Tag Archives: identity

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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True #adoption story… Ray Victor Lewis #adoptionstories

Three generations of adoption in one family is unusual. The story starts in 1936 when Ray Victor Lewis’s mother gave him up for adoption. She left with him a small Bible. Inside the front cover, the inscription reads, “Ray of Sunshine, Victorious over all.”

Ray Victor Lewis

Ray Victor Lewis, his daughter Karen and granddaughter [photo: Felix Clay for The Guardian]

Unusually, Ray’s name wasn’t changed even though he was adopted as a baby. Ray always knew he was adopted, that his birth mother couldn’t keep him as she was only 17 when she had him, and that she visited him until he was a toddler. ‘The last letter she wrote was one my [adoptive] mum treasured,’ Ray, 78, tells The Guardian. ‘I think she felt it would help me to have something to explain why my birth mother couldn’t keep me.’

Ray’s adoptive parents were already fostering children, but he was the only child they adopted. He remembers an idyllic childhood in the Kent village where he still lives. He has never traced his birth parents. ‘I never felt the urge to trace my birth mother. I wouldn’t change a thing about my life and was very close to my mum and dad, so I just didn’t see the point.’

When Ray married Janet in 1968, they decided to adopt a child. ‘It felt the most natural thing in the world – probably more natural than having our own because it was all I’d known.’ They adopted nine-day old Karen.

‘As long as I can remember, Mum and Dad told me I was special and chosen. There was no day where my whole world, as I knew it, changed for ever,” Karen told The Guardian. Karen knew nothing of her birth family and her mother, Janet, told her not to mention her adoption to anyone. ‘She worried that I might be teased and I was quite secretive about it. I still don’t offer it as information to strangers.’ But Karen wanted to know more. When she was 30 she applied for her birth certificate, discovered she had a different birth name, and met her birth mother once.

‘It was in a hotel, where we shared photographs and stories. She didn’t want to meet again and I was okay with that because that one meeting gave me what I needed – answers to what she looked like, what she was like and, most importantly, the reassurance that she was okay.’

When Karen married and IVF failed, it seemed natural for her and her husband to consider adoption. ‘Adoption is the norm in our family so when I didn’t get pregnant, we wasted no time in applying to adopt. In fact, social workers wondered why we hadn’t considered IVF first.’ Her daughter’s story is a little different, ‘Her adoption story is probably the starkest because she wasn’t relinquished, but removed from her birth family due to child protection issues” explains Karen.

The availability of information about the past is key when growing up, Karen says. ‘Details about your past are never easy when you’re adopted, no more so than with today’s adoptions, but it makes such a difference’.

If you like this true story, read:-
Annie from New York 
Amy Seek
Helen Harrison

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True #adoption story… Esther Robertson #adoptionstories

By the age of three, Esther Robertson had had three different first names and surnames.

Esther Robertson

Esther Robertson [photo: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian]

Born in 1961 in a Glasgow mother and baby home, Esther’s first name was Catherine Anne Lindenberg. Her birth parents were a 17-year old Jewish girl from Edinburgh and a black American airman. Following family pressure, Catherine’s mother placed her for adoption. Robertson told The Guardian, ‘I don’t know if she accompanied me to the children’s home in the Borders where I was temporarily sent. I do know that she paid 30 shillings each week for my keep. I’ve never seen a photograph of myself as a baby. I don’t even know if any were taken. I’m pretty sure I was as cute and ready to be cooed over as the next child. But adopters were looking for blonde, blue-eyed bundles of joy. Not one with Afro hair and brown skin.’

Esther Robertson

Esther Robertson as a young girl

After seven months in the home, Catherine was first fostered by, then adopted by, the Revered Robertson and his wife who named her Esther. Slow to speak and knock-kneed, Esther’s development was a cause of worry for her new family. ‘A year after my adoption, the Robertsons requested me to be rehomed on the grounds of my slow development and Mrs Robertson’s poor health. In July 1963, aged two and a half, I was given a new home and another new name.’

