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

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True #adoption story… Mary Anna King #adoptionstories

Over two decades, Mary Anna King refined her angst about her status as an adoptee. “I had always told myself that it was a kind of triple-win scenario – birth families relieve the pressure of a child they are unable to care for, adoptive families gain a much wanted child, a child gains a stable, loving family. But I was beginning to see there was a flipside. There can be no winners without losers. Once adoption was on the table everyone had already lost – lineage, origin, the visions of the future lives they thought they would live – and all our losses were attached to someone else’s gain in an endless, confusing loop.”

Mary Anna King

Mary Anna King [photo: Barry J Holmes/The Observer]

Mary was born in the Eighties in New Jersey, USA, the second eldest of seven children. Her father ‘Michael’ was ‘semi-present’, her mother struggled with money. Mary, her mother and siblings lived in an apartment building full of single mothers. “It operated like a commune of amputees, living with the lost limbs of former lovers. Resources were shared, the kids were subject to discipline of whichever mother happened to be nearest by at the time, rides or walks to school were shared and alternated… that sort of thing.”

Eventually, four of the children were adopted by different families on the East Coast. Mary and her sister Becca were adopted by their maternal grandparents in Oklahoma [below].

Mary Anna King

Mary Anna King and sister Becca, with the grandparents who adopted them [photo: Mary Anna King]

Eventually, each sibling searched for their birth family and the seven were reunited. Says Mary, “It is amazing that they all came back, because the truth is that not all adopted people search. What I have come to learn is that women tend to search more than men, and that this urge to search is spurred on when they start having their own children. Doctors start asking questions about family health history and people start to wonder. The discovery that the adoptee has siblings is another motive, especially among those like my sister Rebekah, who were brought up as only children.”

Mary Anna King

Mary King [photo: Braden Moran]

Read the full Guardian interview here, and there’s more about Mary Anna King at her blog. Or read her memoir, Bastards.

Mary Anna KingBUY THE BOOK

If you like this true story, read:-
Jessica Long
Eileen Heron
Alice Collins Plebuch

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Was your relative an apothecary #FamilyHistory #Researching

The role of apothecaries changed in the UK in the mid 18thcentury. Until that time, an apothecary’s role was to prepare and sell medicines. They trained via an apprenticeship and no medical qualifications were required. They were not allowed to charge for medical advice, only for the preparations they sold.

Interior of an apothecary's shop

Interior of an apothecary’s shop [photo: Wikipedia]

Much of an apothecary’s day was spent making medicines, dispensing medicines from the shop and, from the mid 18thcentury, visiting patients at home. In small towns and rural areas, the apothecary was the first port of call in illness. In 1790, Adam Smith described apothecaries as ‘the physicians of the poor at all times and of the rich when the danger is not very great’. Women were able to work in the occupation, assisting a husband or father.

Apothecaries Hall

Apothecaries Hall [photo: apothecaries.org]

The 1815 Apothecaries Act recognised the ‘general practise’ work done in the community by apothecaries and permitted them to charge fees for attending patients. It also introduced a five year apprenticeship, the trainee had to pass an examination set by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries [above]. The Society of Apothecaries was incorporated as a City Livery Company by royal charter from James I on 6 December 1617 in recognition of apothecaries’ specialist skills in compounding and dispensing medicines. The Society of Apothecaries is number 58 and the largest of the livery companies of the City of London. In addition to its traditional civic, ceremonial, social and charitable activities, the Society has been licensing doctors to practise medicine since 1815. The apothecaries acquired their hall in Blackfriars in 1632.

Laboratory of Society of Apothecaries in 1922

Laboratory of Society of Apothecaries in 1922 [photo: Wikipedia]

As more and more apothecaries established themselves as general practitioners, their role of dispensing medicines was taken over by the chemists and druggists; the latter were limited to their shops. The Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain was founded in 1841 to represent the interests of chemists and druggists; later they would come to be called pharmacists. Some apothecaries also studied surgery for the Member of the Royal College of Surgeons qualification; they called themselves ‘surgeon-apothecaries’. For apothecaries, chemists and druggists, it was essential to build a good local reputation in order to attract clientele.

If you are checking census records for a relative who was a medical professional, it was common for the qualification to be quoted; perhaps apothecary, surgeon-apothecary, or general practitioner. If your relative kept an apothecary’s shop, they may be listed in a trade directory. Check the English and Welsh listings at the University of Leicester’s online Special Collections archive, including local gazeteers and Kelly’s directories. For Scottish Post Office directories, go to the National Library of Scotland.

You may also find trade listings, advertisements, obituaries and news stories relating to your apothecary relative in local newspapers, so check the British Newspaper Archive.

