We found my birth mother! People are asking for details, and I think they should have them. My family and friends are more supportive than I would have imagined. Here we go.
The short version? I had a lead. The lead was correct.
Ok, here’s what has happened. Go back 41 years. I was born in Redwood City, California. I was put up for adoption. My adoptive parents weren’t able to pick me up the day I was born, that wouldn’t come for a few days. So my birth mother took me home for four days and took care of me until the process was ready to go. I was handed over, and I’ve been a part of my family ever since. All my life I’ve understood that my mom wasn’t able to produce the body I needed, and my birth mother did that. Before and after the fact, I’ve been a part of my family. Always will be.
All my life I’ve known I was adopted. From the very beginning I understood where babies come from, and that I didn’t come from mommy’s tummy. I came from another mommy’s tummy and she gave me to my family. Since day one I’ve known this.
Fast forward 41 years.
One day at work we hired a new guy and he is also adopted. How it came that we knew we were both adopted I cannot recall. But he told me about an information packet of non-identifying information he had obtained from the adoption agency. I knew nothing of this packet, so I huffed it down to the LDS Family Services building in Provo and requested one. They said it would be back in a week. A month later I had forgotten about it. A month after that I got a call that it had arrived and I could come pick it up. It was information that my birth mother had shared about her and her family, my birth father and his family. No names, no really good details. It was fun to read.
Remember when the first girl (Janessa Simons) who used Facebook to find her birth parents succeeded in finding them? That very day my friend at work and I were talking about how easily he could find his birth family through Facebook. That night, my wife and I were talking about Jenessa and I thought about trying again to find my birth mother (previous attempts had been thwarted with the thought, “the records are sealed, I can’t see my original birth certificate. Uh, I’m hungry. Anyone else hungry?”). I have been doing a bit of genealogy and family history lately, and I’ve got an account on Ancestry.com. I thought about the kinds of records they have and wondered if I could find anything about me there.
I knew I was born in San Mateo county, so I searched for all males born on my birthday in San Mateo county. Ancestry returned some 13 records of boys with full names, and mother’s maiden names.
You’ll see that there is one result that has just one name, and you may not be able to tell, but the mother’s maiden name is the same as the child. I told my wife of these results, and something came over us. We suddenly had focus and drive. I barely remember it happening. We opened up google docs and I created a spreadsheet, and shared it with her. We started going through Facebook trying to find the names of these boys born on my birthday, in my birth county. If I can find them, I know that name wasn’t mine. There were three strongly Latino names, and if you know me, you know there is nothing Latino about me, so I felt comfortable eliminating them.
By the end of the next day, we had eliminated all but the one with the same name for boy and mother. One more detail that you can’t see in that image — there was another baby that had a different one name, but had the same mother’s maiden name. I put a post on Facebook asking for help in finding my birth mother. Overwhelming responses! Tons of shares, a few private messages. One was someone who helps find people, and she gave me a few tips, but she can’t take clients outside of her company. What is her company? Association of Professional Genealogists. I called one based in San Francisco, and we spoke about what I knew and what I had found. She emailed me and said that the child with one name, and a matching mother’s maiden name was likely me. And the other child was likely a clerical error; when my adoption was finalized, someone was supposed to go back in and record a birth of Sean Jackson with a adoptive mother’s maiden name. Instead, they went back and put my birth father’s last name as the baby’s name, and my birth mother’s maiden name again. So I knew my mother’s maiden name and my father’s last name. The non-identifying information had the age of my birth mother and her parents, and my birth father and the age of his parents and siblings at the time of my birth. Going back from ’72 I was able to estimate what year they would have all been born, within a year.
We searched Ancestry for both of these names, and came up with nothing. We kept searching. Nothing. Google. Nothing. Natalie was looking around on familysearch.org and saw that the church had census data on microfilm. The non-identifying information said that my mother’s family was LDS. I figured out that if they were LDS, their families should be on those censuses. So one Friday I drove up to SLC and spent six hours looking at microfilms.
