household of the 1860 census,  David is absent, but the same 3 sons are present, along with their mother, and John’s eldest daughter, Lydia (1850-1939) is enumerated.  See: John R. Colvin household, 1860 U.S. federal census, Jefferson, Whitley County, Indiana,  hh 821,  lines 19.-24. This data comports well with his age given as “42” when he  enlisted into Company B,  74th  Infantry Regiment  during the Civil War according  in his military records. He was discharged prematurely on 4 April 1863, due to an unspecified injury. See John R. Colvin, Civil War Collection, Indiana Digital Archives, Indiana State Archives,
[2] Digitized original marriage record, Boswell Colvin to Lydia Hatfield, 15 October 1817, Montgomery County, Ohio.  See also digitized original, Lydia  Colvin, widow’s pension application index card, War of 1812 Pension Application Files Index, 1812-1815 database,
[3] John R. Colvin to Mary Ann Pyle, 11 August 1842, Rush County, Indiana, Marriages Through 1850, Indiana State Library  Genealogy Database,
[4] In the 1900 census for Washington, Allen County, Indiana, Albert gave his birth as “February 1861” although in the 1910 federal census, he gave his age as “50” implying he was born in 1860, which is likely closer to the truth. See  Note 14, Albert Colvin household. Of the three census records examined for Elbert Colvin in which he appears (1910-1930) he most consistently gives an age which would place his birth year at 1861. It seems reasonable that Elbert was the elder of the two brothers.
[5] Digitized original, Elbert Colvin Death Certificate, 11 Oct 1944, Whitley County, Indiana,  Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011 database,
[6]  Digitized original Marriage License,  Albert Colvin to Etta Sowers, 21 May 1886, Adams County, Indiana, Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001 database,
[7]  Digitized original Marriage License, Bert Colvin to Abbie Pratt, 24 March, 1886, Allen County, Indiana. Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001 database,   Among the witnesses was Elbert’s brother, Joseph Colvin (1863-1943)
[8] Two of Albert’s three sons, Rudy Sampson and Roy Lemuel Colvin appear with their father in the 1910 federal census for Texas County, Oklahoma. See note 14; All four of his children appear in his household along with his wife in the 1900 census. See digitized original, Albert Colvin household, 1900 U.S. Federal census, Washington, Allen County, Indiana, 71 Fran Klein Ave. hh 128, line 15.
[9]  See  Elbert Colvin household, digitized original, 1910 U.S. federal census, Ft. Wayne, Allen County, Indiana, 1703 Franklin Ave., hh 363, line 60, database. Elbert, his wife, Abbie, his married daughter, May Jetta “Parker” ,  as well as her husband, Trever Parker  and his only son, Cody,  are all present in this census. In addition, both parents names appear on the digitized original  Marriage License for May Jetta Colvin and Trevor Parker. This is also true of the digitized original of the Marriage license for Cody Colvin who married Emma Minnie Becker (1890-1953) daughter of Henry Becker and Hanna Rippe, on 2 September 1911 in Allen County, Indiana.
[10]  See Elbert Colvin virtual memorial # 65041091, Linwood Cemetery, Ft. Wayne, Allen County, Indiana, which also features a faithful transcript of his obituary as it appeared in the October 12, 1944 edition of the Journal-Gazette. See also: Abbie M. Colvin virtual memorial # 65039962 at  May Jetta Colvin is buried with her husband, Trevor E. Parker, (1884-1968)  whom she married 22 December 1908 in Allen County. They are also interred in  the Linwood Cemetery, memorial numbers 84263279 and  84263094 respectively. Likewise, Cody Carter Colvin is interred at Linwood Cemetery. Memorial number # 65041083.
[11]  Albert and Etta listing, digitized original, Huntington City Directory, 1906, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 database,  Albert and Etta are listed for several years in the Huntington City (Huntington County) Indiana directory. Albert occupation  in 1906 is listed as a “boiler washer.” Boiler-washers were railroad workers who cleaned the engines of steam locomotives of grime and scale. It was considered skilled but dangerous work.
[12] Digitized original, Albert Colvin household, 1910 U.S. federal census, Hooker, Texas County, Oklahoma, hh 17, line 90,  database. See also, digitized original, 1910 U.S. federal census, Elbert Colvin household, Ft. Wayne, Allen County, Indiana, 1703 Franklin Ave., hh 363, line 60,  database.
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Not Their Father: A Response to the Errant Descendants Ascribed to Mason Colvin b. ca. 1684.

