One Child's Solution to the Family Tree Project Problem

>> Friday, December 17, 2010

Marianne recently completed her search after many years. She had to get the assistance of the state as an emergency medical search. From information provided by the intermediary the birth family was able to contact her. She has 7 siblings on her mother's side alone! They have even met in person and Marianne is receiving some answers about her medical and family history.
When I started working with her on her search over a year ago, I told her I would do some genealogy searching for her when we found her family. I was able to fulfill that promise and just sent her 15 generations of her family history. This is her reply:

"WOW!  THANK YOU so much!   From a twig to a TREE!   When I was a little girl in 4th grade I got my first F.  "ROOTS" was in full bloom on national television, and everyone wanted to suddenly find theirs!  Our teacher assigned us to research and write out our family tree, and do some sort of art project to go with it. 

Well I went home and told my adoptive parents about this assignment, and they happily shared information about their family.  They took out the family photo's and showed me their grandparents, aunts, uncles great aunts etc...It was all very interesting and fulfilling-for them.  I meanwhile, felt more and more alien with each generation they discussed. 

All of a sudden at the age of 10, I felt more alone then ever. 

I put together a very nice report,(in my opinion). I took a small fallen branch with still smaller branches, and made photo ornaments to hang on each branch, with my mother and fathers pictures at the top.  I turned this in with a written report, citing when and where people were born,etc.   The teacher had us all read our reports out loud.  When it came to my turn she told me that mine was incomplete.  She would let me do mine the next day when I had finished it.  She wanted me to put MY info on my tree. 

Well at this point, call it rebellion-call it feeling very strange trying to be someone you truly were not, call it whatever you will, as I STILL don't know what to call it- I had no place of birth, my birth certificate was blank on identifying information.  I was always introduced by my parents as their adopted daughter,  When I would ask about my ethnic origins my  (a)parents would tell me, that I was something -ish, they didnt remember.  This made me feel like anything that mattered to me or my identity was insignificant in comparison to my adoptive identity.  (Yes- i was 10 and yes- I had these feelings)

 I was really 'feeling adopted' with this "ROOTS" assignment.  Okay Teacher-you want MY family tree, your gonna get it!   I turned in my family tree, as I saw it.  I took a coffee can, painted it pink, filled it with sand and stuck a single twig in it, with my picture atop. My report read something like, My name is Marianne Biondo.  I don't know what name I was born with.  I dont know where I was born, and I think my birthday is right, but I'm not sure.  I don't know where my roots lie.  I am a something-ish.  This is all I know about my roots.

 I got an F.  But even today I am proud of that F, because that was all I truly knew about my "roots".  That F was honest with no bells or whistles."

I thought many of you adoptees would identify, but Marianne had the courage at 10 to speak out. It is incredible even today how insensitive teachers can be on that issue. My grandchildren still get assigned that project and I always wonder if the teachers have any idea how much they hurt the adopted ones.


From A Birth Parent - Why Your Parent Has Not Searched for You

>> Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The following is submitted by Pris Sharp. Pris is a mother of loss as well as mother of an adoptee. She is a highly respected Search Angel and is associate with the yahoo groups "theregistry" and "nyadoptees" who can assist you in your search. Pris actually wrote this article last year and I have been sending it t people who asked me this question.

 Here come the Holidays again.  I know many of you become depressed that your birth family is apparently not looking for you.  But, there are so many reasons why and not one of them means your mother doesn't love you or yearn for you.  Most likely your mother married and/or moved away and does not know about the state and on-line registries.  Perhaps she never told anyone, as we were counseled to do, and does not want to risk exposure.  More than 90% of the mothers we find do not search or register anywhere; those who say they wanted to had no idea how to go about it, where to start.  Many of them are afraid because we were told that once we had relinquished our babies we had no more rights ever, for eternity; some of us were even threatened with criminal prosecution if we ever tried to find our children or interfere with their new lives.  We were constantly reminded of what terrible, immoral women we were, that we would be shunned and shamed if people knew, even our own children.  I was told, "Don't ever tell anyone what you've done, especially not a prospective husband, because no decent man will want to have anything to do with you!"
  These were all means adoption agencies and adoptive families used to pry our babies away from us and keep us away from you.  It was a cruel, vicious business that has and will impact everyone for many years -- mothers and children especially.  I don't know of one mother who came away emotionally unscarred.  It lasts a lifetime; there is no relief -- not even having more children repairs the hole our baby lost to adoption leaves.
  Most of us slunk back home in shame and fear and tried to heal and gradually got on with our lives.  I moved 3,000 miles away because everywhere I went, whenever I would see a baby about my daughter's age, I would begin crying.  Some of us went on to prove the old adage, "The best revenge is a good life."  We became successful businesswomen, super-achievers, as if to say, subconsciously, "I am *not* a bad person and I will not accept your blame!"  Others could not recover from the trauma and sunk into depression, alcoholism, drugs.  A very few became what I call "serial birthmothers" -- getting involved in more inappropriate, doomed relationships , having one or more babies and giving them up to adoption.  These women tend to be scarred with a lot of guilt and definitely will not search. 
  So many mothers, when they are found, say, "I thought you would be mad at me.  I didn't think you would want to have anything to do with me."
  This is what we have to keep reminding the NY and other state legislatures when they claim original birth certificates (OBCs) of adoptees are sealed "to protect the privacy of the mother."  It's a privacy cruelly *enforced* on us, never asked for, never wanted. 
  The best thing you can do when your search seems to be stalled is get involved in the efforts to restore OBCs to adoptees and tell them when they try to tell you "Your birthmother wants privacy" that you want to hear it from her own mouth and don't need anyone presuming to speak for her, thank you very much!

For more information on adoption and how mothers were treated in the “Baby Scoop Era” (end of World War II to 1972), go to

For information on how to get involved in legislative efforts to unseal OBCs, go to:
In NY State:
In PA: Pennsylvania Adoptee's Rights or on Facebook or
In NJ:  NJCare on Facebook or

Search on Yahoo Groups for other geographically specific groups Theregistry will help anywhere.


