I would like to share my story with you and, if you are looking for your birth parents, I hope your outcome will be as successful as mine. Before I start I would like to make it clear that my parents are my parents and will always be Mum and Dad. I have another mother who will never be “Mum” and I usually refer to her by her name or, in blogs such as these, as “my birth mother”.
I had a great childhood living with loving parents and a sister who was also adopted. I always knew I was adopted and thought it was quite normal. Wasn't everbody adopted ? I never hesitated to tell friends that I was adopted and can’t remember anyone ever having a problem with it. The only time I ever remember being mildly inquisitive of my roots was when I was watching a county cricket match and wondering which side I should support !
It would be true to say that for 50 years of my life I never gave a second thought to my birth parents and it was no consequence to me that there may be someone out there who had given me away at birth who might be wondering what became of her little baby.
Thinking back on it, when people asked whether I would ever consider searching for my birth mother, I think I always responded by saying I would somehow feel guilty in doing such a thing while my parents were still alive as I would consider I was being ungrateful and committing treason even by thinking of the possibility.
My dad died in 1989 and it was not until my mother became permanently resident in a nursing home suffering from that awful disease dementia, which resulted in her brain becoming so jumbled that she didn’t know who I was or what day it was, that I even considered investigating my roots.
The road map to my life probably changed as a result of the TV programme “Who do you think you are”. I had always loved detective stories and mysteries so I was fascinated to discover that it was possible, even exciting, to trace unexpected facts and stories about our ancestors. I purchased the WDYTYA software for my wife, initially thinking it would be fun to trace her tree. Things quickly developed from there and I soon began to research my parents tree. It is addictive; the more you find, the more you want to find. Unlike a detective story, there is no end and the e-universe is expanding exponentially.
Wouldn’t it be fun to see if I could find out a bit about my birth parents and where my birth roots came from ? Having lived and been brought up in the affluent suburbs of Hampstead Garden Suburb in North London, in a happy and middle class family, I considered myself to be the quintessential Englishman and the only question in my mind was whether I was a Man of Kent or Sussex or even perhaps Surrey. It was never a possibility that my research would result in finding 75% of my roots as being Scottish with a splash of Irish thrown in ! Perish the thought.
In January 2006 I applied for access to my birth records and had an initial meeting with Social Services to be given that all so crucial birth certificate. I was then in a position to use my experience of tree building to start a new tree from scratch. It was surprisingly easy although this was partly due to ‘luck’ in that my birth mother and seemingly her entire family had lived, married and died in roughly the same area of the country for well over 50 years.
Anyway, by May I had mapped out my birth mothers tree and then on 2nd June 2006 at about 10.00 in the evening, I found her, her husband and a son on the Electoral Role with an address and telephone number. Wow !! This was the point at which this was no longer an academic exercise. What had been names on bits of paper suddenly became real, live people.
What to do now ? I hadn’t believed I would find her and if I did I never considered she might be alive. I had and she was !
I was pretty certain that my research was accurate and that she was my birth mother but I was aware that you only get one shot at "first contact" and I wasn't going to just ring her or drop in on her ! After much deliberation I asked my contact at Social Services to send her a very general letter asking if my birth date meant anything to her and, if it did, to get in touch with Social Services. Amazingly, she called them the same day as she received the letter, puzzled as to why I had decided to trace her after such a long time. She asked them if I would send her a brief synopsis of my life story and some photo’s of myself and family, which of course I did. Two days later on 14th October 2006 my half sister phoned me !
Unless you have experienced that moment it is impossible to explain the excitement and expectation generated by speaking to a complete stranger who sounded so familiar.
Everything moved pretty fast after that. I met my birth mother and two half sisters on 25th November 2006 and subsequently met two of my three half brothers in January 2007. My birth mother is a lovely lady who was just turned 18 when I was conceived in Malta, where she was working as a childrens nurse with the family of a naval commander. Her father and step-mother gave her the option of either having me adopted or she would be ostracized from the family. Not much of an option ! Her parents were not supportive of her predicament in any sense of the word. She tells the story of her changing her mind at the place where I was to be handed over and how I had to be forced from her arms. The world was a completely different place for an unmarried mother in the 1950’s and I can fully understand why I was put up for adoption.
Until that fateful day in October, apart from my birth mother, her husband and one of my half sisters, nobody else in her large family had been aware of my existence. Everyone has been very supportive and positive about our reunion (is that the right word ?) which has been rewarding for both of us. I have no regrets either over the fact it took me more than 50 years to make contact or that I now have the benefit (?) of having two families. Fate is a funny thing.
Where is the 75% Scottish connection you ask ? I have discovered that my maternal birth grandmother and her ancestors were Scottish (with my great-great-great grandparents having come over from Ireland in the mid 1800’s) and my birth father, who died in May 2006, about a month before I found my birth mother, is 100% Scottish. Soon after meeting my birth mother and learning a little more about him, I traced living members of his family but, at that time, chose not to make direct contact as it would probably not benefit anyone by making my relationship known to them and you never know what a hornets nest you might be raking up.
A short while after my adoption had been legally completed, my birth mother asked if she could have a photograph of her little baby and this photo of me when I was about 6 months old was sent to her by my mother via the adoption society. It was quite a shock for her when she met me over 50 years later to discover I had changed somewhat !
I am very aware of those adoptees who don’t find their mothers, or if they do, get rejected. I have been very lucky and hope that my story can give hope to others who have started or are about to start their search and to perhaps give them a few directions or hints to smooth their path. Click here for a short list of my do's and dont's !
Thank you for taking the time to read my story and I wish you all well. If anyone wants to have a chat about finding their birth parents perhaps you would initially email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read how and why I subsequently contacted the family of my birth father.