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Friday, August 31, 2012

Family history, sometimes sad: George L. Dorman, mother Betty Mae Morris



This week, 28 years ago I lost my father.  In my family research I have discovered just how very little I knew about his life before he married my mom.  I knew him as a hard working man and a good provider for our family.  My mother didn't work except for a few weeks before Christmas a year or two, they had 7 children.  I also knew him as the disciplanarian, he was strict, with swift and decisive action.  No doubt learned from his years in the USAF.  He was someone who was always there when I needed a shoulder to cry on and would tell me it would all work out.  He came to see me when I was in the hospital as a child as much as he could which made me feel special.  He coached my brothers' little league baseball team.  He taught us to play cards.  I also knew him as a man who drank.

After 20 years in the service he retired and landed a job in information services.  He was promoted within the company and provided his family with a modest way of life.  He was killed in a single car accident when he was 51 years old.

I have discovered  things that have led to more questions then answers.  I have not even been able to prove that he was the biological son of the man's name he carried.

On April 12, 1933 he was born baby boy Johnson, to Betty Mae Johnson in Cumberland County, NC.  The father's info on the birth certificate has illegitimate written across that section.  My grandmother's maiden name was Morris.  I haven't been able to find a marriage certificate, directory listings, etc., so I do not know how she came to use the Johnson name.  The next discovery was that she did not marry the man I thought was his father  (Dorman) until my father was 3 years old in 1936, her maiden name Morris was the name listed on the marriage certificate.    Two years after they married, Fez was killed in a workplace accident.
I had so been looking forward to the 1940 census, hoping to find out where he was in 1935 and 1940.  Her last name is Strickland now and living in Zebulon, NC.  J William Strickland (the respondent) states they resided at the same address in 1935.  I believe Mr. Strickland lived there in 1935 but not my grandmother and father as she had not yet been married to Fez Dorman.  My father is listed as Mr. Strickland's stepson.  I do know at some point he lived with his granny Dorman, as the man in his mother's life at the time wanted him to work in the tobacco fields, but Granny wouldn't have that.  I am not sure how long he lived with her.  His mother moved them back and forth between Cumberland County near Fort Bragg and Wendell and Zebulon areas in Wake County.  I found a picture of my dad and his cousin and noted on the back is 1944, Spring Lake which is in Cumberland County.  I discovered he didn't have any stability or consistency in his childhood.  I have a better understanding now as to why he didn't talk about his childhood much.  I do know that he dropped out of school when he was in the 8th grade, liked to fish, play pool and joined the service as soon as he was eligible.

In May, 1951 a month after his 18th birthday and one week before he reported for duty, George L. Dorman obtained a delayed certificate of birth, with the father listed as Fez Linwood Dorman, mother was listed as Betty Mae Johnson.  At her death her last name was Dickerson.  I knew my grandmother somewhat, she passed away when I was about 15, but I just never got that warm and fuzzy feeling from her.

With each new name I have discovered, I have such a feeling of sadness.  What did my father, the little boy, experience in his childhood?  Was he taken care of?  Did he feel loved?  Was he lonely?  How did he learn to parent?  The more I learn about his childhood, I believe he did a pretty damn good job as the father of 7 children.

After my father's funeral, people told us story after story of how he had helped them out, bought food for them, always made sure they had a turkey at Thanksgiving, etc.  We never knew this.  He was buried with full military honors.  A send-off he deserved.  My quest is not over, I will always look for the answers.  I know there is more to this story ........

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