Category Archives: True adoption stories

True #adoption story… June Horbury #adoptionstories

When June Horbury’s adoptive father died in December 2001, amongst his things she found a shabby old box which contained his legal documents. Inside was her adoption certificate issued by a court in Woodlands, Doncaster, Yorkshire. June was adopted when she was three weeks old. This is June’s story of how she found her birth family.

“I always knew I was adopted but as soon as I saw my birth mother’s name, Eileen Morris, on this old piece of paper, something stirred inside me and I knew I had to try and find her. My husband told me to leave well alone and, in some respects, I wish I had. A warning here, if you have been adopted and try to find your long lost family be prepared for failure or rejection.

“How could I find her? Questions were going round and round in my head. How do I start my search? How old was she when I was born?  Was I to presume she had married? How many years after my birth was this marriage? I attended the General Registry Office in London and after many visits I found her birth and marriage certificates. I now had her married surname. Anyone who is a family historian knows how time consuming it is to find one little piece of information. Eighteen years ago there wasn’t very much information on the internet. The My Family.com web site was only launched in December 1998.

“Once we had the surname my daughter and I wrote letters to all the people in the telephone book, in the Yorkshire region, with the surname Tyas. We said we were looking for family tree information and included contact telephone numbers. We received many phone calls but no information about Eileen Tyas. We had given up hope of trying to find her. Then I was at my daughter’s house and the phone rang. The caller said she had information about Eileen Tyas and that she was Eileen’s daughter, Carol. I was speechless. An invitation was given to my daughter and I to visit Carol at her home. We were made very welcome. She told us that Eileen was still alive and living in her own home in Doncaster. I was going to arrange another visit but my daughter said we should tell them why we were there.  It wasn’t just to gain information to produce a family tree. They were shocked as they didn’t know of my existence.

“At first, Eileen denied she had given birth to me but eventually said it was true. I sent her photographs of myself and my family and told her I had had a wonderful life. She replied giving information about herself but said she did not want to meet me, and returned my photographs. The most upsetting part of the letter was when she told me about my conception and that she would not give me my birth father’s name. I was devastated by this news.

“However, I did appreciate the circumstances she found herself in following my birth. The year was 1938. She was an 18-year-old unmarried mother, living with an uncaring foster mother and a father working away. Her own childhood had been tragic and that was why she was living with a foster mother. Was she to have a termination considering the way I had been conceived?  Would I be a reminder of the conception and what effect would this have on her seeing me every day of her life? If she kept me how could she possibly look after me and bring me up? The only thing she could do was to have me adopted.

“I still wanted to find my birth father. However, the law states that people adopted before 12th November, 1975 are required to receive counselling before being given access to adoption information. This is required because some natural parents and adopters may have been led to believe that their children would never be able to trace their original names or identity of their parents. People adopted after that date are not legally required to have counselling. I was 62 but had to see a counsellor, which I did.”

June contacted the Doncaster Magistrates and Family Court and, after completing application forms, attended the court. “It was very official. I was told I must only address any questions to the Clerk of the Court. I believe the other two people in attendance were Magistrates or JP’s and they would decide if any official documents could be released to me. There was very little information in my file. Just a letter from my adoptive mother’s doctor who instigated the adoption. Sadly my birth father’s name was not on any of the documents. The Clerk told me that in 1938 adoptions were dealt with very differently.

“I was still not giving up trying to find him. My half-sister gave me information about a very elderly lady, Dorothy May Parry, who was the daughter of Eileen’s foster mum and lived in the same house as Eileen in 1938. However, she would not meet me although she did tell me my mother had a long-term boyfriend of 21 months, but said she couldn’t remember the name. I looked at the electoral roles to see if a male lived in the house at the time my mother lived there. I found the name Edward Lyford and checked this out. Had I exhausted all avenues to find my father? When my birth mother died another opportunity presented itself. Amongst her belongings was a photograph of a young man on a motor bike. Scribbled on the back of the photograph was the name Cliff Dawson. Was this another lead? This photograph wasn’t the only secret which was revealed. Something which happened at my mother’s funeral shocked the family, once again producing yet another family member.”

June is keen to make clear she never felt abandoned or unwanted by her birth mother. “I was three weeks old when I was handed over to my adoptive parents but it wasn’t until over 60 years later that I discovered a shocking secret. I was devastated.”

June’s Bio
June was born in a home for unmarried mothers in Hyde Park, Doncaster. She was adopted by a miner and his wife and spent her childhood years in the York Road area of the town. On leaving school she got a job as a Junior Typist at the NCB and was eventually promoted to PA for the Chief Radiologist for the Yorkshire Coal Field. Upon marriage she moved to the Barnsley and Sheffield areas but along with her husband Mike, and their two children, moved back to live in Hatfield in 1970. Mike was the local policeman and was nicknamed the Sheriff of Hatfield by his colleagues.

