My 50th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.
The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.
My 50th ancestor is my husband Jeff’s great grandmother Veronica Victoria Dorris (1883-1982). Called Ronnie by close family, her great grandchildren affectionally refer to her as “GG”.
I have briefly mentioned Veronica and her husband William Wallace Greene (1869-1944) before, when I found them in June 2012 on the then-newly released 1940 US Census. And I have written quite a bit more about her son, William Wallace Greene (1908-2003), the U.S. Army Lt. Colonel and surgeon I profiled as my week 5 ancestor, who helped treat concentration camp survivors when the camps were liberated at the close of WWII. Veronica and William Sr. also had a daughter, Nelle Dorris Greene, who I have not discussed yet.
My husband talks fondly of his GG, and still owns the Bible she gave him as a little boy — his very first Bible. Our Christian faith is important to my husband, so he has hung on to and treasured this special significant gift from his great grandmother.
Until recently, I only briefly did any research on Veronica’s side. But have focused on this line quite a bit over the past month, and her family history has been fascinating. Veronica’s extended family is credited with pioneering and building up what became the city of Phoenix, and also being among those most influential in gaining statehood for Arizona. But, I will share those discoveries in later posts about those family members.
Birth and Childhood
Veronica was born 20 May 1883 in rural Mississippi, allegedly in the small town of Kilmichael (Montgomery County). I have not found a birth record for her, but secondary records indicate this as her birthplace. Her father was Luther Green Dorris (1856-1931). I have not confirmed her mother’s name, however. I find three different names listed on various family trees for the wife of Luther Green Dorris: a Dorcy, Charlotte Rebecca Ingram (the most referenced), and a Ledonia F. Since I don’t have a birth record yet for Veronica, I don’t know which of these women were her mother. I also haven’t yet found any marriage records for Luther to confirm the name of his wife or wives.
Veronica appears to be the oldest of five children born to Luther, and probably Charlotte. I have identified the following siblings, listed in birth order: Maud Mae Dorris, Luther Caswell Dorris, Reba Rececca Dorris, and Lizzie Dorris.
I also think Veronica was named after her aunt Veronica Emma Dorris, Luther’s youngest sibling, and only 13 years older than our Ronnie.
Arizona and Marriage
At some point Veronica moved away from her parents to Phoenix, Arizona, where her father’s brothers were already established pioneers and businessmen who are credited with helping to shape Phoenix’s history. Ronnie married in Arizona, and lived there the remainder of her life. I do not know when Veronica moved to Arizona, but it was at least by 1906, when she married.
I am greatly curious about why she moved to Arizona. Although she had a lot of family there, Veronica’s parents do not appear to have left Mississippi. She was a good Christian girl, but was she seeking a bit of adventure by moving to a wild west territory, yet safely, among a network of family there? Her wedding took place just 25 years after the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tucson. Did respiratory issues force her to move there? Did she move to help care for a family member? I have not yet found Veronica and her parents on the 1900 U.S. Census or the elusive 1890 one that probably no longer exists. I am hoping those records will lend a bit more evidence to the suspicion that Veronica left her family behind in Mississippi, or refute that suspicion and show me that her father — like so many of his brothers — moved to Arizona as well, but later returned to and died in Mississippi.
Veronica and William married on 14 June 1906 in Phoenix (now Maricopa County), Arizona (a territory for six more years). Ronnie was 24 when she married, I imagine this was considered late for a southern Christian woman. William waited until 37 to marry! The Arizona Republican covered their wedding (remember, Veronica came from an influential Phoenix family), describing it as “one of the prettiest church weddings celebrated in Phoenix in some time.” They called the couple “well known young people of this city” (William, young?..at 37?) and noted that “both of the couple are prominent members of the First Baptist Church.”
In a family history handwritten by her father-in-law on 25 May 1908, Veronica’s husband’s father mentions that his son William Wallace is “married to a dear girl Miss Ronnie Dorris a great church worker, who loves loves [yes, stated twice] “Daddy” Greene.”
Post-Wedding Years and Death
Veronica appears to have lived in Phoenix for the remainder of her life, even after her husband William died in 1944. I find her there on the 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 U.S. Censuses, as well as on city directories up through 1956.
In the 1940 Census, it notes that 8th grade was the highest level of education achieved by Veronica (her husband completed high school, but no college). Ronnie must have been immensely proud that her son went on to college, med school, and became a surgeon! She also lived long enough to know that her grandchildren finished college as well (her grandson went on to earn a Ph.D.).