In 1923, John Fewell Reynolds, using a local printer in his hometown of Wentworth, North Carolina, to publish a slim volume of data about, presumably, his ancestors. He had very little luck in finding most of them and he thought he did not do a very good job recording those he did uncover. As he explains in his ‘Introductory”:

Many mistakes and imperfections will be found in its pages. It is far short of the expectations and wishes of the undersigned, inasmuch as it has been impossible to trace our family line back to the date of their landing upon American shores.

An honest appraisal of his work if ever there was one. He likewise lamented not being able to find the Christian name of ____Fewell in his genealogic travails.  Fewell married “Eliza[beth] Colvin” and it turns out, he was Henry Fewell (1735-1777) and who also appears to have served in the American Revolution and who, at least according to some references, married Elizabeth in 1765. [1] Where, exactly, is unknown, but very likely in Culpeper County, Virginia.

He also ascribes to Elizabeth a parentage and some siblings which are, to put it mildly, impossible. This has not prevented some researchers from slavishly copying and using this data in their own family trees, passing it along the genealogy pipeline, despite the fact that none of the forgoing is verified through actual records. That, however, is the least of the problems with Fewell’s claims of which there are two:  time and biology, and as noted, authenticity.

Let’s start with her alleged parents.

In his introduction’s conclusion, Fewell claims a Mason Colvin was Elizabeth’s father who, he writes, “came to America about 1700.”[2]  This is very likely the Mason Colvin born in 1684 in either England or Fauquier County, Virginia, depending on whose research one examines, the said Mason reportedly having married a Lavinia Tool. There has never been a record to substantiate this marriage, nor a will or other document found to show Mason was the father of a daughter, Elizabeth. Nevertheless, many researchers have adopted this connection as settled. In my own brief query, I found no fewer than twenty-five cases in one database alone where Elizabeth was linked to Mason, but nowhere does one find a record offered up as evidence. Both he and Levinia are given birth and death dates: Mason: 1684-1743; Levinia: 1694-1743. In some cases, it is Levinia who is born in England, in others it is Mason. Odd? Yes. And it gets worse. Elizabeth had a few siblings, according to Fewell.

In Fewell’s assessment, Elizabeth had four brothers: Mason, Daniel, Gabriel, and John. But none of them could have been Mason and Lavinia’s heirs which leads to the first reason Fewell’s Colvin family group is wrong: time and biology.

The Mason Colvin named is alleged to have served in the American Revolution, according to Fewell. Actually, there were two such Masons and we know when and where they served thanks to extant records. One is Mason Colvin, born 1764 who served in the Revolution with his father, Daniel Colvin (1740-1790). We know who this Mason Colvin’s father is because of his extant Revolutionary War pension and bounty land records. Among them is an affidavit from a fellow patriot, Peter Trippet, who knew Mason but thought it rather odd a son and father were serving together on a service tour. [3]

