Orson Welles

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Orson Welles, (1915 - 1985) Actor and Director. Best known for acting and directing the movie Citizen Kane and as the voice on the radio broadcast War of the Worlds.

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This article should be cited as:
"Orson Welles", by Will Johnson, professional genealogist wjhonson@aol.com, at CountyHistorian.com URL: http://www.countyhistorian.com/cecilweb/index.php/Orson_Welles, copyright 2007-8, all rights reserved.

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Contents

Orson Welles

Orson Welles was born 6 May 1915 in Kenosha, Kenosha County, Wisconsin, the second son of Richard Head Welles, and Beatrice Ives.

Sometime before Mar 15 1932 he moved to Highland Park, Illinois.

He married his first wife, actress and socialite, Virginia Nicholson on Dec 24, 1934 in Llewelyn Park, New Jersey. They had one daughter.

Sometime before 1951 he moved to New York.

His second wife was actress Rita Hayworth.

He died 10 Oct 1985 in Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California, but had been recently living in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Primary Documents for 1

  • New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 for the ship Olympic on Mar 15, 1932 stating "Olympic sailing from Southampton, arriving at New York. Orson Welles, age 16, male, single, born May 6, 1915 Kenosha, Wisc., residing at 1928 Groveland avenue, Highland Park, Eavinia, Illinois."
  • New York Times (New York), 18 Nov 1934 "Orson Welles Actor to Wed", "...will be married... to Virginia Nicholson of Wheaton, Ill. Mr Welles, 19 years old.... Miss Nicholson, 18, is the daughter of Leo Nicholson, a Chicago real estate man."
  • California Death Index, stating "George Orson Welles, born 6 May 1915 Wisconsin, mother's maiden name IVES, died 10 Oct 1985 Los Angeles County
  • Social Security Death Index, stating "Orson Welles, last residence Las Vegas, Clark County, Nevada, born 6 May 1915, died Oct 1985, SSN issued by New York before 1951"

Secondary sources for 1

Richard Head Welles

Richard Head Welles was born about 1872 in Missouri to Richard Welles and his wife Mary Head. His mother Mary remarried to Fredrick Yotthersen and the family moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where they appear in the 1900 census.

Beatrice Ives was born about 1871 in Illinois. They married about 1903/4 and had their eldest son Richard I about 1905/6, and second son Orson in 1915.

Richard was an inventor, filing several patents while living in Kenosha. He retired in 1917, and that year or the next the family moved to Chicago. While there, his mother became involved with Maurice Bernstein, or according to other sources he became infatuated with either her or Orson.

Wikipedia states that "...his parents divorced when he was six" [so 1921 or 1922], "...Beatrice Welles died of jaundice on May 10, 1924 in a Chicago hospital. Richard Welles became an alcoholic and died when Orson was fifteen....Maurice Bernstein became his guardian."

Although Richard and Beatrice are supposed to have divorced, when she died, she is called "...wife of Richard Head Welles" in her Chicago Tribune obit. In the book This is Orson Welles it states not that his parents divorced, but that "His parents seperated when he was six..." (page 517)

Primary documents for 2

  • The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin), 11 Feb 1903, page 4, "Persons and Things", "The engagement of Richard Head Welles of Kenosha and Miss Beatrice Ives of Chicago is announced. Miss Ives was formerly a social leader at Detroit."
  • The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin)
  • Chicago Daily Tribune, 12 May 1924 (obituary), "Welles — Beatrice Ives Welles, May 11, wife of Richard Head Welles; mother of Richard Ives and George Orson Welles. Funeral services at chapel, 1253-5 N. Clark St, Tuesday, May 13, at 10:30 a.m. Interment Kenosha, Wis."

Secondary sources for 2

  • Entry on OneWorldTree
  • "George Orson Welles", biography at LobsterManFromMars dot com stating "His father Richard retired at age 46 with a generous settlement when lamp maker Badger Brass was bought by a Detroit company in 1917."

Beatrice Ives

Beatrice Ives was born 1870/1 (she is 39 in 1910), in Illinois. While living in Chicago, she married Richard Head Welles of Kenosha, Wisconsin about 1903/4 and had one son Richard Ives Welles about 1905/6, and a second son Orson Welles in 1915.

