Author Archives: sandradan1

About sandradan1

Novelist. I blog about writing, reading and everything to do with books and writing them at http://www.sandradanby.com/. Come and visit me!

True #adoption story… Van Dai & Siobhan #Vietnam #China

The House of Love is a Catholic orphanage in a small village in the south of Vietnam. From the age of 11 until 16, this was the home of Van Dai. It quickly became clear he was a bright boy. The orphanage’s director, an elder sister, remembers, “When he first came, he was so timid, shy and didn’t talk much. But when I taught him, I realized that he’s a bright child. He’s clever and grasped new concepts quickly.” At school, he earned the highest marks of any children at the orphanage.

Vietnam adoption

Van Dai at the House of Love [photo: Holtinternational.org]

Over 60 children have grown to adulthood at the House of Love, only seven have been adopted. Asked if he will miss life at the orphanage, Van Dai says “Yes, a little… because I’ve been living here for so long and know the nuns and kids here so well. I’m going to miss them all.” On learning he had been chosen for adoption, he said, “It isn’t easy to describe my feelings about having a family. It’s a mix of excitement, confusion, worry, but most of all I’m happy and feel lucky to have a family of my own.” Most important, it meant love. “Having a family means I’m loved and supported. I can share my sadness and happiness with them. It means I can thrive and live a normal life.” China adoptionVan Dai’s adoptive parents Margaret Wasnak and Bill Hong live in the New York suburbs, USA, with their 14-year old daughter Siobhan.They adopted Siobhan from China when she was ten. Most of all, they want Van Dai to be happy, says Margaret. “That he grows up to be a happy person in whatever he chooses to do. I think that’s the interesting part of getting to meet our son, is that we don’t really know what he likes to do, what he’s good at … what he wants to do with his life. That’s the adventure for us.” Bill adds, “We don’t have any preconceived notions about what success in life might be for him. We want to be able to nurture his potential and help him be the best that he can.”

Margaret and Bill, an older couple, wanted to adopt an older child. “We just felt as an older couple, we would be able to handle an older child and help them progress. So we kind of skipped over the baby section,” says Margaret says [referring to Holt’s photo listing of children waiting to be adopted] and went right to the two older group categories.”

They were attracted to Siobhan’s biography and photograph. “We knew she was for us when we read that she was ‘bossy’,” Margaret remembers. “New Yorkers are born arguing.” They were also moved by the length of time older children must wait for adoption. “There seemed to be a real need,” Margaret says. “The kids wait a really long time. Siobhan waited six years to get adopted.”

Search Holt’s Photo Listing.
Read here the full story of how Margaret and Bill adopted not only Van Dai from Vietnam, but also Siobhan from China.

If you like this true story, read:-
Laurence Peat
Jenna Cook
Denise Temple 

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Van Dai & Siobhan #Vietnam #China #adoption #truestory https://wp.me/paZ3MX-9w via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

Commonwealth War #Graves Commission #familyhistory

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was set up under Royal Charter in 1917 as the Imperial War Graves Commission. It commemorates 1.7 million people who died in two world wars, administers cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations in 154 countries. Anyone searching for their extended birth family may find themselves visiting this impressive database.

War cemetery

War cemetery [photo: cwgc.org]

If you are tracing a relative who died in the First or Second World War, or seeking further information about medals, awards or casualty details, this is an excellent website to explore.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Driver Thomas Dawson [photo: cwgc.org]

It is never too late to change the records, if your family history research reveals an error or omission. In once case, a serviceman who died 99 years ago recently received a CWGC headstone at a churchyard in Hampshire. Driver Thomas Dawson [above] died on September 10, 1918 but because the CWGC was never informed of his death, Thomas never received a Commission headstone. His case was brought to the attention of the CWGC by his family and Thomas’s grand-daughter Kay Davidge was present at the installation of the headstone.

The CWCG’s Instagram page is a useful source of wartime photographs which may add background detail to your research.

This post is inspired by an article in the January 2017 issue of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Check your local records 
Films bring history to life 
Did your relative belong to a #tradeunion 

Identity Detective series
World War Two is the research focus for my next novel, Sweet Joy. Third in the ‘Identity Detective’ series, which starts with Ignoring Gravity, Sweet Joy tells the story of a wartime love affair.
BUY
Watch the book trailer for the ‘Identity Detective’ series.

