My father was a very proud American, born of the generation that had gone through the Great Depression and the Second World War. He was also a military veteran of thirty years, first serving with the US Army and then the US Air Force, both states side and abroad.
He was of pure English heritage with both his parents and their ancestors born and raised in central England.
I did not know my grandparents since they had died before I born, but Dad had taught my mother how to prepare a few typical English dishes like English roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. He did tell the family his parents and grandparents came to America from Manchester, England after the turn of the 20th century to start a new life in the United States. My father was the oldest of four children and the first born in America or so I was told.
Years after my father’s death in the late 1970’s I started doing family history research. I had all my father’s military papers and all the documents my mother had after her death in 1994. Every vital record showed that my father was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, United States on September 23, 1905.
I had his Marriage License, all his military documents (including additional ones requested from the military personal files in St. Louis), the copy of his social security application from 1937, Death Certificate and his voter registration. The only document missing was his Birth Certificate. I never sent away for a copy because he had always said no copy was available since the courthouse in Massachusetts, where the records were kept, burned to the ground years earlier.
In fact, he told the story that his mother had to sign in 1927 his first military enlistment papers, swearing he was born on September 23, 1905 in Haverhill, Massachusetts, since a Birth Certificate was unavailable.
About a year ago I was able to get a copy of my grandfather’s immigration and naturalization papers from Massachusetts that he had filled out in the mid-1930’s. It showed he applied for US citizenship in late 1935 and was sworn in as an US citizen in December 1939.
On a couple of the forms he had to fill out between 1935 and 1936 was information about his children; their names, birth dates and place of birth. Clearly written in my grandfather’s own writing was my father’s name, “Harry Kershaw, born September 23, 1905 in England”. Also listed was another son, Edwin Kershaw, born September 6, 1910 in England, (a daughter, Ethel, was born in England in 1909 but had died in Massachusetts in 1935) and a third son, Robert H. Kershaw, born April 9, 1923 in Merrimac, Massachusetts.
Also stated on the naturalization form was that my grandfather had arrived for the first time in America on December 6, 1913 on the SS Alaunia from Liverpool, England to the Port of Boston.
I just stared at these documents, going over and over in my mind and reading the words several times to let it sink in. No way could my father have been born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, he was instead a native of England. But I needed more proof. I then researched the ship manifests and located when my father came to America.
He came on the SS Carmania on April 23, 1914 with his mother and siblings after his father came to establish himself in Haverhill. A request was sent to the public records of Great Britain and copy of my father’s birth registration was sent to me, again further proof of his birth in 1905 in Gorton, Manchester, Lancashire County, England.
Someone could have knocked me over with a feather at these findings. However, there was no one left to ask why my father and his siblings were said to be born in America. All the grandparents, parents and uncles had passed away by now. Discussing it with my siblings and cousins, they were just as surprised at learning the actual story. Here is where the truth was eventual learned but not the reason for its secretive.
Alice L Luckhardt
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