“[I wanted to share my story] as a means of giving [others] hope,” Morris said. “I had looked for almost 20 years. Of course, every time I saw a reunion on TV [I thought], ‘Well maybe there was still a chance for me.’ It always kind of gave me a little bit of hope. And my story has already helped one other person that I know of. I have a neighbor two doors down that also was born in Illinois. I told her that she could now get her birth certificate. She did. The same girl that worked here [at Drew Eckl & Farnham law firm] that did my genealogy search for me did hers and she has now reconnected with children of her birth mother that had given her up.
“So yes, there’s always a chance that maybe you learn something that will help you if you’re searching, because there’s so many of us out there. The older I got, [I thought] if I only knew [my] family history [so] I could [share it with] my kids ... and now I’ve learned that it looks pretty good. Mom’s still alive at 88 and really has no health issues. And we’ve learned that my dad just died last Christmas Eve at 91. So now I feel like that’s a burden that’s lifted off of me that I can say to my kids things are looking pretty good.”
Adopted at 9-months-old with her twin brother, Morris grew up knowing pieces of their biological background, such as their birth names were Betty Fay and Gary Ray Williams and their birth mother’s name was Vivian Williams. However, during her search this year, she uncovered new details about Carlough’s life and the circumstances surrounding the adoption. Morris’ original birth certificate revealed her birth mother’s full name, Vivian Keen Williams, which was an integral component to narrowing down her quest.
“Until my adoptive parents died in ’93 and ’94, I never felt like I could look,” Morris said. “I just somehow felt like maybe that would be a little bit disloyal to them. ... After they died, I went looking because there were several of us here at work in our section who are adopted. I think at one time there were five of us, and one of the attorneys here had looked for and found her birth mother, which kind of spurred me on even more. Every time I tried to do anything in Illinois, everything was sealed. ... [So] when I learned the law had been changed, that I could now get my original birth certificate from Illinois, I sent for it and June 1 it came, on a Saturday.
“That’s when I learned that [my birth mother] was 20 and she had two other children before us. So that changed the whole dynamic that I had grown up knowing, [which was] you were adopted [and] your birth mother was a 16-year-old unwed mother. That’s all we knew and we knew her name. ... The [real] story was her mother died when she was 12 and she started raising her siblings and got married at 15, then had a baby, then had another one at 17. And her husband went off to war and, of course, was a prisoner for [14 months]. ... [He] came home in December of ’44 and, of course, times had changed, emotions had changed, apparently. She got pregnant with us and didn’t know it and they divorced. After she was divorced, then she learned she was pregnant. She said to me, ‘I didn’t know what I was going to do,’ and she finally made the decision to go to Chicago to the Florence Crittenton Home and that’s where she stayed the last three months [of her pregnancy].”
After receiving assistance from a coworker, who located Carlough and other family members online, Morris was able to meet her birth mother about 13 days after obtaining her birth certificate.
“When I brought that birth certificate on Monday to work and my friend found her family that afternoon, that quickly, and then found her the next day alive and living in Florida, [I thought], ‘Oh, my gosh, do I call, do I not call?’” Morris said, adding she initially called and left a message with one of Carlough’s children and after no response decided to contact her birth mother directly. “ ... I called her and I asked for her name, Vivian Carlough, and she said, ‘Speaking.’ I said, ‘I don’t mean to intrude and I don’t mean to hurt you, but did you give birth to twins on Sept. 1 of 1945 in Chicago?’ ... ‘I have a birth certificate here that says my birth name was Betty Fay Williams and my mother’s name was Vivian Keen Williams.’
“There was kind of a long pause and she said, ‘Well, I guess, you’re my daughter.’ I still get choked. I still get choked when I think about it. She said to me, ‘Well, now what?’ And I said, ‘I’d like to see you,’ and her response was, ‘You’re welcome here anytime.’ ... So the next Thursday we were there. My husband and I drove down to Florida. She lives independently in a trailer. She’s been there for years. She was waiting at the door. I just gave her a big hug and she hugged back, and we sat and talked.”
During their visit, Morris presented her birth mother a photo album, filled with images of her and her twin brother. While there, Morris also learned various details about Carlough’s life, such as her involvement with the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization, and she never talked about the adoption to anyone, even her two later husbands, who are now both deceased.
After the first meeting, Carlough accepted Morris’ offer to fly her to Georgia Aug. 29 for her twins’ 68th birthday party. Held on Sept. 1, the celebration also featured Morris’ daughter, Holly Morris, and granddaughter, Ashleigh Morris.
“Once my grandparents passed away that was something that she always wanted to do was find her birth mother,” Holly Morris said. “And the fact that she had a friend that helped [find her] — I think it was like within a week of getting her birth certificate — [was wonderful]. This all happened so soon. So I was actually thrilled for her because she was so excited.
“[The birthday celebration] was wonderful. She is so sweet and she just welcomed us [and] we welcomed her,” she said, referring to Carlough. “... My daughter was there as well, so we had four generations together at one time. So that was exciting. It was just such a whirlwind that happened so quickly. Mom was so excited. So ... we were happy for her that she was able to do this.”
Continuing to nurture a relationship with her birth mother, Morris also has reached out to three of her newfound siblings — two of whom have not responded and one, she will meet in November.
“All I wanted to get out of finding either [my] birth mother or siblings was medical history, family history,” Morris said. “I wasn’t expecting anything beyond that so I’m just thrilled that I had a chance to see her and we brought her up here for our first birthday party ever with her. So yes, I’m thrilled to death. I talk to her every week on the phone and she’s doing well.
“... I refer to her as mom. I call her mom. I tell her I love her when I hang up and she loves me back. I don’t think I can ask for anything more. I had that with my adoptive parents. They were very loving and this was just a gift for another mom to love and cherish.”