by Barbara Rusk
This is a story of an 80-year-old woman, Barbara Anne Rusk, and a 79-year-old man, Frederick Larsen, who after 75 years, found each other on Ancestry.
Barbara was born on January 11, 1943, in St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, CT. Fred (Frederick) Larsen was born on March 28, 1944, also at St. Francis Hospital. (This is important later in the story).
Barbara was the eldest of 4 children raised in CT by Doris (Warnock) and David Linton. As a child she always felt she was treated differently than her siblings and somehow, she did not belong. She was the one who helped around the house cooking, cleaning, etc. Her sister and two brothers were not required to do chores. Barbara wanted to attend college but was told only the boys in the family would go to college. She was encouraged to take a business curriculum in high school. One of Barbara’s teachers noticed her ambitions and offered to tutor her in Algebra for free over the summer. This would enable Barbara to follow a college course. Her mother brought her to the teacher’s home a few times but decided it was too much driving. Therefore, the tutoring was stopped. Barbara always felt she was not a true part of the family unit. Because Barbara felt she was not loved as much as her siblings, she became an overachiever hoping her parents would see her value. However, when Barbara’s brother wanted to take art lessons over the course of his high school years, no expense was spared nor was driving him to the lessons too far for our mother. This reinforced her feelings of not being good enough. After high school she went to work for Travelers and put herself through college by going nights to the University of Hartford. There she met her first husband. They married in 1966 and had 3 sons, Ray III, and twins, Aaron, and Daryl. The family moved twice before settling in Richardson, TX. Over the years Barbara invited her parents to visit many times, but they never came to TX. Also, Barbara’s three sons were not given gifts like the other grandchildren. She was told it was because her family moved away while the others stayed in CT. However, my brother David did move to San Deigo and became a well-known pastel artist. The only sibling Barbara ever had a relationship was David.
Fred was born on March 25, 1944, at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, CT. Fred was raised in Bronx, NY. He had a much older sibling; however, they were never close. As a child of 4, he was told he was adopted. The couple who raised him were a much older couple, Carl, and Elsie Larsen. When Fred was 14 his father passed away. Upon Mr. Larsen’s death, after his death, Fred was raised very strictly by Mrs. Larsen and had to do chores that were not age appropriate for a 14-year-old such as varnishing floors, etc. Fred never felt loved or that he fit in the family. He was told he was lucky because they chose to adopt him. Fred rebelled and got into trouble often. In his twenties, Fred decided to move to New Orleans, LA. He lived there for many years with his wife, Denise, until they retired to Summit, MS. Fred also felt the same way Barbara did – never quite belonging.
Fred and Barbara Discover each other
A few years ago, Barbara’s sister, Kathy, came to visit. The tension between the two was strong. Finally, it came to a head and an argument ensued. Kathy decided to go back to CT early. As Tim was driving her to the airport, she blurted out, “Oh, tell Barbara she is not my sister. She is adopted!” Barbara was 70 yrs. old when this was revealed. Knowing Barbara was curious to find out who she really was, her husband, Tim, gave her the gift of Ancestry for Mother’s Day. Barbara submitted her DNA and several weeks later was told she had a half-sister in TX. She tried to contact her, but she never responded. They were half-sisters through their mother, Jeannette Warnock. Barbara began researching her family history. She knew her maternal side of the family's name was Warnock. She researched James Warnock and found he had been married to Matilda (Tillie) Belz and they lived in Yonkers, NY. They had two daughters, Doris, and Jeannette. Doris married David Linton, also from Yonkers. The couple moved to Hartford, CT for David’s job. Doris had broken her back in 3 places when she was 12 and was told by doctors, she would never be able to have children. David was drafted into the service during WW II leaving Doris alone in CT. Her divorced father, James, moved to CT to help her while her husband was in the service. Within a year, Doris’ younger sister Jeannette moved in with them. Jeannette got pregnant out of wedlock and Barbara was born in January 1943. Since Doris thought she would never have children, she and David adopted Barbara. They never told Barbara she was adopted. Jeannette again got pregnant out of wedlock and had Fred in March 1944. (Our mother was a rolling stone.)
Back in the 40s, families kept illegitimate children a secret and “took care of their own”. Matilda (Belz), known as Tillie, was the wife of James Warnock and mother of Doris and Jeannette. Matilda had a sister, Elsie (Belz) Larsen and wife of Carl Larsen. We do not know how they came to adopt Fred. Barbara recalls meeting Fred once as a small child at his parents’ home in Yonkers. They were told they were cousins. They never saw each other again.
Through Ancestry, Barbara discovered Jeannette Warnock was her birth mother and it was her sister Doris who raised Barbara. In October 2022 Barbara received another tree leaf from Ancestry stating she had a half-brother, Fred Larsen. Barbara sent him an email through Ancestry. They emailed back and forth and decided they would like to speak with each other by phone. Barbara informed Fred of the family history she had discovered. Jeannette Warnock was our mother; however, we had different fathers. Barbara shared with Fred the history of the Warnock side of the family while Fred shared the history of the Belz side of the family. Fred thought that Tillie Warnock was his aunt. Barbara informed him that Elsie’s sister, Tillie, was Fred’s grandmother, not his aunt. Fred stated that his aunt Tillie came over to visit often and would always hug and kiss him often. He felt more love from her than Elsie. Now we know why.
Barbara now knows that her siblings were really her cousins. She remembers when her father passed her brother endeavored to get her written out of the will and did not know why. He did not consider Barbara his sister. However, the law stated I was a legal sibling.
Barbara and Fred would talk on the phone at least once a week. Over the course of a few months, they discovered we had a lot in common such as we are both Catholic, the love of travel, visiting lighthouses, Italian food, etc. We also can trace our roots back to the Neandertals.
Barbara was going to be 80 on January 11, 2023. Tim planned an 80th birthday party for her, inviting 40 friends and family. Barbara invited Fred and Denise to attend. They accepted and drove to TX. Barbara’s son, Ray and his wife Stacey came in from CO. Her other son Aaron and his wife Laurissa came in from WA. The party was scheduled for Saturday. January7th. Fred and Denise came into town on Friday. Barbara had invited them to her home for dinner to meet in person for the first time. Aaron and Laurissa flew in on Friday and came for dinner. When the doorbell rang, Barbara was extremely nervous but excited to meet Fred. When she opened the door, they embraced in a long and tight hug. We had long conversations over dinner and found out more about each other’s lives. We both stated that we now felt we belonged. Barbara’s family got to meet a new uncle they did not know they had. Saturday, we attended Mass together before going to the birthday party. Many pictures were taken, and a wonderful time was had by all. Sunday, Barbara’s family came for breakfast and were in shock to discover a new uncle.
Barbara and Fred stay connected weekly. They feel blessed to have found each other after 75 years and will not let any more time pass without seeing each other again. They feel a connection and sense of belonging with each other they have never felt before. Barbara, Tim, Fred, and Denise plan to travel together soon.