Once the children were at school she began studying for a Cert (Ed) at Huddersfield Technical College, now Huddersfield University, and two years later for a BA (Ed) at Hull University. Throughout her teaching career June taught at several schools in the Doncaster area including Hatfield, Don Valley and her final position as Head of Department at Thorne Grammar School.

Her early attempts at writing began as a 12-year-old when she wrote an article which was published in the Doncaster Gazette, and many years later a story about adoption for My Heritage which was awarded a prize.

When she discovered her birth family, they encouraged her to produce a family tree and obviously this took many years of research. However, this wasn’t enough for them or her so after collecting old photographs, family letters and listening to stories she decided to write her autobiography Life after Adoption which was produced during lockdown and published in September 2020.

June’s Book June Horbury“When my adoptive father died, I was looking through his things and came across a shabby, old box which contained his legal documents, and there it was, my adoption certificate. I always knew I was adopted but as soon as I saw my birth mother’s name on this old piece of paper, something stirred inside me and I  knew at that moment, I had to try and find her. My husband told me to ‘leave well alone’ and in some respects he was right, as when I did find her I discovered a dreadful secret.  I was devastated.  But it didn’t end there, as following her death some years later, another secret was revealed which shocked my family. Had my husband been right when he said, ‘Leave well alone’? This story is told over eight decades from just before the start of World War Two and depicts life and times from then until the present day.”
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True #adoption story… Tamela Dunn & Jo-Ann Gerow #adoptionstories

In 1976, Jo-Ann Gerow was 19 when she gave birth to a baby girl and gave her up for adoption. ‘I had just graduated high school, and wasn’t too sure what I was going to be doing with my life, or in my life, and I had thought about giving the baby up to a member of my family, but then I thought I would get jealous over time.’

Tamela Dunn

Jo-Ann Gerow and Tamela Dunn reunion [photo: CBC]

Gerow was kept in hospital to care for the baby for ten days. ‘When I walked out, the sun was shining. I felt that on my face and I looked across the city of Kitimat and I started praying to God that he would bless and protect her and that we would be reunited one day,’ Gerow remembers. And she always wondered what happened to her baby.

Gerow went on to have two further daughters but she never married, and never forgot her first child. When the British Columbia government opened up adoption records in the early 1990s, Gerow says, ‘I sent my affidavit requesting information in regards to the adoption, so I’ve been searching for quite a while.’

Jo-Ann Gerow

Jo-Ann Gerow had two other daughters after Tamela Dunn’s birth but never married [photo – Terri Trembath/CBC]

Meanwhile her daughter, Tamela Dunn, had started searching too. ‘I walked around my entire life with a missing piece and I never understood it,’ says 39-year-old Tamela Dunn. ‘Because of the fact of the old-style hospital, a lot of the records got deteriorated, there was a lot of information that was unreadable and so there was a lot that happened, and it was just an uphill battle.’ Though cautious, Dunn continued to search.’ There’s a lot of horror stories out there about people reuniting and sometimes it not working out so well.’ With the help of non-profit reconnection group Spirit of the Children, the two women were reunited in 2015.

Dunn said afterwards, ‘I was expecting a name, I wasn’t expecting a mom.’
Read Tamela’s story at CBC News Canada [2015]
Watch the tearful reunion on CBC News.

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True #adoption story… @ZekeAnders #adoptionstories

Korean American filmmaker Zeke Anders stepped in front of the camera to document his own adoptee experience and challenge some of the stigmas of the adoption experience.

Zeke Anders

Zeke [legal name Andrew Erickson] was three when he was adopted in 1978 from a South Korean by an American couple from Detroit. ‘Anything before that point it’s really sketchy. The authorities found me on the street and they took me to an orphanage and that’s basically it. That’s all I know, that’s all my parents knew and it’s kind of crazy that way.’

The idea for his vlog American Seoul came to him when he acknowledged the curiosity of friends and acquaintances about adoption. ‘They would always say ‘real.’ As if the parents I have aren’t my real parents.’ He is keen to portray adoption as ‘normal, it’s great.’

Zeke Anders

Zeke held by his adoptive mother, Joyce Erickson, at Chicago O’Hare airport as he arrives from South Korea in 1978 [photo: Zeke Anders]

In one episode, he asks viewers to share the comments they find the most annoying when people ask about their adoptive experiences. For him, the most annoying thing is when someone says ‘I’m sorry’ after hearing he is adopted.