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
War graves: where to look #WW1 #WW2 #familyhistory https://wp.me/paZ3MX-4k via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

A #genealogy #mystery ‘Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger @lottiejosie

It all begins when West Kansas historian Lottie Albright receives a submission for her oral history project. Written by Zelda St John, aunt of political hopeful Brian Hadley, the piece examines torrid racist attitudes in the family’s history. This is the sort of book you settle into and read with relish. Deadly Descent by Charlotte Hinger is a mystery thriller which moves with steady detailed steps as the tension twists and twists like a screw being slowly turned.Charlotte Hinger

A first murder is followed rapidly by a second, Lottie is sworn in as a deputy and balances her twin jobs of detecting and collating historical records. The two jobs fit neatly together until anonymous letters start to arrive. Lottie is ably supported by her quiet long-suffering husband Keith, and her clinical psychologist twin sister Josie. Remember the twin thing, it is important later. Sam Abbott, sheriff of the woefully-underfunded Carlton County police, welcomes the resources of the Kansas Bureau of Investigations and so distracts Lottie with research into an old dead case: the old Swenson murders. This feels like a massive diversion, but go with the flow of this book and you will be rewarded.

Hinger plots intricately and draws a totally believable picture of the historical society in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s secrets. Lottie’s project involves everyone writing the story of their family: for some people, the shame is too much.

This is the first of the Lottie Albright series of family history mysteries.
BUY

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
The Indelible Stain’ by Wendy Percival
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain 
The Storm Sister’ by Lucinda Riley 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
DEADLY DESCENT by @lottiejosie #genealogy #mystery https://wp.me/paZ3MX-4g via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

True #adoption story… Joy Lieberthal Rho #foreveradoption

“Adoption isn’t always forever.” That’s the experience of Joy Lieberthal Rho. “One mother never replaced the other mother.” This is her story of being adopted from Korea.

Joy Lieberthal Rho

[photo: Korean American Story]

Joy’s birth mother found her again when Joy was 24. “One mother is the person I was born from. We have the same complexion, shoe size, fingers, nose, and chin. She lost me at age three to a man who promised he would let her visit, but in a year’s time, she would have no idea where I was. After months of chasing down last known guardians, she arrived at the orphanage too late: I had been adopted, and no one had known that my mother was trying to find me all that time.” Although still in contact with her birth mother, Joy says it feels to late to ask her to be her Mum but she misses the shared remembering, the shared family stories.

She has a shared history with her adoptive mother, but they split when Joy was 19. “One mother is the person who claimed me when others believed me to be without a mother. This mother disappeared with a click of the phone, when a truth she couldn’t handle severed our relationship. At the time, I said, Okay, Mom, I will wait to hear from you—that was the last time I said the word “Mom.” To this day, I wonder, if I just didn’t say it, if I didn’t make it known, would I still have a mother?”

Joy ponders on whether she needs a mother. Not for day-to-day living, she says, but “sometimes there are moments when you just long for a person who is obligated to be in your corner.” She is a mother herself and this has led her to ponder on the nature of motherhood. Ninety nine per cent of the time she says she is fine, the other 1%, the tough days, she wishes she had a mother to call.

Read Joy’s written account of her story in Catapult magazine.

If you like this true story, read:-
Amy Seek
Brenda Rhensius
Denise Temple 

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Joy Lieberthal Rho #adoption #truestory https://wp.me/paZ3MX-9i via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

Films bring history to life #researching your #family #history

Film archives are a great boon for family history researchers, as they shine a lens onto life as it was lived in a dusty daily glory. There are many gems, from the Mitchell & Kenyon archive at the British Film Institute with hundreds of short films made in Edwardian England, to the Imperial War Museum’s film archive of war-related footage [below].

The best place to start is with the ‘Britain on Film’ project [above] at the BFI National Archive which is easy to search by region, date and subject. From here you can expand to regional film archives of which there are many including the Yorkshire Film Archive, the East Anglian Film Archive and the North West Film Archive.

For images of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, try the Irish Film Institute which includes documentaries, news reels and Irish culture; the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive with 1900 clips about Scotland; films at Northern Ireland Screen include rural life, true stories, and footage lost and found; and National Screen & Sound Archive of Wales has many films about mining.

To add colour to your understanding of your ancestor’s life, watch newsreels dating from 1910 to the 1970s at British Pathé Newsreels. The film collection at the British Council comprises 120 short films dating from the 1940s which focus on aspects of British life including work, entertainment, culture and sport.

Finally, search your loft and ask your relatives if there are any old home movies which have been forgotten. Home movies date back to the 1920s. Also, many regional film archives hold home movie collections so try searching for the name of a local Cine Club [which started in the 1930s] or a local event such as a fair or festival.

