George Washington Bolden/Bowden/Baldwin


This is George Washington Bolden/Bowden/Baldwin. Excuse the variation of the last name, my grandmother could never tell me what it really was.

He is my paternal grandfather. Neither I nor my father has ever met him. My dad joined the navy for 2 reasons; because he was drafted and he wanted to find his father. My grandmother has never really given much info about this man and I’m not to sure why. But my father and I would love to know who he is.

What my grandmother has told me:

  • She’s not sure if his last name is Bolden/Baldwin/Bowden. But, she’s sure that it’s George Washington.
  • He called her about 2 or 3 months after the initial meeting. She told him she was pregnant and he said that he would come back and marry her. She said no.
  • She says that he was older, maybe in his 20’s.
  • It was a one time thing.

What my great aunt (my grandmother’s sister) has told me:

  • It wasn’t a one time thing. He’s been to their house before and all the sisters just thought he was so cute.
  • She thinks there was more to the relationship.

What I’ve been able to determine:

  • My grandmother was 16 when she had my father. My father was conceived in December of 1952 when my grandmother was 15.
  • He was in the Navy in 1952, probably working in Norfolk, VA.
  • Based on the stripes on the sleeve, he was in for at least 8 years and he was an E-3 by the time this picture was taken.
  • If the picture was taken about 1952 or 1953, that means he joined the Navy around 1944.
  • I believe that the youngest they could have been to enlist was 17. That means that he could have been born anywhere between 1920 to 1928. My grandmother was born 1936 and she claims he was much older than her.
  • He’s not from Pasquotank or Camden, NC. He always visited with some distant cousins and stayed with them. That tells me that maybe his home is to far to travel when he was on leave.
  • He was probably on Christmas leave in 1952 when he and my grandmother ‘hooked up’.

What the distant cousin has told me:

  • Last he saw him was around 1955 to 1965. he was on his way to Trinidad on deployment.
  • He worked on the docks with him.
  • Last he talked to him, George was getting deployed to Trinidad some time in the 50’s.

My father is the oldest of all her children and the only one with a different father. My grandmothers 1st husband took the picture when my dad was young and tore it up. This is the only picture we have of him. I intend on getting the picture restored. I sent it off once, however the picture that came back looked HORRIBLE! It didn’t even resemble this.

My father was raised by his maternal grandparents, Aaron Edward and Bessie Spence and on several documents he’s listed Aaron Edward Spence as his father.

Now what? It’s not like the Navy enlistment records are available online. So, how can I locate him???

6 Replies to “George Washington Bolden/Bowden/Baldwin”

  1. You have a real mystery to solve but somehow I think with time and effort you will get your answers. It does make me wonder what is harder–finding slave ancestors before the 1870’s or current relatives with no paper trail.

  2. I’m going to have to say the current relatives since you have someone that should know the answers but won’t give more info. At least with the 1870 ancestors..there’s no one to get mad

  3. looks like you really have your work cut out for you. It’s really a shame our relatives didn’t take the time to ask more questions – or leave more clues – as I like to call them.

    I agree with you, it’s definately more difficult to locate our long gone relatives (1870’s, etc) than our current ones.

  4. A. Spence,

    A challenge indeed!
    What actual research have you done?
    What records have you checked?

    Where’s Pasquotank in relation to Norfolk? Could some of the distant cousins carry the same last name?

    Since Grandma said no to the idea of marriage, his name is probably not on the birth certificate. Hmmn.

    I take it that any combo of his name doesn’t show up in the SS Death index.

    You probably already went over this same ground…. and you know that us ‘addicts’ can’t walk away from a challenge! Help us out, tell us more!

    “Guided by the Ancestors”

  5. Other then questioning my elder family members, not much research. I don’t have an accurate name for him besides the George Washington part. I searched several combos of the name and found a couple. Even called some people (one person in TX) but didn’t get any responses.

    I wish I had more.

  6. From what little information you have about his movements in the Navy, here is a long shot for you. It might be difficult to find these sources, but you might try libraries and used book stores. Squadrons and ships and shore units often will publish yearbooks with photos and names of the personnel assigned to that unit. Maybe someone in Norfolk (I recommend RAOGK – Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness,, and look in their directory for someone in Norfolk). You might get lucky.

    I just wish I could see his left arm in the photo because his rating insignia (what his duty was in the Navy) would be there. He does appear to have a lot of medals. The really unfortunate thing is that he doesn’t seem to have a name tag on his uniform. If only he’d worn a name tag, that might have helped you a lot, if you could get the picture enlarged with some clarity. At that, you might try, because the name of his ship might be on the band of his cap! Something is written there, but I cannot make it out.

    One thing you might think of trying is to go to the armed services website (, and on the left-hand side of that home page, click on Navy. You will have to register, but it is free. Post the photograph on the site, if you can, and see if anyone recognizes your grandfather! That, too, is a long shot, but there could be some old retirees who just might remember.

    You could try to get his service record with the sketchy information you have. It would be difficult. I would recommend that you call the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, which is where his record would be kept. Their phone number is 314-801-0800. I have found NARA and NPRC personnel to be very helpful. Explain your situation to them, and how much this means to you, and see if they can find his record just with the name — even though they’d have to sift through variations, in your case.

    Much good luck, and I’m going to follow your blog to see if you have any luck with this.

    Karen Packard Rhodes
    former U.S. Coast Guard and daughter
    of a Naval Acadeny graduate

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