Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day is here: Do something to chase away the blues

Lorraine 
Okay, it is that terrible day again for many of us--mothers whose children were adopted. I've certainly had my share--when I didn't know where my daughter Jane was, and then after I found her, she rarely acknowledged me on this day, and that felt terrible too. In my mind I could see her buying flowers for her other mother, the family going out to lunch, a funny card--you know, the whole works--while I didn't even get a phone call.

Some of you are in the same position today and damn! it hurts.

But instead of letting self-pity engulf you today, get up and do something that you like--or will at least keep you occupied: weed the garden, clean out the closets, go to the movies (no sad ones!), go shopping (and treat yourself to something nice),
go for a run, go to the gym, drop in a yoga class, call your best friend and favorite relative and wish them a nice day! Visit an elderly neighbor and take them lunch.
Flowers from my alternative universe daughter, yes I am lucky!

My personal advice is to avoid restaurants today because you will be confronted with so many families honoring their own mothers, making you feel more isolated and alone as you are reminded who is missing from your life. To those who have other children, enjoy them and let them take care of you. Honor your own mother if she is alive.

And in your heart, say a silent hello to the child missing from your life. If you are adopted, do the same to the mother you do not know. And lastly when you still feel down, remind yourself that Mother's Day is only day and tomorrow it will be over. Hugs everyone!--lorraine

Yes, it is everywhere: The piece I wrote for Newsday about NY's Adoptee Rights Bill was held to be the paper's Mother's Day special: Here's the link, comments at the paper (and here!) most appreciated. And tell us how you will be spending Mother's Day.

Opinion: Adoption laws protect - and hurt



39 comments :

  1. Amazing article - you say so much and so clearly (and powerfully) in just a few paragraphs.

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  2. As a journalist, I suppose what seems the most hypocritical about this situation is that we have a HIPA law (Health Information Privacy Act) which makes it illegal for unauthorized people to release medical information about someone without their permission.

    This would seem to indicate a respect for individuals to have control over their medical history.

    But at the same time, we have a law in New York that prohibits adoptees from getting access to their own medical history through birth certificates and the medical history of their birth parents.

    This in essence denies them the rights which the HIPA law enshrines for others, making them second-class citizens when it comes to what could literally be life-saving information.

    Surely this cannot stand.

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    1. HIPA isn't the problemMay 11, 2014 at 6:45 PM

      I definitely believe that adoptees deserve to obtain medical history from their biological families.

      However, I do not see that denying medical information to adoptees is contrary to HIPA law.

      HIPA is meant to protect the person from having his/her medical information given to others. As you say, it's meant to protect from giving one's medical information out with the individual's permission.... Unfortunately, the medical histories are not ours. Under HIPA, our parents' histories are theirs to tell or not to tell.

      Moreover, just because we get the birth certificates and find our families, it doesn't mean that we will be given medical histories. Some of our b-families do not believe that we deserve the knowledge.

      We do deserve to find our families. We do deserve to get medical histories from them. But, HIPA is isn't about our health. It's about privacy. And, adoption is also about privacy.

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  3. Great article, Lorraine, and positive sentiments about how to get through the holiday.

    It's been tough for me this Mother's Day, a holiday Hallmark never intended for us first mothers but instead only meant for the good mothers, the pure adoptive mothers, the selfless foster mothers, & for the "real" married mothers. You know the type.

    I feel selfish for complaining, for I am blessed with a second wonderful child, a son who turns 30 next month. But, all the joy his birth and life has brought me have not seemed to balance out the pain and sorrow I still have over the loss of my first born, a daughter now 47. Like Lorraine, we reunited when she was a teenager but she pulled back a decade later. Cut me off as if I didn't exist. I left the door open, hoping she would reconnect. I sent notes & gifts periodically, without any response. It took 17 long years before she wrote, asking for medical information after she & her husband had a son. 4 years later, we met one sunny day on a beach & I was in heaven, finally seeing my daughter again & meeting her husband & son. Thankfully, we have stayed in contact, but I haven't seen them in 7 years. I constantly walk on eggs, never knowing if I might say or do something without knowing to cause another 17 year separation. I just keep my fingers crossed and never ask for too much. I hate it when I act this way, but I'm afraid of losing contact with her again.

