Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Oldest in the Family

Sometimes, young widows are fortunate to find a second opportunity for love, marriage and family. In the case of the young widow Emma Carle Brown, who had just suffered through the turmoil of losing her husband of three months to suicide, we’ve already discovered that she later married Patrick Kelly of Fort Wayne—he’s the one linked to our Stevens family, and the reason I’m pursuing more information on this family line.

What was somewhat unusual about Patrick and Emma’s situation was that Emma entered this second marriage with a two-year-old son while Patrick, unlike many of that era marrying widows, was a bachelor when he and Emma wed.

The newly formed Kelly family eventually boasted eight children—four girls and four boys. That first son, though, was step-son to Patrick, and half-sibling to the other seven children.

Since the 1900 census showed the new Kelly family unit with Frederick bearing his own father’s surname, I wasn’t sure how to trace him through the timeline of the 1900s. He apparently assumed the same surname as the rest of the family for the 1910 and 1920 census records. But what would he do, once he was on his own? Keep his step-father’s name, or revert to the name of his birth?

It was the World War I draft registration card Frederick filled out in 1918 that confirmed that, out on his own, he still chose to employ the surname of his adopted father, rather than that of his natural father. (The draft registration form, by the way, also was my first clue as to what the “W” in his mother’s name might signify: Walberga.)

Thankfully, after the 1920 census—the last census record for which son Frederick was still in the home of Patrick Kelly—it was not difficult to locate a marriage license for him. On January 2, 1926, Frederick married Myrtle Trumbull, daughter of Harvey and Della Vandeford Trumbull. Their ceremony was in Fort Wayne.

Somewhere beyond that point, Frederick found work in Detroit, Michigan, and for the subsequent two census reports, he and his family—still under the Kelly surname—lived there.  Frederick and Myrtle must have been in Detroit shortly after their wedding, for their oldest daughter—Rosella, according to the 1930 census, Rosalie if you rely on the 1940 version—was born in Michigan somewhere around 1927.

When I first started researching this line, I had often wondered, “What if he changed his name?” How could I track this family’s line? But apparently, there was enough assurance in this relationship between step-father and step-son for the bond to remain. Perhaps it was because Patrick was the only father Frederick would be able to remember, coming into the relationship at such a young age. Whatever the reason, it does make me wish I knew more about the day-to-day relationships between first-born Frederick and all the half-siblings that followed him into the Kelly family.


  1. I wonder if the sad story of what happened to Frederick's father was ever told to him or his half-siblings?

  2. Interesting, he probably just wanted to be part of the family...perhaps he never knew about his father:)


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