Next she was adopted by the Grahams who re-named her Doreen Ann Graham. But after three months, Doreen’s adoption by the Grahams was contested. The Robertsons had changed their mind and wanted her back. Esther was 25 before she learned about her three months with the Grahams.

Now settled with the Robertsons, Esther felt different, questions were unanswered. ‘I felt like an outsider. I felt different. My hair was certainly different. Hours were spent trying to brush, comb and cajole it, but it steadfastly refused to be tamed. On shopping trips with Mum, which I adored, she always introduced me the same way: ‘This is Esther, my adopted daughter.’ Just one extra word, but it jarred. I was so different, it seemed, that I came with an explanation.’

Now in her fifties, Esther is settled and is a social worker. She understands that she coped by using her imagination ‘to escape the constant upset and upheaval of my childhood. Creativity remains my weapon of choice.’

If you like this true story, read:-
Brenda Rhensius
Sheila Mercier 
George Orwell

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Preserving #family #memories

Do you like the idea of your life being written up so it can be passed on to your family, but you’re worried you haven’t done enough exciting things or are not good with computers? If you would like to compile a record of family stories and memories, there is now a choice of digital and analogue solutions to suit everyone. Which ever method you choose, the first thing to do is talk to your relatives.

Frederique Hull, director of digital memory solution Family Quilt, says it is not unusual for people, especially older ones, to be shy and unassuming about their lives. “What can they possibly talk about that is worth telling? For the family whom they are sharing with it is completely different, pretty much everything is interesting. It does not take long before they realise how little they really know about their parents/relatives and so they love hearing the stories of daily lives, of hardships and joyful events. They are not looking for momentous achievements!” To help the process, Family Quilt has collected over 150 questions covering themes from growing up to working life and wisdom. “In those questions, there is a starting point for everybody. Browse them and see where they take you. Getting going is the hardest. Once started, stories will come back flowing.”

Jim Martin, director of memory video producer Loftbox, agrees. “Being comfortable and relaxed is key and that’s why we visit people in their own home. I am a very good listener with great empathy which, combined with my 25 years experience in conducting interviews and as a qualified oral historian, means I can talk about a wide range of topics designed to relax people and to stimulate conversation.”

Yvette Lowery of memoir publisher Personal Memento feels that with the advent of email, text and social media, the soul has gone out of our communication. “I find little things like receiving a hand-written letter or card through the post really heart-warming as it tends to be something that we just don’t do any more.  It is quicker and easier to fire off an email, but this can lack that personal touch. We store photographs on our computers and smartphones, but what if the computer or phone crashes and these images become obsolete? There has been an increased interest in personal history over these last few years, and I feel that many people still like to have something solid in front of them, be it a photo album or a book, rather than looking at images on a screen.”

Preserving family memories

Personal Memento – Tadeusz in his army uniform

Memory books are a craft-based way of taking a standard album, adding your mementoes and photos, choosing scrapbooking papers and embellishments to create a very personalised record of your family member. Eve Parris of Uniform Memories advises her clients on the compilation of a themed album that could become a treasured family album. “We live in a digital age where everything is supposedly available at the click of a button – except that it isn’t. Instead of the hundreds of photographs that you never look at on your computer, scrapbooking provides a personal and tangible reminder of that special someone or occasion. Something that you have spent time on, that is as individual as you are and that can evoke memories at the mere turn of a page.”

Preserving family memories

Compiling your Family Quilt record

Family Quilt’s Frederique Hull says it comes down to personal choice. “The ‘old fashioned’ books and the digital solutions may suit different people (especially if some older persons are less confident with computers) but in my mind, importantly, they are complementary. Digital solutions give you a lot of flexibility – you can choose how you record your stories (write, voice or video record), you can keep adding over time, you can easily save draft stories. They also make sharing easy – across different locations and in real time. But holding a book in your hand of your life story or of your family history remains really special. The browsing of the book creates great emotions. The physical book is also the visible legacy of a life well spent, of a family across generations.”