If your relative was working as a GP, check the Medical Directory [published from 1846] and the Medical Register [from 1859]; available at large city libraries and specialist medical archives such as the Wellcome Library.

The archive at the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries is not permanently staffed, so it is necessary to apply in advance. Itscollection is made up of paintings, silverware, furniture and a range of pharmaceutical, medical and other artefacts which have associations with the Society and its work. Microfilm copies exist for many of the major series of the Society’s pre-20th-century records.

Chelsea Physic Garden

Chelsea Physic Garden [photo chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk]

Visit the Chelsea Physic Garden [above] which was established in 1673 by the Society of Apothecaries beside the River Thames in order to grow medicinal plants. Today it contains a living collection of around 5,000 different edible, useful and medicinal plants.

If you’re searching for relatives and want to search online safely try the Lost Cousins website, which matches you with other people researching the same ancestors. It’s worth signing up for the Lost Cousins newsletter too.

Today’s pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in the UK are regulated by the General Pharmaceutical Council, you can use the search to find an individual pharmacist if you have a name.

This post is inspired by an article in the June 2018 issue of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Searching British newspaper archives
Did your relative belong to a #tradeunion
How to use British trade directories 

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Was your relative an apothecary #FamilyHistory #Researching https://wp.me/paZ3MX-7s via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

True #adoption story… Kate & Tom Jameson #adoptionstories

Kate Jameson first thought about adopting a child when she was 16. “I had no overwhelming desire to have my own biological kids – I felt there were enough children in the world already – but knew that I wanted a family and, if I could, I wanted to offer my love to a child who maybe hadn’t had the best start.” At the age of 16, Kate assumed she would probably grow up, meet someone and change her mind.

Kate & Tom Jameson

[photo: meet_the_jamesons @ Instagram]

She was 22 when she met 24-year old Tom, and still wanted to adopt. Then by the time she was 29, “I still had no real longing to have my own child” and felt strongly that there were enough children in the world needing loving homes. Statistics from October 2019 released for National Adoption Week estimated that the UK’s care system had 4,000 children with only 1700 adults wanting to adopt. Tom was initially wary of Kate’s suggestion but agreed to explore the process. “My main worry was that I wouldn’t be able to love an adopted child like my own biological child.”

Kate & Tom Jameson

Preparing for our children’s arrival [photo: meetthejamesons-com]

They decided to look at siblings as it is more difficult for social workers to place siblings together. They met Robert, four, and Eve, two, in February 2018 at the house of their foster carer. A month later, they were living together.

Kate & Tom Jameson

Finding our voice as parents [photo: meetthejamesons-com]

Kate says, “The past two years have been a whirlwind. To begin with, it felt like we’d stepped out of our own lives and into someone else’s. It was overwhelming having two children in the house calling us Mum and Dad and expecting us to know everything.” The children are now six and four and, although the Jamesons would love to adopt again, they are focussing for now on what is right for their two children.

Kate & Tom Jameson

Travelling [photo: meetthejamesons-com]

Read Kate and Tom’s full interview with Good Housekeeping magazine, or follow their story on Instagram and at their blog.

Read this Guardian article about birthstrikers who decide not to have children in response to climate crisis.

If you like this true story, read:-
Amy Seek
Brian Moore 
Joy Lieberthal Rho

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#Adoption #BirthMother ‘Run’ by Ann Patchett

One snowy night, an accident brings together a group of people. Run by Ann Patchett tells the story of grown-up adopted brothers, Tip and Teddy, and the troubled relationship with their widowed adoptive father as they become men. And a mysterious figure is watching. The accident is the turning point that makes all of them face up to things that happened in the past, and work out how to live their lives now. Patchett is a brilliant writer and this is a complicated story full of twists, turns and family secrets where all is not as it seems. Not a page turner, but a book to savour. Ann Pratchett

When you are a novelist, as I am – not even writing, but at that early stage of tossing around ideas in your mind – sometimes you read something which sets your creative juices flowing. Run by Ann Patchett did that to me. Ignoring Gravity, the first book in my Identity Detective series, was written and I was well into the planning stage of its sequel Connectedness. It was at this point that I read Run, the story of Bernard & Bernardette Doyle an American couple who, after the birth of their son Sullivan, are unable to have any more children. They adopt Teddy, and then his older brother Tip too. It is a story about family, biological and non-biological combined.

The phrase that leapt off the page at me was this, “‘They could have gone to someone else,’ she’d always said to him. That was the part of it she never could get over; that these sons who were so unquestionably hers could just as easily have gone to another home, a different fate. But what they never said was that they had already belonged to someone else, and they could have just as easily stayed where they were.”