I found many families that had one or two elements that matched what I thought the birth years should have been. But none had all three (father, mother, daughter — my birth mother). Then I found one that had the perfect years for all three. But this one had siblings; a younger sister, and a younger brother! The non-identifying information had nothing about siblings for her. This family was in Colorado as of the 1960 census (the only one I found them in). I was born in California, so that didn’t match so well. I noted the data in the google doc spreadsheet I had been maintaining through the search, and texted my wife. She started looking from home while I was still in SLC. In that way, cloud computing is very cool (both working on the same docs at the same time from different locations). She saw the family I had found and said she got chills. By the time the library was closing, I could not find a family that matched birth dates better. We had a haystack of names, and we started trying to eliminate them.
Back to google. Back to Ancestry.com. Back to familysearch.org. Searching. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Searching. For days. Weeks. To be honest, we weren’t searching for many others on the list because they couldn’t provide the same good feelings as this family. The dates weren’t right.
We found a wedding record for the someone that had the same name as the mother in the family, and that wedding took place one year before I was born. The wedding took place in Las Vegas, but both parties were from Colorado. What happened to the father? Dunno. Well, on the non-identifying information, my birth mother listed her parents with different last names. This could explain that.
Ok, so in 1960 the family was in Colorado. A decade later the mother remarries, and she’s living in Colorado. Her new husband is from Colorado. No one is in California.
On new.familysearch you can’t see anyone if they’re alive. Too personal. I thought it might be possible that my birth grandparents (the mother and father in this saga) might have passed on already. I logged on and searched for them. Found ‘em. I looked at them, poked around, and saw that their middle child, a daughter had passed on as well. I had an idea hit me and looked at the details to see the name of who had uploaded this data. It was a name I had never seen or recognized. Oh well. Then I thought I’d look at the details for the parents. That data had been uploaded by my lead! I had an email address! I got up and started pacing the room. I tried to distract myself. To no avail. My wife counseled me to not be aggressive in my email, but to make it very open.
My name is Sean Jackson. I was born XXX XX, 19XX, and was adopted in California. I’ve been trying to find my birth parents, and based on research I’ve been able to do, I have the feeling one of my parents may have the last name of ‘XXXXX’.
I found your email address through familysearch.org, and I was wondering if you could help me at all with any information you might know about anyone in your family that may have been a part of an adoption process in California in XXX of 1972.
If you could please let me know one way or another, I would greatly appreciate it. I can be reached here, through email, at email@example.com, or by phone XXX-XXX-XXXX.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration,
I was very confident that my lead was living in Colorado. Why was I born in California?
I posted again on Facebook asking for help from anyone living in Denver. Maybe they could find a phone number or something for this person. I searched and searched for this email address, and found it associated with a blog! I checked out the blog, and it was for this name, and the person was in Virginia! Wait. Virginia? What happened to Colorado? Let’s all put on our creepy hats and start do some social profiling through Facebook….
My wife and I find this person on Facebook. She has the same name as my lead, but she’s my age, not the age of my mother. Ok, that’s fine. How does this person fit in? She’s married to a guy with the last name. On his page, he lists his family. Cousins and uncles with the same name. They have a son, on her page you can see his birthday. Cousins with the same name….they list family, cousins, parents, aunts, uncles. There’s a whole clan of this family living in Virginia! One of the older men has the same name as the youngest brother of the lead family. But it doesn’t *quite* match up. In order for the uncles to work, this branch of the family has to tie back to the lead family. I went to lunch with my buddy and we drew the family structure out on the back of the paper they put in the tray. He actually works at familysearch.org (he made the family tree feature), and he was able to come up with an elegant solution to my problem, but it speaks to a very deep dysfunction in the family. My wife and I are a little troubled at the many possibilities of what could have happened to make the family so disparate.
I emailed again essentially the same message. I was too impatient and I called the Virginia lead. Well…turns out I’m barking up a very wrong tree. She’s not it, and she says that this whole family (that my wife and I have been profiling) is part of one big family that comes from one great ancestor and no one in the line fits what I’m looking for.
My wife finds an obituary for the little sister. Turns out she had moved to the mid-west (it’s the middle, not the mid-west. I live in the mid-west. Don’t get me started) and married with children. She died of cancer (I hate cancer). In the obituary, it names her husband and child, her sister (my lead), and her brother (and his wife). My focus is back in Colorado.