This post is inspired by an article by Amanda Randall in the April 2017 issue of Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Did your relative belong to a #tradeunion
Where to start your #adoptionreunion search
Check your local records 

Identity Detective seriesRose Haldane, the identity detective in Ignoring Gravity, was born in 1968 so The Sixties was a key period for my research. Most useful were the newsreels and documentaries at British Pathé Newsreels where you can search by subject and use the nifty adjustable dateline to focus on the year you need.
BUY

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Films bring history to life #researching your #family #history https://wp.me/paZ3MX-48 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

A #genealogy #mystery ‘The Indelible Stain’ by Wendy Percival @wendy_percival

When the key character of a novel goes on holiday or visits a picturesque place, you know something is going to happen. Genealogist Esme Quentin in The Indelible Stain by Wendy Percival goes to Devon to help a friend archive the records of a local charity for underprivileged children. Second in the Esme Quentin genealogical mysteries, this is an enjoyable story of convict history set in a beautiful Devon location. But beneath that beauty lurk fraud, lies and revenge. Hatred and bitterness reach from the past to the current day. genealogy

Up early on her first morning, Esme takes a walk on the wild beach and finds a body. The woman, just alive, seems to have fallen from the cliffs. Her last words, spoken to Esme, are key to the mystery which follows. “I lied,” she says. Beside her body is an old sepia photograph. The police don’t take seriously Esme’s concerns that the woman’s last words combined with the mystery photograph indicate foul play, so Esme decides to identify the family in the photograph.

Meanwhile, Neave Shaw is worrying about her mother who has disappeared after sending a confused, possibly drunken, email. Worried and not understanding her grandmother’s dismissive attitude to Bella’s disappearance, Neave presses for answers but is interrupted by a knock on the door. It is the police. Neave arrives in Warren Quay and asks Esme for help in understanding why her mother died. Esme quickly puts a name to one of the people in the sepia photograph: Sarah Baker, a thief who was transported as a convict in 1837. Sarah’s story adds a fascinating layer of history to this whodunnit and whydunnit mystery. But what is Sarah’s link to Neave’s dead mother? And did Bella fall or was she pushed? Esme’s research into Sarah’s convict history is helped by the presence of the Mary Ann, a restored nineteenth-century sailing ship with an on-board museum about the history of convict transportation.

The last few pages move at top speed as Esme discovers hidden identities and double-crossings and races to find Neave to warn her of danger. She knows that whoever killed Bella to protect the secret will not hesitate to kill again. I would have liked to read more about Sarah Baker’s journey on a convict ship to Australia and her life there, showing some of the facts rather than having Esme discover them in a dry record search. So much tantalising history lies beneath the surface of this story. I found some elements confusing at times as the story moves so fast and also because of the number of aliases and marriages; this might have been eased by merging or dropping some minor characters, for example Ruth/Maddy, Dan/Felix. But Percival’s characterisation of some minor characters was spot on; I particularly liked retired schoolteacher Miss Hodge and Neave’s irascible grandmother Gwen.

This is a well-paced genealogical thriller enriched by its Australian and Irish links and demonstrating how the resentment of wrongdoing can persevere across the generations.
BUY
Read my review of Blood-Tied, the first Esme Quentin book.

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
The Ghost of Lily Painter’ by Caitlin Davies
The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#Genealogy #mystery THE INDELIBLE STAIN by @wendy_percival https://wp.me/paZ3MX-44 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

True #adoption story… Amy Seek #closedadoption #openadoption

When 23-year-old Amy Seek decided to give up her baby son for adoption, she assumed that closed adoption – where she would never see her son again – was her only option. But in the US, where Amy was living at the time, she spoke to the Catholic Social Services and learned for the first time about open adoption.

open adoption

[photo: JGI-Tom Grill via Getty Images]

“When the counsellor explained open adoption – that I would be able to select the parents and know my child – adoption suddenly seemed more humane, more possible,” she told Huffington Post UK.

Open adoption, which allows contact between the birth family and the adoptive family, is rare in the UK but more common in the USA. So what is open adoption? There are three types:-

  1. direct contact, with face-to-face or telephone contact between birth family and adoptive family;
  2. indirect contact, the exchange of letters, cards and gifts between the birth and adoptive families;
  3. links provided by the birth or adoptive family, and retained by the adoption agency to be passed onto the child in the future, if requested by the relevant person.

Amy, now 39 and living in London, says,“When my son was four he’d smile sobroadly when I’d arrive, he’d show me his toys and want to play with me.” She sees her son, who lives in the US, between three and seven times a year.

Read more about open adoption in this article at Huffington Post UK.

If you like this true story, try:-
Brenda Rhensius
Eileen Heron
Helen Harrison

open adoption

Read this true story about an open adoption.
BUY

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Amy Seek #adoption #truestory https://wp.me/paZ3MX-8L via #AdoptionStoriesBlog