‘The Irish Inheritance’ by MJ Lee @WriterMJLee #history #genealogy

In 1921, a British soldier is killed on a hillside outside Dublin. In 2015, former police detective Jayne Sinclair, turned genealogy investigator, takes on a new client. The Irish Inheritance by MJ Lee is the first in the Jayne Sinclair series, weaving together stories of the Easter Rising in 1916 and the subsequent Irish War of Independence, with the unravelling of secrets kept for a century. MJ Lee

Jayne’s client, John Hughes, was adopted and raised happily in America. Now elderly, frail and dying, he is desperate to find the truth about his birth and adoption. The key piece of evidence he has kept all his life, is a book; but he doesn’t know how he came to possess it. He kept it knowing it was a link to his birth family. Jayne must dig deep into records and think outside the box to put together the threads of John’s story. Meanwhile she is having problems at home, John Hughes’s nephew is pressuring her for results, and she has the odd feeling she is being watched.

The strongest part of this story is the Irish strand and the mystery increases as we see Jayne in 2015 researching one mundane document after another, and then read the 1920s strand telling the true story of the Irish people she is trying to discover. The questions of how war pits family and friends against each other, retained guilt, apologising for war misdeeds, truth and forgiveness, run throughout.

I wasn’t totally convinced by the threat to Jayne, it felt rather shoehorned in to add a ‘crime’ element. Perhaps not surprisingly, after the Jayne Sinclair series MJ Lee has gone on to write the Inspector Danilov series of historical crime fiction.
BUY THE BOOK

If you like this, try:-
The Lost Ancestor’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
The Indelible Stain’ by Wendy Percival
Deerleap’ by Sarah Walsh 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE IRISH INHERITANCE by @WriterMJLee #history #genealogy https://wp.me/paZ3MX-6m via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

True #adoption story… Angela Patrick #adoptionstories

On January 16, 1964, Angela Patrick sat in the waiting room of an adoption charity in west London. In her arms she held her sleeping baby, eight-week old Paul. When an adoption worker took Paul from Angela’s lap to ‘take him to show to the couple’, Angela waited for Paul to be returned so she could say goodbye. But Angela would not see Paul for another thirty years.

Angela Patrick

Angela Patrick & Katharine [photo: Sarah Lee for The Guardian]

Nineteen year old Angela was raised in a Catholic family, told she would meet a man, marry him, then children would follow. But Angela went to a party, forgot her mother’s warning of ‘Never let a man touch you’ and found herself pregnant. Angela clearly remembers the emotions today. “From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I felt sheer panic,” says Angela, 68. “I was in denial for weeks. My overwhelming feeling was shame – at how badly I’d let my mother down. But when I finally accepted it, my one thought was: how can I get through this without anyone finding out?”

The fling having ended before Angela found out she was pregnant, she lived first with a supportive friend and then, for the last two months of her pregnancy, at a Catholic home for unmarried mums-to-be. There was no alternative but to have her baby adopted. Having been in denial for so long, it was too late to have an abortion. “I’ve been over it a million times and wondered how I could have kept my baby, but I’ve never come up with an answer,” says Angela. “I would never, ever have been able to go home with a baby.”

Angela’s delivery was difficult and, as a result, she stayed at the home with Paul for two months after the birth. Time for mother and son to form a strong bond. Adoption day was unbearable. “It was impossible to think of another woman mothering him,” she says.

Thirty years later, on January 19, 1994, Angela received a letter from the adoption charity saying Paul had been in touch and would like to make contact with Angela. “I imagined how much it had taken for him to track down the charity. To think he had searched for me, not knowing if I would want anything to do with him, and might reject him all over again, broke my heart.”

Angela went on to marry and have a daughter. Katharine, now 35, has a child of her own and cannot imagine doing what her mother had to do. And she is angry with her grandmother. ” I wasn’t brought up religiously, so I don’t understand the indoctrination my mother had, or the society that she grew up in. My mum is a good person, a nice person, and her own mother behaved in an inhumane way. I can’t imagine letting those beliefs win over what I felt for my child. I have a 10-week old baby, and the thought of being forced to give her up is unimaginable.

