30 Years of Waiting for My Mom's Birth Parents - Part 5

Updated on January 17, 2019
Kasey Kolosh profile image

Kasey is the daughter of a deceased adoptee who is trying to find her maternal biological family.

The Nagging Question...

If you're keeping up with my story, you know that I've located the maternal side of my mother's biological family. Once my outreach to my biological uncle, Alan, was made. I did some basic research on the paternal side of my mother's family. I got some preliminary information, but was not ready to dig too deep into that side because it dealt with more common names than the maternal side.

One nagging question I had since I originally received my mother's birth certificate was that the one family line that I had identified as one of my mom's family lines handout shown up in either of the trees that I worked out. This meant that I either found the wrong line for the father or that at least one person in my mirror trees was illegitimate or adopted. You can find a reminder of my list of matches in part two found below.

If you are just joining my story now, you can find links to the first four parts here:

A photograph of my mom and maternal grandmother, Carlene
A photograph of my mom and maternal grandmother, Carlene | Source

My New Favorite Resource: Newspapers.com

One resource that I never took advantage of until recently was Newspapers.com. I wanted to learn more about my family (and, really, anyone) and this was a tool I could use to do that to get new results. I quickly navigated through the website to activate a one week free trial. Within minutes I was able to pull all kinds of news articles from the 1930s and 1940s that helped me get a better picture of Carlene, my biological grandmother. It is also gave me a better perspective of the role print media played back then, versus the dominant social media presence that exists today. Finally, it gave me an even greater appreciation for the written word and a yearning for the way old society used to be. Sometimes I believe I was born in the wrong decade and would have been better suited living in earlier days. My fascination with these articles definitely, I think, has something to do with that.

What was I able to learn from this new resource?

There were so many insightful things that I learned about Carlene from using Newspapers.com.

  1. Carlene attended her paternal cousin's birthday party at age 2.
  2. Carlene visited the Soldiers Home in Lafayette, Indiana for a few days at age 10.
  3. Carlene was the flower girl in her aunt's wedding. This was significant because, through a random course of events that took place at work, I found out that Carlene's aunt is also the aunt of one of my co-workers named Nancy. When I had found out my biological grandfather had potentially gone to Bishop Noll, a local high school, I reached out to one of my co-workers named Jackie. I knew that Jackie had ties to the school because her daughter recently graduated from there and I was hoping she might be able to help. Jackie told me that our co-worker Nancy also went there and that she recently had some old yearbooks in the office. Jackie talked to Nancy and Nancy actually brought up one of the yearbooks! She showed me a photo of her uncle and I remembered the last name. Later I saw the same man's name pop up in the wedding announcement and a connection was made! I shared all the information I had with Nancy and she will be meeting with her older family members during Christmas who may be able to give me more information on Carlene.
  4. Carlene ran away from home and was located at age 15.
  5. Carlene got engaged to Mike Sha****, the man listed on my mother's birth certificate, at age 17. Mike was stationed in Georgia at that time.
  6. Carlene got married to Mike Sha**** a few months later at age 17. The article contained a lot of details about family members, the wedding details, and the names of friends. Mike was stationed in Washington D.C. where Carlene was supposed to join him following the wedding.
  7. Carlene was living in Baltimore, Maryland at the age of 18 when her husband was deployed to Germany.
  8. Carlene and Mike lost a child, Lynda, when the baby was 7 weeks old. They living in Lansing, Illinois (where my own father grew up!) at the time. Carlene was 20. It was 1958.
  9. Carlene was an avid writer to the newspapers. It didn't matter her age or what state she was living in, she had no issue sending in opinions and statements for publication. I found this very humorous because I'm pretty opinionated myself and have been known to write a strongly worded letter (or email) from time to time.
  10. Carlene's father is not the man listed in her obituary!