Read Zeke’s story in this NBC News article.
Watch a television interview with Zeke on Halo Halo about his adoption vlog American Seoul.
Listen to Zeke interviewed on Michigan Radio.
Zeke’s website

Zeke Anders

Zeke as a child in the early 1980s [photo: Zeke Anders]

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True #adoption story… Betty Morrell #adoptionstories

The headline sounds like something from a film: ‘Woman, 82, finds birth mother, 96’. After 50 years of searching Betty Morrell finally met her birth mother, Lena Pierce.

Betty Morrel

Betty Morrell meets birth mother Lena Pierce with Kimberly Miccio, holding her own daughter [photo: Kimberly Miccio]

Eighty-two years after she was born to a teenage mother and put up for adoption, Betty Morrell finally met her birth mother thanks to the dogged research by her grand-daughter, Kimberly Miccio, over twenty years. Betty started searching once her adoptive parents had died but, as her adoption had been closed, it was ‘like hitting a brick wall.’

Born in Utica, New York State, in 1993, Betty’s mother Lena named her daughter Eva May. But Lena was a ward of the state and so social welfare officers took away her baby for adoption. Betty, as she was later named, grew up as an only child with her adoptive family on Long Island. Her childhood was happy. In her thirties she started to search. The first shock was finding that her birth mother had not died during childbirth as she had been told.

Betty’s grand-daughter Kimberly started to help her grandmother with the research when she was 12. ‘My grandmother had been looking for a long time. She had never tried through the internet, so we started going through different sites.’ Eventually, using Ancestry, Kimberly located one of Lena Pierce’s daughters. Betty then learned she had four sisters, two brothers, and that her mother was alive and well and living in Pennsylvania.
Read the full story of Betty’s reunion at US News.

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True #identity story… @GeorginaLawton #mixedrace

The story of Georgina Lawton is not one of adoption, so much as identity. Racial identity. Georgina looks mixed race though her family is white. After years of brushing the truth aside, her father’s death prompted her to ask questions. Adoptees will identify with her descriptions of anger, isolation, denial and confusion.

Georgina Lawton

Georgina Lawton

Taught not to question her skin colour, Georgina grew up in London with her blue-eyed younger brother, British father and Irish mother. ‘Although I look mixed-race, or black, my whole family is white. And until the man I called Dad died two years ago, I did not know the truth about my existence. Now, age 24, I’m starting to uncover where I come from.’ Growing up, no one spoke about racial politics and Georgina assumed she fitted into the same cultural category as everyone else. ’The word ‘black’ was never uttered in reference to me. And I saw that blackness was an intangible and wholly culture concept that had no relevance to my life. But I always had questions.’
When her father became ill with cancer, he agreed to give a DNA sample. A year later, Georgina found the courage to send it for testing. It came back inconclusive.

Georgina Lawton

Georgina Lawton as a child with her father [photo: Georgina Lawton]

A second test was sent off, this time including her mother’s DNA. She was told there was no chance her father was her own. ‘Rage so strong it scared me coursed through my veins and hurtled towards my mother like a hurricane in our family home as I demanded answers.’ Her mother then admitted to a one-night stand with a black Irishman, her birth father.

Georgina Lawton

Georgina Lawton with her father [photo: Georgina Lawton]

For Georgina, the man who raised her, who she grew up calling Dad, is her father. She realises he must have suspected his wife, Georgina’s mother, of infidelity. ‘But they loved each other dearly and not once did any of us argue about it.’
Read Georgina’s story at The Guardian.
Georgina LawtonGeorgina’s memoir Raceless tells the story of her colour-blind upbringing and how we must strive to ‘build a future in which a mixed family is neither taboo, nor a talking point,’
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True #adoption story… Shaye Woolard #adoptionstories

Shaye Woolard has been trying to find information about her birth parents since she was in middle school. At 18, she applied to the agency she had been adopted from but was told she could only be given ‘non-identifying’ facts. It took 11 years of persistence, telephone calls and emails, before she learned anything new.

‘To finally know something as simple as what time of day I was born was amazing! The information also included my parent’s height and weight measurements, and the fact that my bio-mom was 16 years old when she had had me. That helped me understand why she did not keep me. Both of my parents were from religious families, but different denominations. My mom’s biological father was unknown to her, which makes me wonder if she ever felt or feels the way that I do.’

