Tag Archives: adoption search

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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If you like this true story, read:-
Julie Wassmer 
Philip Sais
Brian Moore

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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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If you like this true story, read:-
Angela Patrick 
Esther Robertson
Eileen Heron

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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.

If you like this true story, read:-
Sheila Mercier
Denise Temple
Mary Anna King

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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

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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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True #adoption story… Whitney Casey #adoptionstories

Whitney Casey was adopted at six months old by the Casey family and grew up in Nashville. She never forgot she was Korean American thanks to the subtle reminders that she was different — like the time she went into Kmart and a five-year-old girl pointed to her, saying, “Mom, it’s Mulan.”

Whitney Casey

Lee and Whitney 2014 [photo: Sara Rayman/Whitney Fritz]

‘It was never spiteful or anything, but people would notice that I look different,’ Whitney told NBC News ‘Sometimes you can forget that you look different. Sometimes you’re surprised when you look in the mirror and don’t look like the rest of the family.’

In 2010, Whitney went to work in South Korea near Seoul. She had no intention of tracing her birth parents, but her adoptive family urged her to contact her adoption agency. She describes what followed as an ‘out of body experience’. Told to expect an update in a month’s time, her case worker got in touch 48 hours later and the next day she met the Jeons, her omma (mother) and appa (father). They sat and talked for an hour. Whitney told them about her adoptive family, her siblings, and work. She asked them why they put her up for adoption. There were no tears, Whitney recalls, just relief and gratitude for the time they could spend together. The anxiety and nervousness slowly simmered off as her omma and appa had a heart-to-heart conversation with Whitney about the first few days she was born.

Whitney Casey

Whitney [L] with Appa & Omma & her two brothers [photo: Lee and Whitney Fritz]

Whitney worried that her two birth brothers would struggle to accept her. ‘I didn’t know if they would hate me for coming back and disturbing the peace. I didn’t want to disrupt the boys’ relationship with their parents, and I didn’t want to damage any years they had of them.’ But her fears were unfounded. ‘I went through a coping process, but everything’s fine now,” she said. “I’m so glad that it went smoothly.’

Whitney met her husband Lee at a Korean-American adoption conferene in Albany, New York, in 2012. “I think it’s interesting we have this thing that doesn’t need to be spoken between us that we know sometimes the feelings are hard and things can be complicated, but we can just have an understanding between us,” said Lee.

Whitney Casey

Lee and Whitney [photo: wethelees.wordpress.com]

Read Lee and Whitney’s blog, We The Lees.
Read the full NBC News article about Whitney’s adoption story.

If you like this true story, read:-
Joy Lieberthal Rho
Denise Temple
Jazz Boorman 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Further information #Adoption #AdoptionReunion #HelpfulLinks

If you want to take the first tentative step to finding answers about your own adoption story, here are some simple places to start. This list of books includes advice on how to search, autobiographies of people involved in the adoption story, adoptees and birth parents, and true stories of adoption searches. The websites include adoption advice and useful archives. This is a place to start. Your journey will take you into the unknown, only you can take that first step. Good luck.

[photo: salvationarmy.co.uk]

BOOKS

Adoption, Search & Reunion by David Howe & Julia Feast
A Good Likeness by Paul Arnott
Blue-Eyed Son by Nicky Campbell
Relative Strangers: A history of adoption and a tale of triplets by Hunter Davies

The People Finder by Karen Bali
The Adoption Triangle by Julia Tugendhat
The Adoption Reunion Handbook by Liz Trinder and Julia Feast
The Adoption Papers by Jackie Kay
I Belong to No One by Gwen Wilson

[photo @SandraDanby]

WEBSITES

GOV.UK How to access birth records in the UK, what to do if you know your birth details, and what to do if you don’t know the circumstances of your birth. Includes a link to the Adoption Contact Register which enables you to find a birth relative or adopted person, or to say you don’t want to be contacted.
GENERAL REGISTER OFFICE To order UK birth certificates online, go to the General Register Office.
ARIEL BRUCE is a Registered Independent Social Worker who specialises in tracing people affected by adoption. She also helps to trace people who have lost touch as a result of emigration, divorce or other family separations. Ariel Bruce conducts searches in Britain and all over the world and has successfully traced missing family members for over 20 years.
BAAF [The British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering] supplies advice and information on adoption and care issues. Their publication “Where to find Adoption Records” is very useful.
ELECTORAL REGISTER If trying to trace someone for whom you have a name, the Electoral Registers are a useful source of name and address. Check with your local county council.
AFTER ADOPTION is an independent adoption support organisation. Its website has useful links and adoption information. ActionLine is a free telephone helpline on 0800 0 568 578. It is confidential and available for anyone whose life has been affected by adoption – adopted people, birth relatives and adoptive families.
ADOPTION UK UK charity for people affected by adoption, 10,000 members. Providing support, awareness and understanding. Promotes the value of adoption, not so much about adoption reunion.
THE SALVATION ARMY Helps to reunite families through its Family Tracing Service. Telephone 0845 634 4747 or go online and complete an online request for a Family Tracing Service Application Form.

Finding People [photo: salvationarmy.co.uk]

ADOPTION SEARCH REUNION This website, run by BAAF, is a useful starting place in the search for birth or adopted relatives.
FORMER CHILDREN’S HOMES This website is a valuable resource for information about UK children’s cottage homes, former orphanages and other institutions for children plus details of US orphanages and child migration. Information from children’s home registers is going online now.
PEOPLETRACER Checks +300 million online records for named people. Resources include UK Electoral Registers for 2002-2014, births deaths and marriages, and online Telephone Directory.
ADOPTION SERVICES FOR ADULTS Registered social worker Jean Milsted specialises in helping adults affected by adoption. As well as searching, tracing and intermediary services, ASA also offers workshops for adults affected by adoption [adopted people, birth relatives and adoptive family members]. Understanding different perspectives in adoption search and reunion, wanting to know or not, preparing for reunion.

