Genealogy Research – The Search Begins

NOTE: I originally posted this article in May 2013. Because I’m about to share my genealogy research, I felt this Post was important as background information. I intend to start with my birth family, the Schmetzers. I will follow it up with my adoptive families, the Williams’ and the Collinses.

Linwood , Ontario, is a small village deep in the heart of Mennonite country. It was a place settled  mainly by people of German extraction, and some of their descendants still live there today. So what does all this have to do with me, you ask?

This is the story of my journey to discover my roots – not so unusual in itself. What makes this story truly unique, however, is that as an adoptee, I sought not only my parents’ roots, but also those of my birth relatives.

Linwood CPR Railway Station

My grandfather Collins was Station Master & Telegrapher here before WWI.

My grandfather Collins was Station Master & Telegrapher here before WWI.

So imagine my surprise, then, when at the end of my search, all roads led back to Linwood, where both my parents, Ken Williams and Maureen Collins were born, as well as some of my birth relatives!

Here is how it all began.  When I began this search, it was in order to find my birth mother.  For that, I needed a vital piece of information: my original birth registration.  This took a lot of ingenuity on my part, as my parents would not let me see this document. This was back in the day when adoption was such a difficult process: first, you had to prove you were worthy to adopt a child, and once approved, wait for a baby to come along. So my parents were very insecure, sure that they’d lose me to a bunch of strangers.

As anyone who is adopted knows, this is totally ridiculous! You love the people who brought you up and provided you with unconditional love.

At a meeting of Adoptees, I got the tip I needed: tell the powers that be that I needed the original document for a Visa to the United States. This ruse worked like a charm. And bingo, just like that I was looking at my original birth name: Judith Anne Kuhl.

Next: The Schmetzer Family, Part I.

Genealogy: An Adoptee’s Journey, Part 4 – Reconnecting with My Birth Family

In my last Post, Mother and Child Reunion, I detailed how I met my birth mother and birth family. This was a sad story to tell, partly because I’ll never know the name of my birth father, and also because I abruptly lost contact with my birth sisters and brothers.

Ah, but now comes the happy part of the story! A few years ago, I decided to search Facebook for the names of some of the family. Now, this is where Facebook becomes a godsend, because I managed to find the two youngest right away – a brother and a sister.

I contacted my brother, Mark, right away, explaining who I was. To my surprise he got right back to me, sharing that he remembered my long-ago visits and always wondered where I was and what I was doing. Before I knew it, we had arranged to meet at my place. Naturally, we were a little awkward with each other at first, feeling each other out, but by the end of the visit we were feeling quite comfortable with each other.

I then reached out to my sister, Heather, on Facebook. She was so warm and receptive, I knew we had to meet really soon. And so we met at my cottage which was relatively close to her home. We immediately felt right at home with each other. We discussed a family visit, which turned out to be at Mark’s place. Another brother, Sam, was also there. I cannot begin to express the joy I experienced that everyone accepted me and my husband. That fall, we all met at my place for a potluck dinner, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

At the same time, my niece, April, contacted me to be a Friend on Facebook. She had also always heard about me and wanted to know more. We corresponded for a while, and this past winter, while my husband and I were vacationing in Florida, I noticed that she and her family were also coming down. I asked her if they’d like to have lunch with us one day during their holiday. And that is how I met my brother, Pete, and his wife. Again, it was a case of everyone feeling at home with each other. Now we have plans to visit them, and for them to visit us.

What a blessing everyone I have met has been to my life!

Next: My Genealogy Search

Genealogy: An Adoptee’s Journey, Part 3 – Mother and Child Reunion

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a while, because in a way, it’s painful. Here’s what happened.
When I made the momentous phone call, a woman answered (I didn’t know at the time that this was my birth mother), and asked to speak to her husband, Stu, who had answered my ad. It turns out that he had responded without my birth mother’s knowledge, and then pushed her to go ahead to meet me. You can imagine her reaction: shock, fear and anguish. It must have been traumatic revealing your not-so-pristine past to your children and loved ones.