I’m on Facebook, and I’m eliminating all of the family from Virginia we had been profiling. There’s one guy that has the right name, but he wasn’t in the Virginia group. He has the same name as the brother in the family, but I don’t know if he’s the right age.
A week goes by and my wife and I are just letting everything marinate in our heads. We’re also tired of searching. It’s gone on forever and we feel like we’re getting no where. Every time we think we’ve found a piece to the puzzle, it seems there’s five pieces missing. I’m seeing a new kid on Facebook every day putting a picture of themselves with a poster up. “I was born on April 15th, 1995. Help me find my parents! Please like and share!” And then a day later they’ve found them. Well sure, they were born 17 years ago by 17 year old parents, so their parents are 34 now. Sure they’re on Facebook. And they were born in Utah, and their parents are in Utah. Bam! Reunited. I put a post up on Facebook expressing my internal conflict; I’m excited for them, but kinda bummed that my lead is way older, I was born in another state, I now live in this state, and I can’t place my lead ever living in the state I was born in.
If you have any movie theme music, now is the time to start playing the battle scene/epic climax music. It should be building, plodding, and have lots of good brass.
Then last Sunday, I decide I’m going to send this guy on Facebook a private message. I am 99% sure he is the brother to my lead. I am 99.999% sure my lead is my birth mother. He and I aren’t friends, so I have to pay $1 to get it into his message box.
My name is Sean Jackson. I was born in California in XXXX of 1972, and was adopted. Research I’ve done is leading me to believe that one of my birth parents has the last name “XXXXXX”.
If you know of anyone in your family that may have been involved in an adoption in California in XXXX of 1972, I would love to be able to talk to you. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at XXX-XXX-XXXX. Or you could message me back here. If you are prompted to spend $1 to do so, add me as a friend and you can send me a message for free.
If you do not know of anyone involved in an adoption then, that’s fine. I would also like to find contact information for a XXXX XXXX XXXX, who also lives in Denver. If you could help me reach her (contact information), that would be of equal help.
I realize this message is out of the blue and you don’t know me from Adam. I’m sorry if this comes off weird. I’ve been searching for my birth parents for a long time, and I appreciate your help in any way you can offer it.
Thank you very much,
We leave to go have dinner with family. I bring my laptop and am watching my Facebook messages all night. I keep checking my phone to make sure it has signal and battery. No call, no message.
This morning (Monday) I wake up to go to the gym. It’s been two weeks since I tore something in my muscle, and I’m getting back in. I’m tired of not losing as much as I should be. I get dressed in the dark, go downstairs and get my earbuds for my ipod. I check my phone, and I have a message back from the guy.
“I am your uncle , I was in Vietnam when my sister, XXXXX got pregnant, I have written down your phone number and will call you this week. Surprising and wonderful to hear from you.”
Mind = blown. Seriously.
I wrote back how excited I was and asked if he had a way that I could talk to his sister. I was attending a funeral this evening, so I came home from work a little early to get ready. I was sitting down with my wife, talking about how cool it is that he wrote back and said “I am your uncle”. My phone rings, and it’s a Denver area code. I was hoping he’d call sooner than “this week” so I pick it up eagerly.
“Is this Sean? Are you looking for your birth mother?” My heart stops beating, and I signal to my wife that this is her. We fumble through some words as I’m trying to confirm it’s her. She is so busy trying to confirm it’s me she doesn’t hear me trying to confirm it’s her. She identifies herself by saying that she couldn’t give me to foster care and she took care of me for four days. Yep. That’s her. I’m talking to my birth mother.
Cue the victory theme.
My birth uncle had given her my name and number, and she called. We talked for a half hour. We were laughing and crying. My family is now planning a trip to Denver to visit sometime soon. We’re going to talk again tomorrow. I’ve written down questions, she should be doing the same.
I was able to communicate to her the number one thing I wanted her to know, no matter how the reception went: She felt she was inspired to put me up for adoption, that she was lead by the spirit. I wanted her to know that she was indeed led by the spirit, and her inspiration was true. I was raised in a family that was strong in the gospel, and I had a father that was the best example I could ever have. I was raised in a home with the priesthood, and I myself have the priesthood. I am sealed to my family, and my wife is sealed to me, and I have four beautiful children born in the covenant. She and I both wept as I shared this with her. It will long be one of the most memorable moments in my life.