In 1945, a young American man traveled to Newcastle, England to work with an excavation company. While in England, the young man had a relationship with a war widow named Blanche Barras. When the time came, the young man returned to the U.S., unaware that Barras was pregnant.
In October 1946, Carole Dodds was born. She grew up knowing she was a little different from the rest of her family and friends. While her family had fair completions and hair, Dodds had a darker completion and dark hair.
It wasn’t until the death of her stepfather in the 1980s that Dodds would ask about her biological father. Her mother gave her a name, “Willard Morris.” Dodds wrote over 100 letters to Willard Morris in the U.S., but was unsuccessful in finding him.
Dodds had nearly given up on finding her real father, until last year.
In 2016, Dodds daughter Ali Morris joined Ancestry.com.
“Last year I started searching on Ancestry.com and Mum took their DNA test. Her results linked her to a cousin. I researched their family tree and found her father,” said Morris.
From there the floodgates of information opened up.
“On reading his 1920 U.S. Federal census, I was amazed to see his race as “Indian.” Our amazing journey of discovery about our Choctaw heritage then began,” said Morris. “Through the Ancestry website, we found mum’s grandmother Belle Freeny on the Dawes Rolls and that we are descendants of Moshulatubbee.” With the information she had found on ancestry.com, Morris found herself on a mission.
“I started trawling the internet and Oklahoma databases for any new names connected to him. From the Ancestry info, I knew that he, his daughter and son had unfortunately passed away,” said Morris. “I found Robin Hopkins Ferris on a type of property registry form and found her on Facebook.”
Morris sent a message to Hopkins Ferris explaining her findings. Hopkins Ferris was a bit surprised by message, but knew in her heart what she was reading was true.
“I knew it had to be true, because I knew my grandfather had worked overseas many times,” said Hopkins Ferris.
“I sent Robin photos of mum and she sent a photo of her grandfather Willard ‘Stub’ Morris. So at the age of 70, Mum saw her father for the first time,” said Morris.
Dodds’ mother, Blanche Hagemann is still alive and well. The 92-year-old saw the photo of Willard and exclaimed, “That’s him!”
Dodds, Morris and Morris’ daughter Eleanor made the nearly 5,000 mile journey from their home in Alnwick, England to Oklahoma, to meet their newly found family. Hopkins Ferris and her daughter Tierra picked the group up at the airport for an emotional first meeting.
“As soon as we met Robin and Tierra at the airport, my heart began to fill its empty spaces and continued each day. It was some times quite overwhelming, but wonderful,” said Dodds.
Morris could see that this trip was going to be special for her mother.
“As soon as we arrived in Oklahoma, Mum felt a sense of belonging and home. Robin and all the family, though strangers, were familiar,” said Morris. “It’s so hard to explain.”
Their Oklahoma family was very excited to meet their English family members.
“The whole family was so loving and welcoming. Robin spent two weeks taking us to the wonderful heritage sites, everyone we met were so friendly,” said Morris.
The group even paid a visit to the Choctaw Nation capitol and the Nation’s capitol in Durant, where they shared their story with Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr.
“We had such an amazing day at the Choctaw Nation with our cousin Crystal Thompson,” said Morris.
“I never would have dreamed of someone from across the world would figure all this out,” said Thompson. “It started with a Facebook message and a lot of work to put the pieces together.”
Thompson’s father Charles is Dodds’ cousin and was excited to meet Dodds.
The trip was filled with time spent with family, making up for all of the lost time, and making new memories together.
Though Dodds didn’t get the chance to meet her father, she now has family that can fill a small part of that void.
They are anxiously awaiting the next time that they all get to visit each other. It is amazing to think that thanks to a little curiosity, a DNA test and the internet, they now have a lifetime to catch up on.
Picture 1: Carole Dodds stands with her sister. As a child Dodds knew she was a little different than her siblings and friends. She was dark complected with dark hair, while the rest had fair complexions and hair.
Picture 2: Willard “Stub” Morris was an American excavation worker working in Newcastle, England in 1944. His daughter Carole wouldn’t see her biological father’s face until she was 70 years old.
Picture 3: A side-by-side photo of Dodds and her American half brother Bob Morris show the similarities in their features.
Picture 4: Robin Hopkins Ferris, Ali Morris, Carole Dodds, Charles Thompson and Crystal Thompson visit the springs in Bromide, a long forgotten tourist town where their family once lived. Bromide still has residents today, but it isn’t the booming place it once was.
Picture 5: Eleanor Morris pays her respects to her four times great-grandmother Sarah Freeny who came to Oklahoma as a young girl on the Trail of Tears.
Picture 6: Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr. takes a look at the family tree Ali Morris put together after finding her long lost family. During her research she discovered her family’s connection to the once Chief of the Choctaw Nation Moshulatubbee.