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 ancestry.com 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.


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