The Search is Over - Greg's Story

>> Saturday, November 20, 2010

The success of Greg's search was greatly due to his perseverance to get the truth. Greg is his birth name. It took many pieces to get Greg's answers and help from all over the United States. Greg asked if he could tell his story in his own words as he wants to share how he feels about having been an adopted child with no answers. So here it is:

The search began twelve years ago, was revisited six years ago, and concluded this month. The big question that needs to be answered, " Why search at all?" Pragmatically thinking in my case I was chosen by people who wanted me. They were able to want me because the state had me, and the state had me because the people that conceived me didn't want me.

Where did the search start? Six months ago with the registry of New York, a Yahoo group. Six years ago with the Alma society. Twelve years ago with the Hugs organization. But the search really started in a doctors office in Oakland where I was being tested for allergies. I was 5 and kinda hanging out in the kids toy area of the lobby. 40 years ago a popular toy was the wood bench that you would fit different shaped articles in and then bop it with a hammer to get them through the opening. As I was looking trying to get a full set (communal toys are often incomplete, remember that phrase) There were about 3 different "sets" but none were complete, so I decided to make a set, and was able to save one piece. There was a circle shape in the 'bench' but no dowel, there was however a star shaped dowel that would fit within the confines of the shape. It worked, the other kid in the area said, "You fixed it! Can I play with it?" I handed it over, went and sat down, and waited for my turn in the doctors office. To the kid it worked, to me it did also, just not correctly.

Was I looking for a correct fit? No, I know the sacrifices and the love of my family that raised me. I also knew the shortsightedness and quick fix mentality of the family that abandoned me. Please do not be offended, the truth is the truth, and no amount of political correctness will reveal more truth than the blunt honest truth. Just like communal toys, this communal child was incomplete. I do not know why, but I knew the difference between a volunteer (the family that raised me) and an obligation (the family that abandoned me) I knew and saw through my friends and family that there was something a little more that there was blood in the game, And whether real or imagined I thought that the bloodline made a difference.

The first and second searches were wrong time, wrong place types of deals, I was often hooked up with "free or low cost persons" who guaranteed contact, but ignored the basic non-identifying information, often telling me "your mother's name was princess snowflake, and your father was Shaka Zulu" or something that ridiculous. It was an ever frustrating experience, and although I do not fault people for making a living, I didn't think that someone should charge an illegitimate child to find out who his parents were. Really, hasn't the child been through enough? One of the pieces of information mentioned the birthmother had moved to New York. So 6 months ago, I joined the NY group. I was helped by several people most notably and most helpful Diane Harman-Hoog.

The secret to the search is fresh eyes and pointed questions. If you paint a government worker into a corner with information about your search, they will often reveal more than just the simple information that you requested. One of those things was a psychological profile done 9 months after my birth. The psychiatrist listed my first and middle name on the evaluation, and mothers maiden name. This was huge information, because in prior searches the birth mother and birthfathers last names were transposed. The middle name was also key, because it was the same as the birthfather's middle name. Through the process of elimination, we were able to crosscheck hundreds of bits of information and narrow it down to 12 names on the birthmothers side, and 4 on the birthfathers side. Then 2 months passed with nothing. Two months compared to 43 years seems like not a lot of time, and it wasn't but it felt like an eternity. We had a stalemate, then a searcher who seemingly was throwing spaghetti off the wall e-mailed me the name of my birthfather, I looked at my notes, and the state of birth, the date of birth, the age of his father and time of death all were wrong, But the middle name was right. So I called for a week, he finally answered, I believed that he knew who I was, and when he answered he confirmed it. From him we got the first name of the birthmother and were able to close the search in about 12 hours time.

What did I hope to get out of this? I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that I wanted to be wanted by the ones who were supposed to have wanted me. So that would be a fairy tale ending. We live in the real world sometimes its great, sometimes its less than that. For now I'll have to be content with the star shaped dowel through the circle. I know plenty of people got their noses out of joint when Rules of Engagement made a comment about "used babies" I didn't. That statement didn't offend me, in fact it kinda described how I felt. Thank you for your time, and good luck.

Greg found his birth father with one adopted son and a daughter in Utah. Greg particularly feels pain that his father rejected him but yet went on to adopt another son. From my point of view, perhaps it was an attempt to make amends in some sort of way.

His mother was a nurse and was tracked down through rather sketchy information on his non-ID as well as through a news article about her getting her nurses cap at a ceremony. He also has two male siblings from her. She died in 1990. Greg was able to get a picture of her by asking the nursing school if they had one and they were kind enough to send it. She was a beautiful woman.

The most recent development was that Greg was able to find her nursing school roommate and learn a little more about his mother. She was also found through a news article.

Please note that Greg kept up the search despite the fact that his parents had two of the most common last names which slowed us down for quite a while. He will always grieve for the mother he never knew and for what might have been.

As a curious last note, Greg lives quite near me, far from where he was born in California. I used to live even closer to him when he was a young boy and his soccer team played my son's soccer teams. I hope to actually meet him one day.

Greg was willing to come out and tell us just how he felt and feels in the hope that other adoptees will identify with his feelings and also know that many searches are solved.. I would like a birth parent to share their feelings as well in a future blog.


Help Emergency Locators Find Matches for Medical Emergencies

>> Saturday, November 6, 2010

EMLA is a volunteer organization that specializes in helping find family members when a medical emergency is at hand. Some examples are when a donor is needed or when an adoptee has a medical condition and the physicians need family medical information.
Thanks to short sighted legislation that seals adoption records from even adult adoptees, 5 million or more Americans do not have a family medical history available.
One of our own Search Angels has just found her birth sister and has learned that her birth brother died from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). In Googling the hereditary component of the disease I found the following write up

Q. Is ALS hereditary?
A. ALS is directly hereditary in only a small percentage of families. The majority of patients with adult-onset ALS (90%) have no family history of ALS, and present as an isolated case. This is called sporadic ALS (SALS), and although there is likely a genetic predisposition involved, SALS is not directly inherited in a family. Rare exceptions are when familial ALS (FALS) is masked due to an incomplete family history, such as if the patient is adopted or the patient's parents died at a young age. The remaining 10% of persons with ALS have a close second family member with ALS, which is referred to as familial ALS (FALS).
Currently the best tool to distinguish between SALS and FALS is the family history. A neurologist or genetic counselor will ask whether anyone else has ever been diagnosed with ALS, and if anyone else in the family had progressive walking or speech problems. If so, they will likely ask additional questions to see if the health problems were related to ALS or any number of other causes. They will also inquire about the ages that family members passed away to see if any close relatives passed away at a young age, meaning that a long health history is not available. It is very common to have limited information on one's family, but most families can still be reassured since the majority of instances of ALS are not hereditary. Older relatives are often good sources of family history information, and medical records can often be obtained with the help of a hospital's medical release form.

