How can we change the birth father for Marilyn Monroe?

+10 votes
Concerning Baker-4838 (Marilyn Monroe)  There are some serious discrepancies I would like to discuss.  David Winslow added me to the trusted list.  
#1.  Her birth record states Norma Jeane Mortensen.  Her name at BIRTH should be corrected to Mortensen.  
#2. Her nick name could be listed as Marilyn Monroe.
#3. The Norma BAKER can be listed as 'other last names'

She was not a Baker.  She was not related to anyone named Baker.  Baker was the name of her mother's first husband, and Marilyn's mother used it in some records, but please note her birth record states Mortensen, and this is the name she gave as her FATHER on her first marriage to James Dougherty.  She stated her father was E. Mortensen.

Her BIRTH record states Mortensen.  Her marriage record (First one) states Mortensen.  She even states the correct initials of her father (E. M. Mortensen, as in Edward martin Mortensen)

Wikileaks wants to use REAL documents, real facts.  There is no fact, or document existing which states Gifford is her father.  Yet the facts and documents state Mortensen is the father.  Baker was only given as the surname Marilyn's mother used to register Marilyn in school records.  However, Marilyn herself was the source of the information on her own first marriage (James Dougherty) and she stated her father was Mortensen.

Her mother was married to Edward Martin Mortensen in October 11, 1924 Los Angeles.  The divorce was not final until  8-15-1928 Los Angeles, CA.

This man Edward M. Mortensen, when he died, had in his possession Marilyn's birth certificate.  This would indicate he acknowledged Marilyn as his daughter.

That makes 3 compelling pieces of evidence that Mortensen is her father and he should be listed as such.

The story about Gifford is just a story, and can be noted, but there are a birth record and a marriage record for Marilyn which both are showing the father as Mortensen, and that matches which the marriage of her mother to Mortensen. Actual record sources should be used as identity.

She was born Norma Jeane Mortensen.  She used the name of Norma Baker in 1930 and 1940 census.  However, her 1942 marriage states her full name as Norma Jeane Mortensen.

The names given in the birth and marriage are the correct maiden names at BIRTH.

#4.  Other names used: "Norma Baker"  

#5.  Her father should be listed as Edward Martin Mortensen.  I can give all of his data.

I hope we can discuss this.
Best regards,
Lilly Martin
WikiTree profile: Norma Monroe
asked in Genealogy Help by Lilly Martin G2G Crew (770 points)
retagged by Scott Fulkerson
I don't see how anyone could disagree with your points #1, #2 and #3 but assigning a birth father is trickier.
Just noted the "Wikileaks"... I'm guessing you meant WikiTree... didn't want to derail any conversation about the correct topic, but that made me go "huh" for a minute.
There is no documentation stating Stanley Gifford was her father, yet there are two documents which state the father is Edward Martin Mortensen. Wikitree is supposed to use documents, not rumors and family legend.  According to gossips, Gifford is her father.  According to the statement given by Marilyn Monroe, herself, on her marriage certificate, she states her father is Edward martin Mortensen (E. M. Mortensen).  A birth certificate and marriage certificate is supposed to be thrown away because some people, who never were related to, or knew Marilyn or her family say so?  I really wonder who these people will claim is my own father?  Maybe I should ask them who they would choose?
Sorry for the type.  Wikitree is the correct spelling.

The scanned image of the original marriage certificate of Marilyn Monroe to James Dougherty, first marriage, in which she states her father is E. Mortensen.

News article dated March 1981:

Among the clippings were Eddie’s divorce papers from Marilyn’s mother, Gladys Monroe Baker, now 79 and institutionalized, and a copy of Marilyn’s birth certificate listing Mortensen as her father.

Reply to Matthew Fletcher: you state that assigning a birth father is trickier? The wikitree page for Marilyn Monroe already has assigned Charles Stanley Gifford as her father.  However, there is not one document recorded anywhere on earth which states that is her father.  Her wikitree page is incorrect.  Whoever is responsible for her page has done a grave disservice to Marilyn, and every genealogist who uses wikitree.  They are stating that rumors and hearsay and books about celebrities are true, but actual birth certificate, and actual marriage certificate are wrong, and should be discarded.  I was under the impression wikitree was about SOURCES.  Yet, there are no sources for Gifford, yet he is officially listed as her FATHER on her page.  This is wrong. He could be her father, or the man next door.  This is about using sources as fact, and not gossip.

Lilly, I think you’re spot-on.  All of the official records show ‘Mortensen’ as the last name at birth and, IMHO, that should be the LNAB on WikiTree.  That doesn’t mean that her father can’t be flagged as ‘uncertain’, and that should probably be the case.  Please do keep pushing for this correction. 

Ok, I've read all this discussion and I've re-read your comment, and I think you are right, especially on these three points:

#1.  Her birth record states Norma Jeane Mortensen.  Her name at BIRTH should be corrected to Mortensen.  
#2. Her nick name could be listed as Marilyn Monroe.
#3. The Norma BAKER can be listed as 'other last names'

If the name on her birth certificate is Mortensen that is clearly her LNAB. Bang, end of story. 