    Over the last couple of months, I helped a good friend search for his mother. I've known him for 2 years and, initially, he only wanted medical information and wasn't that keen on searching. But, as time went on, he became more interested. Several Search Angels I found on Facebook were more than angels, they performed miracles. They found his father, who unfortunately died when Danny was only 19, & also found his mother living only 45 minutes away from here. He was never a secret from his birth families, which is making his reunions easier. As I watched him progress from only wanting medical information to crying when he found that his father had died, to excitement about finding his mother living close by and wanting to meet her, it brought back memories of my own search and of so many searches in which I've assisted in the past. We were in church the day he told me he'd found his mother and I know I cried more than he did. His mother is 74, & today was a special day for both of them. Danny even wrote an article for Secret Sons and Daughters on Facebook about his search. I'm proud of him,& I'm glad I was able to help in some way.

    I need to mention the Mother's Day comments at church this morning, these comments coming from a woman pastor who knows better. She knows about my friend's search, and I met with her earlier about my own situation when I was angered by her comments about prospective adoptive parents being frustrated by being unable to bring their child back from the Congo because they had spent so much time AND MONEY on the adoption. This morning I thought for certain she would get it, would say something about ALL mothers. Nope, it was the same old garbage. She mentioned the good mothers, foster mothers, adoptive mothers, and she even threw in "emotional" mothers (whatever they are). Was there anything said about mothers out there who have lost their children to adoption, or mothers in the prison system whose children have been ripped away from them, etc.? Of course not, because we are not REAL mothers. We weren't treated as real mothers when we gave birth and we sure aren't accorded that status now. A prospective adoptive mother who hasn't yet received the child for which she has paid the Agency big bucks is more a REAL mother than we will ever be.

    So, good for you, Lorraine, for rising above it all and being able to take the higher ground. Your article is a positive one. But, I'm one angry mother on Mother's Day.

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    1. Aly: I know you tried with your pastor, as we emailed about it before. Maybe she put natural mothers who relinquish into the "emotional" category. Whatever. I do know your story about your daughter too, and I know how much it pains us to feel we were close once and then have them slam the door. Since my daughter is deceased, I don't wait for her to call or send a card, and yes, I did think about her today. Couldn't be helped.

      Thank you for sharing your painful story--and really it may be time to find a new church--and tell the damn pastor why!

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    2. Aly, Find new church, and don't forget to tell her why you're leaving! ~lisa

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  4. I knew it was going to be a bad day, for many reasons.

    I thought getting outside early and spending the day beating the weeds into submission would be my best weapon against sadness. I loaded my iPod with upbeat tunes, nothing emo and did everything I could to shut off my brain. Still I found myself crying at the drop of a pin most for the most idiotic things, like not being able to dig up a stubborn root, etc.

    This year is the convergence of many emotional issues: the death of my absent father, 29 years since the death of my 48 year old mother, the failed reunion between myself and my daughter, which began Mother's day weekend 2008, and collapsed in January (not by my hands), and the pièce de résistance...Saturday was the funeral of my first love (ex-husband) who committed suicide this month at the age of 45. I guess when you look at it in total... how could I escape being emotional?