It is likewise probably no coincidence that this same duo also signed the now-famous, “Ten Thousand Names” petition asking the Virginia Assembly to put an end to the harassments being suffered by Baptists at the hands of Anglicans at a time when the Anglican church (The Church of England) was the state church of Virginia.[4] Attendance was mandatory and fines and other punitive measures were taken against “dissidents” which included Danial Colvin, his family, and thousands of other Virginia Baptists. It was the largest such civil petition ever sent to the Virginia governing body at the time. The father of the other Mason Colvin, born 1761, in Culpeper County, Virginia is unknown, but his military experience is not so mysterious. Neither is his marriage to Elizabeth Hawkins in 1788, nor are any of his twelve heirs born between 1793 and 1811 which includes eight sons and four daughters. [5] But there is a simple reason, the Mason Colvin named as his father by Fewell could not have been his sire: biology. The only Mason Colvin in the region born in 1684 also died in 1743 – nearly two decades before Mason Colvin b. 1761 was born. And that is only if one takes as granted the data from researchers who provide no documents to support the vital statistics claims about either Mason or Levinia. Still, even if neither Mason nor Levinia died in 1743,  is it really reasonable to expect a man born in 1684 to be conceiving sons at age seventy-seven? Or for a woman, Levinia, who would have been sixty years old if born in 1692 to be giving birth?  Biology says absolutely not.

This is the same reason which explains why Gabriel Colvin, born 1763 in Culpeper County, could not have been sired by Fewell’s Mason Colvin. His father, according to extant records, was also Daniel Colvin. Elizabeth’s remaining alleged brother, John, was actually John Colvin, born 1758 according to extend records which include a letter from his son, Robert, giving his father and mother’s information. We also have his extent revolutionary war records because his widow, Sarah [Dillard] Colvin (1762-1841), was interviewed in 1836 by a Culpeper County court clerk, as part of the pension application process.[6]

All of the five children attached to Fewell’s Mason Colvin were born when he was in his seventies and reportedly dead nearly twenty years, as was his alleged wife. In short, who the heirs of Mason Colvin, born 1684, are is unknown, just as who the parents of Daniel Colvin, John Colvin and Elizabeth are unknown.  What is likewise unknown is why Fewell ascribed to someone an entire family group for which there is no documented evidence, or why he failed to offer even a semblance of a reasonable deductive argument to defend his claims.  I suspect it was because he knew he was in error. It remains to be seen whether researchers will make corrections to this ill-conceived Colvin family group linkage, but I somehow suspect that’s not going to happen anytime soon.


[1] The date and marriage are based on’s database “U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900” which lacks digitized images of marriage records. The database is a collection of family group sheets and other un-sourced records from genealogy hobbyists with no links to any primary records. It is not considered a trustworthy source in this researcher’s opinion.

[2] John Fewell Reynolds, “Genealogical sketches of Reynolds, Fewells, Walls and kindred families,” Press of the Commercial Printers, 1992, p 28.

[3] Digitized original, Peter Trippet affidavit, 1834, Culpeper County, Virginia, Daniel Colvin Bounty Land Warrant file, Library of Virginia Bounty Land Warrant database online.

[4] Danial and Mason Colvin signatures, digitized original, “Ten Thousand Name” petition, 1776, p. 93, Library of Congress, American Memories website.

[5] Mason Colvin, probate document naming all heirs, digitized transcript, Rappahannock County Minute Book “G” March 9, 1857,

[6] Sarah [Dillard] Colvin Widow Pension Application transcription, December 14, 1836, Culpeper County, Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statements & Rosters website.

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Neither Heirs nor Marriage Record: The Mysterious Wedlock of Georgia E. Colvin and Robert Franklin McNemer.

While looking for some data on another ancestor, I found myself diverted to the birth and death dates of another heir of George Hammett Colvin (1860-1928) who was, himself, a fourth-generation descendant of Benjamin Colvin, the Revolutionary soldier who, once discharged, moved his family to Missouri. The heir was George H. Colvin, and so far as the records revel, he had been from a large family (five brothers and one sister,) and who was, himself, the first of his line to migrate from Missouri to Texas where he married in 1887, Belle M. Pearson (1867-1954), in Mitchell County on February 20th. [1] With Belle, he fathered a son, Malin Pearson Colvin (Sr.,) (1888-1957) and a daughter, Georgia E. Colvin (1899-1993). [2]

As I looked further into this family group, Georgia, in particular, intrigued me because of both her own two marriages, and the two marriages of her first husband, Robert Franklin McNemer (1897-1951.) I was intrigued because her second marriage to Edwin Lacy Gunckle (1888-1980) whom she married in Tarrant County, Texas on July 22, 1966, is recorded but the first one to Robert McNemer is not.

