Child born out of wedlock to Mary Edna Brown
Does anyone know how to research a child born out of wedlock in Detroit around 1912 to Mary Edna Brown, a domestic
employee in the home of a physician, who reportedly impregnated her and when their child was about two years old paid
for the mother to relocate to southern California in exchange for custody of the child. The mother apparently was asked
to not attempt to visit the child, because she waited 15 years before visiting Detroit again or her parents who lived on a
farm in Essex County, Ontario, Canada.
I found a Mary Brown (age 50) working as a private nurse for Physician John Lewis Asselin (age 30) with Bertha M Asselin (age 9/12) in the 1910 census. Bertha M Asselin is the daughter of Bertha Mae Honor Asselin, who died shortly after giving birth. Daughter Bertha M is listed as Honor M Asselin in the 1920 census and her father is remarried.
Bertha M Honor and John Lewis Asselin were listed in the 1900 census in the same boarding facility for nurses/medical personnel.
Please let me know if you would like copies and a write-up of my findings.
Hello, Karen Grizzard:
Thank you for your effort; however, my maternal grandmother, Mary Edna Brown, was only about 20 years old when she
worked as a domestic for a physician in Detroit and gave birth to his female child around 1911. By 1913, my grandmother
had relocated to southern California where she gave birth to two more daughters by a much older married building
contractor with no legal children. Those two children were born in February 1914 and November 1915. The latter child
was my mother. I wish I had the name of my grandmother's first daughter and the name of the physician, but I don't.
I do have a photo of the first child when she was less than one year of age. Since a sister of my grandmother saw custody
papers, my grandmother probably relinquished custody of the child to the father or perhaps a friend. One of her closest
friends in Detroit may have been another Scottish-Irish woman named Nellie MacInerney. My grandmother's first child
may have been named Helen and would have been born around 1911, since my grandmother appears alone with no
child on the 1910 U.S. Census for Detroit, working as a servant in the home of Rosana McGovern on Waterloo Street.
I am still researching, just a little slower than I would prefer. I did find a Helen Graham listed with a Nellie MacInerney in the 1930 Census as a step-daughter. Helen's age would be off a few years but more than a few census entries over the years listed incorrect information.
15450 Dexter, Detroit, Michigan
McInerney, Edward 41 (born: abt 1889) married at 20 (abt 1910) - self: Connecticut | father: Irish Free | mother: Irish Free | motorman for city
McInenery, Nellie 40 (born: abt 1890) married at 21 (abt 1910) - self: Michigan | father: Louisiana | mother: Canada
Graham, Helen step-daughter 16 (born: abt 1914) - self: Michigan | father: Pennsylvania | mother: Michigan
McInenery, Josephine daughter 17 (born: abt 1913) self: Connecticut | father: Connecticut | Connecticut | seamstress overall company
Based on the last name of Graham I searched for physicians in the City Directories.
1913 City Directory
Graham, Alfred, physician, 207 Kenilworth ave., h do
Graham, Don, dentist, 602 Gas Office Bldg, h 406 Hancock Ave W
Graham, William H, dentist, 882 14th ave., h 84 Linwood
Haven't had a chance to look any further than this though.
Since genealogy is a lot like chasing rabbits, you just have to try going in a lot of different directions in order to gain a lead. :)
Do you have any other clues that may help narrow the search?
Thank you so very much, Karen, for your interest and your efforts.
Upon the suggestion of Ruth McMahon (email@example.com), who now lives in Texas near family but was
formerly associated with the DSGR and worked with me some back in 2007, I have written to the following:
Central Adoption Registry, Michigan Family Independence Agency, P.O. Box 30037, Lansing, MI 48909-7537 and
3rd Judicial Circuit Court, Wayne County, Family Division, Juvenile, Lincoln Hall of Justice, 1025 E. Forest Ave., Detroit,
MI 48207-1098. The State of Michigan Department of Human Services, P.O. Box 30037, Lansing, MI 48909 already has
written back to me saying that they did a search to see if they hold a record of adoption for a Baby Girl Brown born in
approximately 1911-1912 but could not find an adoption record matching the limited information I provided. However,
they referred me to various adoption support groups, and I have joined the Yahoo group for www.michigansearching.com.
Meanwhile, I am still waiting for a reply from the 3rd Judicial Circuit Court of Wayne County.
I am curious as to why Helen McInerney and her husband. Edward, told the 1930 U.S. Census enumerator that Helen
was a stepdaughter when she was at least a year younger than their daughter in common. This information strengthens
my suspicion that my maternal grandmother may have relinquished custody to her friend Helen who was married and
already had a small child. My mother was the one who told me that my grandmother's close friend in Detroit was a
Helen McInerney. My mother may have met Helen when she was about 13 and my grandmother took, her and her older
sister, Vera, age 14 or 15, to Detroit and to visit their maternal grandparents on their farm near Comber in Essex County,
Ontario. That was the first time my grandmother had returned to Detroit or her parents' farm in about 15 years. After that,
I believe my grandmother made other trips to Detroit.
If Helen had been married to a Mr. Graham before she married Edward McInerney, Helen would have been older than
Josephine, unless, of course, she had the child out of wedlock soon after giving birth to a daughter by her legal husband,
which, I think, is highly unlikely so early in a marriage.
