The pre-adoption birth certificate

ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED

lesgreen.wwii
Less than a year later…
The state of New York lied to me. When I ordered my father’s pre-adoption birth certificate in March 2020, they told me it would take 15 months. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. I figured that the deadline would be shot to heck and that September 2021 was a more likely delivery date.

I was right about September, but wrong about the year. On September 4, 2020, I received what I’d been seeking from the state Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics.

On the birth record was a stamp: This is not the current birth certificate on file.” It indicated that Leslie Harold Walker was “Known as Leslie Harold Green.” Father was listed as O.W. (out of wedlock), as I suspected. Mother was Agatha Walker, colored, born in Pennsylvania, who worked as a domestic. Les Green, of course, was my father.

More intriguing was the process by which McKinley Melvin Green adopted Leslie in September 1944, only a couple of weeks shy of Les’ 18th birthday. The report was quite a bit of legalese, with a dearth of periods. “Said parties having severally and personally appeared before me.” And “an investigation into the allegations of the petitioned proposed adoption being made by… the Department of Child Placing, Broome County Welfare.”

A good idea

Still no full stop. “It duly appearing that the moral and temporal interests of the said child, Leslie H. Walker, will be promoted by said adoption… The said McKinley M. Green is in all respects fit and proper person to adopt said child… The said McKinley M. Green has duly agreed to adopt said child and to make him his own lawful child…”

It goes on. “It further appearing that the said child, Leslie H. Walker, and the mother of said child, Agatha H. Walker, have duly consented in writing to such adoption.” Wait, there’s more. “And to a proposed change of the name of said child to Leslie H. Green….” It gets all “ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED.”

This is fascinating to me. McKinley and Agatha were married in 1931. But by 1936, they were no longer living together. In the 1940 Census, when Mckinley was residing in a boarding house, Agatha and Les were staying at Agatha’s parents’ house. But they were both listed as Green, or actually misspelled as Greene. In a 1942 photo in a Binghamton newspaper, Leslie Green was one of the Boy Scouts and McKinley one of the fathers.

After I was was about a year old, McKinley and Agatha lived on the second floor of 5 Gaines Street, while Les and his wife Trudy and I lived downstairs, along with my future sisters.

Also interesting to me is the fact that the change form for the adoption indicates Leslie H. Walker as an “infant” on September 13, 1944. He was 17 years and 50 weeks old at the time. What would the procedure have been if it had gone through two weeks later?

Les Green, born Leslie H. Walker

new amended birth certificate

Les Green.Savannah GA.1998My new discovery is that I now have evidence that my father was born Leslie H. Walker in Binghamton, NY. I had been misled that it might have been Wesley Walker, based on the listing in the 1930 Census.

After failing to find a birth certificate in Wilkes-Barre, PA, where I thought he might have been born, I read some genealogical clues. One suggested the New York State Archives, in the same building as the state library in Albany.

I discovered a set of microfiche. It lists every birth in New York State – excluding NYC – by year, and alphabetically within the annual listing. For 1926, “Walker, Leslie H., Bing, 26 Sept.” I have to think it was no accident that Agatha named him similar to Raymond C. Cone’s elder daughter Lessie.

Now I could apply for his real birth certificate. The birth certificate I’d seen since 1974, dated from 1944, listed McKinley Green as Leslie Green’s father. I now know it may have been the “real” birth certificate. Or a legal fiction. Thanks to Melanie for the following:

According to this: “As a portion of the estimated 6 million adoptees, our New York adoptees have two ‘official’ birth certificates. The original one, which truthfully states the information about their physical birth, including their original names, their natural parents’ names, the hospital, doctor, date, time and weight, becomes forever sealed under a court of law when their adoption is finalized.”

Birth certificate #2

“At that point, the new adoptive parents are issued a new amended birth certificate which might or might not state the real birth information such as date, time, hospital and weight, and replaces the natural parents names with the adoptive parents names ‘as if’ the child was born to them. The name of the child is also reborn and all identity from the point of finalization on is replaced.”