Newspaper Clippings from Newspapers.com

Birthday Party Announcement
Birthday Party Announcement | Source
Visit to Soldiers Home
Visit to Soldiers Home | Source
Wedding Announcement
Wedding Announcement | Source
Missing Girl Announcement
Missing Girl Announcement | Source
Engagement Announcement
Engagement Announcement | Source
Wedding Announcement with photo
Wedding Announcement with photo | Source
Deployment Announcement
Deployment Announcement | Source
Obituary of Infant Daughter
Obituary of Infant Daughter | Source
Letter to the Editor
Letter to the Editor | Source
Obituary for Carlene's Biological Father
Obituary for Carlene's Biological Father | Source

My Great-Grandmother, Helen Bra******** McK**

The key to tracking down the line that wasn't factoring into my mirror tree came down to my biological great-grandmother, Helen Bra******** McK**. After I stopped searching Newspapers.com for my grandmother, Carlene, I started searching for her mother, Helen. I searched for the maiden name (Bra********) and married name (McK**) that I had. I found some interested newspaper clippings but was perplexed when my search (without Boolean operators) led me to an engagement announcement for Helen Bra******** and a man named Russell Pur*****. After a little bit of digging (and searching for Carlene Pur*****, I quickly learned that Russell was Carlene's biological father and NOT Wilbur who was mentioned in her obituary. It turns out that Russell, my biological great-grandfather, died of tuberculosis when Carlene was just 6 months old. Helen remarried not long after his death and changed Carlene's last name to that of her step-father, McK**.

Sure, it all sounds good and looks believable on paper, but how did I know for sure that I was related to Russell Pur***** and not Wilbur McK**? I took out Wilbur McK** as my mother's father and my family tree on Ancestry went crazy with new hints. Lo and behold, once I swapped in Russell as the father, I was now connected to the Bow*** line that was my closest maternal match on Ancestry! This feeling was so incredibly sweet - perhaps almost as sweet as when I received my mother's original birth certificate in the mail!

Photograph of my Great-Grandmother, Helen

My great-grandmother, Helen Bra******** Pur***** McK**
My great-grandmother, Helen Bra******** Pur***** McK** | Source

Building Out Carlene's Tree

Now that I knew that my grandmother's father was misrepresented in her obituary, I worked on following Russell Pur*****'s family line. The initial clues I received led me quite far back. Before I added biological parents for my mom in my tree, I had 11 Shared Ancestor Hints. (For a reminder on what Shared Ancestor Hints are, visit Part 2 of my story.) After I started adding in her family, I was quickly up to 29 Shared Ancestor Hints AND 2 DNA Circles, which I haven't previously discussed since I haven't been lucky enough to have any until now.

In a DNA Circle, a DNA match is someone who lists your common ancestor as a direct ancestor in their family tree and who’s related both to the common ancestor and to you. In other words, the two of you inherited enough of the same DNA from your common ancestor that you appear in one another’s DNA match lists as cousins. You can also find relatives that you do not have a DNA match (due to receiving different genes over time). In a DNA Circle, a DNA match to circle is someone who lists your common ancestor as a direct ancestor in their family tree and who is a DNA match to other members of the circle, but not to you. (Source: Ancestry.com)

Carlene's Family Tree

It has not been determined if all of these ancestors are 100% accurate but many Shared Ancestor Hints came from these names.  The tree does go back further generations but it was not possible to show that view on one screen.
It has not been determined if all of these ancestors are 100% accurate but many Shared Ancestor Hints came from these names. The tree does go back further generations but it was not possible to show that view on one screen.

Next Mission: Finding Mike Sha****

Now that I had made considerable headway in finding Carlene Pur***** McK** Sha**** DeB***, it was time to focus my energy on finding my potential biological grandfather, Mike Sha****. I had some very specific details on him based on the wedding announcement and military information so I had some leads to follow instead of just the random Googling I did initially.

You can find Part 6 of my story here.

My mom in high school
My mom in high school

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Kasey Kolosh


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      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        11 months ago from UK

        This is turning into an interesting detective story as you research and put together the pieces of a jigsaw.


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