“My grandmother died when I was eight. I don’t think, once I’d found out about what had happened to my mum, that I could have forgiven her like Mum did, or would want to have continued a relationship with her.”

Read Angela’s full story at The Guardian.

If you like this true story, read:-
Oksana Masters 
Bob MacNish
Kate and Tom Jameson 

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
True #adoption story… Angela Patrick https://wp.me/paZ3MX-ev via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

The reality of #adoptionreunion #searching #truestories

Davina McCall, presenter of the long-running television series ‘Long Lost Family’, said: “Finding someone, when the trail has gone cold, can seem like an impossible task”

Long Lost Family

Davina McCall & Nicky Campbell [photo: Long Lost Family]

There are two faces to adoption: public and private. Some relatives remain secret, hidden forever, the separated players remaining apart and unknown. Some people struggle with the decision to search, when they do they may be elated or dejected. The story of the birth mother and father is often not heard, somehow their voice can be forgotten in the hubbub of reunion. Some lucky people do have a happy ending. The path is always painful.

Adoption can be the making of some people, it can save lives, give a new chance, solve problems and bring happiness to abandoned children and childless couples, a new start to the birth parents who for their own reasons made that agonizing decision. British television is full of programmes about adoption reunion and family history. It started with the BBC trailblazer Who Do You Think You Are?, now a global phenomenon and still going strong. ITV got in on the act with Long Lost Family and now co-presenter Nicky Campbell is hosting a new series concentrating on the behind-the-scenes process of adoption today, Wanted: A Family of My Own. Nicky Campbell’s own memoir, Blue-Eyed Son, was an important part of my reading.

How it feels to a) be a birth parent who has, for whatever reason, to give a child up for adoption, b) that child, given to another set of parents, or c) the adoptive parents who take a child not their own into their lives, cannot by fully understood except the people who experience it. As a writer I tried to put myself into their shoes by research, I read memoirs of people involved in every aspect of adoption, asked questions, researched over years, but I know I can never really get under the skin. So I researched as far as I could, and then I used my imagination.

The wealth of support available now is rich for all people involved in the adoption process. My ‘Identity Detective’ series – Ignoring Gravity and its sequel Connectedness – are adoption reunion mysteries. Both involve adoptions contracted when the system was not as transparent nor as helpful as today, when the overwhelming urge was for secrecy to protect identities and emotions. So it is in the past that Rose Haldane must search for the true adoption stories, where the trail has gone cold, records lost, the will to continue searching has eroded but the need to know is still there. Rose Haldane, identity detective, finds the answers most difficult to uncover. But that is just fiction.

Adoption is a reality for many people today, wanting to find their own roots in family history. If you are considering searching for a relative lost through adoption, and the adoption pre-dates 2005, the Adoption Search Reunion website may be able to help. It provides information for adopted people, birth relatives and also adoptive parents in England and Wales as well as for adoption professionals. The information available applies only to adoptions made before December 30, 2005. There are separate sections for adopted people, birth relatives and adoptive parents.  It includes advice on contacting relatives, how to search, where to find local records.

More about the original BBC series Who Do You Think You Are? plus links to an amazing depth of information about family history throughout the BBC archives.

Watch an episode of Long Lost Family via ITV Player. Laurence Peat tried to find his mother, but information on his adoption file led nowhere. Denise Temple is desperate to find the daughter she was forced to give up for adoption.

Watch Wanted: A Family of My Own via ITV Player.