Preserving family memories

Interviewee at home with Jim from Loftbox

Loftbox’s Jim Martin says families are merging keepsakes with digital records. “An ageing population is part of the answer, but also we are seeing the suitcase in the attic generation digitizing their old analogue content in order to merge it with their new digital content.” Loftbox captures film of loved ones telling their memories so future generations can experience a relative’s, personality, smile, laughter and tears.

It is common to view your own life as mundane, but when family stories are shared with relatives you may be surprised at how vibrant your life really is. Just think of the laughter and tears at family reunions when old photographs are share. Yvette Lowery of Personal Memento says it is important to remember that, “future members of your family, many of whom will not be in existence for many years to come, will learn about what your life was like, the person you are and what really matters to you. Important pieces of a family’s history are found only in the memories of the living relatives and creating a book for yourself is a great way to ensure your memories are recorded accurately and gives you the opportunity to share with people the memories that you have never had time to discuss. This is an exciting process and the completed book will be cherished by your loved ones and yourself, as well as future generations.”

Personal Memento

Preserving family memories

Yvonne’s story, by Personal Memento

This professional memoir writing service is a family business that enables someone to create their own unique biography making a permanent legacy for family and loved ones. Director Yvette Lowery says, “Your life events and memories are what make you the unique person that you are, and we help you create a solid, permanent record of your life for the enjoyment of both yourself and your loved ones. Future generations will discover much more about you and how life has changed over the years in a personal, interesting way, rather than through a history book.”

Interviews are always conducted by Yvette Lowery, either face to face or by Zoom/Skype or over the telephone. The client decides how he/she would like her book to be created and which photographs they would like included.  Documents such as army credentials, marriage certificates and other documentation which is important to the client can be included within their book. “We work with the client to produce the front and back cover and offer various suggestions to enable the client to make an informed decision.”

The client’s life and memories are discussed during weekly, fortnightly or monthly interviews; these are recorded, written and edited, to create their unique, individual book. Each book takes between eight to ten interviews, but Personal Memento is flexible and can adapt to suit the client. “The client can regularly review their story to ensure that they are happy every step of the way and prior to publication of their completed book they will receive the printer’s proof copy for approval.The relationship between the client and myself is important and there needs to be trust, respect and sincerity.

“I understand and respect that some discussions may be of a confidential nature and not to be recorded or written in any form. If clients choose to conduct interviews through other mediums rather than face to face, we can arrange for photographs and documents to be securely mailed to us. We would like to be able to work with any client who wishes to use our services, with no geographical or other barriers which may prevent this.”
Personal Memento website
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Uniform Memories

Preserving family memories

Adding badges and certificates, from Uniform Memories

From complete beginners who are looking for that unique way of capturing memories, or seasoned scrapbookers who wish to advance their craft, Uniform Memories can provide an individual service, with advice and ideas to allow them to complete that special project. Classes and courses are available to guide customers on the basics allowing them to build a unique and truly personal memory that can evolve and grow as they wish. Director Eve Parris says, “although the business was started to provide and sell scrapbook materials on a military theme, it is this personal service that makes us stand apart from out competitors.”
Uniform Memories at Facebook

Family Quilt

Preserving family memories

Recording your memories at Family Quilt

Family Quilt is a fresh and easy way to digitally capture your life stories. In your private online space, capture the memories that make you and your family unique. Voice record or write your memories, add photos and files and easily share them with your chosen family members. A digital collection of memories is easy to share with family members in different locations. The collection is easy to build over long periods of time – there is no end to collecting. The stories can be voice recorded or written up giving choice and variety to the storyteller. The memories are easy to browse as they can be viewed in different ways (date they happened, date of input, topics). You can always print a book of your memories if you wanted to.

