#Adoption #Autobiography ‘A Good Likeness’ by Paul Arnott

A Good Likeness is a well-written account of an adoptee’s journey, not in the least bit self-obsessed or mawkish. Paul Arnott knows he was adopted but doesn’t stop to think about what it means until in his thirties with his own children. He writes to his adoption society and gets a letter back with information about his birth parents. “The section of my mind concerned with the concept of identity, which had been lying under a sheet in the garage since I was born, suddenly roared into life.” Paul Arnott

He shares the emotional ups and downs of his search, which finally takes him to a second family in Ireland.

“Instead of being Paul Arnott, 11/11/61, I was now Rory Brennan, 11/11/61.” It was this sentence that really grabbed my core.

He was Rory, not Paul. “It must be inconceivable to those raised by their blood parents, surrounded by grandparents, sisters and brothers, that a man in his thirties had never given any serious credit to the potency of family resemblance.”
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True #adoption story… Jazz Boorman #adoptionstories

Most adopted children do not have face-to-face contact with their birth families. When Amanda Boorman adopted her daughter Jazz, then five years old, she was advised by social workers not to visit the town where Jazz’s birth parents lived. Amanda did the opposite.

Jazz Boorman

Jazz Boorman, aged 14 [photo: Boorman family]

“I wanted to know their story and how things came about, in order to tell the person who was going to be my child about why they had been adopted,” Amanda said to The Guardian. So she made contact and, three years later, introduced Jazz to her birth family. “I knew the risks were disturbing Jazz further – there were no two ways about it, the parenting wasn’t good. I didn’t have a romanticised idea of it. But I wanted to be a bridge between the past and the future. “A four-year-old does know things, more than people give them credit for. She did love her parents. I felt that we’d stolen her as well. A lot of her disturbance I felt was due to being completely removed from the people she’d been sleeping in the same room as for the first four years of her life.”

Read more about Amanda and Jazz’s story in The Guardian article, including the Contact After Adoption website which supports social work practitioners to make after adoption contact plans.

Thanks to her personal adoption experience Amanda, a trained social worker, founded The Open Nest, a charity to support adoptive families. Helping Jazz meet her birth family was a turning point, says Amanda. “Before she thought she was rubbish, that she’d been thrown away, that she’d probably been naughty. That stopped after she met them, her self-esteem went up massively. Just thinking that you’re the product of a bad place is not a healthy thing.”

If you like this true story, read:-
Ramiro Osorio Cristales
Eileen Heron
Jessica Long

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A #genealogy #mystery ‘The Marriage Certificate’ by Stephen Molyneux

There’s a new genre appearing in mystery, thriller and general fiction sections: #genealogylit. Involving a combination of old-fashioned mystery, family history, detective fiction and combined historical and modern-day settings, #genealogylit has grown from the love of family history research and television programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are? and Long Lost Family. Stephen Molyneux

The Marriage Certificate by Stephen Molyneux is another example of #genealogylit, combining family secrets with turn of the century British history: the Boer War, the Great War, the merchant navy, the changing role of women and attitudes to illegitimacy. Unlike other #genealogylit however, it is not a crime novel, there is no murder.

It is the story of two couples – the bride and groom, Louisa and John, best man Frank and bridesmaid Rose – at a wedding on January 15, 1900; their lives, loves, dangers and tragedies. Running alongside is a modern-day strand. In 2011, amateur genealogist Peter Sefton finds the marriage certificate of Louisa and John’s wedding in an antiques shop and his curiosity is piqued. As he researches the names on the certificate, we also see their lives unfolding in a rapidly-changing world as the 19thcentury turns into the 20th. The men leave home to fight, while the women stay at home. War brings a change of life, but social mores remain Victorian.

Meanwhile, an elderly man dies alone in London. Without relatives, Harry Williams is listed on the Bona Vacantia list of unclaimed estates. In 2011, a professional heir hunting company starts to research Williams’ life in the hope of finding distant relatives and earn a share of the money. How will Highborn Research’s investigation coincide with Peter’s? Is there a connection to Laura and John? And who will inherit Harry Williams’ money?