Everything else about the paternity is a red herring and can go into the body of the profile, but bottom line, it should not affect LNAB. 

Thanks Crispin.
June 16, 2018: Thank you to each who have commented.  I appreciate the discussion. I have received 8 new comments. In most of the new comments the only document discussed was the birth certificate. Many comments revolved around why the BC for Marilyn should be disregarded, and not believed.  Some of the comments agreed with me. The most astounding thing about all 8 new comments, is the fact that even though I posted the exact scanned image of the original marriage certificate  (Norma Jeane Mortensen, to her first husband James Doughtery, which was an official State of California document, in which Marilyn herself as an adult answered the question as to "Who is your father?" and she answered E. Mortensen)  not one person commenting ever referred to the MARRIAGE certificate.  That is very surprising.  We are supposed to use documents and records.  My point was not to establish who is the biological father of Marilyn, and I could care less.  My point is to establish that Edward Martin Mortensen is the name which should be listed on her wikitree page, given the fact of her birth certificate and marriage certificate both are identifying Edward Martin Mortensen as the father.  She stated in her own words her father was Mortensen, not Gifford. My point is that there exists no document or record of Charles Stanley Gifford as the father, and yet he is the only name given on the wikitree as the father.  I added the name of Edward martin Mortensen as the husband of Gladys Pearl Monroe, prior to that, he was never listed or mentioned, even though a marriage record and divorce record are available as Calif. state records. I had hoped for a consensus of opinion, to use 2 Calif. state records as source for the change in her father to Edward Martin Mortensen.
OK - I believe the LNAB and parent changes are completed - I added Baker back into the list of "Other Last Names" as she did use this name upon at least one Census. I have also locked the record (PPP) so that further parent and LNAB changes will be prevented (without removing the lock).
OK - and one last edit - I moved all the source information to the Sources section, reformatted the biography slightly, and added a "Birth Parents Controversy" section. If the wording is incorrect or needs to be changed, please feel free to make updates. The sources section should probably be updated as well, and I might get back to that if I have some time.
One more - I did update the sources section just a bit. It might need a bit more work, but I'm happier with the results now. Time for breakfast and the Saturday morning chores.
See under Answers

6 Answers

+7 votes

A birth certificate is not definitive in establishing the identity of a child; it is based solely on information reported by the mother, which for various reasons may not be accurate. Wikipedia's article recites the following: "Gladys named Mortensen as Monroe's father in the birth certificate (although the name was misspelled),[11] but it is unlikely that he was the father as their separation had taken place well before she became pregnant.[12] Biographers Fred Guiles and Lois Banner have stated that her father was most likely Charles Stanley Gifford, a co-worker with whom Gladys had an affair in 1925, whereas Donald Spoto thinks another co-worker was most likely the father.[13]It appears that her father's identity has not been settled with certainty, and may never be. Biographers who have likely done significant research do not agree on either Mortenson (noted that surname spelled "...sEn" on birth certificate) or Gifford as her father.

answered by Jim Parish G2G6 Pilot (125k points)
This is very interesting.  So to add to this, on Wikitree what would be the best path forward?

I would argue, that since it is not settled with certainty, that NO father be in the "header" tree attachment for wiki, and that a short writeup about the situation as you say, with links to both possible father profiles, be placed in the body of the article.

I am sure there are other points of view and would be interested to hear how other people think it should be handled.
Locks of Marilyn Monroe's hair exist. It would be easy enough to determine her birth father if descendants or close relations of the candidates were DNA tested.
To reply to Jim Parrish: you have completely disregarded the actual statement by Marilyn herself when asked for her father's name: she herself stated E. M. Mortensen, on her own marriage certificate.  Marilyn was alive, and knew her father's name, but you seem to want to believe writers and journalists opinions over the actual knowledge of Marilyn?  These are her own words, her statement as to the question presented to her: "Who is your father?" The marriage record clerk asked her, and she responded.  She could have stated Mickey Mouse, or any other name.  Yet, she chose to state what facts she new to be true to her knowledge.  Anyone could be her father, any male, but that is not what wikitree or any genealogist care about.  We need to base our facts on documents, records and personal statements.  The book writers and guess, but we should not use guesses.  The marriage was in full force, and that is proven by marriage and divorce records in the state of California.  There was no divorce until well after Marilyn was born, and that is proven fact.


This is the scanned image of the original marriage certificate, first mariage, or Marilyn to James Dougherty. In which she states her father is E. Mortensen.

news article dated March 9, 1981:  Among the clippings were Eddie’s divorce papers from Marilyn’s mother, Gladys Monroe Baker, now 79 and institutionalized, and a copy of Marilyn’s birth certificate listing Mortensen as her father.

