Become Reality

written August 4, 2009

One of my families had 13 children, not uncommon. Of those 13 children I had a pretty good run-down on all of them as well as their children and the following generations.


The woman (Elizabeth Carter) had married in 1853, it was in the family Bible. The name of her husband (Samuel Arnett) was there also. They had even had a child named Ann in 1854 and I knew her name.Doesn't that sound pretty forth right and well documented??

It seems as if they should have been in the 1860 census, well at least somewhere.. THEY WEREN'T.

Just most recently after 8 long years of searching; I found a woman named Elizabeth Arnett who married one Lawrence Kelly in Monroe County on May 18, 1856. Was it possible? or was I just wishfully hoping?

In checking the 1860 census records, (4 years after the marriage) I find that in addition to some other children-- there is a child listed as the eldest named Ann and she is 6 years old (born in 1854).

The only problem was that they were using the surname of the stepfather (Kelly) for this child and they were not labeling her as a stepchild.I wonder if perhaps this was common, especially if the child was very young as my ancestor would have only been 2 years old when her mother remarried.As the child grew up she began using the birthplace of her father as opposed to her stepfather's. I have since decided that this woman and child are the ones I was searching for. I still wondered if this was a common occurrence until I had an email recently from Patty Birch. Here is her story and it tells me that this probably happened more then just this once.

Her mother and father married in 1940 and by 1944 her mother was expecting her to be born. When she was about 1 month old, her mother divorced her father; she later remarried when Patty was about 7 months old.

Initially Patty went by the surname of her real father (Fultz). Then about the time that she was around 5 or 6 years old--her mother and stepfather began using the stepfather's last name for her--ALTHOUGH SHE WAS NEVER ADOPTED BY HIM.

The interesting thing happens when Patty turns 16 and she found her birth certificate. It was at that time that she learned of her true father (that her mother "forgot" to tell her about). The response that Patty's mother offered was "none of that was any of her(Patty's) business"!!

Patty's mother would never discuss with her anything about her father or about the marriage or divorce, even when she was an adult. Now Patty is 62 and her mother has passed away. She has gotten just a brief amount of information from her father's sisters. Patty finally met her father when she was about 18 and not long after that sadly he committed suicide. So she is left with numerous questions and nobody to answer them.

This story bears out to me that what I have suspected for years really did occur more often then one would think it did. When the children were very young, the child was simply given the name of the stepfather without any regard for legalities. This later creating a nightmare for the researcher. As a researcher, make certain to check every single thing if something just doesn't seem "right". Especially check the 1900 census if possible as that name just how many children the mother may have had. This would indicate a missing child. If there is any indication of this being a second marriage-- go the extra mile and make certain that those children don't belong to someone else.