Read my review of Nicky Campbell’s book Blue-Eyed Son, about the search for his birth parents.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Was your relative a #boatman
The paternity question
Further information #Adoption #AdoptionReunion #HelpfulLinks 

Sandra Danby

★★★★★ “I devoured the book in one go, unable to put it down despite the tirade of emotions it brought to the surface”

Start the ‘Identity Detective’ series of #adoptionreunion mysteries with Ignoring Gravity. When you don’t know who you are any more, it’s time to ask questions. Will Rose Haldane like the answers she hears or wish she’d never asked? #secrets #mystery #family #KU BUY THE BOOK

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
The reality of #adoptionreunion https://wp.me/paZ3MX-7G via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

True #adoption story… Cat Stubbs #adoptionstories

When adoptee Cat Stubbs gave birth to her son JD she worried about what to tell him about her own adoption story and the things she didn’t know about her birth family. And then she had what she describes as an ‘ah-ha’ moment.

Cat Stubbs

Cat Stubbs with her husband and baby JD

I was born in Busan, South Korea and turned over to Holt International when I was only a few days old. During my time as a Holt orphan, I was placed in foster care and a generous family raised me until I was adopted to my parents in the United States at three months old.

Cat Stubbs

Cat as a baby in Korea – this was the first photo her adoptive parents saw of her

While this story has always been enough for me, I wondered if it would be enough for my son. I wondered, “Would he ever want to know more? If so, what would I tell him?” An anxiety began to play into my mind.” Sadly before JD’s birth, Cat’s adoptive father died. But they were able to tell him that his grandson would be a boy who they planned to name John, after him.

“And then I had an ah-ha moment. Teaching JD about his Korean background, I realized, would be no different from teaching him about the grandfather he’ll never get to meet. I’m only able to teach what I know, and as long as I do that with integrity I will do right by him.

“So far, I feel like I’ve been able to meet this commitment. From taking JD to Korean restaurants to celebrating his Baek-il, I try to honor our Korean heritage by making it a part of our family’s culture. My hope is that by regularly exposing him to Korean culture, he’ll have a general sense of our shared background.”

Cat Stubbs

Cat with her adoptive parents

When he does ask me about my personal story, I hope that we are able to explore that subject together. If I don’t have the answers he looks for, then I want him to know I support him in learning more — however he needs to.  But no matter what, I want him to know that I love him and that he has a strong heritage to be proud of — both Korean and American.”

Read Cat’s story in full and discover more about Holt International’s post-adoption services.

If you like this true story, read:-
Brian Moore 
Esther Robertson
Sarah, the mother of my adopted son 

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
True #adoption story… Cat Stubbs https://wp.me/paZ3MX-e9 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Christmas is coming… give someone a signed paperback

Are you planning your Christmas present list yet? If you know an avid reader who loves the touch and smell of real books, why not give them a signed paperback copy of one of the ‘Identity Detective’ books, ‘Ignoring Gravity’ and ‘Connectedness’? I’ll write a personalised dedication of your choice. Simply click the link below to order at my website. Payment is quick and secure by PayPal. It couldn’t be easier! Available in the UK only.Christmas

First comes ‘IGNORING GRAVITY’…
ROSE HALDANE IS CONFIDENT ABOUT HER IDENTITY. SHE PULLS THE SAME FACE AS HER GRANDFATHER WHEN SHE HAS TO DO SOMETHING SHE DOESN’T WANT TO DO, SHE KNOWS HER DNA IS THE SAME AS HIS. EXCEPT IT ISN’T: BECAUSE ROSE IS ADOPTED AND DOESN’T KNOW IT
Ignoring Gravity connects two pairs of sisters separated by a generation of secrets. Finding her mother’s lost diaries, Rose begins to understand why she has always seemed the outsider in her family, why she feels so different from her sister Lily. Then just when she thinks there can’t be any more secrets…
ORDER ‘IGNORING GRAVITY’

…and next is ‘CONNECTEDNESS’
TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALSO HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING
Connectedness is a tale of art, adoption, romance and loss, moving between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain and birthplace of Pablo Picasso.
Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane – who we first met in Ignoring Gravity – to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.
ORDER ‘CONNECTEDNESS’