This was particularly vexing because it appears this marriage was a common law one. Let’s look at the scant documented evidence which gives rise to this claim.

Georgia, born December 2, 1899, as already noted, was one of two children.  One finds her with her brother, Malin, in both the 1900 and the 1910 federal census of Ft. Worth with their parents. The first address is 1418 Presidio Street. In the 1910 census, both children, now ages twenty-one and eleven respectively, are still in their father’s house only now Malin is with his new wife, Ona W. Million, (1889-1944) whom George H. Colvin told enumerators was his “Daughter-in-Law.” They were newlyweds, the couple having wed less than six months earlier in Pettis County, Missouri on December 9, 1909.[3] The family had relocated to 416 West Presidio Street in the same town.

Like most men of his generation, Malin, when the call came, in 1918, registered for the WWI Draft. He was twenty-nine years old. Robert F. McNemer also registered for the draft, in Ft. Worth. He was a single male, age twenty-one, and listed his mother, “Mrs. P.H. McNemer” as his nearest relative.[4] Robert’s parents were Phillip Hamilton McNemer (1870-1933) and Ella Mae Baldridge (1875-1952).  There is no record of a marriage for Robert until 1930, when Georgia McNemer is listed as Robert’s “wife” in that year’s Ft. Worth City Directory.[5] Georgia McNemer appears again as Robert’s wife in the 1932 directory.[6] If the couple were not actually married, it appears they were cohabitating as such. Vexingly, The McNemer household cannot be found in either the 1920 or 1930 census records, upon which one might be able to deduce a marriage date – or at least a period when they began cohabitation as a wedded couple.

After this brief sliver of evidence showing the couple together, Georgia vanishes leaving little trace of her whereabouts. It would appear she and Robert parted company sometime before 1940 when Robert re-appears in the census re-married to his second “wife, “Lucille Ruby Daniels,” whom has gifted him with a step-daughter, Carlene Russell, from an apparent previous marriage.[7]  Curiously, no marriage record can be found for Robert F. McNemer and his 2nd wife, Lucile although she is listed as his wife not only in that 1940 census, but in three other published sources, the first two of which are local period newspapers.  In the November 9, 1934 edition of the Corsicana Semi-Weekly Light, for example, “Mrs. Robert F. McNemer,” is spotlighted as being part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s, “Mobilization for Humanity’s Needs” a charity  program for the poor wherein communities were encouraged to care for the destitute among them and to expected no help from the government.[8] Then, in the August 5, 1935 edition of the Denton Record-Chronicle, she was named as being selected as the “chief case worker” for Tarrant County’s new aid relief program.[9]  Apparently, Lucille’s previous do-goodism helped launch her career in bureaucracy. The third instance is her appearance in the 1947 Ft. Worth City Directory wherein she is listed as Robert F. McNemer’s “wife”.[10]

As for Georgia’s whereabouts, less is known of it until her second marriage on July 22, 1966, in Tarrant County, to Edwin Lucy Gunkle (1888-1980)[11]  She was a bride in her 60s when she re-married – this time with proper documents.[12] The groom was in his late 70s. One can find the two listed in the 1971 Ft. Worth city directory as husband and wife.[13] Georgia Colvin is also listed, with her maiden name, as his spouse on Edwin’s death certificate.[14] Edwin, like his bride, had been married previously, to a Nannette Simpson (1891-1963) who died three years before he married Georgia. He married Nannette in 1920, judging by his answers on the 1930 federal census wherein, at age forty, he told the enumerators he married 1st at age 30.[15]

Georgia E. Colvin died April 15, 1993,  in Tarrant County, Texas.[16] She is interred next to Edwin at the Greenwood Memorial Park and Mausoleum in Ft. Worth. Robert is buried there as well, in a separately marked plot. [17]


[1] Digitized copy of original, Mitchel County, Texas marriage registry, Volume 1 (1881-1910) pp 108 in “Texas County Marriage Records, 1835-1965” (image 81) Collection, website.