There are many diseases where the hereditary component is much more crucial to treating or diagnosing the disease.

Adoptees should not have to die because they were adopted. Help EMLA underwrite the costs of subscription databases by buying their cookbook. If like me, you do not cook, Joan, the moderator of several reunion adoption lists, suggests that you buy it to give to your lawmakers who have refused to pass adoption record reform laws. It contains not only recipes but heartwarming reunion stories.

EMLA posts this information in their flyer;
The Angel Food Volume II, our second cookbook of favorite recipes from the
EMLA! Search Angels, associates, & friends, is the perfect gift for your
family members & friends. The Angel Food II cookbook contains over 700
delicious recipes, cooking tips, successful reunion stories & more. 100% of
proceeds from the sale of this cookbook go to funding AFS/EMLA
http://adoption- free-search. org/ so we
can continue to help adoptees and birth parents with medical issues.

The cookbook can be purchased by emailing
The cost of the cookbook is $10.00 plus $5.00 postage in the US.

All money goes directly towards covering the cost of databases and other computing services. Our Search Angels on many boards use these services to help you. Please help us continue to afford it. All of the search angels donate money as well as their time. Please contribute so we can provide these and more outstanding services for you


A Thrilling Search - Patty's Search

>> Thursday, November 4, 2010

Patty has been searching for her birth family for several years. All her life she had wondered about her birth family. She loves her adoptive family, but for an adoptee, there often seems to be the feeling of a disconnect in one’s life. Any one who does genealogy should understand this need to know, but with an adoptee it is even more urgent as an adoptee has no family medical history to report. In the area of something less tangible, unless an adoptee has children, they have never seen someone who looks like them. Remember the thrill you had when you saw a picture of Great-Aunt Sarah and realized you had her smile or the inner grimace when you had Uncle Roscoe’s ears? Those identifications are all part of the human experience that defines our existence. In addition, in most states, an adoptee has no access to an original birth certificate or to information that identifies her origins. There are a number of legal ramifications involved, but why should this significant minority of 5 – 6 million people be denied what every other citizen has?
Patty like hundreds of other people discovered Search Angels. These are people who donate many hours of their time and other resources to reuniting families separated by adoption. Patty was able to get some information on her birth mother’s name and eventually a possible birth name for her father. She contacted a few close relatives of her mother’s and was shocked to find that she was born in prison. An aunt by marriage told her that she had heard that her mother killed a man in a poker game and was sentenced to 5 years in the Kentucky Women’s Correctional Institute. It turned out that her mother had died at the age of 66 in Indiana.
Patty felt discouraged and even though she had become a leading Search Angel herself, she dropped her own search to help hundreds of other people find their birth families. At the same time, her mind kept coming back to her own search. Like many adoptees, she had fear about what she would find. She would make jokes about what she had found and used the experience to assure others tht she understood and that knowing was better than not knowing.
In the world of adoptions, there is such a thing as a non-identifying document. While the people who are entitled to them vary from state to state and the content is dependent on the state laws as well as the mood of the person who extracts the information, this is a document available to many adoptees. Patty had always advised people she worked with to order theirs, but Patty had never had the nerve to order her own. A few months ago she did just that and was shocked and disappointed that it contained far less information than she already knew. This made no sense since she was born in state custody. She shared that information with her fellow search angels and one of them decided that Patty needed some answers.
Search Angel Diane is a genealogist who came into the field of adoption reunion through trying to find a cousin’s birth child. She is passionate about the belief that adoptees are not treated as full citizens in this country. She donates time and money to rectifying this. Diane says:
I had no idea what I was getting into when I started looking for my cousin’s child. The impact of sealed records on a person’s life had never occurred to me. When I heard of people dying because they could not get their medical history, stuck in another country because the amended birth certificate given to adoptees had different information than the person’s government file, unable to participate in genealogy and to identify with the people that made up her past, I knew I had to use my computer research skills to fix what I could.
Diane had become a good on-line friend of Patty’s and when she saw the comments Patty made about her non-non-ID that she got that was basically a form letter with not much filled in, she decided that she needed to at least try to help.
She volunteered to see what she could do. She started by doing a family tree that went back many generations on Patty’s mother’s side. Her people were some of the first people to settle in Kentucky. They came from North Carolina and Virginia. Patty’s son was able to find more information about her European roots as well. After she got the mother’s side done, she made a list of possible relatives who were still alive. She also cross checked with existing family trees on and low and behold found a Cousin Billy also doing a genealogy on this family. They corresponded and he went to the library and sent them some news articles on the crime, on deaths in the family, a list of how all the family died who were buried in the Baker Baptist Cemetery in Crittenden County Kentucky, family pictures, marriage licenses for great grandparents, etc. Cousin Billy’s great grandfather and Patty’s great grandfather were brothers.
So the next day he went to the library, and when Patty and Diane opened up an email clipping he sent they were astounded. It was the article on Patty’s mom’s trial. She claimed that the man attacked her and that it was self defense. One of Patty’s birth brothers, Donald was a witness. She did get 2 years in prison for killing the man instead of the 5 years Patty had heard from a relative. The sweet part for Patty was that the article ended saying that the lawyers were trying to get an appeal approved so that the baby would not be born in prison. The other really, really important part is that the article gave her mother’s name as Kathleen Campbell and said that it was her third marriage. Patty had thought her father’s name was Campbell, but we had no proof. So not only was that the case, but her parents were married. The next email had an article on the death of Patty’s toddler sister a few years previously and listed the family members so we had a list of siblings. (attachments enclosed at end of article)
So here we were, her mother was not a hardened criminal, her father was a Campbell and Patty’s brother Donald was a witness and could also confirm Patty’s dad’s full name.
So we were riding high. I looked up her brother and he had died last year. He lived less than an hour from Patty. He looked like a wonderful man and his memorial site had comments from grandchildren about how they would miss him. This was an awful shock to Patty as you can imagine. She had known he had existed but had delayed contacting him. We were fortunate that his obituary listed family members. Marianne found Facebook accounts with pictures for Donald’s daughter who is the spitting image of Patty and for Patty’s birth sister, Sandra. Sandra looks more like Patty’s mother. The only person Patty had ever seen who looked like her was her granddaughter.
Patty had to wait a few days before contacting them as her emotions are fragile at the moment. However, Sandra will be able to confirm which Campbell and then she will have all of her birth family as well as genealogy. Sandra even had a picture of herself and Donald as little kids on her Facebook page.
Patty’s mother died in 1993 and we feel so sad for her. She had a hard life but I have talked to a number of family members who have said that she was a considerate person sending Christmas presents and crocheting a scarf for her sister. As the Search Angel, think Patty would have liked her. Patty is a fun loving and generous soul which I expect she got from both her birth mother and adoptive family. If Patty’s father is still alive he would be 89, so he is probably gone, but she has a large family of siblings and nieces and nephews out there to get acquainted with.
Kat liked what she saw from her point of view of growing up in a poor farmer/coalminer family of what she perceived as the good life and enjoyed drinking, partying and playing cards. She ended her life as a waitress. She had married again and we believe she may have had another son. We are checking on this now.
Patty is also dealing with the fact that there was and is mental illness, such as bi-polar disease in the family as well as the fact that for the last several generations, family members died very young. Even the ones who had left the environment seem to have been affected. As of her great-grandfather’s generation, the life span seems to be what one might expect for a family in this environment, but after that point, the age of death is low with many childhood deaths. However, now she has that information and her new found Cousin Billy has been finding death certificates so we can see the cause of death. Now her doctors can be told. Billy has our honorary Search Angel award for his willing assistance.
So the moral is don’t delay contacting people and if one approach does not work try another. I have solved several searches recently through those family trees so check them out.