Shaye Woolard

Shaye Woolard

When Shaye asked the agency what else she could do to get information about her family medical history, ‘they told me they would notify me when my biological mother died. What a cold response. I hung up the phone and cried. This felt like a personal attack and reminded me of the awful remarks people used to make to me while I was growing up. Some called me “adopted trash.” It sucks knowing that some people just don’t care. I had reached another dead end—back to square one. Still, I took in a deep breath and decided to keep trying.’

Now she has children of her own, the issue has become a burning one. ‘I now wish to give my children as much information as I can about our side of the family and me, including our medical history. I have ongoing health issues. I see doctor after doctor trying to sort them out, and each time, I am asked the same thing: “What is your family medical history?” I answer, “I was adopted and I don’t know anything.” They look at me as though they don’t know where to start with the medical testing. Sometimes they even ask: “Is there is any way you can find your family history?” And I always reply, “I desperately want to know and hope to someday.”’

Shaye is a wandering adult adoptee, but who is now blessed with a family of her own. Having to deal with multiple health issues, she hates hearing the repetitive question: what is your family medical history? She feels like she is cheating her kids out of knowing where they come from, and she wishes she knew the same. Shaye was adopted in April of 1985 from Smithlawn Adoption Agency in Lubbock, Texas.

This article was originally published on the ‘Secret Sons and Daughters’ blog in June 2014.

Read Shaye’s story in full.
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True #adoption story… Peter Papathanasiou @peteplastic #adoptionstories

Peter Papathanasiou was 24 years old when he was summoned to his mother’s bedroom and told he was adopted. The subsequent search for his identity takes him from Greece to Australia as he uncovers his mother’s life story. Son of Mine, published in 2019, is not just a story of adoption and identity but a story too of migration and the experience of first and second-generation immigrants.

Peter Papathanasiou

Peter Papathanasiou [photo: Salt Publishing]

‘I thought she was going to tell me somebody was dying,’ Papathanasiou told The Guardian. ‘Instead, she revealed that she was not my biological mother. Her brother, one of my many uncles, a man I’d never met, who lived in northern Greece, was my real father. I slumped against the wall in shock. By the end, I was splayed on the floor.’

He had always known his parents had struggled to have children. What he didn’t know was that in 1973 on a family visit to Greece, his mother had tried to adopt a baby at a Greek orphanage. When she was unsuccessful, her brother suggested he and his wife have a baby for her. ‘It was to be a pure gift, but Mum was scared her brother and his wife might want to keep the child: there was nothing in writing. Still, she agreed, went back to Australia and waited. One day, she got a letter. It said: “We’re pregnant. The baby will be born in June 1974.”’

His mother flew back to Greece for the birth but missed it by a day or two. She spent five months there, caring for Peter and doing the paperwork. ‘My birth certificate was issued with my adoptive name and listed my adoptive parents as my parents. We left for Australia when I was six months old. It must have been difficult for my biological parents to give me up.’ Peter’s cousin George [actually his biological brother] later told him that when he was taken away, ‘it was like a period of mourning – nobody talked for three days.’

Papathanasiou’s emotions ran through shock, then he felt deceived and angry, finally he felt excitement. ‘I forgave my parents quickly. At the end of the day, they’d always loved me. My wife and I struggled to conceive for two years, and that was tough. Mum and Dad had close to 18 years of that. My dad has since died, but he taught me so much, including how to be a father. My mum adores my boys. I’ll tell them one day: “Without that lady and the lengths she went to, to become a mother, I wouldn’t be here and neither would you.”’

Read the full article at The Guardian.
Peter Papathanasiou

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True #adoption story… Christine Rose #adoptionstories #lostsisters

At the age of four, Christine Rose was separated from her two sisters in extremely dramatic circumstances. ‘I just remember when they came to take us away. It was at night, there was a lot of screaming and my mother was crying. There were bulbs flashing in our faces as we were being carried out, it was just frightening. They took me to one children’s home and they took my sisters to another one. I never saw them again.’ For more than sixty years, she wondered what happened to them.

Christine Rose

Christine Rose, centre, with sisters Catherine, left, and Carol, right [photo: Long Lost Family]

Christine’s emotional story is told by television programme Long Lost Family which conducted the genealogical research to track down her family. Christine was born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire. She will never forget the night the three young sisters were taken from their mother by social services. Christine was sent to one children’s home, her sisters to another. She never saw her mother or sisters again. Christine was eventually adopted but remained haunted by the absence of her sisters and began to question why the family were torn apart. ‘I always felt lonely, especially knowing I had two sisters out there somewhere…I was always wondering where they are and what they were doing…I knew that we were taken away but I just can’t picture my mum at all.’