    Realizing my previously best laid plans had failed, I took an afternoon break at the computer. I popped on Facebook, which was full of Mother’s Day messages, including some to me from friends who aren’t aware my reunion has failed (begging the question, why did I ever tell anyone in the first place). I clicked off almost as soon as I entered the site; tears again. The texts persisted throughout the day, from my loving friends who think they are doing something nice for me, but it is bee-like sting with every message. Why can’t I move pass this frustration/bitterness toward my daughter and complete anger for her adoptive parents? Why am I so consumed by the unfairness of our situation? I can’t control it, but I have to live with it. Conversely, when I consider reopening the door to reunion (if she ever has a change of heart), I am filled with so much dread because I have zero desire to return to the emotional turmoil it brought to my life. I want this part of my life excised; like surgery. It is cancer to me, it is emotionally killing me, it needs to be removed.

    Further attempts to end the misery, I Googed “taking things too personally”, where I found words of wisdom regarding hypersensitivity. I know myself to be sensitive (isn’t anyone with a heart considered sensitive), but I don't feel I am overly sensitive or a doormat. I know when to draw a healthy line, but short of pushing away every human being, I don't know how to protect my heart any better than I am. I find it absolutely perplexing to read "we don't need to take things personally is because it's not personal". IT FEELS PERSONAL! I am harboring this grief, resentment, pain and I can’t get rid of it. I agree that I cannot control the actions of others, but yet am left to deal with the fallout of their actions. Where is the light switch? I want to shut it off.

    I’ll start with abolishing Mother’s Day. Hope everyone else had a better day than I did.

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    1. Hilary:

      By the time I got through your letter, I had tears in my eyes. Been there, done that! The years when my daughter just ignored me--after years of a "good" reunion--just about did me in and when anybody said: Happy Mother's Day and I wanted to bite off their head!

      I too got sick of hearing--taking things too personally and when I came across this quote from Mayra Mannes, I cut it out and put it on my bulletin board, and there it stays: "Women are repeatedly accused of taking things personally. I cannot see any other honest way of taking them."

      As for the feelings of turmoil that were unleashed by your daughter's rejection, many of us know what that is like. After my daughter Jane came and went a half dozen times, the last time she returned, I finally mentioned it and said, this has got to end. She immediately agreed, not wanting to talk about it. So she knew what she had done.

      Last week as I watched the Mother's Day stories come one after another, I did not hear a single one about first mothers. Amazingly enough, I was able to ignore most of them. Maybe someday you will get there. Let us all be glad that this fucking day is over!

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    2. Hilary, I'm thinking of you. x

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  5. A documentary called "A Simple Piece of Paper" aired yesterday on the PBS station in my area. It followed adult adoptees as they requested their original birth certificates from the State of Illinois after the law there was changed to allow access.

    To witness the incredible gush of emotion from simply holding this document in their hands and seeing their mother's (and sometimes father's) name for the first time was overwhelming.

    Great film for mother's day, watch for it on your local PBS station!

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  6. I think I commented on another thread that I was hoping to find a bit of peace this Mother's Day. My wish came true, and I hope this is an appropriate place to post this.

    Over Mother's Day weekend some wonderful people on Facebook offered to help me look at the NYC birth indexes online. I simply could not access it from my computer, and they offered to help. With my newly discovered actual REAL birthdate, and the number from my ABC (which I just received a month or so ago) They found me listed in the index. All the numbers match, and I now know my birth surname! Mt first name remained the same.

    So I decided to jump on a couple of sites and I found the NYC census records. In all of NYC, there was only one family with this name. And there was a daughter listed, with a year of birth that would make her exactly the right age to be my first mother. It's too much of a coincidence for it not to be her....in all of New York City, they were the only family with this surname.

    So...."the girl" now has a name. She was actually a person. And all the closed records in New York can not stop me from knowing this information.

    I took it a little further, and searched the marriage and death records. Sadly, she dropped off the radar completely. But, this goes along perfectly with something my A-mom said to me once. I had innocently asked why the adoption took so long to finalize. A-mom said "because the girl took off! We think she went to Europe. Nobody could find her and it took all those years to track her down to get her to sign.". A-mom went on to say how she was so distraught during this time. She was walking on eggshells, worried that the girl would change her mind.....you get the idea. But, it makes sense that I can not find any further record of her, if the story I was told is true.

