Tag Archives: 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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If you like this true story, read:-
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Julie Wassmer

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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.

If you like this true story, read:-
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Sheila Mercier

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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]

If you like this true story, read:-
George Dennehy
Ray Victor Lewis
Brian Moore

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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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Eileen Heron
Dave Lowe

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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… @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.

If you like this true story, read:-
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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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#Genealogy #mystery ‘The Love Child’ by Rachel Hore

The Love Child by Rachel Hore is not just an adoption story of birth mother and daughter, it is a story of women’s lives between the wars when shame and public expectation, not love, governed family decisions. In 1917 Alice Copeman, a 19-year old nurse, falls in love with a soldier home on leave. They expect to marry but he is killed. No one else knows of their relationship, it is wartime and everything happened so quickly. But Alice is pregnant. Rachel Hore

Mourning for Jack, Alice is forced by her father and stepmother to give the child up for adoption. In the Essex seaside town of Farthingsea, Edith and Philip Burns long for their own child. When they adopt a baby girl Irene, they expect their family to be happily complete. But Irene feels different from her parents and grows frustrated at the lies told about her birth; in particular she struggles to connect with her mother Edith and often feels rejected. At school she is bullied. At home she feels second rate to her younger brother, conceived by Edith and Philip after they adopted Irene. Things improve for Irene when she makes friends with a boy from the disreputable artistic part of town; Tom lives with his single mother and he too is different. Both Tom and his mother are positive influences on Irene.

This is a story told in two strands – Alice and Irene – first as each makes her own way in the world, and then as their paths come closer together. Alice’s story – qualifying as a doctor and working as a GP – is fascinating and a glimpse of a time when female doctors were starting to appear. Irene is also independent, leaving Farthingsea to work in London at an art gallery. In these inter-war years, it was still difficult for independent women to make their own way. Old-fashioned standards and expectations prove a challenge for both Alice and for Irene and often at the hands of other women.

A little slow to start, not helped as the storyline jumps around from year to year, it settled down halfway through. At times I confused Irene’s adoptive mother Edith with Alice’s stepmother Gwen, both are sharp-edged women whose words can wound.

This is a novel of love, separation, shame and mother and daughter dynamics; it ultimately shows how the road to love can take many diversions and twists along the way. Both Alice and Irene are rather self-contained and defensive, afraid of being hurt, but they are also capable of being loved if they allow their self-protection to drop. This is a reflective and sensitive portrayal of the adoption dilemma when the hunger of one individual for the truth may cause pain to others.

A note about the cover; I could see no link between the story and a rowing boat at sunset.
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If you like this, try:-
The Marriage Certificate’ by Stephen Molyneux
‘Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan 
Shadow Baby’ by Margaret Forster 

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True #adoption story… Angela Patrick #adoptionstories

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

Angela Patrick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Angela’s full story at The Guardian.

If you like this true story, read:-
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Kate and Tom Jameson 

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True #adoption story… Cat Stubbs #adoptionstories

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

Cat Stubbs

Cat Stubbs with her husband and baby JD

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

Cat Stubbs

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

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

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

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

Cat Stubbs

Cat with her adoptive parents

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

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

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

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