This is not a thrilling page-turner with rapid action on every page, instead it is a slow-burning story rooted in historical detail which, for me, came alive in the final 100 pages. Perhaps this is due to the writing style, which can be a little formal and repetitive, and the author’s tendency to include tiny details. I did wonder whether the storyline was based on real people, the genealogical detail is fascinating and it is clear the author knows the research procedure, its twists and turns. I read this over one weekend, and found myself sitting up late to read to the end. Incidentally, the last page leaves the story hanging – but don’t be tempted to look!
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
‘Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger
Blood Atonement’ by Dan Waddell
The Seven Sisters’ by Lucinda Riley

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True #adoption story… Annie from #NewYork #openadoption

Annie from New York was 29 when she gave her baby son to be adopted by a gay couple. And because it was an open adoption, she has maintained a relationship with her son and his adoptive parents. Her son is now six years old. open adoption

Annie was originally sceptical about the idea of open adoption, as it was described to her by a social worker. “Between lack of support from the government (no paid maternity leave or universal health care), the lack of support of the biological father, and the fact I had no local support system because my family lived far away, I didn’t have the kind of support at hand that a single parent needs,” she explains.

But she gradually came round to the concept of open adoption. “I’m part of my son’s life and my role in his life is respected by his adoptive family,” Annie tells HuffPost. “My son’s parents are the ones who set up what the parameters of our relationship actually are, they are the ones who control how much access I have to him and what that means. But they have given me a lot of say in our relationship as well.

“The access has evolved over time, in the beginning it was lots of pictures emailed to me, updates via email about once a month and face-to-face visits every two to three months. As he grew up (and began to understand who I was) we had more face-to-face visits. By his fourth birthday I was seeing him at least once a month.”

The decision of how much contact there should be between child and birth parent lies with the adoptive family and the local authorities. And contact doesn’t mean it reduces the loss felt at the original decision to give a child up for adoption. “I still have a depth of difficult emotions I struggle with regarding adoption,” explains Annie. “And seeing my son only complicates that. I’m not trying to appear ungrateful for my relationship with him, but if it was just about my feelings and not what was good for my son I wouldn’t have an open relationship with him. “It’s not an easy path and openness shouldn’t be a reason a woman chooses to relinquish.”

Read more about open adoption at Huffington Post UK.

Read the Family Rights Group’s explanation of open adoption for the UK.

If  you like this true story, read:-
Amy Seek
Bob MacNish
George Orwell, author of ‘1984’ 

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#Adoption #Mystery ‘The Pearl Sister’ by Lucinda Riley @lucindariley

I really enjoyed The Pearl Sister, the fourth in Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters adoption mysteries. While Maia, Ally and Star have already investigated their birth stories, Celaeno, CeCe, has shown no interest in her own. She is feeling sorry for herself, alone now that Star has become independent. Until her curiosity is piqued. Pa Salt’s lawyer tells her about a bequest, a large sum of money, and a photograph of two unidentified men. He advises CeCe to investigate Kitty Mercer from Broome in Australia. Lucinda Riley

On her journey to Australia, CeCe stops off in Thailand, staying at Railey Beach where she has holidayed in the past with Star. As she wonders why she is there alone, feeling envious of Star’s new home and new love in England, she meets a mysterious man on the beautiful beach. They bond over the morning sunrise, both are hurting – CeCe is missing Star and feeling betrayed by her sister’s newfound life, while Ace is hiding a big secret he cannot, or will not, explain. Riley hints that behind the beauty of Railey Beach there is a dark, sordid side. Could Ace be involved in drugs? Then when CeCe steps off the plane in Australia, she discovers Ace has been arrested and believes CeCe betrayed him to the press. As the journalists identify CeCe’s name and location, she runs away to Broome.

As with all the earlier novels in the series, the story of The Pearl Sister is told in two strands. CeCe is in 2008, Kitty Mercer’s story starts in 1906. The eldest daughter of a Edinburgh preacher, Kitty goes on a nine month trip to Australia as companion to the wealthy Mrs McCrombie. It changes Kitty’s life. She drinks alcohol for the first time, kisses a man, and acts immodestly in ways that would shock her clergyman father. Two men, twin brothers, pay attention to her. Drummond is the dangerous brother, the one who kisses her. But Kitty reverts to type by marrying the steady, safe, Andrew Mercer, and moves to Broome where he runs the family’s pearl fishing company for his father.