Ha! So the registrar didn’t screw up. McKinley and Agatha didn’t lie. And this suggests heavily that McKinley Green actually adopted Leslie H. Walker by 1944, though my father’s surname shows up as Green as early as the 1940 Census.

Since November 2019, obtaining Original (Pre-Adoption) Birth Certificates are now available for adoptees from New York State. “Direct Line Descendants” are also eligible to access it. “A Direct Line Descendant is a child, grandchild, or great grandchild, etc. of the adoptee.” I qualify.

I’ve applied directly to the City of Binghamton office of Vital Statistics. New York State’s queue for old birth, marriage and death certificates is about 15 months.

Agatha Green, and McKinley and Les

5 Gaines Street

Agatha GreenThe result of my great reveal is has been quite heartening. People are impressed, as they ought to be, about the moxie of my late grandmother, Agatha Green, nee Walker, as well as their affection for my dad, Les Green.

I realize that I hadn’t remarked much about her in this blog. Well, except here. That’s because she died when I was nine, in 1964. While I remember her fondly, as I noted, I have only two broad memories. One is that she was my Sunday school teacher. The other is that she taught me how to play canasta on her kitchen table.

My parents and I lived on the second floor of 5 Gaines Street in Binghamton. But at some point in the early 1950s – probably by the time my sister Leslie was born – we moved to the first floor. McKinley and Agatha moved upstairs.

As I’ve mentioned, I fell down the hallway stairs from the second floor to the first when I was about three, in 1956. No doubt I was visiting one or both of my grandparents. As a result, a have a tiny knot under my lower lip where facial hair refuses to grow. It’s not some sort of “soul patch” affectation.

Pop

Now McKinley I’ve written about several times, going back to the earliest months of this blog, and also here and here and here.

So this new information requires a balancing act. Discovering my biological grandfather doesn’t mean my sisters and I abandon our affection for Mac. At the same time, I know my father must have suffered, not just from Raymond Cone, but the off-again, on-again relationship between Mac and Agatha.

They were married in 1931, living together in 1932, but by 1936, they weren’t. In 1940, Agatha and Les lived with her parents, while McKinley was in a boarding house, and this was still true in 1943. Yet on the faux birth certificate that my father obtained from Binghamton, NY, McKinley was listed as Les’ father. (But Mac was a poor liar; he listed how old he was in 1944, not in 1926 when Les was born.) Mac and Agatha Green are together again by 1946.

Several people have asked me what I’m feeling. That’s why I write, to try to figure these things out. I’m still working on it. I appreciate the outpouring off support in my journey. Well, it’s OUR journey, really, Leslie’s and Marcia’s and mine, attempting to sort out the myths from the truth of our lineage.

Raymond Cone: biological grandfather

Agatha (1902-1964) was my paternal grandmother.

Raymond Cone.family treeIn checking my Ancestry DNA results, I noticed that there were ten people in the database that could be my first or second cousins. One was a Yates (my mother’s mom’s people), two were Scanks (mom’s dad’s people), and three were Walker (dad’s mom’s people). But who were the other four?

As it turned out they all had two people in common in their family trees. Carl Lorenzo Cone (1915 -1992) and his father Raymond Cornelius Cone (1888-1947). It has long been our family secret that my father was born out of wedlock. The stories were sketchy and apocryphal, though. It involved a minister. There was a scandal.

My friend Melanie found this article in the Binghamton Evening Press dated Saturday, January 8, 1927, page 3. “Negro pastor Exonerated of Girl’s Charges.” This alleged event took place on January 6, 1926 at his home, 147 Susquehanna Street in Binghamton and resulted in the birth of a male baby on September 26, 1926.

The first newspaper story was on Tuesday, September 28, 1926 Press on page 1. “Girl Accuses Negro Pastor. Rev. Cone, Arrested on Statutory Charges, Says He’s A Frameup Victim.” He said “a certain element” at St. Paul’s A.M.E. “was trying to get him out of the church” less than a year after he had arrived. “He denies that he was intimate with the complainant.” Her testimony, as noted in an October 29 article, suggests sexual assault.

