Kelso Family of Lafayette and Alexandria, Louisiana

In keeping with our vision of researching and sharing “hidden” information and stories about the communities of south Louisiana and the Gulf Coast we offer stories of the people and places outside of the most written-about place which is New Orleans. This is done in an effort to provide stories and pictures that can possibly offer new information to those researching their family histories.

Kelso-Jones Nuptials 1946

The wedding of Mr. Randolph Jones and the former Miss Sylvia Kelso which took place in Lafayette, LA. Front row, left to right: Austin Sonnier, ring bearer, Mr. and Mrs. Randolph Jones, newlyweds and Angela Coco, flower girl. Standing, back row: Claude Castille, Harold Delahoussaye, John Martin, Jr., Willie Herbert, George Breaux, Raymond Thibodaux, best man; Mrs. Vivian Basset, matron of honor of Alexandria; back row, senior bridesmaids, Stella Ashford, Octavia Chachere of Opelousas, Mary Ann Coco, Velma Francis; front row, junior bridesmaids, Barbara Pecot, Betty Collins, Rita Joseph and Barbara Gonzaque.

The wedding of Sylvia Kelso of Lafayette, LA to Randolph Jones, son of Mrs. Zorado Jones and the late Mr. Louis Jones of Natchez, LA took place in Lafayette, LA in August, 1946.  The wedding details were memorialized in a lengthy Louisiana Weekly article which provided several family relationships.

Sylvia was the only daughter of Oliver Kelso and Wilhelmina Kelso.  A search of the family history showed that in 1940 Sylvia was 23 years old  and a public school teacher while living at home with her father Oliver, a “roader” at the freight depot and Wilhelmina, a housewife  They lived at 207 E. Convent 1835-W, Lafayette, LA.

Oliver Kelso was born in Louisiana circa 1887 and Wilhelmina was born circa 1888 also in Louisiana.  Sylvanie’s (nee Sylvia) birth is estimated to be 1915.  In 1930 Sylvanie’s father Oliver had property worth $2,000 and was a porter on the steam railroad.  The family was described as Mulatto (Mu) and lived in an ethnically diverse neighborhood with the Webster (W), LeBlanc (W), Thibodeaux (W), William (Neg), Celestin (Neg), Trehan (Neg),and Benoit (W) families.

At the beginning of the 1920s the family lived in Alexandria, Rapides parish, Louisiana,  At that time Oliver, then 33 years old, was a machinist in a foundry and Wilhelmina, age 22, was a seamstress. Sylvanie was 5 years old. The family was enumerated as mulatto (Mu), living in a predominantly  black (B) but ethnically diverse neighborhood with Lofton (B), Bruno (W), Brisco (B), Morgan (B), Robinson (B), Ayers (B) and Harris (B) families.

Oliver was described as tall, of medium build with blue eyes and brown hair.

In 1910, Oliver, age 23 and a cotton sorter (?) for a cotton buyer, was living in Alexandria, Rapides parish with his mother Lizzie Kelso (est. birth year 1854) and father John Kelso, age 67 (estimated birth year 1843).  Oliver’s siblings were Millie, a public school teacher, Jane a bookkeeper and Faxon a bricklayer.  John Kelso was also a public school teacher.

John P. Kelso (the bride Sylvia’s paternal grandfather), a brakeman on the railroad had been married for 17 years in 1900 to Elizabeth S. Kelso, a teacher.  John’s father had been born in Maryland and his mother in Virginia.  Elizabeth’s parents reportedly were born in Kentucky (father) and Virginia (mother).  John and Elizabeth’s children were Bunnie, age 20 and a teacher,; Millie, age 20, a teacher; Jane, age 18, a teacher; W. Faxon, age 15 and little Oliver, 10 months old.

In 1870 John P. Kelso, age 28, was living in Alexandria, Rapides parish with his mother Rebecca Kelso, age 48. She was enumerated as being born in Kentucky, contradicting the later record.  They lived in a household headed by two women from Tennessee and Georgia—a laundress and a domestic servant and their children.

In 1850 in Alexandria, Rapides parish, John Kelso (designated as Mu) lived with his mother Rebecca Kelso (B), age 32 and estimated birth year of 1818 in Kentucky,  and his siblings Clara (14 Mu), Georgiana (10 Mu) and George (6 Mu).  They were living in the household with Mary Chase and her four children.  This is a tantalizing indication of the relationship between Rebecca and the father of her children and generates curiosity about how she ended up on her own with four children living in a household with another mother and her children.  Their stories may be quite similar.

More discussion of this interesting and highly educated Kelso family can be found in “Free Blacks – Kentucky” on the AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum.

