Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Last Search

Sometime around the middle of November I decided to take up the search for my first parents again with the help of a search angel in Hawaii. I started "at the beginning", pulling up "Williams of Unusual Names" from a California Birth Index type site. Unfortunately, this site didn't list mother's maiden names for individual births, so I was unable to match up "Williams of Unusual Names" with any birth of a female Williams between July 1951 and July 1952. So, I contacted my Hawaiian search angel, sent her the list I had created, and told her the situation.

My Hawaiian search angel, Mary, began to work on eliminating possibilities. Through a poor internet connection and some personal family drama, she continued to search diligently.

In the meantime, feeling fairly useless, I spent a few Sundays at the Sacramento City Public Library pouring over city directories. One of the assumptions I was going off of was that my birth mother, whom I knew was sent to Sacramento in order to give birth to me, lived with her brother. I was fairly convinced of this, even though my adoptive parents had commented they thought she'd come to live with her sister. So I focused on her eldest brother, who was listed as a computer programmer. I think perhaps why I chose to search in that direction is because I had no idea if her sister was married, what school her sister went to (she was listed as a student), or any useful information to help with my search. A computer programmer in 1969 would have been very unusual, and something that would stand out.

I took copious notes, and made photocopies of the pages and pages of Williams listed in the city directories. My search was further compounded by the fact that Sacramento not only had a city directory, but occasionally and city directory for the suburban areas of Sacramento. So instead of just one city directory for any given year, I had to search through or photocopy two city directories. From those notes and photocopies, I eliminated names, and came up with some more lists for Mary to winnow through.

Thanksgiving rolled around and I had to shelve the search until the end of the holiday. I knew that by that time, I was putting a lot of emotional energy into the search, and needed a break. I knew Mary needed a break, too, and was very happy to give it to her. I won't say that I wasn't frustrated with waiting, but a burned out search angel doesn't do anyone any good.

After Thanksgiving, Mary and I continued to work together on our list. She would send me the names she had eliminated, give me progress reports on what she was doing and make suggestions as to what I could do next. One of these suggestions was to try to contact someone who could do city directory searches for Ventura County. Another of my possible clues was something my parents told me. They recalled a conversation with the social worker who was handling my adoption. During this conversation she said something that made my parents think of the Santa Paula/Oxnard area. Both of my adoptive parents are from Southern California, and something about that comment made their minds turn towards that area of the state.

I had recently updated my contact information at an adoption registry site that I knew had a large group of search angels. After that update, I did get some e-mails making suggestions as to what to do next in my search. When Mary made the suggestion to find someone to go through city directories for that county, I e-mailed that adoption registry for that request. Unfortunately, I only confused people, and didn't follow up on an attempt at clarification.

One problem with the electronic medium of the internet is that it's difficult to gauge someones reaction. I perceived their reaction as negative, and dismissive.

From there, I reactivated my account with a Yahoo group of search angels and requested a city directory search for Santa Paula and Oxnard. During this time, I also contacted the genealogical group in Ventura County and the Ventura County Library, requesting any look ups they could conduct. By this time, it's nearly Christmas break. By the time I contacted a librarian at Ventura County Library; however, due to the nature of the request, and the fact that this librarian was taking a vacation to coincide with Christmas break, I was unable to make much headway there. The lady that answered my request for look ups for the Ventura Genealogical Society was very friendly, but not able to directly help me. She did point to some other members of the Society, but suggested I wait until after the holidays to contact them.

Noticing that I wasn't getting a lot of suggestions from the rest of the group, the co-owner of Soaring Angels began to ask me questions about what I'd done with my search so far and to make suggestions to me that I could do from home. One day towards the end of Christmas break, she e-mailed me with another list of "Williams of Unusual Name" that I didn't find in my psudo CBI. I promptly sent this list onto my Hawaiian search angel. However, the co-owner of Soaring Angels decided to do a little name eliminating herself. She would update me regularly with her progress, which in my opinion was simply amazing.

Then disaster struck. The first week of the new year, both of my search angels told me, on the same day, that they couldn't continue working on my search. I was devastated, but since I sincerely believe that family comes first and knowing it would be completely selfish to whine or complain, I told my angels to focus on their families. On top of that, there are so many wonderful search angels in the adoption community that I was confident that I could get my search back on track. I requested each lady send me a synopsis of what they'd done so far so that I could share that with any further search angels.

