GenealogyBank.com

Feature Article: Help Needed in Cracking a Genealogy Brick Wall

I've run into a brick wall in my family history research and am reaching out to our readers to see if anyone can help. I am looking for more information on a cousin: C. Joseph Kent (1933–1992).

Another cousin—and family genealogist—George Keefer Brewer (1914–1959) always wanted to know more about C. Joseph Kent, but George died 16 June 1959 before he could research and find all of the family details. As our family thought of George recently on the anniversary of his death, it got me to wanting to solve this family genealogical mystery for George—and all of us.

I have had several problems in tracking down more information about C. Joseph Kent. This distant cousin was adopted and some of the basic facts (the names of his parents, his extended family, even his age) are unknown or in dispute. Records and newspaper articles often refer to him as 39 years old or 29 years old—even late in his life. His birth parents died when he was young and his adoptive parents died around the time he graduated from high school. The various records we have give conflicting names for the adoptive parents. I could not find a matching family listing them in the 1940 Census for Kansas. George Brewer had so much trouble sorting out this part of the family tree that he used to say they were probably aliens from another planet.

Some records give the names of his adoptive parents as Sarah and Eben; others say his mother's name was Mary. The majority of the records say that their names were Martha and Jonathan. Family tradition is that her maiden name was Clark and that that was what the "C." stood for—so his name was actually "Clark Joseph Kent."

We do have his Social Security card. It was tucked in the old family Bible and was passed down to me after George Brewer died in 1959. The Social Security number on it can be clearly read as: 092–09–6616. But the Social Security Administration has that number assigned to Giobatta Baiochhi and not to our mystery cousin. There is no further information available on him in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI).


Credit: "United States Social Security Death Index,' index, FamilySearch
(https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JKGL–J22, accessed 01 Jul 2013), Giobatta Baiocchi, April 1965.

We believe C. Joseph Kent lived in Kansas and graduated from high school there. I have checked with the Kansas Office of Vital Statistics. They offer a service to help adoptees obtain copies of their birth certificates.


Even with their help I was unable to find his adoption birth certificate or further documentation. Perhaps it was too difficult to find because I don't have the exact names of the birth or adopting parents. I believe that the adoptive father ran a farm in a small town in Kansas, but the family does not know the name of the small village where they lived.

I found a brief reference to C. Joseph Kent in an article titled "Upfront — Five Things You Never Knew..." in AARP Magazine (Washington, D.C.), June–July 2013, page 10, which gave me further clues.

The family does have a scrap of paper that was tucked in the family Bible. Tradition is that this was C. Joseph's birth name. It is faded and difficult to read, but the letters we can make out indicate that the last name begins with "El." Perhaps it is the surname Eldridge, Eller or Ellington—there are so many possibilities. The first name appears to be Kal; perhaps that is supposed to be "Cal" for Calvin. We have his report cards and old school papers, and they all used his adoptive first and middle names "Clark Joseph"...so we are stumped.

We can't find him in Kansas—maybe he was an alien—or maybe he was from Iowa like George Brewer, who was born in The Hawkeye State. There are several resemblances between the two men. George was also adopted and lost his birth and adopted fathers early on. He took his adoptive father's surname and was known as George Bessolo and later in life went by the name George Reeves. They both grew up in a rural farm area and then worked in the big city—George lived in Pasadena, California. Family tradition is that in spite of C. Joseph Kent being adopted into the family, he and George both looked a lot alike. Perhaps that spurred George's interest in genealogy.

Can any of our readers help me break through this genealogy brick wall? If you have any possible information about C. Joseph Kent, or ideas of where to find such information, please let me know—and thanks!