Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thinking about Others

One of the biggest hurdles for adoptees that are thinking about searching is the major question of impact on their families. No one wants to hurt the feelings of their parents...the people who raised them, loved them, kissed their booboos, tucked them in at know, their parents! Most adoptees, me included, fear the reaction of their parents if they tell them that they are searching for their birth family. Does that mean the parents weren't good enough? Does it mean the adoptee doesn't love them? Is the adoptive family insufficient? Will the adoptee abandon their family should they find their birth family? The answer to all of these questions is overwhelmingly no in the majority of cases, it certainly was in mine. But that doesn't stop the fear of losing their child from rising in the mind of the parent.

The New York State Adoption Registry

Along the way, I registered with the New York State Adoption Registry, a passive reunion registry. Similar to other Mutual Consent Voluntary Registries (MCVRs) in other states, the registry collects information from adoptees, birth parents and birth siblings and houses them in a large database. These registries don't have a stellar success rate, between 1.5 and 10% in states that have them, as they only work if all parties register, and if the agency that monitors them has an adequate matching algorithm.

Where I Become Obsessed with Googling

Searching became a part of my life; it had ebb & flows, when my life was busy, hectic or focused on other things, I was passive, but when life was slow, relaxed or otherwise quiet, I turned back to my "mystery" as I had come to describe it. I discovered that my undergraduate history training was good for something besides eye rolling on the part of my more practically-minded friends--it had conditioned me to think critically about the details and see connections where others might not.

I had great luck reuniting inanimate objects with people who needed them, loved them and didn't even know they missed them. The first was a "ready made ancestor" that I had purchased at an antique store in Skagit Valley, Washington back in the mid-90s. The portrait had travelled with me back to Houston and I was became quite fond of the old gentleman, wondering who he was, what his story was and why he was wearing what looked to be a massive gold nugget ring. I discovered accidentally that there was some faded handwriting on the back of the large portrait when I was remounting it in it's original frame. It looked like it might say Clarke, but Clarke who? The photographer's studio address was listed as San Francisco, perhaps a gold rush forty-niner, I thought, although this gentleman's dress was late 1800s, not mid-century. After days of Googling, I identified the man as William Andrews Clark, Sr. the Copper King of Montana who became a US Senator in one of the defining scandals of the turn-of-the-century.