Most would agree that motherhood is the hardest and most rewarding job in the world, no matter how many kids you end up raising or how many of them actually share your DNA. Whether you had one kid or a whole bundle of them, we salute and celebrate you this Mother’s Day!
The MyHeritage Research team did some digging and uncovered some fascinating details on one 20th-century mother who certainly had her hands full. Charlotte Story, from Bakersfield, California, gave birth to 22 children, including 4 sets of twins, between 1922 and 1946. 20 of them lived to adulthood and survived her, and 2 of them are still alive today. The Research team even managed to get in touch with one of Charlotte’s granddaughters and ask her about her memories of her grandmother.
The Story family became famous in the 40s and 50s as the largest family in the United States, and was featured on many programs — including Groucho Marx.
Here’s what the Research team discovered about them.
The story of the Story family
It all started one very rainy day in California in the early 1920s. Marion Delroy was on the deck of a boat, getting soaked to his skin, and he noticed a lovely young woman who had had the good sense to bring an umbrella. He asked if she would be willing to share. Charlotte “Lottie” LaCount said yes, and the rest is history: the two were married in 1922.
They wasted no time in starting their family. Their eldest twin daughters, Jean and Jane, arrived later that year. They were both born in the car on the way to the hospital!
By the time the 1930 U.S. Census was taken and Charlotte and Marion appeared in a census as a couple for the first time, they were listed along with 8 children:
The record lists Marion, age 35, and Charlotte, age 27, with twins Jean and Jane (age 7), Jack (5), Jacqueline (4), June (3), Eileen (2), Clyde (1), and Robert, age 3 months. Sadly, Eileen’s twin sister, Arlene, passed away when she was a few months old, so she was not mentioned in this census. Another sibling passed away at birth, though that child’s date of birth is unknown. The family lived at 68 Lighthouse Road, Arena, Mendocino, California in 1930.
The census says that Marion painted signs for a living.
When the next U.S. Federal Census found them 10 years later, the number of children in the family had more than doubled! There were now 17 of them, with twins Jimmie and Jeannette (9), Steve (7), Jerry (6), Terrytown (5), Charlotte (3), Scottie (2) and twins Sherrie and Gary (1) having joined the family.
Here is a photo of the family from around that time, enhanced and colorized with MyHeritage photo tools:
In 1946, the Berkeley Gazette reported on the arrival of their 22nd and final child, Sandra.
According to their 1950 interview on Groucho Marx, they lived in a 10-bedroom home built on 2 acres of land, living on a weekly grocery budget of $100 (roughly $1,200 in today’s dollars). Charlotte said she bought groceries wholesale, and woke up at 5 A.M. to start preparing breakfast for the children to eat before going to school.
Charlotte and Marion got to watch their family continue to grow and thrive until Marion’s death in 1967. Charlotte passed away 5 years later, in 1972, and her death was reported across the country, with newspapers describing her as the “mother of the largest family in the United States.” This clipping below is from the Lewiston Tribune, Idaho:
‘My grandmother taught them how to be a mom’
The Research team located a living granddaughter of Charlotte’s: MyHeritage user Marleen Pratt, 52, of Bakersfield, California. Her mother was Charlotte’s 20th child, Joanne Marie Story Paulk, whose birth was announced in the Greensburg Daily Tribune in Pennsylvania on December 10, 1941:
The article reports that Joanne Marie was born prematurely, but “thrived in an incubator at the Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield. She weighed 3 pounds, 14 ½ ounces at birth.” The article also mentions that Charlotte was 38 at the time.
Marleen was kind enough to share some memories of her legendary grandmother:
“My grandmother did a lot of cooking,” she recalls. “She could prepare 10 gallons of mashed potatoes and they would drink 5 gallons of milk, and 3 dozen eggs for breakfast.” She says that the children helped out a lot, and that they grew a lot of their own fruits and vegetables, milked their own cow, and were overall quite self-sufficient. Her own mom only had 3 children, but she still cooked in large amounts the way her grandmother had: “It’s just the way they all grew up,” she says. “I remember my mom telling me that by the time they were done putting the breakfast dishes away, it was time for lunch!”
Moms of kids who are constantly fighting may find the idea of 20 kids living together to be their worst nightmare — but luckily for the Stories, Marleen says that the children all got along: “They would all play musical instruments, so they would put on shows and entertain,” she says. “My mom played the piano. They were all musically talented, and they would entertain each other and the neighbors’ kids as well.”
What’s it like keeping track of a family tree with 21 uncles and aunts? “It’s so overwhelming,” says Marleen. “It’s a lot to find out and figure out. We heard a lot of stories growing up. My oldest cousins still talk about Grandma and Grandpa. We, the cousins, are pretty close, and the stories are very much alive.”
“My grandmother taught them how to be a mom,” she says.
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Source: My Heritage