She started researching and at her local library found a newspaper article from 1955. Her mother had been accused of neglect after an NSPCC inspector visited a house and discovered young children trying to eat unpeeled raw potatoes. The floorboards had been removed and used for firewood.  Christine’s mum, Doreen, was found guilty of neglecting her three children and was remanded in custody.

Christine longs to know the truth behind the newspaper story. ‘I just want closure. There’s no blame, no bitterness, no nothing. I assume my mother would have passed away now. My sisters were so young. I really want to know what happened to them. I hope they were adopted together because I’ve had a decent life now and I hope they have.’

Long Lost Family confirmed that Doreen died many years earlier and so started to search for Christine’s sisters. A birth record is found for Catherine Mary, also born in Dewsbury and also adopted. Catherine’s marriage certificate shows she now lives in Leeds. Catherine confirms she is still in touch with her older sister, Carol. The two sisters confirm they have spent 20 years searching for Christine. Carol says, ‘It’s been like an obsession.’

On that night in 1955 Catherine and Carol, aged 18 months and two-and-a-half, were taken to a children’s home in Harrogate. They were later adopted together. They were told their father was in prison but later their mother got back together with him and they went on to have six more children together. Carol says, ‘You can understand what a desperate situation she must have been in, it’s such a shame all three of us couldn’t have stayed together. (Finding Christine) is amazing. It’s like landing on the moon.’

After the three sisters are reunited, Christine says, ‘It’s just overwhelming. As soon as I’d given them a hug, all the nerves went. It’s just so nice to see them. It’s just letting it sink in. They are my family, you know. They are my family.’
Watch an excerpt.
Read Christine’s story.

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True #adoption story… @juliewassmer #adoptionstories #birthmother

In 1989, budding screenwriter Julie Wassmer went to meet a literary agent to talk about script ideas. She didn’t look twice at the secretary who served coffee that day. Twenty years earlier, teenage Julie had given birth to a baby daughter who was given up for adoption. The following day, typing a letter for her boss, the secretary recognised Julie’s name from her own birth certificate.

Julie Wassmer

Julie Wassmer [photo: juliewassmer.com]

Julie managed to hide her pregnancy from her parents until she went into labour. She was sixteen. “In my family, where I was the adored only child, falling pregnant to my boyfriend Martin when I was 16 was a disaster… Martin and I never assumed for a moment that there could be a happy ending. We were too poor, too working class, too young to build a family. Adoption was the only possibility.”

After spending ten days in hospital with her daughter Sarah Louise, Julie went home alone and returned to her A-level studies. She and Martin split up. She always believed Sarah Louise would get in touch, especially when the Adoption Act was passed in 1976 giving children the right to trace their parents. She was convinced Sarah Louise would look for her after her 18th birthday in 1988. Meanwhile, Julie wrote a script that was made into a film in 1989, and the meeting with the agent followed.

“There is no ground map that exists for such situations: we have had to feel our way towards a relationship over the past 20 years. She has a mother whom she dearly loves – that is not my role. Mostly I feel we are more like sisters; other times it feels as if we are best friends; occasionally it has felt like falling in love.”

Mother and daughter meet regularly. “Writing down our experiences in a book has been cathartic. And when Sara fell pregnant at 37, I was able to revel in her experience. Picking up my grandson for the first time brought us full circle.”

Julie WassmerBUY THE BOOK

Read Julie’s full interview with The Guardian and visit her website.

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True #adoption story… finding Joy #adoptionstories

This is a true story told by the adoptive mother of a mixed race boy, first fostered by the family from when he was five weeks old. “His birth mother was placing him for adoption, but the government of Guam was intent on finding someone within his extended family to adopt him. It was the culture. But at eight months of age, the parental rights were terminated and the adoption process began. At age two he legally became ours.” All identities are protected in this story.

heart to heart adoptions

[photo: heart to heart adoptions]

As their son grew, his parents talked to him about his birth mother and how one day he might like to find her. ‘Not yet’, he replied. When he was twenty, he was ready. “All we had was a name and a phone number – and we weren’t even sure about the number,” explains his adoptive mother. “But sitting on his dresser was a slip of paper with the information we were able to find. He knew that when he was ready, we would support him in finding his birth mother and making that call.”

He was concerned about the shock a call from him would cause, and so his adoptive mother agreed to make the first contact. “He wanted me to thank her for him. To thank her for life and for loving him enough to give him his best chance; and he wanted to know about his heritage. Being a mixed race, he wanted more details. So, I called with those intentions – and my own agenda too. You see, for twenty-one years we had prayed for her.”

That phone call brought Joy, the birth mother, back in touch with her son and with his adoptive family.

Read this adoptive mum’s story in full.

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