Dennis Prue

Dennis Prue

Dennis has been researching family trees for more than 30 years. His expertise has been invaluable in helping to break through brick walls.


This Old Tree, August 2013

This month’s column is about surnames, their various spellings. The family I will be talking about is that of the Cochran family.

David Wark Cochran was the third son of Alexander Cochran and his first wife Jane Wark and was named for Jane’s father. David married Mathilda Irvine Giberson on December 16, 1847 in Perth Andover. Mathilda was the widow of a Giberson with a small daughter, Mary, age 2 at the time of the wedding.

I found David and Mathilda in Wicklow Parish in Carleton County, New Brunswick in the 1851 census. Their family is David, age 25, Mathilda, age 22, and three children, James, age 2, Caroline, age 1 and Mary Giberson age 6.

I know from Andover Anglican church records that David and Mathilda had four children, all christened in that church:

James Alexander b. 1849,
Alvenia Caroline b. 1850,
William Henry b. 1853
Sarah Jane b. 1855. Sarah was baptized on October 28, 1855, one month and one day old.

David and Mathilda then disappeared.

Last month, I was looking for information on Alexander Cochran’s grandson, Samuel. I knew that he had moved west but was unsure of where he had move to.

While searching on census records, I tripped across a Samuel E. Cochrane b. 1859, in Minnesota. I traced Samuel back and found him in several censuses but with different spellings of the surname Caughren instead of more similar spelling of Cochran. I started to dismiss this Samuel as having anything to do with the Caribou Cochran’s but something told me to keep digging. I found Samuel Cockran age 4 in Stearns County, Minnesota. His family was as follows:

David Cockran 36
Mathilda 31
James A. 13
William H. 10
Alvena C. 8
Sarah J. 5
Samuel 4
Anna B. 6/12

In 1870 in Getty, Stearns, Minnesota

David Caughren 45
Mathilda 40
William 18
Sarah 16
Samuel 13
Anna 11
Harriet 3

I did find David’s family in the Minnesota and Dakota Territory. David is alive in 1880 but Mathilda is listed as a widow in 1885. Mathilda would die in 1919.

From at least the 1870’s, the family used the Scottish spelling of Caughren or Caughran as opposed to the Irish spelling of Cochran. This is a lesson to see how other nationalities spelled your ancestor’s surname. This may help you find missing branches of your family tree.