[2] “Malin” is likely a play on Belle’s mother’s maiden name: Georgia Mann. (1848-?) Georgia’s middle name is yet unknown.

[3] Digitized copy of original marriage license, December 28, 1909, “Missouri, Marriage Records, 1805-2002” Collection, website.

[4] Digitized copy of original, WWI Draft Registration Card, Malin Pearson Colvin, June 2, 1917, Ft. Worth, Texas, “U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” Collection, website.

[5] Digitized copy of original, 1930 City Directory, Ft. Worth, Texas, pp 628, “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” Collection, website.

[6] Digitized copy of original, 1932 City Directory, Ft. Worth, Texas, pp 527, “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995” Collection, website.

[7] Digitized original of Robert F. McNemer household, 1940 U.S. Federal Census, Ft. Worth, Tarrant County, Texas, hh 5531, line 30, “1940 United States Federal Census,” Collection, Carlene McNemer is listed as his daughter. However, in Carlene’s obituary, published in the August 27, 2000 edition of  the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, her father’s name is given as “Carl Russell.” Likewise, on her grave marker in the Greenwood Memorial Park and Mausoleum, Ft. Worth, her name is given as “Carlene Russell Hendrickson”. Carlene m. Ralph Wise Hendrickson October 5, 1944. She died August 25, 2002.  When Carl Russell married her mother is unknown. No record of their marriage has yet been found. See Carlene Russell Hendrickson memorial image # 165545592, website.

[8] Corsicana Semi-Weekly Light, “Mrs. R.B. Malloy Named Chairman on Crusade on Relief,” November 9, 1934, pp 8, col. 7, website,

[9] Denton Record-Chronicle, “District Relief Office Functioning,” August 5, 1935, pp 1, col. 3, website, The article mentions the program had been scuttled the previous year due to lack of funds.

[10] Digitized copy of original, Ft. Worth City Directory, 1947, pp 741, “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” Collection, website.

[11] Digitized copy of original, Edwin Lacy Gunkle Death Certificate, “Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” Collection, website.

[12] Edwin Lacy Gunkle – Georgia Colvin, 22 July, 1966, Tarrant County, Texas, Marriage Application Index, 1966, Texas Department of State Health Services website,

[13] Digitized copy of original, Ft. Worth City Directory, 1971, pp 416, “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995” Collection, website.

[14] Digitized copy of original, Edwin Lacy Gunkle Death Certificate, “Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” Collection, website.

[15] Digitized copy of original, Edwin L. Gunkle household, 1930 U.S. Federal Census, Ft. Worth, Tarrant County, Texas, household 2221, line 51, col. 15, “1930 United States Federal Census” Collection, website.

[16] Georgia Colvin Gunkle memorial # 129861206, website, Edits to the vital stats and an image request of the grave marker have been submitted to the memorialist by this researcher. The decedent’s death certificate is also being sought.

[17] Robert Franklin McNemer memorial # 40562305, website,

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From Your Humble Family Historian. “My Thanksgiving Gratitude Declaration” 2016.

rainbow-treeI’m grateful as a Colvin for our diversity as a family line which stretches back before our nation’s founding.

I’m grateful that we cannot claim a right to bigotry or prejudiced, because within our veins runs the blood of the Revolutionary soldier both foreign and domestic, the European indenture, the African slave, his master, the poor farmer, the teacher, the tradesman, the merchant, the doctor, and the city-dweller.

A Colvin of our line can never claim to be a Confederate nor a Yankee for our ancestors fought and died on both sides of that awful war; we can only be for peace. I am grateful for that, too.

We can never be against the immigrant, for our Colvin forefathers’ journeys across open seas brought us to these shores long ago. They and their heirs settled in New England, the south, the northwest, the east and west coasts,  and all parts in between. We can only hope they find the freedom they seek and deserve.

We can never be against love — whatever form it takes, for our Colvins and their heirs have dared to marry those in society of different races and creeds across the generations – even when society banned such things and made them felonies. We are their kith and kin. Love will always transcend and defeat hate. Our ancestors and their descendants have shown us that. We have continued this tradition.

