Who Was I?…Who Am I?

It’s odd to imagine receiving an infant from a foster parent without any background information on the baby. We always got our pets from the Erie County SPCA and they came with medical histories, special needs, perhaps even pedigree documents! An infant can’t yet talk, but s/he does have a medical history, and biological parents and relatives who know their family background. In 1949, in a closed adoption in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, my parents knew almost nothing. A couple of tidbits of information they were given were actually untrue. (Thankfully, adoptive parents today are more informed.)

Here is an excerpt from Young Love ~ An Adoptee’s Memoir

“I have a large ring binder with all my documents and notes on my adoption story. My search began in 1983. Ron was 5 and Emily was 3. We visited my parents in Morrisville, Vermont for Easter, which fell on April 3rd that year. I am sure of these details because the first document in my binder is a letter from my dad written on my birthday, April 7, 1983. During our Easter visit, I finally pulled myself together and asked my parents if they knew the name of the agency that handled my adoption. I explained that I felt it was important to get my medical history—for myself and the children.

“This request marked a milestone moment in my life. It was Easter, after all, and for me, it was a new beginning and a new endeavor. My parents responded with compassion and acceptance. I sensed a little unease from my mother―a slight pause. However, Dad took the lead and immediately assured me that they would get the address for me.

“I asked them what information they remembered. Dad described how, when they picked me up at the agency, they were so thrilled to receive me from my foster mother that they never thought to inquire about my birth family.

“Our conversation was going well. Then suddenly, I heard myself ask if they knew my name. I hadn’t planned on asking for my name, and so it was shocking to hear my mother’s quick reply: “Betty Jean.” She had never once mentioned this during the after-dinner chats so many years before.” (I later learned my birthmother named me Betty, not Betty Jean.)

“My parents had given me family names, Eleanor Mary, but called me “Bonnie” because Dad had always wanted a daughter named Bonnie. Dad knew all about his Scottish heritage. I wonder if they had actually wanted to give me a name somewhat similar to Betty. I was almost 8 months old when they took me home, old enough to know my name.”

One piece of information Mom and Dad received was absolutely correct–my birthday! It was confirmed for me when I received my Original Birth Certificate. On the first page of Young Love ~ An Adoptee’s Memoir, I write about a special birthday tradition: “Mom would wrap nickels in wax paper and hide a few of them in the cake. Such excitement!”

But back to today’s title, Who Was I?…Who Am I? I searched until I had answers. I now have the information my parents should have been given. I know a lot about my biological families today–I’ve even met many of them! With help from search angels, social media, and DNA, I was able to complete my jigsaw puzzle. I now know who I was and who I am!

Our eldest granddaughter celebrated her 13th birthday this week–here is the card I made for her. Happy Birthday, sweetheart!

Handmade Birthday card

You can find my memoir in my Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyAdopteeMemoir Each order includes a matching handmade bookmark and free domestic shipping! You can also order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.

An Ever-Important Attitude of Gratitude

One wintry day in February 1960, an unmarried young woman named Rose gave birth to a healthy, handsome baby boy. She named him Louis. Rose and her family lived in Verdun, Quebec, Canada on the Island of Montreal. Rose could not provide for her son. She had no choice but to relinquish her parental rights. The infant was adopted by a French-speaking couple who gave him the name, Marc . They raised Marc in a French-speaking community in Welland, Ontario. Welland is located on the Niagara Peninsula between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, barely 26 miles from Buffalo, New York.

Marc at 10 months with his Mom

Marc had a happy childhood. He lived with his parents and his brother and had a close extended family. In his career, he specialized in Information Technology (IT) and worked for a major company in Ottawa, Ontario. Over time, Marc’s curiosity about his birth family grew and he decided to get his DNA tested. FamilyTreeDNA posted his results sometime around 2010, I believe. Unfortunately, he did not receive a high match for years and stopped checking regularly. 

I had tested only with AncestryDNA until a friend recommended I branch out and test with other companies, especially because AncestryDNA was not yet available in Canada. Having been born in Montreal, I realized she had a great point. In 2016, I tested with FamilyTreeDNA, Marc’s company. My results came back with our high DNA match!  I was elated, shocked, and mystified—who was this person? While I waited for Marc’s response to my email, I asked folks in Facebook’s DNA Detectives and Free Canada Adoption/Family Search and Reunion about our match. Everyone agreed that Marc’s birthfather and my birthfather were brothers—we were first cousins! 

It was a Hallelujah moment! We were both very excited. We’d found the needle in the haystack—our shared DNA. Marc lives in Ottawa, I was living on Long Island, NY at the time and through DNA, we learned that our fathers grew up together in Verdun, Quebec. It was magical! I was also thrilled that Marc speaks both French and English.

However, even better than finding our DNA link was finding Marc—friendly and funny, down-to-earth, kind, and smart. Everything that intimidated me in our search became a simple to-do task for Marc. I keep telling him to this day, we’d be back at the beginning if he hadn’t followed the leads the way he did. Today, we message, text, FaceTime, and talk on the phone for hours. He has visited us here in Western New York and we got together last summer in Montreal to meet new biological family. We became partners in the search for our identities, determined to unlock the secrets in our closed adoption files. Now, we have become cousins. Thank you, Marc.