30 Years of Waiting for My Mom's Birth Parents - Part 6
Finding Mike Sha****, My Biological Grandfather
While most of my search thus far has been looking for my mother's biological mother, I did spend some time looking for her biological father. I knew that his name was Mike Sha**** based on the birth certificate, but this information did pose two problems:
- Mike Sha**** is a fairly common name.
- Just because the birth certificate said Mike Sha****, it did not mean that he is my mother's father. He was the person that Carlene was legally married to at the time, but they were separated and fathers are not always the people mothers say they are.
This article will focus on finding the Mike Sha****, my Mike Sha****, that is allegedly my grandfather.
If you need a refresher on my story, you can find the first five parts on my profile page.
My Alleged Biological Grandfather, Mike Sha****
My Initial Reaction & First Steps
As I mentioned earlier in my story, when I initially saw a father's name listed on my mother's birth certificate, I was shocked. The previous information that I had been given from the adoption agency had stated that paternity had not legally been established so I guess I made the assumption that there would not be any paternal information whatsoever. How wrong I was!
As you already know from reading the earlier parts of my story, my primary focus was on finding Carlene since I thought I would have the most luck finding something on her. But I DID look into Mike the same night that I received my mom's original birth certificate. There was a hit for a Mike Sha**** who lived in my current hometown and was from Hammond, Indiana, but he was not old enough to be my mom's father.
I also jumped on MyHeritage to see what might possibly come up. There was a hit for a local high school, Bishop Noll, for a Mike Sha**** who would have likely been around the appropriate age for my biological grandfather based on the age listed in my mom's original birth certificate. The photo above is actually the photo I initially saw the night I received the information in the mail.
This Bishop Noll tip is also what led me to approach my co-worker Jackie about help with Bishop Noll yearbooks or contacts. As mentioned in Part 5, Jackie talked to our other co-worker Nancy who had a Bishop Noll yearbook on-site and brought it to my office to show me. I am still waiting to hear back from Nancy about how her conversation with her relatives went during the Christmas holiday and will post an update at that time.
When I originally saw the yearbook photo, I did not see much of a resemblance to my mother so I dismissed it for the time being and went back to researching Carlene. Additionally, the last name was spelled a little bit differently so I wasn't sure it was the same person. I later decided that it was him after seeing newspaper articles confirming that he went to that high school and was the same age as the man pictured.
Once I grew exhausted of researching Carlene (at least for the time being), I tried looking for Mike again. Trusty ol' Google kicked out an obituary from 2015 for a man who was born in 1934, lived in Hammond, and served an extensive career in the military. It was an endearing obituary for a man who appeared to be very loved by his family. It listed a surviving wife and 5 children, including their names. It also listed siblings. Naturally I got to work.
After about 30 minutes I was positive I found the Mike Sha**** that was listed on the birth certificate. What wasn't certain was if he was actually the father or just the ex-husband of Carlene. I decided to be brave. I sent messages to all of the children that I found on Facebook and also to the sister who was mentioned in one of the many Newspapers.com articles. One of the children had a photo on his Facebook page that showed the entire family from many years ago, assumably in the late 1970s based on the clothing they were wearing. There were some initial things about the photo that stood out to me but I couldn't quite place why. I wouldn't figure it out until a couple of weeks later. A couple of hours after sending the messages, I went to bed without having received any responses. From what I could tell, none of the people had read the messages.
Out of respect for the family, I am not posting any of the pictures I found even though they are from many years ago.
My First Conversation with a New Uncle
On December 18 at 1:00 AM, just a few hours after I sent messages to my alleged relatives, I received a response from the youngest child (Joseph) of Mike Sha****. My phone was on silent so I didn't see it until 4:00 AM when I got up to use the restroom. I was so excited that I couldn't go back to sleep! He was kind and said that his father was possibly the man I was looking for and that he would have to ask his oldest brother who was a product of his father's first marriage (something I already suspected based on the family photo). I punched out a response and anxiously laid back down, knowing that I wouldn't ever be able to go back to sleep.
Within 20 minutes he had responded again and we talked off and on for almost two hours. I sent him copies of the documentation that I had so that he would know I was not some random person trying to scam him and that I was not contacting the family based on a hunch.
Here you will find a summary of our conversation that first late night/early morning:
- Joseph stated that he, too, was interested in learning more about his father's history. He did not know much about his first marriage. He knew a little bit that he knew from his mother, such as the fact that Mike and Carlene had 2 children together, his older brother Michael and an infant daughter.
- Mike and Carlene split up after the infant daughter (Lynda) passed away. (The obituary can be found in part five.) They got back together for a brief time but ended up separating again.
- I shared some of the information I had about Alan. Joseph was not aware of Alan's existence. I sent over some high school photos of Alan and Joseph said he resembled his brother, Frank.
- Joseph confirmed the information in many of the newspaper articles. For example, he confirmed that his grandparents are the parents of the bridegroom in the engagement and wedding announcements. (You can find that information in part five as well.)
- He decided that he wanted to talk to his oldest brother, Michael, the one who is the child of Carlene and Mike, in person to gauge his reaction to all of the information I presented. He was also going to approach Michael on the possibility of doing a DNA test to find out if he is my half-uncle or my full-uncle, thus confirming if Mike Sha**** was the father or not. (You'll recall from Part 2 of my story that DNA is measured in centimorgans and the number of centimorgans helps determine the relationship between you and a person. The range for a half uncle is 500-1446cM and the range for a full uncle is 1349-2175cM.)
- Joseph found all of the documentation I sent over to be very impressive and spent a considerable amount of time looking it over. As for me, I was impressed with how well he was taking the information and his willingness to share. I found it so touching that he said that he wanted to make sure he handled this right because he really wanted to help me. (At this point I was okay with possibly being his half-niece!)
Ancestry DNA Kit
This is the kit I used in order to set me on the right path of finding my mother's biological family. This is also the kit I plan to use when I send my new uncles a DNA test to confirm our relationship.
Additional Conversations with Joseph
Over the next couple of weeks or so, we talked off and on with additional updates for each other. A summary of the main points for the story can be found below:
- He would meet with his brother Michael in person the next weekend to review the information that I provided.
- We both agreed that the timeline was very odd. Lynda passed away in 1958, Michael was born in 1960 and eventually ended up with his father, Alan was born in October 1961 and no one in the Sha**** family knew about him, and my mom was born in October 1962 and no one knew about her either. Additionally, it was believed that Mike and Carlene may have gotten back together at some point around 1964.
- We know that Mike and my mom are at least half-siblings, Alan and my mom are at least half-siblings, and Mike and Alan are at least half-siblings.
- I realized what was standing out to me in the old family photo posted by Frank. It was Frank's eyes as a child. They reminded me of a photo of my mom in kindergarten. I sent it to Joseph and he agreed that they looked a like. The photo can be found below.
- Joseph plans to talk to his Aunt Jean who is the family historian and genealogist. She was also the maid of honor in Mike and Carlene's wedding.
- Michael told Joseph he would be willing to do a DNA test. I plan to send one to him the next time Ancestry goes on sale.
The Adoption File
In the next update, I will cover the receipt of my mom's adoption file from Catholic Charities that occurred on Christmas Eve. This document provided invaluable information on my mom's story that, even yet, I have not been able to fully explore in my spare time. I am working on this case little by little with help from many, including the people I have reached out to who may be my relatives.
Happy holidays to all who are reading this. Finding new family has been my own Christmas miracle this year and I am looking forward to getting to know them more in 2019. These days I cherish any connection I have with my mom, no matter how small.