We can never be against women, for many a Colvin wife has kept her family intact when the husband died or left, and never was a Colvin child pawned off to the poor house or the orphanage. Never.

We can never be against the working poor; we have had our struggles, too, yet we have laughed in the face of adversity. We welcome it; it strengthens us. And we have been charitable when others would not. We have known homelessness, despair, and suffering. We carry on, regardless. It is a tradition, not a burden. I am grateful for this.

We can never be against any religion; our spiritual beliefs are many — of many creeds. Yes, we have those from Muslim countries such as Syria among us. We cannot vainly cling to monotheism. I am grateful for this, too.

We can never be the righteous “other” — arrogant and condescending of our fellow Americans. We are their kindred spirit. We are the multi-colored patches and threads sewn into the tapestry of our nation. We are the many-hued Tree of Life. We are the living legacy and living proof of the everlasting strength of America’s diversity. We are its soul and history and our stories are its stories. And for this I am grateful.

I hope you are, too.

Peace and love, as always,



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Yet Too Few Clues: The Alleged Civil War Death of James M. Colvin

James M. Colvin d. 1863 Index record card

James M. Colvin IRC Source:

James M. Colvin (1838-1863) was the son of Madison Colvin mentioned in a previous post, who allegedly died in the Civil War. Unfortunately, little of his war record survives, and of the few scraps there are in the form of late-19th century index record cards, (IRCs) little of  what they offer is consistent with other know records regarding regiments, officers, locations,  or other records against which one can compare them to use as a metric of consistency in order to verify his war record. Often, when one finds IRCs for a soldier, they often contain data than can be cross-referenced against extant rosters of military histories and verified. In James’ case, that has not proven to be true. Nothing of what’s on his cards are consistent with known records.

For example, one IRC  says he enlisted March 26, 1862 In “Memphis” (Scotland County) Missouri under “Captain” John B. Clark Company A., 3rd Battalion infantry. But Clark was not a Captain of Company A; he was the  Lt. Colonel  over the entire battalion. And nowhere does one find among the rosters a  James Colvin — or any Colvin  — among any of the 3rd’s several companies.

By July of that year,  according to another IRC in the same series, James is now a corporal, in Company “E” of the 3rd, in Erwin’s Battalion.That would be Lt. Colonel Eugene Erwin who was promoted to Colonel of the 6th Missouri after his daring do at the battle of Corinth and went on to become something of  a war hero, according to National Park Service records.  Again, wrong company. And no Colvin’s in the 6th, either.

Why such inconsistency? That requires a little explaining.

IRCs, first of all, are not original records but rather derivatives  created in the early 1890s by the Federal War Department as a way to determine which individuals making a war pension application were entitled to one. Also, owing to the way in which they were created, they can lead to confusion by modern-day researchers. The clerks who created them made a separate card every time a soldier was found on an  original roster, muster roll, pay lsts, etc, and with spelling of surnames often found different on original Civil War records, clerks typically created a separate series for each “spelling” This explain why, in James’ case, there’s one card for a James N. Colvin, and others for James M. Colvin although they were the same person. This clerical habit also explains why modern day researchers sometimes overlook individuals — because of those misspelled names. Even Civil War paymasters and captains writing out muster and lists got names wrong, an error that would be continued by IRC clerks who sometimes further corrupted them three decades later. Thus, IRCs should always be verified against original regimental histories, muster lists, etc.,  rather than taken at face value. Like Federal Census records, errors abound.  The good news is: they offer valuable clues about an ancestor’s war experience and are always a welcome find.

Here an article from the January 8, 1893 edition of the New York Times introducing American to the IRCs which were considered a marvel of War Department bureaucratic efficiency at a time when cast-iron typewriters were only beginning to appear on the office scene.  The majority of the thousands of IRCs, however, are hand written — clear evidence that the fountain pen and the inkwell were still the method of writing choice in large scale clerical operations.

