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Searching Bennett's of Illinois

My name is John Raymond Bennett, born to Ted Rolland Bennett and Mary Jane Tapley Bennett. My dad's only sibling is Sharon Bennett George.
My father is originally from St. Louis Missouri. My mother originally from Pine Bluff Arkansas.

My grandfather abandoned my dad and his sister when they were still young. My grandmother eventually re-married John Yingling. My dad lived in Gallop New Mexico before entering into the Navy in the late 60's. My grandmother's name was Margaret Myers Bennett. I do not remember my grandfather's name. The first and only time I was introduced to him was in 1980, when I was 10. He claimed he had been living in California where he had another family.

My dad still keeps in contact with some of his family in Illinois. He has a cousin named Rodney Bennett.

I'm trying to do this research, without my father's knowledge, because he is a very reserved man and does not speak of his past very often. But, now that my mother is passed and he is growing older, it has dawned on me that neither myself nor my three brothers know much of anything about my father's past, let alone our heritage.