I found Kitty’s story enthralling, she is a true rebel at a time when women were finding their feet and their voices. She has a way of identifying people needing help. Along her life’s journey she collects waifs and strays, rescuing them from hunger, mistreatment, poverty and racism, giving them opportunities, security and winning their loyalty. Each of them comes to play a critical role in Kitty’s life; from Camira, the pregnant Aboriginal servant girl thrown from the house by her master, to Sarah, the fifteen year old orphan met on a boat from England who has a gift with the sewing needle.

Australia the country and the lives and customs of its Aboriginal people are a dominant presence throughout this novel. Be warned, it will make you want to visit. Throughout it all runs the enticing descriptions of Aboriginal art, by real artists such as Albert Namatjira who lived and worked at the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission outside Alice Springs, which CeCe visits.

The loose ends come together in the end though Riley did keep me guessing on a couple of the links. The significance of Ace and CeCe’s time in Thailand was one such puzzle. These are all hefty books, but I read this one quickly. It’s my favourite of the series so far which seems to get better with every book.
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Next in the series is The Moon Sister, the story of Tiggy.

Read my reviews of the first three novels in the series:-
The Seven Sisters
The Storm Sister
The Shadow Sister

If you like this, try:-
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain
Blood Atonement’ by Dan Waddell
‘Blue-Eyed Son’ by Nicky Campbell 

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Find Missing Births #familyhistory #adoptionreunion

Anyone researching their family history has to start with the two main life events: birth and death. Birth seems the obvious place to start, but finding certificates is not always straightforward. Adoption may be one reason, as Rose Haldane discovers in Ignoring Gravity,

Family tree

[illustration: @SandraDanby]

If you have hit a brick wall searching for UK records, try these tips by genealogist Laura Berry:-

Informal change of name: it is perfectly legal for a person to change name without officially informing the authorities. Add to that the confusion caused by people by interchanging their first and middle names, perhaps because they dislike it. Some names were simply mis-spelled, either by the record-taker or the person reporting the birth. If in doubt, search for the mother’s maiden surname.

A different quarter: until 1984, the GRO birth indexes for England and Wales were organised quarterly [after this it switched to annual]. Perhaps the birth you are looking for has been recorded in the next quarter. Parents at this time had 42 days in which to record a birth.

Common names: if you are searching for a common surname and common first name, try looking for siblings with more unusual first names. Search in the registration district covering the area of birth, around the birth date.

Illegitimacy: an area of much potential confusion, accidental and purposeful.The birth of a child born out of wedlock was usually registered under the mother’s maiden surname. The child may have acquired a stepfather’s surname at a later date, and that stepfather may have been recorded on further documents.  But the chance of finding the name of the birth father is slim.

Age confusion: the usual route to finding a birth comes from the person’s age stated on another document. But, people do not always record their age truthfully for a variety of reasons: for vanity, to enlist in the army, for employment reasons etc. Expand your search of birth records by 10 years, plus and minus.

Birth overseas: if you suspect your relative was born abroad, there are numerous overseas birth records are available at Find My Past and The Genealogist. Available are the India Office birth and baptism records, children born at armed forces bases, births of British nationals born overseas which were registered with the British Consul or High Commission in that country, and births aboard British registered vessels and aircraft.

Father confusion: perhaps the child in question was born legitimately but the father subsequently disappeared or died. The child may consider the man who raised it as its father, but was actually their stepfather. If this is the case, check for a re-marriage by the mother.

No baptism: not everyone was baptised at the local parish church but in one of the UK nonconformist congregations. Try instead the national collections of nonconformist baptism registers at The GenealogistFind My Past or Ancestry.

