Surname Saturday: The elusive Lavenia Cole

Surname Saturday is one of the daily blogging prompts offered at  “To participate in Surname Saturday, simply create a post in which you discuss a surname and mention its origins, its geographical location(s) and how it fits into your genealogy research.”

A surname that I have spent an inordinate amount of time researching is Cole. According to Wikipedia (as of today) the Cole surname originated in South West England. I have not been fortunate enough to trace my Cole ancestors back that far, but I’m still chasing them. The name is derived from the word charcoal. There are so many variant spellings of this surname it’s difficult not to get lost in the search. I have seen Coal and Kohl, among others.

My search for Cole ancestors started with one of my great-grandmothers, whose name I was told was Lavenia Cole. Lavenia had married Alfred Cottrell and they had five children; Wilson, Virginia, Isabel, Sally and Tommy. Lavenia’s mother’s name was Eliza and her father’s name was William Robert Cole. Eliza’s mother’s name was also Eliza. Lavenia’s grandmother (Eliza) was either half or full Cherokee. I received all of this information directly from Lavenia’s daughter, Sally, so I thought it was a fairly solid lead.  (Can you see where this is going already?).

I found the following:

1930 Census Oxford, North Carolina
Name, relationship, age, marital status, born /father born / mother born
Venia I Cottrell, head (homemaker), 31, M, VA/VA/KY.
Age at first marriage 18, operates machine at hosiery mill.
Wilson T Cottrell, son, 11, S, NC/NC/VA
Virginia Cottrell, daughter, 9, S, NC/NC/VA
Isabel Cottrell, daughter, 7, S, NC/NC/VA
Sallie V Cottrell, daughter, 4 11/12, S, NC/NC/VA
William E Cottrell, son, 7/12, S, NC/NC/VA

1920 Census Oak Hill, North Carolina
Name, relationship, age, marital status, born /father born / mother born
Alfred Cathell,  head, 20, M, NC/NC/NC. Farmer; general farmer.
Vinie Cathell, wife, 22, M, VA/VA/VA
Wilson Cathell, son, 1 6/12, M, NC/NC/VA

I am convinced that the above two families are my great-grandmother “Lavenia.”

While searching for her with her father William Robert and mother Eliza I found the following:

1910 Census Oak Hill, North Carolina
Name, relationship, age, marital status, born /father born / mother born
William R Cole, head, 42, M3, VA/VA/VA
Rosa Cole, wife, 27, M1, NC/NC/NC. Married 4 years; 2 children born, 1 child now living.
Mary J Cole, daughter, 2 8/12, S, NC/VA/NC
William F Cole, son, 17, S, NC/VA/VA
Vinnie Cole, daughter, 14, S, VA/VA/VA
Flem F Cole, son, 11, S, VA/VA/VA


1) The 1930 census indicates Lavenia’s birthplace is KY, whereas the earlier censuses show VA.

2) So far there are no records listing her as Lavenia; everything so far shows her as Venia, Vinie, or Vinnie.

3) Assuming we have the right Vinnie in the 1910 census, Lavenia only ages 8-9 years each decade (See- I knew I had good genes).

4) From the 1910 census it appears that William R has been married three times, most recently 4 years ago to Rosa. Rosa Cole has one living child, therefore her only daughter is Mary J Cole who is under three years old.  That means that William F, Vinnie, and Flem F are children of William R Cole; either from his first or second marriage.

On the other hand maybe this is a coincidence; is there another William R Cole with a daughter named Lavenia/Venia/Vinie? It’s not an impossible idea… especially in the world of genealogy.

Before this post gets overwhelmingly long I’ll stop here and continue in another post. What are your thoughts so far? Is this the right Vinie in 1910? Do you have any suggestions as to what records I might be able to locate to corroborate what I have so far? Let me know in the comments (there’s a link near the title of this post). I’m interested to hear your ideas.


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