I was in limbo for a few days as to what to do next. I needed to wait until my two former search angels were able to send me the requested information, and since the family matters were so pressing, I didn't feel right about pushing my suit.

Then on January 10, I woke up from a dream that I'd made a Facebook group and named it "Please Help Me Find My Birth Family". Wondering why I hadn't done this sooner, I went to work on creating that group. Within about a day, I had over 100 members in my group. To say that I was stunned by the reception would be an understatement. I was hoping for a large reception, but I really didn't expect it. My theory was the "six degrees of separation" theory. I figured that if my friends joined the group and then invited their friends, who in turn would invite theirs, that someone somewhere would be THE ONE who would be key to unlocking the secret to finding my birth family. I also figured that someone out there had to somehow be connected to my birth family.

The next day, Monday January 11, I turn the computer on, hook up to the internet and check my e-mail and Facebook page, as well as check out my group. I noticed right away in my inbox that someone had e-mailed me with the subject line "Your 1st Mother". I was initially skeptical, believing that this person was probably a paid searcher, so I put off opening the e-mail, and focuses on my Facebook stuff. After about a half hour or so, I opened that fated e-mail.

It wasn't a paid searcher. A lady named Hanne told me that she did a search on Adoption.com and came up with a hit. She listed her phone number and asked me to call her right away. I was stunned. I had registered on Adoption.com nearly 10 years ago, and would sporadically check the status, but never found anything. I called her and she walked me through the process of pulling up the correct information. What she explained to me was that when she input a name along with my birthdate, gender and place of birth, no matches came up; which was exactly what I'd been doing for years. Instead, she went simple, and kept out a name. That's when she got the hit.

Following her directions, I got the same hit and saw for the first time my birth mother's name.

Hanne had already called the phone number listed and found it to be out of date, and recently reassigned. I was only slightly discouraged, though. I finally had a name that I could send out to the search angel groups. However, I didn't have to do that. Hanne did a search for the name listed on the post and was able to give me an address and phone number.

Now, knowing that this information could be old, too, I still went ahead and wrote to my search angel group to confirm the look up. I also posted to my Facebook group, and immediately got responses from my friends and members of the group. I anxiously waited for someone from Soaring Angels to return with some information on this name. I even made some attempts to verify her information, and continued to come up with the information Hanne originally gave me. Feeling very frustrated about this, I checked back on my group and found that one of my long time on line friends made the offer of paying for a one time search for the accurate information, and sent me his phone number.

So, I called Jeff, and we talked for about a half hour. I deeply appreciated the offer, but for some reason I didn't feel compelled to take him up on it. Through talking to him, I was able to calm down and made the decision to call the number that Hanne initially gave me. While I was still on the phone with Jeff, I mentioned that I had no idea how to proceed with the conversation. Jeff then pulled a book out that dealt with first contact and read to me the script that is suggested. I took notes, and steeled my nerves and rang off with Jeff.

In the meantime, another search angel that had been helping me on the side sent me a link to a very similar (if not the same) script. I glanced over it, but I was comfortable with what I had. I gathered a pen and a note book, the paper with the address and phone number, and my script and called.

Later, my fiance Ron, told me that he wanted to make sure he was right there for me when I made the call. I had mentioned to Jeff that I didn't think I would break down or cry when he suggested that I be sitting when I made the call. When I had the initial phone call from my son lost to adoption, I never cried during the call. I felt confident that I wouldn't break down. I didn't the first time, why would it happen now? Of course what I failed to remember, and what Ron pointed out to me, was the time before I first called my son; I was a nervous wreck waiting for my son to respond to my e-mail.

One of the points the script makes is to remember to be polite and ask if this is a good time to talk and to give your name at the outset. Well, I remembered the first part, but forgot to give my first name. I did follow the script, however, and ask for her name, and if she was involved in an adoption in 1969. She said yes, and asked who I was. I think I apologized, and told her my name. She thought I'd said Danielle, though given my name, I can see why she thought that. However, the reason she thought I said Danielle was because that was the name she called me when she was pregnant with me. I proceeded to give her my birthdate and started to tell her where I was born, but she finished for me.

I knew in that instant that Mary Rue was my first mother.

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