Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rose - By Many Other Names

Rose in Honolulu - 1937


My grandmother, Rose KENNEDY, (her legal name for nearly 40 years), was born 97 years ago today. For as long as I knew her she celebrated her birthday on September 8. I had no reason to think it wasn't September 8 until I received the certified copy of her Record of Birth in 2002, which clearly shows her birth date as Oct. 18, 1913 and has a surname that I had never seen before. What!? She was a bit of a mystery. An enigma, if you will. The more I think about the reasons she would change her birth date, the more I wish I could ask her why. Too late by almost 32 years as Grandma died in 1978. However, because it is highly doubtful that someone will present me with any real proof I have determined that she likely changed her birth date from October 18 to September 8 because that would have been the difference between being 16 years of age when she married my grandfather, Anthony DeCOSTA, and being only 15. Current minimum age to marry in the State of Hawaii is 18 years; 15 with parental consent. I don't know if that was the case in the Territory of Hawaii in 1929, when Rose and Anthony married. According to their Certificate of Marriage, Rose (with yet a different surname) was 16 years of age and her mother, Maria (CARVALHO)(CHONG) LONG was not a witness.

I wonder if Grandma considered September 8 her actual birthday or did she internally consider October 18 the day she should celebrate? I lived with Rose from the age of 4, when my mother (her daughter) died, until her death. When she was telling me things about her youth, for the first time, while on her "death bed" did she make a conscious decision to leave out any discussion of her birth date or her many name variations? She must have. She maintained her sharp mind until the end. I don't think she ever forgot a thing. Her 2nd husband, Virgil KENNEDY, after being married to her for nearly 40 years supplied the name, Henry LONG, as Rose's father on her Certificate of Death. Her stepfather's name was Delbert LONG, and Grandpa knew that. Where did the given name, Henry, come from?

One of the things that Rose did decide to tell me was that her biological father was Chinese. She then presented me with the only photograph of him (Lau Chong) known to exist.  I don't think she ever did tell me his name.  She did tell me on her death bed that she had two full siblings; Hilda [Lau Kui Kyau] and Alex [Alexander CHONG]. I don't recall her ever mentioning them before that day. I had met her half-brother, Delbert LONG, twice, and her half-sister, Leona LONG, remains one of my favorite people in the world to this day. So, what happened to Hilda and Alex? It turns out that Rose did try to locate her brother and sister, all to no avail. I think that never being able to find them likely helped mold her into the strong-willed woman she was. I found out only a few years ago that she persisted in her search for decades. My childhood observation was that Rose always got what she wanted, and that nothing would have stopped her from getting it. As a child I believed that to be unfair. As an adult I regret that she never got what she probably wanted most; to find her brother and sister.


(l to r) Maria Carvalho, Hilda, Rose, and Lau Chong in Honolulu; c. 1916)

Name Variations by Document
  1. 1913 - Rose Lyu (Record of Birth)
  2. 1918 - Rosa Chong (Orphanage Record)
  3. 1920 - Rose Long (Notarized Affidavit)
  4. 1929 - Rose Long Lew (Certificate of Marriage)
  5. 1929 - 1938 Rose DeCosta (Divorce Decree)
  6. 1939 - 1978 Rose Kennedy (Marriage Certificate and Certificate of Death)
* edited 10/28/2013 to update images.

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