Monday, July 25, 2016

Could "Bertram" and "Bertolet" Be Named for the Same "Bert"?

Bertolet Grace Sellers birth certificate, March 6, 1921, father "unknown"

I've written previously about how I proved that the man my great-grandmother married was my grandfather's adoptive father.  Of course, once I did that, my new task became the search for my grandfather's biological father.

The starting point for this search has been going back over some of the information that led me to suspect in the first place that Elmer might not have been Grampa's father:

• no father's name was listed on Grampa's birth certificate

• father's name was added to Grampa's amended birth certificate in 1940, 22 years after Elmer (the supposed father) had died

• my grandaunt told me that my grandfather, Bertram Lynn, was named after a close family friend, even though he was the oldest son

• my great-grandmother had a daughter three years after her husband had died and named her Bertolet

The last two in particular have really had my mind whirling.  Not only do Bertram and Bertolet have "Bert" in common, let's face it, "Bertolet" isn't exactly your garden-variety, everyday name.  I started thinking, Hey, maybe this guy's name really was Bert-something (maybe Bertram?), and Laura and he got together again after Elmer died.  That's why she named her daughter Bertolet, after him.

I figured the most direct way to try to find the answer was obtaining Bertolet's birth and death certificates.  Makes sense, right?  So when my sister told me she was going to Trenton again to visit the state archives, I asked her to look for Bertolet.

She found both of the certificates.  But . . . Laura foiled us again.  Neither certificate lists the father!  So much for the easy route.  That woman sure liked to keep her secrets.

Bertolet Grace Sellers death certificate, January 11, 1927, father "not known"

While there could be several reasons why Laura declined to state that particular piece of information (twice!), I'm leaning toward him being married.  My sister, on the other hand (who is named after our great-grandmother), came up with a really complicated theory:

What if our great-grandfather was a married man (most likely) and wanted to name his child Bertram.  Laura gets pregnant and "Papa Lynn" insists he'll take the child away from her . . . IF it's a boy.  Laura doesn't want the child taken away from her, so declares the child a female and names "her" Gertrude on the birth certificate.

Actually calling/naming Grandpa Bertram Lynn was thumbing her nose at Papa Lynn, even though she corrected the BC years later.

In the meantime, Papa Lynn goes on with his life and Laura marries Elmer.

Papa Lynn HAS his baby boy and names him Bertram.

But wait . . . Papa Lynn was NOT a married man, but Laura's childhood sweetheart from an affluent family!  She was their domestic!  He was a few years younger and his family frowned upon the older Laura.  The family threatens to take her male offspring, so she names him Gertrude and then marries Elmer.

Elmer dies and Laura reaches out to Papa Lynn to confess her secret.  They rekindle the flame and create Bertolet.

How's that for melodrama?

Whatever the reason was, we didn't get the answer we were hoping for.  Now I'm working on the Y-DNA angle.  My father has a match at 111 – 4 markers, which means something like 6th cousins.  Luckily, the guy has a bare-bones family tree on FTDNA.  I'm working it backward and bringing every male line forward in time, hoping to find someone who plausibly could have been in Burlington County, New Jersey (or Philadelphia as a reasonable second possibility) in 1902.

In a funny coincidence, the man who matches my father has an Irish name.  Maybe that Ancestry DNA test will prove to be right about my Irish ancestry after all?


  1. Your sister - and you - should be writing books! Such stories!! Hope you DO find more information on your great-grandfather - adoptions/illegitimacy were so challenging.

    1. Thanks for the compliment and the support! I'll have to think about a book, though.


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