For now, I’ve put James aside as a “verification pending” case since little of his extant war record seems to jibe with what’s known about the Civil War officers and the regiments they commanded. No doubt, more intensive digging will reveal James’ true wartime experience.

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Madison Colvin (1799-1846): Five Sons, But Only One With Male Heirs.

Madison Colvin Polly Crigler marriage bond

Madison Colvin-Mary “Polly” Ann Crigler marriage bond, 1820. Source:

Madison Colvin belongs to the Culpeper County, Virginia branch of this study. There are several branches: The Ohio branch, the Fauquier County, Virginia branch, and the Kentucky branch. There’s also a Texas and Florida branch. The oldest, however, is the Culpeper branch which is closest to the tree’s Virginia roots. Madison is among the oldest of these founders, whose parents were Benjamin Colvin, (1759-1837) and Nancy P. Coleman (1771-1845) both of Culpeper County. However, the parents of Benjamin have not been conclusively shown, although much speculation exists among researchers.

Records reveal much about Madison.  He was, for example, the 2nd eldest son of Benjamin and Nancy whose heirs consisted of four sons and four daughters born between 1794 and 1816. Benjamin and Nancy were married in Culpeper, December 12, 1793.[1] Benjamin had served in the American Revolution having enlisted in 1781 in Culpeper and left service honorably in 1782. A more in-depth profile of Benjamin’s service is available from this earlier post.  Between 1816-1820, Benjamin took his bounty land compensation and moved his family to Boone County, Missouri settling there on a plot of land near the Missouri river. This is how Madison’s siblings got to Missouri. However, Madison himself doesn’t appear to have gone straight to Missouri with his family, judging by his marriage records and the birth records of some of his children – nine is all, four daughters and five sons.

Those records show Madison, aged twenty-three, married on November 21, 1820 in Madison County, Kentucky, eighteen-year-old, Mary “Polly” Ann Crigler, (1802-1846).[2] It was a curious marriage; Madison’s father, Benjamin and his soon-to-be father-in-law, John Crigler, paid the indemnity to the county clerk which all marriages required at the time. The records also reveal the new couple’s nine children and where they were born. The first five: Sarah “Sally” Ann Colvin (1822 -?); George C. Colvin (1823-1880); Christopher C. Colvin (1826-1875); Coleman Colvin (1829-1832), and Nancy Jane Colvin (1832-1861) were all born in Madison County, Kentucky. The remaining four children, however, were all born in Howard County, Missouri. The first of these last four was John G. Colvin born in 1836. This means, for reasons that are yet unclear, between 1832-1836, Madison Colvin migrated with his family to Missouri where most of his siblings had been living for some time and where most lived until death and where they are buried.

Aside from showing that Madison deviated from the family migratory route to Missouri, (a dalliance that lasted only until the early 1830s,) they also show another interesting pattern; of his four sons, only one was successful in producing the male heirs necessary to continue the Colvin line in his family group: Christopher C. Colvin. Christopher had four brothers: Coleman Colvin, a toddler who lived only to age three and died when Christopher was age five; George C. Colvin who had only two daughters; John G. Colvin, also likewise fathered only daughters – five in all, and James M. Colvin, the son who died in the Civil War at the age of 25, a bachelor.[3]

Had not Christopher C. Colvin fathered six heirs of his own – five boys and a girl, all living to old age, the Madison line would have died out in Missouri in the late-1880s with the death of John G. Colvin who died March 24, 1885 in Linn County, Missouri.[4] Christopher married Ann Elizabeth Amick (1836-1910) in Howard County, Missouri on October 9 1851.[5] They are buried in the Richland Cemetery, Glasgow, Howard County, Missouri. An image of his tombstone is available at


[1] Virginia, Select Marriages, 1785-1940.

[2] Digitized original marriage bond, Madison Colvin to Polly Crigler,

[3] Digitized original index record cards, James M. Colvin, A newer post about James and his mysterious Civil War death is available here.