"The women of Kenosha may have their first representative on the Board of Education following the coming city election, as petitions have been taken out in the second ward for the nomination of Mrs Beatrice Ives Welles as a candidate for the office of school commissioner. The petitions are being circulated by the men, and it is certain that Mrs Welles will have a strong support among the men as among the women. She is one of the most prominent members of Kenosha Clubs and Societies, and has taken a great interest in public questions." (Mary Davison Bradford, Memoirs, page 383) Beatrice was elected to the Kenosha, Wisconsin Board of Education for the 1914-15 school year.

Wikipedia states about Orson Welles, that "...his parents divorced when he was six" [so 1921 or 1922], "...Beatrice Welles died of jaundice on May 10, 1924 in a Chicago hospital. Richard Welles became an alcoholic and died when Orson was fifteen....Maurice Bernstein became his guardian."

Primary documents

  • The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin), 11 Feb 1903, page 4, "Persons and Things", "The engagement of Richard Head Welles of Kenosha and Miss Beatrice Ives of Chicago is announced. Miss Ives was formerly a social leader at Detroit."
  • 1910 Census of Kenosha, Wisconsin, transcribed here
  • The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin), 7 Apr 1914 "Kenosha, Wis. — ...Added interest centers in the election because of a prominent society woman, Mrs Richard H Welles, is running for the office of school commissioner. This is the first time a woman has been a candidate for a city office and many woman voters went to the polls early."
  • Chicago Daily Tribune, 12 May 1924 (obituary), "Welles — Beatrice Ives Welles, May 11, wife of Richard Head Welles; mother of Richard Ives and George Orson Welles. Funeral services at chapel, 1253-5 N. Clark St, Tuesday, May 13, at 10:30 a.m. Interment Kenosha, Wis."

Other sources

Richard Welles

The "History of the Welles Family" by Albert Welles, gives that Richard was born 1843 in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania; that he married Mary Blanche Head 1868 in Kenosha; and that his father was Henry Hill Welles b 1797 in Sussex County, Delaware.

The 1880 census states that he was born abt 1843 but in New York.

Primary sources

Other sources

  • "History of the Welles family in England and Normandy: with the derivation from their progenitors of some of the descendents in the United States", by Albert Welles, President of the American College of Heraldry, and Genealogical Registry of New York. New York. 1876. Page 252 "Richard Jones Welles, of Kenosha, Wis., was born at Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne Co., Pa., June 23, 1843, and removed to Kenosha, where he now (1875) resides. He was married at Kenosha, Oct. 29, 1868, to Mary Blanche, daughter of Orson Sherman Head, of Paris Hill, Oneida Co., N.Y. One child: Richard Hodgdon, born at Saxton, Mo., Nov. 13, 1872. His father was Henry Hill Welles, Secretary of the State of Delaware, under Gov. Charles Thomas; Commission dated June 28, 1823. He was born in Sussex County, Delaware, Feb. 18, 1797 and died at Skaneateles, N.Y. His father was William Hill Welles, born at Philadelphia, Jan 7, 1769. His father was Richard Welles, of Cottness, Eng. See page 26"

Mary Head

Born about 1847 in Wisconsin, possibly in Kenosha. Married Richard Welles between 1860 and 1880.

Primary sources

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Orson Sherman Head

Orson Sherman Head was born 9 Oct 1817 according to an unsourced AWT entry. The census of 1850 shows him as age 31, born New York, a lawyer.

Primary Sources

  • Madison Express (Madison, Wisconsin), 27 Dec 1841, "Appointments by the Governor...", "[for the county of Racine] Thomas Wright, to be Supreme court Commissioner; Orson S Head to be Notary Public...."
  • Kenosha Democrat (Kenosha, Wisconsin), 11 Jul 1851, (advertisement) "Orson S Head, Attorney, Conosellor (sic), and Solicitor, City of Kenosha, Wisconsin; Will attend to all professional business entrusted to his care in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin"
  • Democratic State Register (Watertown, Wisconsin), 11 Aug 1851 "General Election Notice" "...A state senator for the sixteenth senate district, comprising the county of Kenosha, in place of Orson S Head, whose term of service will expire on the first day of January next;...."

Further reading

The AGBI states that "Orson Head" is mentioned in Volume: 76 Page Number: 398 Reference: Livermore fam. Of America. By Walt. Eliot Thwing. Boston, 1902. (479p.):104, 184. Checking this reference however here we can see that the person indexed on that page was named "Orson Head Livermore" not Orson Head.

Mary unknown

Primary sources

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