    Yikes!

    It is only names on paper, but I did find some measure of peace having discovered this. I am still digesting this info, but I am beside myself just to have it! I don't know what my next step will be, but I can not express how much better I feel!

    Thanks for listening, everyone. I hope it was ok to post here!

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    1. Julia: You know we are all thrilled for you! A real name.

      We pray that the rest of the steps come easily, and that your family understands. Let us help you any way we can.

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  7. Oh Julia Emily, I am so pleased for you! I am smiling and smiling for you!

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  8. Thanks so much, Lorraine and Cherry. And thanks to everyone here who gave me the push to get at least this far!

    My friend (the black market baby) and I have been searching every site we can think of to see if we find out any more info. So far, we are as sure as we can be that this woman we found on the census is my birth mother. She fit all the criteria, and, as I said, there was no other family listed with that name.I now have a birth name, a real birthday, and the name of the woman who gave birth to me! It is more than I can really believe, to be honest!!

    My AP's do not know any of this....yet. I am considering different ways to handle this. A-mom going for minor surgery Thursday, so it will wait until after that time, in any event. Whatever I do, it's going to have to be delicate.

    The pieces of this puzzle, just simple names and dates on paper, have given me a sense of calm I don't believe I have ever had. It's a wonderful feeling!

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    1. Congrats! Remember, you don't have to tell her anything. Or you can tell her in a year. Or after a reunion.

      So mant adoptees (including me) wish we'd kept it private longer. Or not told APs at all.

      Good luck. ~lisa

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  9. Wow, Julia Emily, that's huge! What a leap towards finding out who you are. I am absolutely delighted for you.

    And thanks, Lorraine, for cheering everyone on through that insidious Hallmark holiday, "Mother's Day." It was a tough one for me, the first Mother's Day with no interaction with Rayna or Nina. I love Nina like a daughter and I miss her terribly - have dreamed of her and woken up feeling sorrowful. I get strength from first mothers because sometimes I feel like one. Thank You.

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    1. And you'll very likely also encounter that disenfranchised grief too.
      I'm so sorry it's so painful at the moment, Jay. I have my fingers crossed that it's temporary.

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  10. Oh my goodness, Julia Emily! So excited for you! Please keep us posted.

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  11. Julia Emily, that's wonderful.

    Since you found her census data, if you haven't already, check out the schools in the area. Many yearbooks are now available online.... I found my mother's married name via a high school alumni site.

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  12. Wow, Julia Emily, I am so happy for you. You were right. We are not stuffed animals, we actually do have brains and we can use them to find what we need to know even when the unjust laws stand in our way.

    I know this is not what you want to hear, but since you did mention that your first mother would be in her 90s, I would suggest that you search the social security death index (if you haven't already done so). Even if she has passed on, you may be able to find an obituary and get the names of relatives or other people who knew her. Best of luck.

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    1. I have tried the SS death index. She just seems to have disappeared. Maybe my A-mother was right...maybe she did leave the country. I guess it is possible that she left and never came back? I am still looking. That may be the one thing A-mom ever said that actually makes sense.

      I started checking out the schools in the area. I don't know if I will ever find anything. There are so many schools in that vicinity, public and private, elementary schools and high schools....God knows where she could have taught. I will keep at it.

      The feeling that this "girl" who never had an identity is actually a living breathing person is amazing to me. And nobody wants me to know her name, but now I do. I am elated.

      Why anyone ever thought, and still thinks, that secrets in adoption are of any use is beyond me. Why was this such a huge secret all my life? Why do my AP's still think it needs to be a secret? And why aren't the records open in every state? Mind boggling.

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  13. Congrats Julia Emily that is HUGE. That is the same way my husband found his origins by the way... NYC birth index + census.
    Are you already a member at ancestry.com? Good source of records!