At wikitree, we are not about proving the dna paternity of anyone.  We are about stating the documentation availble which proves a father.  In the case of Marilyn, her father is stated in her birth certificate (Norma Jeane Mortensen); Marilyn herself stated as a fully grown person, on her first marriage record to the state of California, officialy her father was E. Mortensen (Edward Martin Mortensen).  This is the same man who was officially and legally married to her mother at the time of her birth.  They were not divorced until later (as proven by CA state records).  Furthermore, that man himself had her birth certificate in his possesion when he died in California.  I am not proving who her father was.  I am proving the records state who he was.
+8 votes
I'm not a Marilyn Monroe expert, but there was a previous discussion on this around 2014 that appears to have led to this change.
answered by Scott Fulkerson G2G6 Pilot (349k points)
Or perhaps, it's better to say that this discussion was out there once before, and it appears that the previous thought was to make her a Mortenson. I'm thinking that never happened in 2014 either.
In other words, Mortensen (as apparently spelled on her birth certificate) is her LNAB, and should show as such in her profile. Agreed. However, a paragraph in the bio should expand this, citing the possibility that Mortenson may not have been her genetic father.
If I had to put guesses down, it seems like a better than 50-50 odds that Gifford was her father based on what I've read. But since there's documented sources that say Mortensen/son, I'd have to go with him as the father for now until proven otherwise. And absolutely document the signifcant potential possibility that Gifford is the more likely father, but unproven at this time.
In her bio a mention could be made to various books which point to Gifford.  However, Gifford lifelong denied he was her father.  However, it is documented that Edward Martin Mortensen, when he died in California, in his home/apt. was the birth certificate of Marilyn Monroe.  That would point a finger to the fact he was aware of her existence and had a connection to her.  Think about your own personal belongings: do you have the birth certificate of strangers in your possesion?
"Do you have he birth certificates of strangers in your possession ?"

Um.  Yes.  Many.  :-)
I would venture to say that the birth certificate copy was given to him around the time of her birth, and he kept it for whatever reason he chose. I'm not convinced that possessing a birth certificate holds much weight for me. The name on the certificate from a documentation standpoint does hold weight, though, and as I mentioned before, he is the documented parent. However, there have been enough doubts raised as to the timing of her conception, the man her mother was nearest to and hanging around with at the time, and such that it should be clearly documented that there exists the possibility of a different biological parent other than the one that was documented on her birth certificate. The marriage certificate (to me) holds no additional weight as it's just as likely that she simply carried the birth certificate name forward and it doesn't demonstrate any +1 to the facts. I'd have been more impressed if it had a different name on it - then we'd have something to contend with. But not having read any of the books or understanding how much research was done, I would recommend we change the parent to Mortenson, adjust her LNAB, and footnote the biography with both the pros and cons of whether or not Gifford may have been the biological parent.

Other than the potential DNA test (which seems unlikely unless a relative pushes for it), I'd say this is a mystery which will never be 100% resolved.
Agree with you 100%, Scott. I'm now done with this thread, as I do not want to continue a discussion of what WikiTree is or is not "about."
+3 votes
So I think you have a lot of people agreeing with you, and the profile is open, not locked.   I would either. 1) change it yourself, and write a note to the profile manager and the Notables project with a link to this thread or 2) just write a note to the PM and the Notables project and wait for them to change it.  

I myself would do #1, but I am wild and crazy like that.
answered by Crispin Reedy G2G6 Mach 3 (38.7k points)
+2 votes
I don't agree with changing Marilyn's LNAB.  In  most cases birth certificates would be considered primary evidence that makes it all final.  I think Marilyn Monroe's birth certificate is one of those situations where the name on the birth certificate is not always correct, Granted the name on the document is 'official' but that doesn't necessarily mean it is correct.  There is a lot of circumstantial evidence which I won't discuss here (I've read several books on this subject)  that can't be overlooked. So, changing Marilyn's LNAB to Mortensen isn't going to make it any more accurate than it already is. In that case it defeats the purpose of changing Marilyn's LNAB.
answered by James Stratman G2G6 Mach 6 (60.1k points)
edited by James Stratman
+2 votes
Marilyn's profile has a paragraph under the subtitle "Mayflower Descendant". However, it had no mention of possible father Charles Stanley Gifford, who is the Mayflower descendant, nor a source. I've updated that paragraph.
answered by Sara Mosher G2G6 (7k points)
edited by Sara Mosher
Without DNA or sworn testimony, we go with documentation. I would however have it marked uncertain until DNA testing is done somewhere.
Sara Mosher, please See this forum message ..."Noting your relationship on someone else's profile - don't do it!" ...
+2 votes
Marilyn Monroe's profile (Norma Jeane Mortensen) has a section titled "Birth Parents Controversy" under which I've added the words of Marilyn Monroe, her mother Gladys, and her half-sister Berniece as to whom they believed was Marilyn's father — Charles Stanley Gifford. I've also added a link to a fascinating composite photograph of Monroe and Gifford. I changed Norma Jeane Mortensen's father to "uncertain."
answered by Sara Mosher G2G6 (7k points)
edited by Sara Mosher

I have now replaced the section titled "Birth Parents Controversy" with "Disputed Father", and provided sources showing Marilyn Monroe's father was not Martin Edward Mortensen. Her profile should not have a father.

WikiTree Profile: Marilyn Monroe

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