George Barnes

George Kelly Barnes (1900 - 1954)

Privacy Level: Open (White)
George Kelly "Machine Gun Kelly" Barnes
Born in Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United Statesmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married (to ) [location unknown]
Husband of — married about in Minnesota, United Statesmap
Father of and [private son (1920s - unknown)]
Died in Leavenworth, Kansas, United Statesmap
Profile last modified | Created 17 Jul 2014
This page has been accessed 8,376 times.

Categories: Nominated Profiles | Outlaws | Bootleggers and Moonshiners | U.S.Penitentiary, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas | Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, San Francisco Bay, California | Gangsters | American Notables.

George Barnes was a black sheep, a gangster.
Join: Gangsters Project
Discuss: gangsters


George Francis Barnes Jr., better known as "Machine Gun Kelly", was an American gangster during the Prohibition era.[1]
George Barnes is Notable.

He was born to the wealthy family of George and Elizabeth (Kelly) Barnes in Chicago, Illinois.[2][3][4][5] He was raised in Memphis, Tennessee, though.

George attended Mississippi A&M College and later married Geneva Ramsey when he was 19. The couple had two sons together before divorcing. Geneva told The New York Times after his arrest that she divorced him because he was "running in bad company."[6]

Having a car and driver's license, George started running for bootleggers while still in high school. After marrying, he tried legitimate work but failed completely after the death of his father-in-law. George used bootlegging to support himself. [1]

Organized crime became a major feature of the American landscape during Prohibition. Alcohol consumption was scarcely impacted, due to gangsters willing to supply "bootleg" alcohol who made fortunes.[7]

George was as arrested for selling illegal liquor in 1927 and spent a few months in jail in New Mexico. Nabbed again soon after, this time for selling liquor on an Indian reservation, Kelly did time at Leavenworth Prison in Kansas. While incarcerated, he made friends with several bank robbers, including Charlie Harmon, Frank Nash, Francis Keating, and Thomas Holden, and was believed to have helped Keating and Holden escape.[8]

After his release from prison in 1930, Kelly traveled to St. Paul, Minnesota, with his girlfriend Kathryn Thorne, who he married later that year. There, he reunited with Keating and Holden and participated in a bank hold-up with the pair. Continuing his crime spree, Kelly was involved in bank robberies in several states, including Iowa, Texas, and Washington. According to legend, Kelly's wife helped build his reputation, buying him a machine gun and nicknaming him after the weapon. She also reportedly gave away shell casings from his exploits to people as souvenirs to increase his notoriety.[8]

Kelly's most famous crime was the kidnapping of oil tycoon and businessman Charles F. Urschel in July 1933, known as the Urschel kidnapping, for which he and his gang collected a $200,000 ransom.[2] Their victim had collected and left considerable evidence that assisted the subsequent FBI investigation that eventually led to Kelly's arrest in Memphis, Tennessee, on September 26, 1933.[9] [10]

FITCHBURG SENTINEL, Massachusetts, September 26, 1933

The case that followed was significant in that it was the first court case to allow cameras in the court room, as well as the first case that followed the Lindbergh Laws which made kidnapping a federal offense.[11]

George and Kathryn both received life sentences. He was to serve his in Leavenworth, Kansas, and Kathryn was sent to a federal prison in Cincinnati. In August 1934, Kelly was transferred to Alcatraz after making threats to free the both of them out of prison in time for the Christmas holidays. When he arrived at Alcatraz on September 4, 1934, he was among the first groups of prisoners to be incarcerated there.[12][2]

George died July 13, 1954 — his 59th birthday — of a heart attack in Leavenworth Penitentiary. He is buried in Cottondale Cemetery in Cottondale, Wise County, Texas.[13][14][2]

Kathryn Kelly and her mother were released from prison in 1958.[15]

Machine Gun Kelly and his crimes were portrayed in the 1958 film Machine-Gun Kelly starring Charles Bronson, following the success of the film Bonnie and Clyde.

George is featured or mentioned frequently in popular culture, such as in the 1971 James Taylor popular song, Machine Gun Kelly.

A comic book titled Pretty, Baby, Machine was issued in a limited edition in 1933. The title refers to protagonists Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, and Machine Gun Kelly who come together to fight Al Capone.

Machine Gun Kelly is credited with being the one to coin the phrase G-Men as slang for FBI.[16]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Finger, Michael. Public Enemy Number One: The real story of Machine Gun Kelly, the Memphis boy who grew up to become the most wanted man in America. Memphis Flyer, September 7, 2005.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Alphabetical Index of Former Inmates of U.S. Penitentiary, Alcatraz, 1934–63. NARA Microfilm Publication 458. Records of the Bureau of Prisons, 1870–2009, Record Group 129. NARA, Pacific Regional Office, San Francisco, California.
  3. "United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 14 May 2014), Tennessee > Memphis City no 2; no 3, A-O > image 332 of 5216; citing NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  4. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004. Year: 1900; Census Place: Chicago Ward 32, Cook, Illinois; Page: 12; Enumeration District: 1003; FHL microfilm: 1240285
  5. "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 24 June 2017), Tennessee > Shelby > Memphis Ward 15 > ED 206 > image 3 of 12; citing NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  6. Wikipedia: George "Machine Gun" Kelly.
  7. Prohibition Era Protest.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "George R. Kelly." Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2014. Web. 17 July 2014.
  9. FBI History.
  10. O'Dell, Larry. "Urschel Kidnapping". Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture - Oklahoma Historical Society.
  11. Youtube George "Machine Gun" Kelly containing courtroom footage during trail.
  12. Alcatraz History.
  13. Alcatraz History.
  14. Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 10 July 2018), memorial page for George “Machine Gun” Kelley (18 Jul 1895–17 Jul 1954), Find A Grave: Memorial #3148, citing Cottondale Cemetery, Cottondale, Wise County, Texas, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .
  15. Dillenger's Women.
  16. FBI Top 100.

See also:

More Genealogy Tools

Sponsored Search

Searching for someone else?
First: Last:

No known carriers of George's Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA have taken yDNA or mtDNA tests and no close relatives have taken a 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or Family Tree DNA "Family Finder" test.

Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.

Images: 13
George "Machine Gun Kelly" Barnes

George and Kathryn
George and Kathryn

FBI Wanted Poster
FBI Wanted Poster

George Barnes Image 4
George Barnes Image 4

George in Front of Alcatraz Jail Cell
George in Front of Alcatraz Jail Cell

view all


On 22 Nov 2018 at 01:11 GMT Paul Gierszewski wrote:

Should there be more discussion of his birth year and uncertainty? This profile lists 1900 with no discussion. Wikipedia lists 1895, referencing Alcatraz historical document. The linked prisoner card on that page supports about 1894. The FBI file photo on this profile implies about 1898. The WWI draft on this page lists 1900. The 1900 census on this page does not include him, while the 1910 census indicates born 1902.

On 29 Jul 2018 at 21:20 GMT Toni Moore wrote:


If George Barnes (A.K.A. MGK) is 28 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and I am 27 degrees from her (Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland) then how close am I to him?? Toni

On 18 Jul 2018 at 17:35 GMT Cathleen Bachman wrote:

This page looks fantastic! Great Job!

On 17 Jul 2018 at 19:39 GMT Debbie (Fink) Thomas wrote:

George Barnes is 25 Degrees from Debbie Thomas

George is 24 degrees from Walter Morrison, 31 degrees from Alison Wilkins and 21 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

B  >  Barnes  >  George Kelly Barnes