They are not in the GRO index: From 1837, Superintendent Registrars were responsible for registering all births. But this proved difficult in practice. In 1875, parents became responsible for registering their child’s birth, with a fine for non-completion, so after this date the registers become more reliable. Consider that your relative’s surname may have been spelt wrongly or missed out completely. You can apply to the local registration office where you think your relative was born, this is where the original local index are kept. Some regional indexes are going online at UKBMD.

Not born in England: perhaps your relative was born in Scotland or Ireland. Check the Scottish records at Scotland’s People. For Ireland, check Family Search or Find My Past Ireland.

This post was inspired by Laura Berry’s article ‘Search like a pro and Find Missing Births’ in the March 2016 issue of the UK’s Who Do You Think You Are? magazine. 

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Did your relative train as an apprentice?
The paternity question
Further information #Adoption #AdoptionReunion #HelpfulLinks 

I used these tips when plotting the birth mystery of Rose Haldane in Ignoring Gravity. For more about the ‘Identity Detective’ series of adoption reunion mysteries, watch the book trailer.
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True #adoption story… Jessica Long #adoptionstories #Paralympics

Jessica Long is a record-beating US Paralympic swimming star, winning a dozen Paralympic gold medals games in Athens, Beijing and London. Born Tatiana, she was left by her teenage Russian parents at an orphanage in Bratsk, Siberia because they could not cope with her disabilities. A year later she was adopted by American couple Beth and Steve Long and grew up in Baltimore, USA.

Jessica Long

Jessica Long was named Tatiana by her Russian parents

Born with fibular hemimelia – without fibulas, ankles, heels or most bones in her feet – she was adopted at the age of 13 months. Five months later, the remainder of the lower parts of her legs were amputated so she could be fitted for prosthetic legs and learn how to walk. The Longs are a sporting family. ‘I am one of six children and my parents made sure we all remained active. I have been involved in many sports including gymnastics, basketball, cheerleading, ice skating, biking, running, and rock climbing. However, I always loved swimming the most. I learned how to swim in my grandparents’ pool where my sisters and I would spend hours pretending we were mermaids.’

Jessica Long

Baby Jessica coming out of the pool

After talking to a Russian journalist about her Siberian birth, she made contact with her birth parents who, unmarried at the time of Tatiana’s birth, went on to marry and have a family.

Jessica Long

Jessica and her American father, Steve Long

Jessica’s real mother, Natalia, now 38, explained on Russian television how she felt two decades ago, at the age of 18, after giving birth to a seriously disabled daughter. ‘I feel so sorry,’ she said. ‘At that time – there was some fear, I got scared. I had to leave her behind. But I did think that I would take her back,’ she said. ‘Of course I was against leaving her in the hospital but because of the circumstances we had to do so. In my heart I did want to take her home, and thought I would take her back later. I was alone in Siberia, without my mother and father. Where would I go with her, if I had taken her? Doctors told me to leave her behind – said that I could not help her… I called her Tatiana, after my elder sister.’

Jessica’s American father, Steve, remembers, ‘It took us a lot of time to sort out all the paperwork for adoption. We had no idea she had some parents. We thought she was an orphan. And she had serious problems with legs. She does not have bones in her legs down from her knees, right after knees there are feet with fingers. We turned to many professionals in order to solve this problem.’

Jessica’s Russian Aunt Tatiana, for whom she was named, recalled how her sister Natalia phoned to tell her the news about Jessica, adding she was on her way to a TV interview about her daughter. ‘My sister Natalia called me. She said: ‘I am flying to Moscow, Jessica Long is my daughter. She has been searching for me for three years…  I nearly lost my consciousness, I was so shocked. At that moment I had been watching Paralympic Games. The swimming had been on and I saw Jessica there. Then I looked online. Jessica is so much like her sister Nastya. She is just Nastya’s lookalike.’

Jessica said, ‘Who would have ever imagined that a girl with a disability from an orphanage in Siberia would be where I am today? I’m living proof that you can accomplish your dreams, no matter how great or small. I would like to thank God, my family, friends, and coaches for always encouraging me! I couldn’t be successful without them!’

If you like this true story, read:-
Philip Sais
Van Dai & Siobhan
Bob MacNish

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