Bernadette’s sense that they could so easily have missed adopting Teddy and Tip, and that if they had life would have been so different, gave me an insight for a character I was developing for the ‘Identity Series’.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Innocent Blood’ by PD James
In the Blood’ by Steve Robinson
The Ghost of Lily Painter’ by Caitlin Davies 

Identity Detective seriesIn 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.
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First in the ‘Identity Detective’ series, watch the book trailer.

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Using maps #familyhistory #genealogy

Understanding your lost relatives is a little easier when you can place them geographically. Today there are huge online resources of historical maps which make this easier.

1925 Carr Naze and Filey Brigg

1925 Carr Naze and Filey Brigg [photo: britainfromabove.org.uk]

If you are searching for someone today and you have an address, the best place to start is the simplest: Google Maps. Just type in a place name and map focuses on the area you want, making it easy to find addresses from birth certificates, for example. When you are dealing with an area of the country with which you are unfamiliar, using GoogleMaps allows you to familiarise yourself with the area and perhaps connect up a couple of clues which previously did not make sense. For example, birth certificates or baptism records with addresses which do not tally with other clues you have. Looking at the area on a map can often clarify the options.

Britain From Above allows you to look down on early to mid-20th century homes, from the skies. For example, I grew up on the North Yorkshire coast near Filey, here [top and below] are two photographs from the area. Top is a 1925 photograph showing Carr Naze and Filey Brigg; the pic below shows Crescent Hill and Foreshore Road in Filey in 1932. The town is completely recognizable, compared with Filey today.

1932 Crescent Hill and Foreshore Road, Filey

1932 Crescent Hill and Foreshore Road, Filey [photo britainfromabove.org.uk]

If you are searching historical records, the British History Online website is a good place to start. There you will find an enormous amount of information available for Britain and Ireland between 1300 and 1800.

If your research takes you beyond the UK, Old Maps Online is a portal to historical maps in libraries around the world. Curious, I searched for Ronda in Andalucía, where we used to live. The nearest map I could find which referenced Ronda was this 1943 map [below], sourced from the British War Office.

Ronda, Spain

British War Office GSGC of Ronda area

The more you study the maps and read the local history of the area of the people you are researching, the more you will understand them. As part of my research for Ignoring Gravity, I got to know the area around Southfields and Wimbledon, London, particularly well. Rose Haldane, my heroine, was born in 1968, but her flat is clearly visible on this photograph [below] from Britain From Above’s archives in 1952. Perhaps her birth mother or father lived in the same area in the 1950s?

1952 Wimbledon Park

1952 Wimbledon Park from the south-west [photo: britainfromabove.org.uk]

This post was inspired by the article ‘Mapping Your Family’ in the February 2015 issue of the UK’s Who Do You Think You Are? magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Finding your nonconformist relative
Genetic map ‘People of the British Isles’
Identifying headstones 

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

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#Family #mystery ‘The Orphan’s Gift’ by @RenitaDSilva #orphans #India

The Orphan’s Gift by Renita D’Silva tells the stories of two women, Alice and Janaki, and moves across four decades between India and England. It is a deceptive tale of love and loss and the mystery of how these two young women are connected at a time when certain love was forbidden. It is an unforgiving world where broken rules may be punished by death, isolation and poverty and where the sanctions may come from those closest to you. Renita d'Silva

We first meet Alice, aged four, living a privileged life in the house of her parents, surrounded by beauty, warmth, and servants. But there are shadows too. Alice’s parents are distant and she finds love and companionship with her Ayah and Ayah’s son, Raju. Alice’s mother is delicate and spends all her time in a shadowed bedroom, her father is Deputy Commissioner of the British Government in India. Alice’s story starts in 1909 when the first agitations of Indian independence begin.

Janaki’s story begins in 1944 when she is raised by nuns in an Indian orphanage, she was left there as a tiny baby, wrapped in a hand-made green cardigan. Desperate for love, Janaki learns a difficult lesson; that even when love is found, there is no insurance against future pain.

The lives of both women are coloured by their early years and their differing experiences of love. Each story on its own is fascinating, but the fascination comes from how the two women are linked. Occasionally we see a tantalising glimpse of the elderly Alice in India in 1986, as an unknown visitor arrives. Hints are given in the Prologue which of course I read then forgot about as I became enthralled in the world of the book. Only as the book approaches its end does the significance of the Prologue become clear. D’Silva’s theme is how life turns on a sixpence. ‘It takes so little to change a life.’

I particularly enjoyed Janaki’s life at the orphanage, her friendship with Arthy, the pact the two girls make to study as doctors after meeting Mother Theresa and seeing one of their friends die because of the orphanage’s inability to pay for a doctor. Janaki’s story jumps forwards to the 1960s when she is a trailblazing doctor of gynaecology, at a time when female doctors are rare and given many column inches, but when she feels at her loneliest.