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Give a signed copy of IGNORING GRAVITY & CONNECTEDNESS as a #Christmas gift https://wp.me/paZ3MX-gE via #AdoptionStoriesblog

#Genealogy #Mystery ‘The Lost Ancestor’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin @NathanDGoodwin 

When forensic genealogist Morton Farrier is asked by a dying client to find out what happened to his great aunt, who disappeared in 1911, Morton doesn’t expect to find his own life threatened. The Lost Ancestor by Nathan Dylan Goodwin is a moreish combination of mystery, history about the pre-Great War period, and family history research. Nathan Dylan Goodwin

If you like Downton Abbey, you will identify with the 1911 sections about Morton’s great aunt Mary Mercer. In an effort to escape her rough, unemployed father and unpleasant mother, Mary takes a job as third housemaid at Blackfriars, a great house at Winchelsea in East Sussex. Little does she realize the love and heartache she finds there will shape her life. A dreamer who imagines she is the lady of the house, Mary has a rude awakening on her first day at work. She had no idea what the job of a chambermaid entailed. But the presence of her cousin Edward makes life easier to bear. When her parents fall ill, Mary gives them all her wages and so loses her chances of escaping to a better life.

Goodwin knows the Winchelsea and Rye area so well that I immediately felt I was there. His descriptions of Rye, where Morton lives and work, feel real: the streets, the old houses, and the Mermaid Inn are described with a light pen.

The story is told in two strands. Morton searches online and at local archives, and visits the real Blackfriars house, now open to the public. This story alternates with Mary’s in 1911. Goodwin weaves the two tales together so as we get nearer to the truth of Mary’s disappearance and why her mentions in all official records stop – did she die, was she killed, did she change her name and run away to Scotland, or emigrate – the threats on Morton’s life, and that of his partner Juliette, get serious. The mystery in both strands build as the family connections between past and present are revealed. I did not forsee the ingenious ending.

The Morton Farrier books are excellent. Although the cover designs are a little old-fashioned, don’t let this put you off reading them.
BUY THE BOOK
Read my review of the first Morton Farrier book, Hiding the Past.

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
The Marriage Certificate’ by Stephen Molyneux
Run’ by Ann Patchett
The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE LOST ANCESTOR by @NathanDGoodwin #bookreview https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5L via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Familysecrets ‘Tainted Tree’ by @jackieluben #saga #romance

American Addie Russell was adopted at birth after her single mother died. Always happy with her adoptive parents in Boston, USA, advertising copywriter Addie starts to ask questions when she inherits a house from a stranger in England. Tainted Tree by Jacquelynn Luben is an adoption mystery combined with romance. It combines genealogical search and US/English differences with the joy and abandonment of teenage love. Jacquelynn Luben

Addie arrives in England at the house she has inherited. Glad to cross the Atlantic and escape her job and the boss which whom she had an affair, she is determined to find out more about her birth mother Adrienne and perhaps identify her birth father. But the local lawyer handling the estate is cold and stand-offish, sending mixed signals that Addie doesn’t understand. Undeterred, she does her own research and traces her maternal grandparents but is shocked that they rejected her when she was born. Why did they hate her so?

The action moves back and forth between Addie’s new house in Surrey and the West Country, where her mother grew up. Although this story has a fair amount of romance, both in the modern story and that of Adrienne, it also has a dark streak of abuse and violence. There are some wonderful minor characters, Ada became a favourite. Luben is good at creating atmosphere and darker, threatening personalities.

I did want to see more of Adrienne’s viewpoint directly, rather than simply reading about Addie reading Adrienne’s diary entries. Her teenage love affair in the Sixties rang true and Luben populates the story with well-drawn supporting characters, particularly the three Amerys and the Graingers.