This information is for guidance only and is mostly UK-based. All websites featured include further useful links, so please explore. Sandra Danby does not offer adoption advice or genealogical services.

Read more about family history research here:-
Genetic map ‘People of the British Isles’
Searching British newspaper archives
Searching the #DeceasedOnline database of #graveyards 

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

Second in ‘The Seven Sisters’ series of adoption identity mysteries by Lucinda Riley, The Storm Sister is the story of the second oldest d’Aplièse sister, Ally. Very different from the first novel of the series which was set in hot and steamy Brazil, this book encompasses professional yacht racing, classical music and Norway.

Lucinda Riley Like Maia’s story in The Seven Sisters, Ally’s tale starts with the death of their father Pa Salt. Ally reads his letter and ponders two clues. A small ornamental frog and a book from his library ‘by a man long dead named Jens Halvorsen’ lead her to Norway. This is an ambitious timeline, skipping back 132 years to 1875 and the fascinating story of Jens Halvorsen and Anna Landvik. What follows is a lovely tale of Anna being plucked from her mountain farm to sing the soprano’s part in the premiere of Grieg’s ‘Peer Gynt’, ghost-singing for an actress with an inferior voice. This performance kickstarts Anna’s career, and she settles into a new life in Christiania [modern-day Oslo] and falls in love. Of course, true love never runs smoothly and Anna continues to long for the hills of her homeland rather than the city streets. The Norwegian settings are wonderful and I wanted to stay with Anna’s life, Riley invests so much in this section it almost feels like a book-within-a-book. But The Storm Sister is an adoption mystery about Ally’s parentage, so despite loving the Anna storyline I started to wonder why Riley takes us so far back in time to the nineteenth century and the story of who in terms of age are Ally’s great-great-grandparents. When is she going to tell us about Ally’s parents and her adoption by Pa Salt?

Riley excels at the immersive detail of both sailing and singing. The inclusion of Grieg’s music and the story of Ibsen’s ‘Peer Gynt’ – which offers parallels of Peer with Jens – made me listen to the music. But three quarters of the way through the book, I started to lose interest. That surprised me; I haven’t felt that way with Riley’s other books. The mystery is thinly strung and additional storylines and characters added in the last quarter feel hurried and shoehorned in. I found myself worrying I’d missed something and started flicking back through the pages. It picks up again at the end of Ally’s story, finishing at a pace before the final chapter acts as a preview to the next book, the next sister’s story.

A doorstop of a book, The Storm Sister comes in at 720 pages. Darker than the first of the series, there are love affairs and betrayals, grief, tragedy and the depths of despair and cruelty. Each novel is the standalone story of one sister, but reading them order brings the cumulative benefits of understanding the six sisters who were raised together at Atlantis. Next in the series is The Shadow Sister, the story of Star.
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Read my review of The Seven Sisters, first in the series.

If you like this genealogy mysteries, try:-
Relative Strangers’ by Hunter Davies
Blood-Tied’ by Wendy Percival
The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell

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True #adoption story… Alice Collins Plebuch #truestory #adoptionreunion

In 2012, Alice Collins Plebuch sent away for a DNA test… just for fun. She thought what happened next was a mistake.

Alice Collins Plebuch [photo: Yana Paskova for The Washington Post]

Plebuch had been raised by her Irish American catholic parents but her father Jim, the son of Irish immigrants, had been raised in an orphanage and his past was unclear. The test results from Ancestry showed half her DNA was related to the British Isle, which she expected. The other half was a combination of European Jewish, Middle Eastern and Eastern European. At first she wrote a letter of complaint, but then after a conversation with her sister they agreed she should test again but with a different company.

As she waited for results, the sisters wondered: had either their mother or grandmother had an affair? Or had she been adopted? This seemed unlikely given the character of their mother and the large maternal family with lots of cousins and siblings. Their father’s family was more of a mystery. Jim’s mother died when he was a baby, his father John was unable to cope so Jim and his two siblings were put in an orphanage. John Collins died when Jim was still a child and he had limited knowledge of his family. But Alice and her sister Gerry Collins Wiggins could not understand the Jewish link.

So Plebuch asked two male cousins to have their DNA tested; meanwhile Plebuch’s second test results, from 23andMe, arrived. They were consistent with the first result. Her DNA included Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry from areas such as Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania. Her brother Bill was also tested with 23andMe and his results revealed the same ancestry; a relief, they were full brother and sister after all. So the queries now focused on their father; how could an Irish American have Jewish ancestry? Looking at family photographs, Plebuch realized her paternal grandfather looked nothing like no one in her immediate family.

What followed was a painstaking analysis of data and genomes from potential cousins, identified by DNA. The DNA of one cousin, Peter Nolan, the son of John Collins’ sister, showed he was not related. So John’s sister wasn’t actually his sister. The only conclusion was that Jim’s father was not related to his own parents. Jim’s birth certificate showed he was born in the Bronx on September 23, 1913, with this they wrote to his orphanage which confirmed he had been sent their by the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. They considered the possibility of adoption, mis-spelling or mistaken identity, but got nowhere.

The final breakthrough came via a message on 23andMe. A stranger had received a result that she was related to Pete Nolan. She was expecting her results to be more Ashkenazi, not Irish. The long trail of painstaking research led to this answer: two babies were accidentally swapped at birth, a Jewish baby went home with an Irish family and an Irish baby went home with a Jewish family.

Read the full story in the Irish Times.

If you like this true story, try:-
Ramiro Osorio Cristales
Eileen Heron
Emmeline Pankhurst 

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