Saturday, August 7, 2010

My Mother's Cool Tale

My mother, Jean, was born May 5, 1930 in Tampa, Florida.

Her parents were Nellie Mykitta and Farris Farone Branan, Jr, who were married in 1929.  Quite the distinguished sounding name her father had, eh? 



Now, mom was devoted to her father, a true daddy's girl through and through.  He used to sit her on his knee and read her poetry, and teach her about classical music and opera. 


Her sister, Bette, wasn't as close to her dad as mom was. 

Unfortunately, Farris had a terrible drinking problem.  Nellie couldn't take it anymore, and demanded he leave.  My mother, who was 8 when this happened, was crushed.  She never saw or heard from him again.  She never got over it, and it's something that still haunts her to this day.

Nellie soon remarried and told the girls to go to school and tell the teacher their new last name was now Lewis.  Their new stepfather never formally adopted them, but they began going by Lewis until they each got married.  Dad jokes that he and mom aren't legally married because Lewis was on their marriage certificate, and it was never mom's legal last name.....but I digress.

Mom on the left, Bette on the right, high school graduation.


A recent photo of me, Husband, and my mom and dad at our family reunion

So, life went on, mom married dad, had me 20 years later, and here we are today.  Over the last few years, dad and I have done some random searches on the internet on my grandfather's name, to see if we could track down what happened to him after he and my grandmother divorced.  We were never able to find anything.

But, that all changed last month when dad tried Googling Farris's name once again......and this time, he hit paydirt!  No, he didn't find mom's father.......but this is what he did find, posted on an message board by a gentleman looking for any living Branan relatives:

"I was born Farris Farone Branan III in 1945 in Waco, TX.  My father was Farris Farone Branan, parents, Farris and Florence, left me with some people in Texas.  By the time I was six or seven, Farris Jr. and Florence dropped out of my life altogether.  I was adopted as Thomson at age 13.  All my birth records were changed to Thomson but the letters I possess - several hundred - are filled with proof of who I am and I do remember Farris and Florence......"

Now, it's too much of a coincidence that we would stumble across a random person with that very unique name and have it not be of some relation to my dad did some super-sleuthing and was able to acquire this Farris's phone number in North Carolina.  It turns out, my mom has a half brother!

Who would think, that at the age of 80, my mom would discover she has another sibling?  Both she and her sister Bette are thrilled.  Thrilled, and kind of dumbfounded at the same time.  Now, all sorts of questions have arisen about her dad and his life after he left in 1938.  Who was this Florence?  When did they meet?  Why did he never try to see his first two children, Jean and Bette, again?  Why did he and Florence abandon Farris III?  Where did they live?  What are the answers to this mystery?

We'll probably never know, but in the mean time mom is enjoying getting to know her new brother and his wife.  Through phone calls and email, we've been able to share photos and information and slowly are getting to know each other. 

My new uncle, Farris III

Pretty crazy story, huh? 


  1. ...when your dad has a mission...

  2. Sigh.... Sad, but not so uncommon. I have 3 half siblings that I doubt know I exist. (Long story, too.) And, a friend told me last summer that they had just found out about a half sister. (Not me!)

    I'm so glad that your dad found something. I have a subscription to Ancestry. Do you want me to dig? If so my email address is on my profile page. (Absolutely no charge. I love doing the searching.)

  3. Wow, that is just amazing to unearth so much so much later!

  4. Fascinating story. I hope it will bring some closure to your dear mother.

  5. My dad has a similar story about a "half" family that he never heard of until much later in life.

  6. Wow....Amazing story! I do hope you'll someday find the answers to all the questions you've brought up here...and then I hope you share them with us.

    How wonderful that your dad was able to some serious sleuthing....

    BTW: I could tell your mom was close to her dad. Notice the way she says "Daddy" (informal) and "Mother" (formal). Interesting dynamics...

  7. That is awesome! I love how the Internet has made things like this possible. :-)

  8. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story - and all those great photos too!

  9. That is an amazing story and how wonderful for your mom. Enjoy your new uncle.

  10. That is so Awesome Betsy!!! I am so excited for Aunt Jean and the rest of the family....beautiful story and pics!!!! Love you all!


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