Shotgun marriage?

Raymond Cone and three church members said he was leading Wednesday prayer services at the time the young woman said the pastor had “vowed his affections.” That according to the Tuesday, November 3 newspaper, p.3: “Defense Tries to Prove Alibi for Negro Minister.”

Rev. Cone testified that “he first heard of the charge… when her brother came to his home and threatened him with a gun.” In a Wednesday, Oct 27, 1926, Page 5 story, there’s the curious sentence. “Efforts have been made, it is said, to settle the case by marriage.” “It is said”? In any case, the minister would have none of it.

Also, there were character witnesses. “I do not know anything of Mr. Cone but that he is a Christian minister in the gospel of Christ” That was from Rev. H.H. Cooper, secretary of African Methodist Episcopal Bishop H.H. Heard. “Complaint against Rev. Raymond Cone Dismissed by Judge [Benjamin] Baker. ESTABLISHED ALIBI. Jurist, in decision, Says That Evidence Was Insufficient.”

The ministry

How did this North Carolina-born tenant farmer become a minister? Between 1918 and 1920, or maybe earlier, Raymond Cone attended Kittrell College. It was a two-year historically black college located in Kittrell, NC from about 1886 until 1975. The school was associated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Kittrell is about 60 miles northwest of Wilson, NC, where he grew up.

Raymond, widowed in 1918, had been in Norfolk, VA as a photographer in 1920. His four children, Lessie, Mary, Albert and Carl were staying with Raymond’s parents-in-law in 1920 back in Wilson County, NC.

Rev. Cone entered the Philadelphia annual A.M.E. conference in May 1921. He served in churches in Salem and Worcester, MA in the New England conference before coming to Binghamton in the New York conference near the end of 1925.

And who was that “Negro Girl”? It was Agatha Walker, 24 at the time of the trial, and mentioned by name in the latter three newspaper stories. She was the superintendent of the St. Paul’s A.M.E. Sunday school.

Mind blown

Of course, Agatha (1902-1964) was my paternal grandmother, who I remember fondly. The child she bore was my father, Les Green. And the denials of Raymond Cone at the time notwithstanding, it’s clear that something happened between him and Agatha. He was my father’s biological father. Meaning he’s my biological paternal grandfather.

THIS IS HUGE. Ask my wife how many times I said, “Holy crap!” when I read that first story. It has been a mystery for so long that I had all but given up figuring it out.

I’m fascinated by how Agatha managed to stay at the church. While Raymond Cornelius Cone moved on to another city after the May 1927 annual conference, she remained at that church, arranging the flowers for special events, something my father did quite frequently.

Expect that I’ll have more to say on this topic. You can find four articles mentioned at Fulton History.com. Search for Rev. Raymond Cone, because searching for Agatha Walker will provide more hits that are less precise.

Paternal grandfather McKinley Green, “Pop”

Though married to my grandmother Agatha (Walker) c. 1932, McKinley Green was NOT living with her or my father in 1940,.

mckinley greenSome months ago, this fellow named Jack, who worked with my paternal grandfather, sent me something on Facebook:

Roger, I have an old Binghamton [NY] Sun Newspaper dated May 23, 1959 that has a story about WNBF-TV-AM-FM and their move to the Sheraton Inn. They show pictures of the staff and a brief story about each. Here’s one on your Grandfather, Mac.

“McKinley Green, Maintenance – A World War I veteran, McKinley hails from Bloomsburg, Pa., and now lives at (yes, they actually posted his home address) He has a 32 year old son who is a World War II veteran. McKinley is a member of the WNBF Employees Club and of the Elks. His Wife belongs to the Order of the Eastern Star.

Thanks, Jack. I’ve not done as much searching on Pop, which is what we always called him, than I did with other branches of my family.
Continue reading “Paternal grandfather McKinley Green, “Pop””