The Colwell – Tierney Link

When I first took over the family genealogy project from my Uncle Lloyd Lewis, there was one page of his notes that I ignored for some time because the notes he had on the names were scarce.

On the top of one page, he wrote the name Kate Sproul Colwell..  Next to it were the names; Lou Colwell Gent, Mary Lou Gent and John Gent.  Now, the name Spoul was familiar to me.  It happens to be the maiden name of my great, great grandmother, Mary Sproul Tierney (b. abt 1829 in Ireland), who married James Tierney (b. abt 1826 in Ireland).  I have seen several variations of the Spoul name including Sproul, Sproule and Sproull.

So, based on my Uncles notes, I assumed that Kate Sproul Colwell, is the sister of Mary Sproul, wife of James Tierney.  Several weeks ago, I decided to investigate this branch of the family a little more in-depth.  So, my first step was to talk to my Mom.  She remembers a Lou Gent being referred to as “Cousin Lou”.   She was a school teacher in New York City.  So with that small amount of information I was able to find Lou Gent in the 1930 census records.  She was married to a Harold G Gent and had twins; John and Mary Lou.  In this census, her occupation is listed as a “teacher”.  So at least I know I found the right Lou Gent.

Now that I found Lou, the rest of the family was fairly easy to find, working backwards.  Lou was the daughter of Louise and John S. Colwell. So obviously my next step was to pull the death certificate of John S. Colwell.  It was fairly easy to find, but here is where my trouble began.  It lists his parents as Catherine Tierney and Michael Colwell.  WOW.  My first reaction was to assume that this was a mistake and that the informant had taken the married name of Catherine’s sister and used it.  I’ve seen lots of mistakes like this on death certificates before.

So Michael Colwell (b. abt 1832 in Ireland) and Catherine (b. abt 1826 in Ireland) had six other children besides John S. Colwell.  I haven’t bothered researching all of them yet as I am still looking for resolution of Catherine’s maiden name. I soon found Catherine Colwell’s death certificate at the New York City Archives.  Awesome!  Now I can finally put things to rest.  Wait a minute, not so fast.   It lists her father as “Frank Tierney” and her mother as “Unable to state”.  Now I’m really confused.  I know there was a Frank who was the son of my gr, gr grandfather.  Could this also be a mix up?  Could Frank be the fathr of James and Catherine Tierney?

Based on her death certificate I was able to determine that Catherine was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Flushing, Queens, not to far from where Mary Sproul Tierney is buried.  James could be there too, but I have not yet confirmed it with any type of record.

The Colwell Grace At Calvary Cemetery in Queens

So, to try to put this issue to bed, I decided to pull the death certificate of one of Catherine and Michael Coldwell’s other children to see if it can give me a last name of Catherine.  His name was Thomas W. Colwell.  I just received it today.    It lists his mothers name as “CATHERINE TIERNEY”


Pending some further investigation, it does appear that instead of Catherine being the sister of Mary Sproul, she is the sister of James Tierney, my gr, gr, grandfather.  Since James Tierney died almost two centuries before Mary Sproul Tierney, it is conceivable that relatives, who passed information onto Lloyd may have had their facts a little mixed up. They may have thought Catherine was related to Mary because James had not been around for so long.  Who knows?  Whatever the reason, all evidence now is pointing to Catherine Colwell being a Tierney.  So it appears that all the Colwell’s and Gent’s are cousins through the Tierney side of our family.  I know there are members of those families out there.  Now I just have to find them.

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About the Author

Philip (Phil) Hayes is the CEO of Sirius Innovations, LLC. As CEO of Sirius Innovations, LLC, he served as a Technology Solutions Consultant and Web Applications Programmer for fortune 500 companies, large municipalities and hospitals. He is fluent in the SQL, ColdFusion, PHP and Javscript programming languages. He is also a power user of the WordPress Content Management System, commonly used for blogging. Phil's latest product development includes a service called 'Map The Past'. The advanced, yet easy to use functionality offered in this product will enable its members to "Walk in the Footsteps of Their Ancestors". Phil became a Genealogy addict when in 1998, his Uncle, Lloyd W Lewis, sat he and his wife down on the deck of his Uncle's Pennsylvania home and told them the story of his Great, Great Grandfather Henry W. Lewis, the Privateer. The story was so intriguing that Phil found himself yearning for more details. Hence…. Philip Hayes, the Genealogist was born. Leveraging his technology skills, Philip has grown and developed the family tree well beyond what his Uncle could have ever dreamed of. Combining the power of technology and the primary sources from historical documents, Philip developed his own family history web site, based on the Word Press Content Management System ( Upon publishing the site, it has inspired many people to develop interest in the family's history and has connected Philip to several undiscovered relatives and their family stories. Phil is a member of numerous historical and genealogy societies, including the Association of Professional Genealogists

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