Thursday, September 13, 2012

Reaching Out to Newly Discovered Birth Family

In the process of helping clients find their living relatives there are many serendipity moments. This is how my latest adoption research project began on August 2, 2012. As always, I am a little hesitant to get involved, but this felt like something that I should do. The following is posted with the client’s permission, while protecting the confidential information for those involved.

First email:
My friend forwarded to me your name from the Genealogical Forum of Oregon
I am interested in tracing my birth mother from her birth in North Dakota, _____
I was born in Houston, Texas.  I know details of my adoption.
I have lots of info on her, including an engagement listing in ______ with picture.
l would like to know if she is alive, sibs etc.
I do not know the name of my father.
If you are interested email me or call



We were both going out of town for a few days, so I next heard from the client on August 6 and was sent the following:
I can copy all my documents and email them to you if you want to see them.
I have thought about this all weekend.  What I really want is a medical history from both of my parents and a picture of my father.
I don't need contact with anybody, but would consider it. I would be represented as anonymous client who " you might know my client's father".
I just can’t figure out how to get my father's name without asking her.
I'm very conflicted about wanting to know yet not creating an "outing" of her to her family.
I need to know if there is Parkinson's disease and Hashimoto's hypothyroidism in the family history.  I have both hypothyroidism and a rare Parkinson-related illness.  And then the provide the usual: cancer, heart disease, diabetes.
I would do this for my two sons.

I sent a link to the following adoption reunion story to encourage going ahead with the project: http://cathysgenealogyblog.blogspot.com/2012/08/surname-saturday-huffman.html

The documents were sent on August 7. Within an hour I was able to determine where the birth mother was living recently, that she married, had children, etc.
Some of the documentation (seven pages) that helped to make the case included:
1. Zabasearch – which listed her, her age, and her husband and his age, address and phone number.
2. U.S. Public Records Index, Volume 1 on ancestry.com – which listed birthdays for both, phone number and address
3. U.S. Phone and Address Directories, 1993-2002 on ancestry.com – which listed her husband and that they lived there from 1993-1997.
4. Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997 on ancestry.com – listed a daughter born to these parents.
5. 1940 United States Federal Census – listed the birthmother, her parents, and her four siblings. Another listed probable grandparents who were also tracked in census from 1930 to 1900.
6. 1930 United States Federal Census - listed the birthmother’s family, showing all grandparents born in Germany.
7. 1920 United States Federal Census – listed the birthmother’s parents.
8. Social Security Death Index – listing her birthmother’s father and brother, found nothing for the birthmother. Another listing for an aunt by marriage.
9. Oregon, Death Index, 1898-2008 – listing for birthmother’s brother.
10. Ancestry.com Obituary Collection - obituary for above aunt by marriage.
11. Findagrave.com – listing for birthmother’s father, mother, brother who died young, grandfather, grandmother, two uncles, an aunt, and another grandfather. All of these postings were very simple, no additional information about the individuals.
12.1930 to 1910 United States Federal Census – for the birthmother’s maternal side of the family.
13. Ancestry.com obituaries - for a sister of the birthmother in 2007. This was a major find as it provided names of all of the siblings and places they were living at this time.
There were actually two, but one provided the full obituary.
14. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (Beta) – provided the birthmothers brother’s contact information and the name of his spouse who is the aunt in #10.

The above information was emailed to the client and then we talked by phone. The decision was made that the client should contact local churches to determine if the birthmother was a member. I felt strongly that the client needed someone close to the birthmother who could approach her in a confidential and discreet manner. Then the light bulb lit up and I decided to check out the local churches to see if one of them might be listed in the details of the church online. On the second churches website was a listing of the birthmother’s husband. I called the client and gave her the contact information.

The next day, August 8, the email update confirmed the usefulness of this approach:
He wasn’t in but left voicemail with name, number and email. So far you are spot on.
The next email on August 9 stated: I have called the church twice, but the Pastor is out sick.

Since that time the client has kept me updated about the progress. With perseverance the goals set out in the beginning have all been met and then some.

On August 23 the update noted great progress:
I got an email from the Texas pastor that his social service person is willing to contact my birth mother if she is still part of congregation. Sent her (the social service person) an email but not my birth mother's name.  Will do over phone.
I would send a letter that she would deliver, response given back to her. The social service person would act as the mediary. I'll keep you informed.

On August 25 the update was very exciting:
I talked to Rev and only revealed my birth mother's name to her and indeed she is a member of the church.  She said she would deliver my letter and we talked about the details. I sent the letter yesterday express mail.
She said she was a "wonderful person" so I hope she responds.
Again, thank you for helping me proceed thus far.
Hopefully we'll have a happy outcome.

On September 12 the update contained wonderful news:
I heard from my birthmother today. 
I got the name of my father and a health history. 
Thank you so much for helping me!
I now want to find pictures of my father. He died Aug 21 of this year.
Is that something you do? I googled his obituary but couldn't do much more. 
Another successful adoption story.

Last night on September 13 just six weeks after our initial contact, I sent the client the documents (five pages) relating to her birthfather and his family. The best finding was the newspaper article, found on ancestry.com under stories and publications, of his wedding, including a picture of this very handsome man with his bride.

There is certainly more to be discovered and I will provide suggestions for further research. I am so pleased to provide assistance to those who are willing to press forward on their own. The best reward for me is the wonderful emails detailing the progress. Not every story turns out this well, but the need for answers far out weighs the risks in reaching out to newly discovered birth family members.

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