30 Years of Waiting for My Mom's Birth Parents - Part 3
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I received the paperwork from the state on Monday, December 10, 2018, just over 25 very long weeks from the day I submitted them. I received the United States Postal Service Informed Delivery notification around 7:30 AM but was unable to open the letter until after 6:00 PM that night due to appointments after work. The day felt SO LONG and the wait was excruciating! Even though I obsessively checked the Informed Delivery every morning, I was still shocked to see it in my inbox that day. All day long I kept looking at the scanned piece of paper in my email trying to see what the contents said. I could see through the piece of paper in the picture but just the letter and not the birth certificate. It drove me nuts!
The Informed Delivery Notification
The Moment of Truth
When I first slid the envelope open, I pulled the piece of paper over and saw the top of the birth certificate. When I saw that it said Lake County (Northwest Indiana where I was born and raised), I almost lost my mind. For so long I had believed that she was not a local baby based on information I received from a family member. Additionally, my maternal DNA matches were mostly in Northeastern Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania which further reinforced the fact that she might not have been a local baby. It was at this point that I had to run away and open it somewhere privately and not in a packed room full of people at my stepson's karate class.
What I saw next on the birth certificate, I did not expect. Not only was my mother born in Lake County, she was even born in the same hospital where I would be born almost 30 years later. This resonated with me because we also graduated from the same high school, something that I've always held close in my heart. (Side note: It is odd what you find endearing when your parent dies when you're a child. Not only do you have a limited time to get to know your parent, but you have only ever seen them through a child's eyes and not as an adult.)
Another thing I hadn't expected to see on the birth certificate was a father's name. I wasn't expecting to see it based on the preliminary non-identifying information I received from Catholic Charities, but there it was! The name wasn't specifically one that I had come across in my research online, but I had a match with the same pronunciation but different spelling. I felt the father's name was an added bonus of this whole process and I was looking forward to digging in to my research.
The name that I knew I would see was the mother's name. I have to say that I was shocked to see a name that had never come up in any of the hundreds of family trees I had built out or researched. At this point I started to feel so incredibly overwhelmed. I even started to wonder if my biological grandmother lied about the parents' names. I know that sounds silly, but I have heard from many folks in my online support groups that this happens fairly often. It was possible to do back then because hospitals, adoption agencies, etc. did not require identification when processing paperwork. I guess the honor system was the way they did things back in the 1960s, along with leaving doors unlocked and walking 2 miles uphill in the snow each way to school.
Another piece of new information on the birth certificate was that my mom was actually baby #4 for the mother. I knew that there was a son prior to my mom being born, but I did not know she was one of four. From the birth certificate, it appeared that one child died prior to my mom's birth. The document was fuzzy so it was difficult to fully read that portion.
Finally, one thing that was not included on the birth certificate that I expecting was my mother's birth name. Many adoptees in my support group mentioned receiving documents that listed their given names at birth prior to receiving their adopted names. I was disappointed to see that her birth name simply said "Baby Girl Sha****."
Note: I am using *** to protect the identities of those biological family members still living.
My Mom's Original Birth Certificate
Trying to Find Carlene
Once the initial shock of seeing the birth certificate wore off, I realized I should probably leave the karate parking lot and drive home. As soon as I was able to safely use my phone, I did the first thing that most folks do these days when they're looking for someone; I searched the name on Facebook. I quickly found someone who matched the name and surprisingly, the photo of her and her husband resembled my mom (according to my memory). But there was just one thing...neither one of them looked even remotely close to 80+ years old. I knew this was not the couple that I was searching for and I needed to keep looking.
As soon as I got home, I started searching all of my usual people-finding sites. I found some preliminary information on Ancestry and MyHeritage, but my biggest hit was on good, ol' Google! I did not find anything when I searched for the mother's maiden name (McK**) or the married name listed on the birth certificate (Sha****, the same last name of the stated father). I decided to take a chance and searched the last name of a man she may have married in 1965, according to a marriage license application I found on Ancestry. Voila, I found her! Well, I found her obituary.
Deep down I knew that the chances of finding my biological grandmother were slim due to her elderly age, but there was still a pretty big sting when I saw that she passed away in 2012, outliving my mother but still gone. Her obituary was brief but it gave me the information I needed for the next step of my search. It confirmed that she had a son (which I already knew from the adoption file), and his name was Allen DeB***. I had my next mission.
To read more, click here for Part 4.