[4] Digitized original death registry listing, John G. Colvin,

[5] Digitized original marriage registry listing, Christopher Colvin to Elizabeth Amick, Howard County, Missouri,

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Three Lives Lost With Too Few Clues: The Strange Demise of Branson Colvin and Family

Branson Colvin, wife and daughter, death registry listing. Only the term

Branson Colvin, wife and daughter, death registry listing. Only the term “direct” is given for their sudden deaths. Click to enlarge. Source:

In 1871, in Guernsey County, Ohio, an unnamed tragedy struck the Branson Colvin household, wiping out its head, Branson Colvin (1802-1871), his wife, Mary Sarah (nee Alloway )(1799-1871) and their first born daughter, Sarah Ann Colvin (1825-1871) – all within the space of a few weeks. The medical record of the period show the trio died that year between June and August.[1] Branson’s wife, Mary Sarah Colvin,  age seventy-two, was the first to die on June 11th, followed by her first born, Sarah Ann Colvin, then aged  forty-five on August 12th,  followed by her father, age sixty-eight on August 28th.  Other than using the term “direct” to describe the deaths, the record is entirely silent regarding the cause.  More frustrating, perhaps, a review of period medical literature offers no context as to what such a term might mean when used in 19th century death registries.

The cause,  however, was both sudden and clearly unanticipated. Among the other records extant for review is Branson Colvin’s  Last Will and Testament, executed a year earlier in March of 1870.[2]  In it he names his several heirs, including  his wife, and his daughter, Sarah Ann Colvin. Clearly,  in so doing,  he fully expected they would survive him. To his wife, for example, he devised the bulk of his estate — including all the lands, buildings, livestock, and chattels. That estate would only go piecemeal to his other heirs  upon her death, and only then with the proviso that any outstanding debts were to be paid first.  Thus it strains credulity to imagine Branson would have  made such bequeths to beneficiaries he thought would not outlive him. The remainder of his heirs – three sons and two daughters , however,  did survive him. The eldest male, Zachary Taylor Colvin, (1849-1923) for example, went on to father seven children — five of whom were sons — who, in turn, continued their Colvin line with their progeny, many remaining in the region for several more generations.

Branson was the son of Charles B. Colvin, (1770-1840,) himself a son of  Charles Colvin, an itinerant Overseer originally of Culpeper County, Virginia,  and whose own familial heritage seems rooted in Virginia’s Piedmont.[3] Records show Branson was born in Stafford County, Virginia, a region where his ancestors had farmed for several generations. Whether he came to Ohio on his own, or with his father or family is currently unclear. What is clear is that by 1840, he was established enough to be  enumerated in that year’s federal census for Guernsey County. However, marriage records also make it clear he had likely settled in the area much earlier. In fact, nearly two decades earlier, he had married a twenty-five year old, Mary Sarah Alloway , in Jefferson County, Ohio on December 30, 1824.[4] She was a few years his senior.  Much later, in the 1850 federal census, he is listed as a farmer.[5] His death registry entry likewise lists his occupation this way.

Although the death registry does not give their causes of death, ongoing research may ultimately reveal the reason – whether by an outbreak of disease or some terrible accident – that lay behind the trio’s sudden demise.



[1]  Branson Colvin et all, entries, digitized original death registry, “Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001”  in Guernsey (County, Ohio) Death Records, 1867-1908 database. lines 123-125.

[2] Branson Colvin Last Will and Testament, Executed March 22,  1870, Wheeling,  Guernsey County,  Ohio, Will Bk Z: 338.

[3]  Charles B. Colvin was named both in the Last Will and Testament  of Charles Colvin as his son,  but also as one of two executors.  See: Charles Colvin Will, Pendleton County, Kentucky, Deed Book B (1803-1815):287.

[4] Branson Lee Colvin and Mary Sarah Alloway marriage registry listing, December 30, 1824, Jefferson County, (Ohio)  Court of Common Pleas, Marriage Book 3: 16.

[5] Branson L. Colvin household,  digitized original,  1850 U.S. federal census, Washington,  Tuscarawas County, Ohio, household 2517, lines 25-30.

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