Thursday, February 18, 2016

Where Did the Child Come From?

Image of Orphan's Home, 1914, Our
Presbyterian Educational Institutions
It's a question that's hard to answer, the one often asked by adopted children themselves. If a child appears in a census record but is old enough that he/she should have been in the previous census, it makes us wonder how that child became part of the family.

I have two different Andrew Kleins in my family tree who were living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and either adopted or became the guardians of children. Because of the children's ages in their first census record with the family, it isn't likely that they are the biological offspring of the parents.

Walter Klein was 16 in the 1920 census when he first appeared with parents, Andrew & Magdalena Koenig Klein. In the previous census, when Walter would have been about 6 years old, the couple was childless and in their late 40s. I'm assuming Walter was adopted, but I don't know for sure the circumstances of his arrival.

Andrew & Frances Theis Klein became the parents of two boys sometime between 1910 and 1920. Bernard and Albert Klein were ages 12 and 8 in 1920, but Bernard didn't appear with the family in the census ten years earlier. But the census enumerator seems to have made a mistake/assumption when he recorded the boys' surname as Klein. In later records, they appear with the Kleins as Bernard & Albert Golembiewski. After some digging, I learned that Frances Klein was their aunt. I haven't found a death certificate yet, so I don't know what happened to Maria Theis Golembiewski, but the boys' father Dominic clearly needed help caring for his children, which wouldn't have been unusual for a city laborer with no wife.

Although we may be unable to uncover all of the details, it's wonderful to see examples in our families where a couple is willing to open their homes and hearts to children who have experienced loss and need a family. Do you have any similar stories in your family tree?


  1. I have several cases where aunts & uncles raised children after a sibling had died. And, I have a few cases where I'm not sure where the children came from, either. I'll have to keep digging!

    1. With lower life expectancy and not many child care options available if there was a surviving spouse, I suppose it was common for the times and many others probably have stories like ours. Thanks for sharing, Dana!


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