There were times in the first third when I felt bogged down with information overload and I got a couple of the historical characters muddled up, but as the middle section took off it started to become clearer. The action scenes really move things along though the pace does vary as Addie spends a fair amount of time reviewing what she knows and doesn’t know. Luben carefully handles a complex story, allowing Addie to discover contradictions and dead ends, unhelpful personalities and unexpected curve balls.
BUY THE BOOK

If you like this, try:-
The Ghost of Lily Painter’ by Caitlin Davies
Shadow Baby’ by Margaret Forster
Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
TAINTED TREE by @jackieluben #bookreview https://wp.me/paZ3MX-gW via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

True #adoption story… Heather Katz #adoptionstories

When her teenage mother fell pregnant in the winter of 1971, Heather Katz’s mother hid her swelling stomach. “At seven months into her pregnancy, her mother finally uncovered the truth. The following day, her parents set events in motion that would alter the course of many lives to follow. The family arranged for my mother to leave her home state and move into the Edna Gladney Center for unwed mothers in Fort Worth, Texas, USA. No one in her hometown, including her siblings, was ever to know of me—and she was never to speak of my birth.”

Heather Katz

Heather Katz [photo secretsonsanddaughters.org]

Heather was adopted by a rabbi of a large reform congregation in San Antonio and his wife, director of family life education at Jewish Family Services. After years of trying to conceive, the couple received a call from the Gladney Center. It was to be a charmed childhood for Heather.

“We did not keep secrets in our family. From the moment I was adopted, my parents spoke openly of my adoption. When I was only three months old, my great-great aunt asked my mom when she was going to tell me I was adopted. My mom responded with, “I am just going to tell her that she is a girl, Anglo, American and adopted. Being adopted will always be part of her identity.” Indeed, it was. I do not recall a moment of not knowing I was adopted.”

Now with her own children, Heather wonders about her birth family. “I still wonder which unknown family member passed on their musical abilities to both my children and me; I wonder what family folklore I might never hear; and while I met my birth father once, there is much I cannot say or know.”

When she was 21, Heather’s adoptive parents employed an adoption search specialist. Her birth mother was found. After a break of a few months to think about it, Heather asked the social worker to make the telephone call. Her birth mother answered, saying, “My family does not know about her. I cannot talk at this time.”

“Your daughter only wishes for you to know that she is doing well and that she’d enjoy exchanging letters when you’re ready and willing,” said the intermediary.

For several months, Heather and her birth mother exchanged letters. Finally, they met. “We all exchanged hugs, made awkward chatter about hair highlights or something mundane like that, and then shared a light-hearted restaurant meal together. We spent close to four surreal hours with them. From that encounter, a phantom had been laid to rest and my ancestral tree had grown a few more branches. However, when I had asked questions about my birth story or my paternal family, I learned nothing more. At the time, it was too difficult for my mother to dredge up the past.” It would be a further 18 years before Heather’s maternal birth family knew of her existence.

Read Heather’s story in full at her blog, Secret Sons and Daughters, or follow her at Facebook.

If you like this true story, read:-
Esther Robertson
Van Dai & Siobhan
Laurence Peat

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
True #adoption story… Heather Katz https://wp.me/paZ3MX-e0 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

Was your relative a #boatman #familyhistory #researching

During the UK’s Industrial Revolution, raw materials and finished goods were transported around the country by canal. By the mid-19thcentury though, the new railways were taking away the business of the barges. Working on a canal boat was a tough life. Slow boats could take up to seven days to go from Birmingham to London and boatmen were expected to work up to 20 hours a day. Records reach to the end of the 20th century so may contain birth fathers and paternal family lines.

Burscough Canal

Burscough Canal [photo: boatfamilies.website]

Under threat from the railways, ‘family’ boats became numerous with a wife and children travelling with her husband. Boating became a closed occupation and outsiders, gongoozlers, discouraged. Boat people developed their own dress, language and took great pride in the decoration of their boats. Acts of Parliament were passed in 1877 and 1884 making canal boats subject to inspection to check living conditions, and some of these inspection reports survive in local archives.