In any event, we all agreed to meet. Stu and Betty travelled to our home, where I lived with my former husband and two small children. The reunion itself was rather anti-climactic as no one knew what to say at first. Betty said something like, “So we meet again”. We welcomed them into our home, and chatted for a couple of hours.

Stu then invited us up for Thanksgiving at their farm. As you can imagine, I was quite uncomfortable with this idea, but my husband and I agreed. Betty and Stu had SEVEN children; I was her first. This made eight of us altogether. Needless to say, I didn’t receive a very warm reception; they must all have been stunned. I had literally been forced into their midst., However, a younger brother and sister were happy to get to know me.

With this first hurdle over, we continued to visit each other until…Ah yes, there’s always a “but”. One issue I had a problem with was when Betty wanted me to call her “mother”. This I could not do; my adoptive parents were always the parents of my heart. The second issue was a little more ugly. Naturally, I wanted to know who my birth father was. She could not or would not reveal the name. You may draw your own conclusion here; I’m not going to write about it further, again, too painful.

At this point, all communication ceased between us. I did not have any contact with the family until she died at the early age of 57 from a heart attack. Her husband, Stu, phoned to let me know. He has been in my life since then, showering me with love; a lovely stepfather. However, there was no further contact with my brothers and sisters until…but you’ll have to wait to hear that story.

Next: My Genealogy Search

Genealogy: An Adoptee’s Journey, Part 2 – Finding my Birth Mother

As I mentioned in a previous post The Search Begins, I was now armed with my original Birth Registration. Because I had two small children, I felt it was important to know my medical background. As well, I wanted to find someone else, other than my children, who looked like me. And most adoptees, I think, can relate to the need to discover why they were given up.

Coincidentally at this time, I had come across a magazine article with tips on how to find a birth parent. One suggestion, which I decided to follow, was to place an ad in the newspaper, with details about my original name, and date and place of birth. But where to start? With so many newspapers, it would be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack!

On a holiday that summer my ex-husband and I happened to visit the Owen Sound area. For some reason, I felt a very powerful draw to this place. (I must confess that I have had psychic twinges in my life that proved to be real). Following my instinct, I placed an ad in that town’s newspaper (the one and only ad I ever placed!), asking for replies to be sent to a box number in care of the paper.

Much to my surprise, within two weeks I received a letter response! With shaking hands, I opened the envelope. It was the reply I had been waiting for, complete with a phone number. The letter was from my birth mother’s husband (which I didn’t know at the time). Obviously, there was some need for protection of identities at this stage.

Gathering up my courage, I made the phone call that was to change my life.

 Next: Mother and Child Reunion

Genealogy: An Adoptee’s Journey, Part I – The Search Begins

Linwood , Ontario, is a small village deep in the heart of Mennonite country. It was a place settled  mainly by people of German extraction, and some of their descendants still live there today. So what does all this have to do with me, you ask?

This is the story of my journey to discover my roots – not so unusual in itself. What makes this story truly unique, however, is that as an adoptee, I sought not only my parents’ roots, but also those of my birth relatives.

Linwood CPR Railway Station

My grandfather Collins was Station Master & Telegrapher here before WWI.

My grandfather Collins was Station Master & Telegrapher here before WWI.

So imagine my surprise, then, when at the end of my search, all roads led back to Linwood, where both my parents, Ken Williams and Maureen Collins were born, as well as some of my birth relatives!

Here is how it all began.  When I began this search, it was in order to find my birth mother.  For that, I needed a vital piece of information: my original birth registration.  This took a lot of ingenuity on my part, as my parents would not let me see this document. This was back in the day when adoption was such a difficult process: first, you had to prove you were worthy to adopt a child, and once approved, wait for a baby to come along. So my parents were very insecure, sure that they’d lose me to a bunch of strangers.

As anyone who is adopted knows, this is totally ridiculous! You love the people who brought you up and provided you with unconditional love.

At a meeting of Adoptees, I got the tip I needed: tell the powers that be that I needed the original document for a Visa to the United States. This ruse worked like a charm. And bingo, just like that I was looking at my original birth name!

Next: How I Found my Birth Mother