Love and its subsequent loss is not always fair, it hurts and sometimes is unjust. But this is also a story about the strength and truth of honest love which transcends prejudice, poverty and status. This book is full of the colours and scents of India but at its heart is a darkness and sadness which jabs an emotional punch. D’Silva is my go-to author for novels about India; she creates a sensory world which never fails to delight but into this setting she weaves stories tackling moral and heart-breaking themes.
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If you like this, try:-
The Ghost of Lily Painter’ by Caitlin Davies
Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger
The Pearl Sister’ by Lucinda Riley

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
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True #adoption story… Dave Lowe #adoptionstories

Dave Lowe, 57, had been given up for adoption when he was just a few months old and his mother was unable to cope. He searched for years for his birth family. Two television programmes – The Jeremy Kyle Show, and Long Lost Family – were unable to help. So his daughter Louise took up the search. Via Genes Reunited and Facebook, she made contact with a woman called Zoe Anderson. Zoe was Dave’s birth sister.

Dave Lowe

Dave Lowe with birth mum Maureen [photo: North News and Pictures]

His birth mother Maureen sent him a text message, “At last my dearest wish has come true – to find you before I die.” Dave was reunited with Maureen, two brothers and a sister. He said, “This has made my life complete.”

The trail was broken when the family had moved to Bradford, West Yorkshire, from the Newcastle in the North East. Dave said, “I would never blame my mum for what happened all those years ago. She was so young, only a teenager, and by giving me away showed responsibility far beyond her years. She knew that I would be well looked after.” Maureen remembers, “I was heartbroken when I had to give him away, his father was absent and I was so young and would have really struggled. My last memory was of him as a tiny baby in my arms and now he is towering over me. I couldn’t be more proud.”

Dave Lowe

Dave Lowe, right, with his two brothers, sister and birth mum [photo: North News and Pictures]

Dave had despaired of ever finding his mother again. “I tried to go through agencies but all they wanted was money and the costs were extortionate. I never knew that Louise had been doing some digging of her own to surprise me.” He later found out that his birth family had been searching for him for 25 years.

Read Dave Lowe’s full interview at The Sun.

If you like this true story, read:-
Philip Sais
George Orwell
George Dennehy 

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Identifying headstones #familyhistory #graveyards

Tracing relatives – whether you are researching your family tree or on the trail of your birth family – will inevitably lead you at some point to a graveyard. Finding the headstones of relatives is always a bittersweet moment, but the text and dates may drive your search onwards.

gravestone

[photo: @SandraDanby]

That process is now easier as 22,000 new UK headstone records have been added to the database at The Genealogist with additions of records from Buckinghamshire, Devon, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Somerset, West Midlands, Wiltshire plus 12 Jersey parishes.

Each entry comprises the text of the memorial inscription, photographs of the headstone and its surroundings. Once you have identified the record you want, you can then view a map showing the graveyard location. For more information about the online headstone database, click here for The Genealogist.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
How #adoption became a legal process #UK
How History Pin puts your #familytree research on a map
Was your relative a VAD nurse in the Great War?

Sandra Danby

In Ignoring Gravity, first in the ‘Identity Detective’ series of adoption reunion mysteries, Rose Haldane unravels the mystery of her birth. She searches a graveyard for the headstone of her birth mother. Before writing this scene. I spent a long afternoon in a local churchyard, absorbing the atmosphere, reading the dedications. BUY
Watch the book trailer.

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#Searching #AdoptionReunion ‘Innocent Blood’ by PD James

If you are a PD James fan, I should say up front that Innocent Blood is very different from the Adam Dalgliesh detective series. It is a psychological thriller, a slow-building mystery which starts with little steps then, as the odd details start to make sense, the tension builds. It is the story of a young woman who knows she is adopted, who exercises her right to know the names of her birth parents, and finds something she never in a million years expected.PD James

Philippa Palfrey is 18, about to go up to Cambridge, until she decides to find out the truth of her adoption. Her birth father is dead, her mother though is still alive. Philippa’s adoptive father warns caution, tells her to do her research and think carefully before contacting her mother but Philippa, driven by the need to know who she is and where she came from, goes ahead anyway. With the arrogance and naivety of youth, she embarks on a complicated path full of moral dilemma, tragedy and loss.

It is a novel of family blood and relationships, violence, redemption, revenge and acceptance. Is there a threat, real or imagined, and where/who does that threat come from? As the story progresses, that threat advances and retreats, reforming in another shape. Is Philippa right, or should she have listened to Maurice’s warnings?
BUY THE BOOK

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger
The Ghost of Lily Painter’ by Caitlin Davies
File Under Fear’ by Geraldine Wall 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#Searching #AdoptionReunion INNOCENT BLOOD by PD James https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5y via #AdoptionStoriesBlog