Considering the itinerant nature of the boatman, there are a number of excellent resources for family history researchers:-

The Boat Families website is a resource kept by local enthusiasts, cataloguing life on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal & associated waterways, especially in South-West Lancashire. Names are listed by canal family, with more than 32,000 individuals named.

A search for ‘boatmen’ at the British Newspaper Archive yielded articles dating from 1700 to the present day, from around the UK. Examples include an 1886 Seamen’s and Boatman’s Mission Conference in Bristol, and in 1904 a canal boatman’s strike in Kirkintilloch.

The Coventry Family History Society runs the Coventry Canal Boat Register covers the years from 1879 to 1936 and is searchable by the surname or the boats’ owners and masters.

The Canal & River Trust has a breadth of information about the waterways and also a document library with useful information about life on the canals. As a charity, it protects 2000 miles of waterways in England Wales.

The Canal Boat Register Index 1795-1797 can be found at Staffordshire Name Indexes, it includes the names and place of abode of the vessels’ owners and masters, the number and capacity of the men employed onboard, information about the vessel such as it’ burthen (load), number and usual navigation route.

Wigan Council Archives Services holds the Wigan Canal Boats Register for the years 1878-1951. Information listed includes name of boat, date registered, boat name, master name, boat owner, cargo and notes. Many were owned by Wigan Coal & Iron Company, Smethurst Hoyle & Grime, Leeds & Liverpool Canal Coand Newburgh Corn Mills. There are some intriguing notes, such as “Coal & cannel; wide boat not fly” and “Fore cabin not to be used as dwelling”.

Many records will be found in local authority archives, such as company minutes and correspondence, wage sheets and workmen’s timetables, even wartime records. Finding a possible location for your boatman ancestor will help you to find a local archive to explore. Also try The National Archives Discovery Cataloguewhere a search for ‘boatmen’ yields 471 records including boatmen’s licences, payments, wages and accidents up to the 1990s.

This post is inspired by an article by Linda Barley of the Canal & River Trust in the May 2017 issue of Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Was your relative an apothecary
Where to start your #familyhistory search
How to use British trade directories 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Was your relative a boatman? #familyhistory https://wp.me/paZ3MX-7z via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#UnplannedPregnancy #Adoption ‘Shadow Baby’ by Margaret Forster

A slow-build read which, by halfway, Shadow Baby by Margaret Forster had me glued to the page. It is in part a story about unplanned pregnancy – choices, motherhood and how a girl grows to be a mother herself – and part social history. The history is the skeleton on which the flesh of the story hangs and inter-connects.

Margaret ForsterTwo young women fall pregnant, Leah in 1887 and Hazel in 1956. Both abandon their babies. Shadow Baby is the story of Leah and her daughter Evie, Hazel and her daughter Shona. The circumstances are different – Evie is brought up first in a children’s home and then by reluctant relatives; Shona is adopted by a family desperate for a child with a mother whose care is suffocating – but the stories so similar. Both daughters are obsessed with their birth mothers.

From generation to generation, mistakes are uncannily mirrored. Attitudes from the 19thcentury reappear in the 20th. Shadow Baby is a thoughtful and measured exploration of how the nature of being a mother differs from woman to woman, expectations, fears, well-meaning but hurtful family and social pressure. And how, when the daughter grows into a woman who in turn becomes pregnant, the same fears, expectations and social pressures kick in. Forster is perceptive about the rejection felt by the daughters, and the shame of their mothers, shame which prompts denial and continued rejection. These women have to make hard decisions to survive, decisions a million miles away from how we live today in our comfortable 21st century lives but with a stark reminder of how the actions of a previous generation can affect the next.
BUY THE BOOK

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Run’ by Ann Patchett
Innocent Blood’ by PD James
Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#UnplannedPregnancy #Adoption SHADOW BABY by Margaret Forster https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5H via #AdoptionStoriesBlog