Sharing family stories is a very personal journey. Not all the stories are happy, not all the stories make us proud. And yet when sharing, candidness is critical to preserve the person’s or the family’s legacy. Privacy, and controlling who sees your stories is a key element to help a story teller feel safe in his/her openness. Family Quilt was built to be completely private and we have 2 in-built features to provide this safety:  the storyteller chooses who they want to share their Quilt with. From their account tab, they invite the family members they want to share with – if any, and they can remove them at any time.  We, at Family Quilt, do not have access to the stories written by the members. The storyteller can also decide when a story is shared with their family members by choosing to publish it to their Quilt. A story can be saved as a draft for as long as one is not happy to share it.

Cost: one-off £24 purchase. This gives you a lifetime access to the system, unlimited stories, unlimited photos and unlimited family members to share with. We have kept the price affordable to encourage as many families as possible to collect, share and enjoy their memories.

Family Quilt website
Family Quilt at Facebook

Loftbox

Preserving family memories

Loftbox videos provided in any format

A Loftbox interview can be arranged and implemented quickly. Some of the most candid and entertaining interviews Jim Martin has done have been those with the least planning and advance preparation. “Everyone has stories to tell and whilst these might not appeal to a national TV audience, your family and friends will love to hear them. Stories from your childhood are always great to hear along with insights into what you got up to as a teenager, your first crush/kiss and falling in love, your achievements and the lessons you have learned on the way are all great stories to hear told in your own unique way.”

Typical interviews are conducted over a two hour session, with the edit taking five to seven days to complete and send for approval or feedback. Loftbox can incorporate treasured photographs into a personal film, explains Jim Martin. “In my experience, people have spent a lot of money converting thousands of photographs and hundreds of 35mm slides and cine films into digital format, and still haven’t done anything meaningful with them since. Our main focus is on capturing your stories on film, after which we will identifying very specific photographs and video clips that will be used to enhance the interview material.”

Once the project is completed the invoice is paid, the the rights of that video are passed to the customer. Loftbox deletes the master files in accordance with GDPR.

Cost: £499 which includes the pre-filming conversation to assess priorities, travel to the client’s home, set up of video/sound/lighting, two hour interview, video editing, one set of client amendments and exporting the film onto a dedicated USB card. A secondary edit – to add in photographs and other media to support the stories and memories being shared – is charged separately.

Watch this video to see how Loftbox works.
Loftbox website
Loftbox at Facebook

Don’t leave it too late. This moving film by Loftbox encourages us all to share our memories now. Anyone that has lost someone close, or is faced with losing a loved one who is terminally ill will know that feeling of wanting to turn the clocks back to talk more about their early lives and to record those magical memories to treasure in the future.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
The paternity question
Researching European records
20 top tips to find your missing family 

Preserving family memories

 

Ignoring Gravity is first in the ‘Identity Detective’ series of novels. Two pairs of sisters, separated by a generation of secrets. 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.
Read an extract of Ignoring Gravity for FREE

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True #adoption story… Bob MacNish #truestory #adoptionreunion

Bob MacNish was 22 when his father died. On his deathbed, his father told him he was adopted. MacNish spent the next 50 years searching for the truth but getting nowhere. His original birth certificate was legally sealed.

[photo: Mitsu Yasukaway/northjersey.com]

Then in 2018, MacNish was one of the first adult adoptees to be given his original birth certificate in the state of New Jersey. State laws continue to change in the USA regarding the information available to adult adoptees. According to the American Adoption Congress, nine states now allowed unrestricted access and a further 11 allow access with restrictions [including New Jersey]. Records remain sealed in 22 states.

Bob MacNish finally met his birth mother for the first time, when he was 73. “For me, there was always that hunger for that answer. I need to know the truth about where I come from,” he told NJTV News. He knew he was born in Weehawken and given up for adoption when he was three days old. All he knew was that his birth mother was probably Italian. His adoption was private, arranged by an attorney. MacNish grew up feeling ‘a little different’ from his adopted family of Scottish farmers in central New Jersey.