Sources:   Louisiana Weekly, 17 Aug 1946; 1850, 1870, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940 Census; US City Directory 1821 – 1989; US World War II Draft Registration Cards 1917 – 1918, dated Jun 5, 1917.


21 thoughts on “Kelso Family of Lafayette and Alexandria, Louisiana

  1. This is a good story. In addition to Oliver Kelso’s side, Wilhelmina Kelso’s maiden name was Perrodin. She was very well-known, as was her sister, Lucille Perrodin Toussaint. I have a picture of both in case any family members or researchers are interested.

      • Hi Gwen, the source of the picture on this blog I wrote is listed at the end. It’s available on microfilm at various libraries. The microfilm is located at the main library in New Orleans or you can search online to find what institution near you holds microfilm. Also, if you contact the Amstad Research Center at Tulane University in New Orleans,, the archivists can assist you. They have actual papers from the 1940s and will take a digital photo of the picture and send it to you, via email I believe, for a modest fee. They are happy and eager to assist family historians and researchers.

      • Bonjour Gwen! I will email you this picture which comes from The Louisiana Weekly, the black newspaper here in New Orleans. This article was researched by Lenora, another one of our bloggers at CreoleGen. Gwen, is Sylvia Kelso still living or does she have descendants? Her mother comes up in some research I’m doing. Merci!

    • Thank you so much for offering to provide pictures to family members or other researchers. These are the kinds of connections we want to happen via our site…to help researchers connect with family members, share stories, share pictures…to gain a more complete picture of these wonderful families.

  2. This is MY family! John Kelso was my 2x great grand uncle! I would LOVE to have copies of these pictures! I am descended from his sister Clara!

    • Hi Gwen! So happy to meet you via our blog! I provided access information for this picture in response to your previous comment.

    • Hi Sandra! That’s what we established our blog to do. Having grown up in California, I realized I knew next to nothing about my family roots or the people from whom my family descended…the creoles of Louisiana. We will keep up the work because it’s our passion!

    • Robert, we’re so pleased that this post is prompting you to discover your family connections. The easiest way to start is to search on To do it for free, go to your local library. Most libraries now have available for patrons to use. Start searching the names you know and use the lineage we provided in our blog post to help you along. Also, to keep the information you find organized I suggest downloading a free version of a genealogy database such as Legacy onto your computer and enter your information. This will let you search your ancestors, print charts and reports, etc. Happy hunting and let us know of your progress!

    • Robert, I sent you an email. I can help you, please contact me. The Kelsos pictured here are my family members, I have done a lot of research on this family!

  3. Hello, I am so excited to read about the Kelsos. William S. Kelso is my great great grandfather and my great great grandmother is Caroline Kelso Rankin, I am trying to learn more about the Kelsos and Rebecca Carr. Could you provide information and photos with me? I have a photo of Rebecca, but I would love to have an idea of how William, Caroline and other family members looked. The family photo above is beautiful! Like Gwen, I have been doing alot of research, but it is pretty tough to say the least. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. Altonette Stone

    • Hi Altonette,
      I apologize for taking so long to reply. My mother had a stroke and I was away for awhile.

      Thank you for your comments. This is exactly what we’re hoping will happen with our posts–that family members might find a picture and/or information they didn’t already have. Unfortunately, this is the only picture I have. I got it from the Louisiana Weekly newspaper and researched the family for the blog post.

  4. whoah this blog is fantastic i love reading your posts.
    Stay up the good work! You recognize, lots of persons are hunting around
    for this information, you can help them greatly.

  5. Beautiful pictures and article! Thank you so much for sharing! I also have these pictures along with copies of their announcement, some of the acceptance letters/notes to their wedding. Would always be interested in any and all that anyone is willing to share.

  6. also, I’m related to John Kelso through my ggrandmother/his sister Clara Kelso who married Daniel Graham. Many pictures, letters, recordings in a bible came to me from La. right before Hurricane Katrina and I am SO very thankful.

  7. Do any of you know where the Strother in William Strother Carr Kelso came from? I am researching the Strother surname in Rapides Parish, LA and am interested in how the Kelso family and the Strother family are connected. The Strother surname can be traced back to England and Scotland, and there is a town is Scotland named Kelso. A man named Thomas Strotheris appears in Kelso Scotland in 1567. I’m curious as to how William Strother Carr Kelso got his name and would appreciate any information any of you might have. Thanks!

  8. Wow!! I am loving this site! I love genealogy! My father Claude Castille is pictured in this wedding. Most of the men were my dads best friends. I would love a copy of this pic!

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