Search and Support Online Groups - TheRegistry - YahooGroup

>> Friday, August 27, 2010

There are many groups with Search Angels or other resources to help you with your search. Perhaps the best is theregistry on yahoogroups. Theregistry was started in April 1999. It is an interactive email group. People post encouraging messages, information and queries to the whole group. The messages are delivered to the subscriber's mailbox.

In addition to the message forum, the site includes folders to hold informational and reference files, albums for photos and other features. Messages, files and photos published here are only visible to the members of the group.

The Registry was started by a lady who called herself Angry Grandma. Grandma was an adoptee, and found her mother. She took care of her birthmother till she died. At that time, she turned the group over to Jan known as Grandma Jan. That was in 2006.

Jan is a first mother, and started to run the group. At which time, Joan offered to help. She gladly accepted Joan's assistance. Joan was in the background doing things for the board, and members, till Jan became ill, and wasn't able to work the group. Jan isn't able to participate and then Joan became the Head person of the group. She has three groups, one is  the other is Arizona Search _support at yahoo. Joan appreciates the yahoo format, for messages, and files, and links. This best helps  members with information and guidance.
Joan states that "in the meantime, our wonderful angels have been helping people find their loved ones.  < We have angels from all different states. Some run their own sites, and help those that come to our board, to get the best guidance for the states they know. Some Angels will help with all states.

We network with other groups. The top goal is to reunite people.

I hope our new presence on Facebook, will help others to get the search help they need.
We have more plans to expand so people can find us and again get the search and support help they need.
Since you are reading this, it could be helpful if you would share information about us on your Fb pages.
There are a lot of people who want to search and don't know where to begin. .You might help someone else without knowing it by sharing our group name and contact information."

In November 2006, Joan E took over as moderator of the group, she screens each person who tries to join and answers their initial questions and advises them to sign up on and their state mutual consent registry.  There are now almost 3000 members in this group. The majority are silent lurkers, but some of the best Search Angels are associated with this group.

Joan continues to screen each message that is posted to be sure that personal information like phone numbers is not published to the list, but rather exchanged privately among members.

Group resources include files on how to proceed with searches and an explanation of the laws that pertain to reunion searches for each state.

Group members solve 4 or 5 cases per month. Each search can take from an hour to months or years. Group members take a great deal of pride in their work and keep confidential information secret. Being a Search Angel, involves emotionally moving in with the family for a while and becoming one of them and thinking like them. The Search Angels have a high standard of professionalism. There are two style of Search Angels, the loner, introspective type like I am and the more gregarious type who solve problems in groups. No matter which category the Search Angel falls into we still share information and network our resources.

Joan has just set up two Facebook accounts : Looking For and SearchAngelCentral  to help get the word out that there is help out there. Please join theregistry if you are looking for help and support.

There are also regional support groups on Yahoo groups such as nyadoptees (also moderated by Joan E) to help with those very difficult NY searches.

There is also a very active group for Pacific Northwest Searches,Their moderator writes -
In the 90s, there was an online group focused on WA searches called "Washington State Triad" mailing list. There were many in that group that helped with searches before the term 'search angel' came into being. Members of this group were activists, some were involved in getting the OBC unsealed in Oregon, then made several attempts to get laws changed in WA. This original group is also responsible for getting Spokane County to release non-id because until some group members went and had a face-to-face visit with the then County Clerk, Spokane had refused to release non-id. Now days they give some of the best info around.

In the early 2000s, that group started dying down most likely from burn out so another WA adoptee started this group in Sept of 2002. The original name of the group was 'Washington State Adoption Search' and as the name implies, the group was focused on searches in WA.

