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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Chicken George's Roots

Actor and dancer Ben Vereen learned when he was 21 that the woman who had raised him was not his birth mother.

He was going to London with Sammi Davis Jr. in the late 1960s and needed to apply for a passport. When he found his birth certificate, he found the names didn’t match.

The woman he believed was his mother wasn’t listed on the birth certificate. But neither was the name Ben Vereen. Instead, he found his mother’s name listed as Essie Middleton. His was Benjamin Augustus Middleton. His birthplace was listed as Laurinburg [North Carolina].
Vereen had no luck finding his mother until he met amateur genealogist Roxie LaFever in a doctor's office last year. They planned a trip to Laurinburg, and just last Tuesday discovered that "Essie Middleton" was in fact Essie May Pearson—a woman whose baby was somehow misplaced while she was away on a trip. Pearson died 24 years ago, and reportedly was a fan of Ben Vereen, never knowing that he was her son.

Vereen will be attending a reunion of his new family next month, and is thinking of buying a house in Laurinburg.
“Everybody’s been wonderful,” he said, tears in his eyes. “Mom has led me here.” [Link]

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