This 20th-Century Mom Had 22 Kids

This 20th-Century Mom Had 22 Kids



The family tree of Charlotte and Marion Story

The family tree of Charlotte and Marion Story

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.


Charlotte Story with her eldest daughters, Jean and Jane, as babies

Charlotte Story with her eldest daughters, Jean and Jane, as babies

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 Story family in the 1930 U.S. Census, starting on line 80

The Story family in the 1930 U.S. Census, starting on line 80

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 in Bakersfield, California, 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:

The Story family, c. 1940

The Story family, c. 1940

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 theLewiston Tribune, Idaho:

‘My grandmother taught them how to be a mom’

The Research team located a living granddaughter of Charlotte’s: MyHeritage user Marleen Patt, 52, of Bakersfield, California. Her mother was Charlotte’s 20th child, Joanne Marie Story Paulk, whose birth was announced in theGreensburg Daily Tribune in Pennsylvaniaon December 10, 1941:


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.”

“The daughters, when they had their babies, called their mom up. My grandmother taught them how to be a mom,” she says.

Discover the stories of the matriarchs of your own family on MyHeritage!Sign up for your free trial today.