For the first couple of years, this group had pretty light activity. Then in Dec 2004, BrendaO joined the group and got the group really fired up (YEA!) because of Brenda's enthusiasm to help others with their searches. Kind of fun to go look at the group's home page and look at the "Message History" and see the spike in posts from Dec 2004 onward. : )

In 2005, we started requiring potential members to fill out a pretty long application before they could be accepted into the group. There were several reasons for this:

1. We wanted to know all the basics of someone's search so we could provide them with 'next steps.'

2. We only wanted people in the group that we could really help.

3. We only wanted legit people in the group that were connected to adoption. We wanted to prevent any scammers, paid searchers, trouble makers, etc, from joining the group. So far this has worked well and we really do have a great group of people in this group and many feel like family. : )

In Spring 2006, I was helping a long-time adoptee friend of mine with her Oregon search. I knew nothing about searching in Oregon other than adoptees can get their OBC and I was fortunate to find Donna and Connie (HOORAY!!). They joined this group so then this group was able to help with both WA and OR searches. Because there were no groups focused on helping with Idaho, Montana, Alaska, we started taking on those searches, too.

In April of 2007, we changed our name from "Washington State Adoption Search" to the current name "Northwest Adoption Search and Reunion" to better reflect all the areas we are able to help with.

For the last 3-4 yrs, we've had a lot of search angels from around the country join the group so we have experts for all over the place. Because we happen to have some of the best California searchers in the group now, we are also able to help them. So I've been thinking we might have to change the name of our group once again to something that includes 'West Coast' or who knows what!

Don't struggle blindly in the dark, get some support, some help and find friends. Most important find a Search Angel.

Good luck with your search.


The WIlliams Sisters Believe They Have Found Sister #5

>> Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Excitement was in the air yesterday as the Williams family got ready to appear on Good Morning America to tell the viewers about finding each other and about the search for Sister #5. (See previous blog from June 18 .) At the last minute GMA canceled their appearance. Apparently they had hoped to find sister #5 and present her in the course of the show. Well, I could have told them that it was not that easy!

In the late 50s, something had happened to rip apart the family. The only son, who was 11 months old died after a 2 hour illness. It has been speculated that the mother then suffered from a mental breakdown but we will never know. All the children were born at one year intervals and in different states. They were all put for adoption in Monroe Louisiana and adopted separately. Some had received what is referred to as a non-identifying information from the state and in two cases it said that there was another sister born in 1957. That is what we thought we knew. One non-ID gave a birth date of 2/21/1957.

Needless to say the family and all their supporters were crushed when GMA canceled their appearance. It had seemed such a good way to try to reach the fifth sister. However, USA Today picked up the information that morning and had an article on them. That is where sister #5 saw it and called Sister #2 Betty Robeson.

I received a call from the stunned family right after that. I asked for more Search Angels to check this woman out. They flew to the rescue and confirmed that she was a nurse, had gone to high school where she said she did and had a sister who attended the same high school and identified her mother.

We had planned to send someone to the hospital where she worked to take her picture on their phone and send it to us, bur she beat us to it and sent one herself. This is the picture that she sent -

The top picture is sister #5 , the bottom one is sister #4, Sandra taken on a phone a the hotel yesterday evening..

Here is a quick paste up of sister #5 on top of the reunion picture from June.
She seems to check out. The family is requesting a DNA test to be sure.

As all the Williams family is, she appears to be very nice and with a good sense of humor.  They were even comparing feet on the phone last night. We had been planning and sharing on Skype when they placed a call back to Sister #5. What a privilege to be part of this event!

I am leaving it to the family to name the sister, but I am so happy for them and will be holding my breath waiting for the DNA test,

This is a wonderful example of how perseverance, planning and publicity pays off.

Congratulations to this great family. Sister #5, you are one lucky gal


Thinking Outside the Box

>> Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Often searching requires creativity.

When searching for a person on Facebook, try searching for all the possible relatives listed on various lookup sites as well. You may find family pictures or other information that you can use. In fact, unless it is a really popular surname, try searching on just the surname and go grazing for information.

I am doing an mixed ethnicity search at the moment and the family pictures are very important as we investigate one possible person after another.

Do the same thing when getting the possible relatives on one of the many lookup sites like Look up every possible relative. Some times you may happen on to a gem of information. Do thorough searches on everyone listed.

When searching on, think of all the ways you can stretch the information. If you find someone in public records, refine your search and search using just the address that person lived. You may find out who else lived there.

Sometimes you need to go up a generation and come back to the generation you are interested in. Be sure to check the obituaries that has on line. While you are it, use the family tree, photos and other tabs that come up with your hits. Although the family trees will not typically show living people, sometimes they indicate "Living" and then the last name of descendants.

Check Classmates and check their new yearbook section. You never know!

If you are not finding someone under a birthdate that you have, try  just the year and month.

If your search is for a woman who married, look in also for the maiden name. Legal records and old addresses may still be accessible.

Speaking of legal records. Many of the states have online searchable court record databases. Google "search New Mexico court records" for example. In some states this includes divorces and or marriages that took place with a judge.

Much of what you are looking for is in free sources. However, there are a number of useful sites. No one can subscribe to all of them so join a group like theregistry on There you can ask for people to look things up for you. There are many such online groups.

Here are some of the paid subscription sites I use. I am sure I will leave some off by accident. Some to these sites may also be available through your public library free if you have a library card.
Http:// (if you are looking for a number of people)

I hope this will help someone. I also want to post the names of some of the best volunteer search angels I know. These are women with high principals, networking in place and excellent skills.
Patty Drabing
Priscilla Sharp
Michelle Gross
Diana Iwanski

There are many more I will try to name some more over time.


Getting Contact Information

>> Monday, August 2, 2010

Often the hardest part of a search is getting current contact information. Often the online directories lag a couple of years behind. In addition, many people now have cell phones and at this time, we do not have a cell phone directory. I always Google the full name using quotation marks, then first, middle initial and last name and finally  just first and last name. You often find someone's name on a club roster or membership list that has been posted online.

I have a paid subscription to That can give me the phone number, and as well as, and and many similar directories may have it. If you have the address, try a reverse look up on as well as search on the address in Google.