How would you suggest we explore what became of Helen Graham? I wonder if she was unmarried and enumerated on
the 1940 U.S. Census or could be found in Detroit city directories after 1930. Of course, using the 1940 U.S. Census
should become easier once it is indexed for all states.
Please feel free to ask for some compensation for your efforts. I wouldn't expect anyone to help me with my research without being properly compensated for their time and effort. If you would prefer to communicate more directly, I can
provide you with an E-mail address or you may be able to obtain my E-mail address from the DSGR.
Thank you. Wayne Bowlby
Hello again, Karen Gizzard,
I would like to explore the possibility of finding a marriage record for Helen Graham, daughter of Nellie McInerney
and stepdaughter of Edward McInerney, sometime after about 1932. If a marriage record and a married name can
be found for her, perhaps later an obituary can be located, too. As you know, marriage records can reveal information
about the parents of both the bride and groom, and obituary records can reveal the names of surviving family members,
especially children and grandchildren, some of whom could still be living. My dream is to someday locate a surviving
relative of my maternal grandmother's first daughter who can confirm her identity and turn out to be a cousin of mine.
Thanks. Wayne Bowlby
I have been unable to find Edward, Nellie, Josephine, or Helen on the 1920 U.S. Census. Do you suppose they just got
overlooked? I wanted to see how old she was enumerated at in 1920 and whether she was listed as a stepdaughter
Would it be possible to find a birth record for Helen Graham? If one could be found, it would be interesting to see who
were identified as her parents. Perhaps I should write back to the State of Michigan Department of Human Services and
ask them to search for a Helen Graham, born sometime between 1910 and 1914, with the mother listed as Edna Brown
or Nellie McInerney.
Norman Wayne Bowlby
Hi again, Karen:
A friend found what appears to be Nellie McInerney in her first marriage at 385 Greenwood Street in Detroit on the 1920
William Graham, Head, 30, Born in PA
Ellen Graham, Wife, 31, Born in MI
Helen, Daughter, 6, Born in MI, Can read and write
Henrietta Kilvington, 6, Born in MI, Cannot read or write
In the samne household were enumerated the following:
Anna Kilvington, Head, 52, Immigrant from Canada and a naturalized U.S. citizen
Vernon Kilvington, Son, 34, Born in MI
Charles Kilvington, Son, 25, Born in MI
William Tucker, Head, 34, Born in MI
Frances Tucker, wife, 33, Born in MI
William Tucker, Son, 7, Born in MI
Vernon Tucker, son, 5, Born in MI
Anna Tucker, Daughter, 3 years, 2 months, Born in MI
Charles Tucker, Son, 2 1/2, Born in MI
Henrietta appears to be a granddaughter of Anna Kilvington, age 52
This census was enumerated on 13 January 1920, so Helen may have been born
sometime in 1913, which is a little late, considering that my grandmother relocated
to Ventura County, CA and became pregnant by about May 1913 in order to give
birth on February 13, 1914. The child in the photo I have from my Great-aunt and
that is inscribed "Aunt Edna's Girl" appears to be about 6-9 months old.
Norman Wayne Bowlby
Regarding Josephine McInerney, I don't see how she could have been a natural child of Edward and Nellie,
because, if Nellie/Ellen was married to William Graham in 1920, Nellie and Edward could not have married
and given birth to a daughter who was 17 by 1930. It appears that Nellie may not have been able to bear
children and took in both Helen and then later Josephine and raised them like her own. Could Nellie have
been a nickname for Helen or even Ellen?
Hello again, Karen:
I just noticed in the Spring 2012 issue of the DSGR Magazine that you live in Tennessee.
I truly apprecite the assistance you have been able to give me, but I wonder if I might also
need the assistance of a genealogical researcher in the Detroit area. I am willing to pay
for services related to me search for my maternal aunt and her possible descendants.
I have been asking the DSGR repeated to help me connect with a Detroit, MI genealogical
researcher who would have access to Detroit area records. Not only have I sent E-mail
requests to firstname.lastname@example.org, but I have also written a letter to DSGR c/o the Burton
Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library. All with no response.
Might it be possible to locate a birth record for Helen Graham, for example? According
to the 1920 and 1930 U.S. Censuses, she would have been born in 1913, or 1914.
If, however, her true age was not given to the census enumerators, she could have
been born as early as 1912. I don't know if such information which is now nearly 100
years old is available online, or if it much be acquired in person at a particular city or
Could you assist me in connecting with the askdsgr person so that I might obtain a
referral to a Detroit area researcher as well?
Norman Wayne Bowlby
The DSGR is a small organization and we are working to grow the membership and the abilities to provide information regarding Detroit research. Thank you for being patient with us.
I will be in the Detroit area in mid-June. I will see if I can make some time to do some research for you. I will also contact some of the other members to see if we can locate a local researcher to assist you.
Norman, if you look at the section call Fee Based Offerings under our links, you will find a link to the researchers that are registered with the Burton Historical Collection. These persons are independant of both the BHC and the DSGR and their connection is given with no gurarantee. Whatever specific contract you work out with them is between you and the researcher. I hope this is of help.