Bob MacNish with birth mother Jean and half-sister Sheila [photo: Mitsu Yasukaway/northjersey.com]

If you like this true story, try:-
Eileen Heron
Jenna Cook
Emmeline Pankhurst 

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#ShortStory ‘Citrine’ by Sandra Danby @SandraDanby #identity #birthfather

It was a sturdy bicycle, black, with a wicker basket. Gita hadn’t wobbled on it so badly since she was ten years old, when her mother died and bequeathed it to her.”

Birth father

‘Lady on Bike’ by Mimi Mollica

Inspired by this photograph by Mimi Mollica, my short story ‘Citrine’ is published by ‘A Thousand Word Photos’ which pairs writers and photographs to create distinctive and individual stories, each exactly 1000 words long. The story is then read to stroke patients in London hospitals by actors, working with the charity InteractStroke.

I was given the choice of three photos, I had to choose one. But as soon as I saw Mimi’s photograph, Gita’s story flew into my head. She has such a tired, pensive, anxious look on her face that I knew her cycle journey is about more than going home after a long day at work. She is going towards an answer she has only just realised she’s been waiting all her life to ask. Who is her father?

Read the story in full at A Thousand Word Photos; and here’s more about photographer Mimi Mollica.

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True #adoption story… Jenna Cook #identity #adoptionreunion

In 2017, 20-year old Jenna Cook went to China to find her birth parents. Her expectations were low. But she was overwhelmed by what happened next. She met more than fifty families, all desperately seeking their lost babies, hoping that Jenna was the one.

Jenna Cook & adoptive mother Margaret Cook [photo: Chutian Metropolis Daily]

Her story starts on March 22, 1992. A baby was left at the busy bus station in Wuhan, China, which sees 12,000 travellers each day. She was picked up and taken to the Wuhan Children Welfare House nearby where she was cared for, named Xia Huasi [which means ‘China’s’] and assigned a random birth date chosen by the director of the home. There was no formal adoption process in China, where couples faced heavy fines for breaking the country’s one-child policy. It was also illegal to abandon children. Later that year, China passed a law enabling foreigners to adopt Chinese orphans. American Margaret Cook collected Xia Huasi, renamed her Jenna, and took her home to Massachusetts. Jenna was one of the first wave of adopted babies taken abroad; 80,000 to the USA and 40,000 to the Netherlands, Spain and the UK.

Jenna had a happy childhood, along with her sister [also adopted from China] they learned Mandarin and Margaret encouraged them to socialise with Chinese people. ‘Even just looking at your own belly button, you think to yourself: ‘Oh, I used to be attached to another human being. That’s the body I came from, but who is that? Does that person even really exist?’ It all seems so abstract. It sometimes just feels like you appeared on the planet.Most people are just born into the families they’re born into and they never think twice about it. Whereas for adopted people there is always this possibility of another life.’

After taking part in a television documentary, ‘Somewhere Between’, Jenna worked for the summer at the Chinese orphanage where she had been taken as a baby. Later, as a 20-year old student, she returned to China again with Margaret. This time to search. She handed out leaflets around Wuhan; people were interested in her story, and shared their own experiences.

Jenna’s leaflet [photo: Jenna Cook]

‘I was pretty amazed that people were even paying attention to me, because I felt like I’m just one story in a huge migration of children from China. I felt like I was just one raindrop in the puddle.’ When the local newspaper published a story about Jenna’s search in May 2012, her search went viral. From amongst hundreds of messages, Jenna drew up a shortlist of 50 birth families each of which had left a baby on the same street in Wuhan in March 1992.

Jenna decided to approach the interviews as an academic exercise rather than thinking ‘maybe this is the one’, which would be emotionally exhausting. The stories told by the birth families were touching. ‘They all remembered their babies forever – it was this experience that they really regret and that they would never forget.’Each family approached Jenna as if she were their daughter – are you happy, are you being cared for? DNA tests were done with 37 of the families. All were negative.

Since her search, Jenna has returned to China but is no longer actively searching.

Watch ‘Somewhere Between’ below.

If you like this true story, try:-
Helen Harrison
Alice Collins Plebuch 
Ramon Osorio Cristales 

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