I have had two finds this past week. The first is a birth daughter and I am still trying to find a good phone number for her. She does have a Facebook account with pictures, but it has not been touched for a few months. So I have the family, she has a birth sibling, trying to send messages to all her facebook friends saying that family is trying to contact her and can they help them. This has worked before.

The next find, has been many years in coming, with about a year's involvement on my part. This is from the St Louis MO area. Missouri gives detailed non-IDs (non-identifying documents that give general information about the family). They are extremely good at not giving you the details that would make a difference. In this case the adoptee, A, received a non_ID several years ago and we had been working from that. I had discovered with another Missouri case, that a request for a non-ID from the court would provide additional information to that from the adoption agency. A requested another non-ID and it had several pieces of information that pointed us in the right direction. It had ancestry information which we pursued as well as information on which school 3 of the birth mother's siblings went to (they went to a special school for a handicap).

A found a Facebook site for the school and contacted someone she believed to be in the same graduating class as her uncle. Bingo! A name of a classmate with two similarly handicapped siblings came forth and then A and I spent hours using Skype and looking up all the people with that last name and figuring how they fit in with the non-ID.

We knew that we had the right person and family, but A was very emotional and petrified to call. She finally has and her mother was very, very receptive and the first thing she told A was that she had always loved her.

Now I will put together a small family tree for A. She has a large extended family now by birth and adoption.

I hope that these thoughts give you some ideas for your search.

As I tell my husband each time, one down and 5 million to go.

Good luck on your search.


Use the Social Media Sites like Facebook

>> Sunday, July 25, 2010

I am hearing more and more stories about people finding lost family members including adoptees and birth families on Facebook. I am actually very pleased if the person is younger and might have a MySpace account. Facebook has an application for advanced searching that you can install, but they have not required some of the information you might need to search. MySpace has great search capabilities.

Despite the lack of good search information and tools, there is a very good chance that someone you are searching for is there on Facebook so brew a pot of coffee or tea, and start looking.In addition to individual accounts there are group or community accounts. A woman who has been looking for a long time for a birth family that included deaf members just had her find on Facebook. She knew the approximate year of graduation of one of the deaf children and which school the children had attended. She contacted a person who would have been in that graduating class on that school's site and asked if the family was known from the characterististics given in the non-ID. After a couple of tries, she got a last name and it has proven to match the family members in the non-ID. SHe should be calling her birth mother today.

I have found many people for "clients" on Facebook and after I have found them, then gone on to check pictures and family members on their accounts. MySpace lets you search more thoroughly. For example, once you have found all the Bill Williams, you can then filter them by sex, age and location.

Don't forget When I have a maiden name for a birth mother I check there first to see if I can find a married name, or if I am looking for someone who may have changed their name. It is very helpful when you know a last name and general age and general area where they might have gone to school. The advanced search on Classmates is quite helpful.

If you are the one trying to be found, be sure and put yourself on these sites. Include pictures and a little story about your search. Someone may find you this way.

Good luck with your search


Search Aid - Kadima List

>> Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Imagination in Your Search
The Williams sister who were featured in the previous blog are at it again. They just sent me a link to an article on them in the Shreveport Times. They are very good at using media resources to advance their search. It is a good example of using imagination and going for it! Check this link - and look for the article on the Williams sisters.

We have not found their little sister yet. Since their birth mother kept going back to Ouachita Parish Louisiana. we are assuming that this child was adopted there too.

Other cases of using the media are letters to the editor to be published in a paper or contacting the consumer reporter. Also contacting human interest Newspaper and TV reporters.

The tedious search with a Kadima list
My advice at this point is to purchase a Kadima list from This list has all the births on the date you specify. It is not a birth list of who was born in a particular place, but rather a list of any person with that birthdate who has lived in the state and transacted business such as getting a driver's license, paying utility bills and other transactions that include contact information and name..
The list makes no attempt to  combine different names of the same person who has gotten married, divorced, etc.

Method of using the list
When you get the list, you sort through separating males from females so you can search for the correct gender.
Then sort the list by first name and try to combine entries that are the same person living at different addresses over time.
Sort the list again by zip code. Start with the most likely zip codes and work outward.
It is particularly valuable to work with a spreadsheet on this.
After the list is sorted by gender, entries combined and zip code priorities decided, then you are ready to begin.
Using,,, look for the names. The resources will include places lived, AKAs and possible relatives.
As you research look for possible parent names, be sure this is not parent in-laws. Most people who have adopted are older. This can help you prioritize the people you are looking for. A lot of siblings is a flag that it is probably not an adoption, usually no siblings or 1 about two years age different is the norm. Once again be sure these are not siblings by marriage.
Gather as much as you can from the internet.
When you have completed that process for a zip code zone, then try to find a phone number for the person. With the advent of cell phones that are often replacng land lines, this is becoming more difficult. Sometimes you have to write a note.
Other options are to look for neighbors. for example lets you search for neighbors. I usually look for a female neighbor aprovimately the age of the person I am looking for or an older female. You would be surprised how much you can learn from this.
You can also look for possible relatives. Since my estranged ex-daughter-in-laws are listed as relatives for me, you can see this does not always work, but it is worth a try.

The Call
When you call, have a script that you read. An example is:
"I am a genealogist doing family research for a friend and we think that it is possible that you might have information that can help us. We are looking for a female born in Xxxx (if you know it) on 1/27/79 (or whatever date it is) and we wondered if you would be such a person. If they say yes, then say that the person you are looking for is adopted, would that also fit them?"
Pay particular atention to tone of voice and for other clues of uncertainty.
Remember, not everyone knows they are adopted although they often suspect it.
When you end the call, ask them to please keep your phone number, in case they think of any information that may help you.

Geting the list
Go to Ameridex,com. Click on price list. The first entry is
"Nationwide ("Live") Index -   Search by first name, and/or last name and/or date of birth and/or city/state/zip. $1.95. Up to 50 names with addresses, and date of birth returned. Optionally retrieve additional records $0.45@50 records to a maximum of 2000. No charge if no hits. List of all males or females born on a specific date with recent or previous addresses $18.95. Results returned via email as a comma-separated file. You can purchase this search using Paypal by clicking the following button"
 Click on that button to purchase the list
The red text describes what you want.

