Fleeta Claire Jones Becomes Claire Field

In 1921 Claire Dunn was born Fleeta Claire Jones, and in 1940 she married William Edward (Bill) Dunn (1918-1986). Claire's ancestral Jones line is as follows:

Lewis Jones (1791-1871) & Rebecca McPherson Jones

Dr. William M. Jones (1831-1892) & Elizabeth Goodman Jones

Fleetwood Churchill Jones (1857-1937) & Leona Cash Jones

Rev. Carleton Duane Jones (1895-1967) & Nelle Virginia Field Jones

Fleeta Claire Jones (1921-2012)
(This high school graduation photo is circa 1937)

Claire became the mother of the five "East Chicago Dunns", as I've labeled the family, including me, Patrick Dunn, the editor of this blog. 


Setting the stage for what follows

Following is an excerpt from an autobiographical manuscript that Claire wrote about various events in her life. This excerpt refers to events that took place shortly after she graduated from high school, circa 1937. The Great Depression was underway and the U.S. had not yet entered the fighting in Europe that became known as World War II.

Her parents had divorced, and their father, Rev. Carleton Jones, was awarded legal custody of their four kids. This led to an onging "contest" of sorts in which Claire's mother, Nelle, repeatedly took some of the children away from him, often using sneaky, nefarious methods to do so, according to the information I've gathered from several sources. 

It wasn't that Nelle wanted to keep the kids. She apparently just wanted to take them away from Carleton, probably to cause him pain, if I'm interpreting the facts correctly. I say that because once she got them she'd find places to "dump" them, as Claire, in one of her letters to me, described Nelle's behavior.

Claire, in a letter to me, described the incident below as her being "dumped" by her mother.
 "…So, Mother [Nelle] decided to get rid of me. She went through this kind of thing often, getting rid of her kids by various means. She had sent [Claire’s brother] DeRand to Aunt Grace [Nelle’s sister] in Seattle when he was about ten or so. Grace kept him for three years. She [Nelle] had sent me to [my cousin] Maggie's for three months, and now she was going to get rid of me for good.

Aunt Bess [another of Nelle’s sisters], in Chicago, invited us to come for Christmas. This may have been a setup, now that I look back on it, as Aunt Bess was not that generous. She used to send us, the whole family, a five pound box of chocolates every Christmas, and that was it.

Of course, I did appreciate the chocolates. They were the only ones I ever tasted. Each Christmas each of us got two chocolates a day until the box was gone. I developed a fantastic craving for chocolates that has never been satisfied, to this day.

It got quite cold as we neared Chicago. We didn't have a lot of money, nothing new about that, so we ate hamburgers quite a bit. There was a chain of hamburger stands called the White Castle, that sold hamburgers for a nickel. Imagine, a nickel. You only got a bare bun and bare meat, and had to decorate it yourself, but it was tasty enough and filling.

Visiting Aunt Bess was interesting. I had never been in an apartment before, we always had houses. Here we were in a bee-hive of apartments, with people on all sides of us, top, bottom, both sides, Also the streets were full of these apartment houses, side by side with only about six feet between them, and no green grass, no trees, nothing of the country about them. It was exciting.

As far as I knew, we were all going home a day or so after Christmas.
Mother took me aside. "Claire, you're going to stay here and get a job."

"I am? What can I do?" A good question. I couldn't do anything that I knew of.

"Oh, you'll find something," my mother was calmly convinced. [The] Depression didn't mean anything to her. "You'll stay with Aunt Bess until you find a job, then you can pay her board.”

Aunt Bess apparently agreed to this. I have no idea how Mother talked her into this. But, as I mentioned before, Mother was a salesman. She could sell anybody anything.

When I thought it over, it really was a good idea. I had fallen in love with Chicago back when I stayed with Maggie. Maggie lived nearby and I could see her as often as I wished. She had a baby by this time, a little girl she called Mimi.

Mother left me and I didn't see her again for five years.

The first thing I did was change my name from Fleeta Claire, which I was still being called, to just Claire. Also I didn't like the name Jones, so as long as I was changing everything, I called myself Field, using my mother's maiden name. Claire Field sounded pretty good to me. A lot better than that hokey Fleeta Claire Jones. This was my chance to get past that awful name and change my whole self.

It took about a month to get a job, which really wasn't bad for the times. I would have liked to get a job [working] for the telephone company, but it turned out that you had to have a birth certificate to prove you were a citizen of the United States, and I didn't have one.

[Editor’s comment: The reason for that is that she was born in the home of a midwife, not in a hospital, and a birth certificate was not issued at that time. She later took the series of steps required, and in 1955 received a “registration of birth” from the Circuit Court of Oregon, which was amended in 1964 to reflect her change from her birth name of Jones to her married name of Dunn.

I have her “registration of birth” as part of a batch of paperwork collected from her house and sent to me. It shows that she was born in the city of Roseburg in Douglas County, Oregon, on 17 June 1921.

The confusion caused by her change from Jones to Field

We, her five children, grew up knowing she was born Fleeta Claire Jones and married our father, William Edward (Bill) Dunn. However, until much later in life we didn’t realize she had once decided to go by the name of Field. This resulted in what now seems like an amusing incident (it was somewhat aggravating at the time).

When one of his daughters was about to be married – in Costa Rica (officially the Republic of Costa Rica, a country in South America) – one of my my brothers applied for a passport and was turned down because he provided “Jones” as his mother’s maiden name.

As he later learned, she had used the name “Field” as her maiden name when we were born. Not having had any reason to have looked at his birth certificate, he hadn’t realized that fact when he applied for his passport. Thus, his birth record didn’t match his application, which caused his application to be declined.

With the date of the wedding fast approaching, my brother sent out an urgent request for clarification of what our mother’s maiden name had been. As it happened, I had recently looked at my birth certificate to get some details for this Family History project – and was able to tell him what she had done with her name when we were born.

With that data he was able to reapply - and obtained his passport just in time to get to the wedding!

Claire’s informal change of names was a source of satisfaction to her, but as evidenced above, has been an occasional source of confusion to her offspring from time to time when we’ve been asked to provide our mother’s maiden name!


Last revised 7/10/2011

Please refer to the disclaimer on the index page of this blog for a statement regarding the accuracy of - and documentation for - the information presented in this blog.

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