As complicated as it may seem, it has worked. It is tedious and can take many months but if you have run out of options it is another thing to try.
I have seen two birth sisters, a birth son and at this time, I suspect a birth daughter, found by this method. I am waiting for a non-ID to confirm the daughter

Good luck with your searches.


A Successful Search Still in Progress - The "Williams" Family

>> Friday, June 18, 2010

Here are 4 of the 5 Williams sisters, #5 is yet to be found and they will not stop looking until they are all together. One sister born in 2/21/1957, location unknown, is still to be found.

There had been 6 siblings. One brother, Robert Lee Williams died in 1954 in New Mexico. The reunited siblings are: Roberta "Ann" born 1/27/1950 in Odessa TX, Bonnie Sue born in 1951 in Espanola NM, Betty Marie born 1953 in Oklahoma City, Ella Louise, now "Sandra" born in Denver CO in 1956. The parents were Evelyn Louise Johnson (maiden name) Williams born 3/16/1920 in Lafayette Louisiana and Robert Williams born 10/13/1915 in Coushatta, Red River Parish, Louisiana.

Betty talks about the search for her sisters:
I remember several things of our lives together and the other girls remember even more. All I know is that I was crushed when they took my sisters away from me. As I remember it, I was the last to go.
I have been looking since I could start looking- 18 years old. I never knew what direction to go until a friend told me how to get my non-identifying info. I wrote for it and when it arrived, I picked it up at the postoffice and sat there in the parking lot and read every word. I was stunned, amazed, happy, sad and finally surprised- I was told that our mom and dad visited us several times and that mom came one last tima alone. I found out then that I had two sisters we never knew. I bought a program to help search, Big Hugs" and it told me when and where to write for more info. I wrote every letter they suggested and hit brick walls time after time. My Aunt Polly was a Godsend. She is the family researcher who got me to where I am today. She found census reports and listings that helped me get here.
Roberta, Bonnie and Betty

In 2004, while taking a Sunday drive, my husband and I started talking about this listing he had seen on Ebay where a lady was selling Hershey Kisses to help earn money for nursing school. He and I looked at each other and said, "we can do that". I wrote our story up and listed it along with our story for $4.95. I had to add an item to include so at first I added Christmas stockings, then on the next listing I added Valentine suckers. I didn't get any good leads but met a lot of people who wanted to help me. I still have most of their emails and I try to keep them up on our search. In December, Lunzeta Chretien- Monroe NewsStar called for an interview and from her story, I found Bonnie.

In 2007 Brandon (Sandra's son) responded to an adoption registry listing. Aunt Polly had put her email address on this listing so she sent it to me. I replied and the rest is a thousand pages of emails and many tears, Sandra (Ella Louise) was connected to us. We met on December 1, 2007.

I am thankful every day that God gave me my sisters back., Roberta was found by Brandon and Search Angel Diane in May 2010 and maybe even another- the youngest. None of them has ever seen the youngest.

A local TV stationed featured their search -  check it out.

Someone, somewhere knows something. We have found no trace of Evelyn. If any one can help please post a comment to that effect.


How Do I Get Help in My Search?

>> Thursday, June 10, 2010

There are volunteers called Search Angels. These are people who have been involved in a search of their own or who, like me, just want to help with this social injustice.

Many Search Angels belong to a number of groups. I personally belong to these yahoo groups - the registry, NYadoptees, Adoption Search Angels, searching-in-texas, nwasr (Pacific Northwest Searches) and to I am on hiatus from G's list. Most of these links are shown on the right hand side of this page. If you join one of those yahoogroups, you will have contact not only with Search Angels but also with others who are making the same journey as you are or who have already found their birth family,

If it is a medical emergency such as a transplant or the doctor needs more family information for a serious illness, apply for help at EMLA ( There a team will swing into action to do the search.

Search Angels volunteer their time and money for these searches. One search can take hundreds of hours, although sometimes we are lucky and a simple look-up can do it, That is the exception. EMLA on the web site above takes donations to help offset the cost of subscription to various databases, If you can manage even a very few dollars, give a little to the cause. Many Search Angels from different groups ask the Search Angels on this group to help look something up, so no matter where your Search Angel is from, he or she may be taking advantage of these donations to get your information.

Theregistry, a yahoo group, is an excellent group with thousands of members. Even if you are doing the search yourself, join this group. Joan, the moderator, has added many files and links that are very valuable to the searcher. For example, Joan has added information that is specific to getting information in every state. Even as an experienced searcher, I start most searches by checking Joan's files. If your search is in NY state, Joan also moderates this group and has many files and links specific to NY. Having scary thoughts about being rejected, nervous about a reunion, or need to find out where to look for an obituary, These are the groups for you

Please take advantage of the state registry that the state that processed your adoption probably hosts. They can match up birth family members who register with them. Also is a worldwide registry. There are a few more listed to the right of this message, Use them. Register your search, Check back frequently to see if there are more entries that might be for you. They have lots of success.

Ask for help! We have seen it before, we have heard it before. We will keep your information private if you wish,

Good luck in your search


What Do I Do With All This Data?

>> Wednesday, June 9, 2010

As you proceed with your search, you are going to be collecting a lot of information. This is how I track and make sense of what I find.
Number 1 Rule
Save everything you find including where you found it. After searching for months, you do not want to realize that you saw something on day #1 that you can use now and have to find it all over again.
Number 2 Rule
Every person you rule out puts you one closer to the truth.
Number 3 Rule
Stop and go over what you have. Analyze it. Read it out loud to someone, draw mind maps. Analyze it frequently this is when the brainstorms appear.

Useful Tools
Snag it
I use a software package called Snag-it. It costs about $40. The only software on my computer that I use more is my email and my browser. If you have a Mac or use Vista, the capability to snip and copy bits of information and pictures is built in. Check it out.
This is what it looks like:

You highlight any picture or text you want to copy. You can add arrows or do other editing and then save it as a file or copy it into a document

Word Processor
I use MS Word but any word processor will work. Start the document with the name of who you are researching. Save it to a folder in your documents folder. (i.e.if I am searching for Sandy Adams mother, both this file and the folder I put it in are called Sandy Adams.
Add the email address you need to contact whoever you are working with.
Add the phone number and any other contact info you need.
Then save copy of the initial email or a summary of the search.
From now on start adding subtitles for sections such as BIRTH FATHER, SISTER
and copy everything that you find that pertains to that title info that section. Include sources.
This document should be a record of your search, so if you go on vacation for a couple of months, you will see exactly what you have done so far.

Word Processor - document #2 or Spreadsheet
If your word processor can contain tables, insert a table into the document. Basically this is done by choosing Insert and then Table or choosing table and then "insert table."
Take the non-ID and isolate every statement like this
This is the document you will check and recheck and add things to and delete from. This is the basis of your analysis and often the difference between success and failure.

Spreadsheet Document
Keep a list of everyone you investigate
Include name, contact information, places they have lived, possible relatives and your conclusion about the person

Optional - 4th document or a card file program. Microsoft has a free one. I use Azz Card file
I use a cardfile program but you could also use a spreadsheet or document
This is where I put sources like = California birth records are on
OR place to write for non-ID

Online Folder
Any other thing  like the non-ID documents, articles, etc that you come across should also go in this folder.

Summary Table
A final touch. I keep a table with "clients" I am helping, contact info, the birth date and relationship they are looking for, I note when the case is closed. Once a month I go to the larger registry sites and check the dates against the entries.

Mind mapping - My last technique - think with a pencil and paper. Draw a picture of your search. Put the goal in the middle in a circle and draw lines into the circle from the major pieces of information you have to get to make that happen. Put a square around each major piece of information. Draw arrows into the squares saying where that data might come from.

Good luck with your search. Sooner or later all that data will start to make sense.


How to Start Your Search for Birth Family

>> Sunday, June 6, 2010

 I am Search Angel Diane. I have been a Search Angel for about 2 years and have had around 30 reunions due to information I have found. I am a researcher and teacher at heart so I want to share some ideas with you that have been successful for me.

Some of the Search Angels have been looking for a way to educate other Search Angels and to get information to people who are looking on their own for birth family members. There are lots of support groups (online and local) and as well as many resources available. There are also many registries where you can register your search. I have listed the ones I check first when I get a new search for someone. Please add others in your comments and I will put them on your links. Only free registries for this list, please. I will investigate paid registries later. What I hope to do here is to help you decide where to go next in your search and to pick the best resources I know of.

So you are about to search for your birth family member or perhaps you have been searching for a long time to no avail. It  is very painful for me to start a search for someone who has been looking for 35 years and to get a hit within a few minutes, just because the person did not know what was available. As a Search Angel you may know some of these things, but a checklist might help. As we add posts we will  get to some more complicated methodologies and searches.

First of all very few searches are totally impossible. There are some that may prove to be that way, but it takes a while to really determine that. In a very few cases, the answer is almost immediate. In some cases it can take years. Most cases are in between, probably taking a month or two to search.

Your first steps:
•    Check online registries to see if someone is already searching for you. Be flexible. I hate to tell you this, but some people do not have an accurate memory of time and place. Dates (even years may be wrong) and places mistaken. For example, someone who thinks she may have given birth in St Paul, may have even given birth in Minneapolis.
•    See if you are in an open birth certificate state. The list is growing. There are sometimes some restrictions. There is a list (courtesy of EMLA) on which states are open (or kind of) at the bottom of this post.. In addition some counties in California are now open.
•     Register with . You have to print out paper forms and mail them in.
•    Register with other adoption registries. There are a few listed at the side of this blog,
•    Ask for help. Join one of the online search and support groups - also listed at the side of this blog
•    Ask for a Search Angel. We can just look at your information and point you to resources or take a more active role inn your search, depending on your skills. You can ask through one of those online groups, through or just search with Google. A Search Angel volunteers their time and resources to help you.
•    Check with your state and adoption agency to see if they issue non-identifying documents. You can search on state name plus adoption plus non-identifying document and see if you are eligible. Some states, like Louisiana, do not issue them. Some states, like New York, do not issue them to birth parents, but do to birth siblings. This document may really help in your search.
•    If you have a name then check these resources - all are free unless otherwise noted.
1.    Look up the name in or See places where the person may have lived - these are not in chronological order, get names of possible relatives and if you are really lucky, you might get maiden name or AKA names.
2.    Take those names and locations and go to and see what you can find,. Sometimes you can even find Facebook or MySpace accounts listed there.
3.    Be sure to check Facebook and MySpace. You can do a detailed search on MySpace after your initial search. A box comes up on the right. Very useful. Also people in MySpace often list their birth sign so check that out if you know the birthdate.
4.    If you know the first name (or first name and middle name) check with for people born on that date. Best if you search on a state by state basis.
5.    My last in this first set of hints is to do a Google search - Use the quotation marks indicated. Search on "firstname middlename lastname" then on "first name middle initial lastname" then "firstname lastname" and also "lastname firstname"
6.    Write down on copy every single piece of  information you get including the source. You do not want to realize in 6 months that you have seen that information somewhere and try to find it again.
Open Records States
Alabama - adoption records are open
Alaska - adoption records are open
Colorado - Adoptions records are open for adoptees whose adoptions were  finalized between 07/01/1951 to 06/30/1976 and 09/01/1999 to present.
Delaware - adoption records are open. Birth parents can sign a non contact veto
Indiana -adoption records prior to 1940 may be open
Kansas - adoption records are open
Maine adoption records are open
Massachusetts adoption records are open for birth years prior to 4/14/1974
Michigan - adoption records may be open for older births
Montana - adoption records are open for adoptions finalized prior to 2/2/1964
New Hampshire -adoption records are open
New Jersey - adoption records prior to 1940 may be open
Ohio - adoption records are open for adoptions finalized prior to 1/1/1964
Oregon - adoption records are open
Tennessee adoption records are open if finalized after 1951 birth parents have no contact veto available

Good luck with your search. Next post will cover methodology and how to keep track of what you have found.


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