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  14. Yes, Jessica, I am a member of Ancestry.com. I just have never done much with it! There are very limited records regarding the family I believe to be my first mother's, but I will keep at it!

    @Jay: you are right...."Hallmark holiday." That's what it amounts to, and I have always felt the same way. I am sorry yours was so difficult. I can not imagine how you feel

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  15. Julia Emily, am I right in thinking she was an art teacher? Forgive me if I'm wrong.
    But if she was, and if she DID move to Europe, I suspect Paris would be quite attractive for someone with an interest in art. Or one of the culturally-rich cities in Italy.
    Just a thought in case you don't find anything in NY.

    I love that you now have what is yours, whatever you decide to do with it. It's yours.

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    1. Yes, Cherry, she was an art teacher. It was the only piece of useful information on my non-id info. And since I was a commercial artist/muralist for so long, it was a very valuable piece of info to me!! I never thought of Paris, but it is an interesting idea. My feeling is...maybe she did disappear like my A-mom had told me. My A-mother mentioned Europe, and she mentioned it in a huff and was very upset even talking about it.. Maybe my first mother went there and never came back.

      I am slowly doing more detective work, but, as you say, this is my little bit of information to work with. Mine. And all the closed adoptions laws in the world can not take it from me!!

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    2. This "disappearing" business is endemic in adoption lore. I personally know one story where the mother "disappeared." Well, she had moved from Madison, WI to Appleton, WI for a couple of months. But women did leave town often after an out of wedlock birth; they had to find new jobs (that would be me); they were cloaked with so much shame because of whispers in town (that would be me) and so...they seemingly did disappear. I went from Rochester, NY to Albany, NY.

      Because they had to go somewhere to start a new life.

      There is a book called How to Locate Anyone Anywhere Without Leaving Home. I must have lent my copy to someone because I can't find it on my shelf. Click on one of the books in the blog and you'll be at Amazon and can get it there. It's a start. You must feel immensely relieved.

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    3. I've noticed official adoption/Mother & Baby Home records often disappear too, often attributed to a fire of some sort.

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  16. Julia Emily, I hope you have a chance to make contact with some family members, even if your mother is out of reach. I love how much soul-satisfying information is flooding your life right now, and I am rooting for much more, much more for you!

    Thanks for the Mother's Day empathy. We don't celebrate it where I come from (so my mother-in-law gets a Mother's Day card, but my mom doesn't - it is meaningless to her and to me). Yet, when it is thrown at you, it is hard for me not to feel sad that my good intentions were misunderstood and a little girl and her mother whom I adore are out of my life.

    One good thing that happened on Mother's Day is my son asked, out of the blue, whether his first parents gave birth to him in the desert and abandoned him. Not sure where he got that from, but I was able to tell him it was far from the truth.

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  17. Julia Emily, such fantastic news!!! There aren't enough exclamation points to express my excitement for you!

    You mentioned sharing with your parents. I just wanted to share some completely unsolicited advice: don't. You are just starting out on your search and have no idea what it will yield. They have been very upset any time you bring the topic up; unsupportive would be a step UP for them from where they are now. You aren't a child, and you don't need to share your private life with them. Honestly, I would keep this to yourself. At least for now, and maybe for always. It totally sucks that you have this relationship with them, but they really have brought it upon themselves.

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  18. Hurray Julia E.!! I've been following your story here and am SO happy that you now know your birth name and REAL birthdate!! Was it the same as you have been celebrating?? Just curious! LOL! Hope you do find some birth relatives and maybe get some pictures of your mother.
    This morning (May 14th) my husband asked me if I knew what I was doing 45 years ago today.... how could I forget!! I said... at 12 noon I went into labor and 4 hours later a beautiful daughter was born! I have no contact with her, per her request 5 years ago... I hope she will think of me today... as I do her!! Happy 45th Birthday, M!!!

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  19. Julia Emily, I am so happy for you! Always cool to see a searcher get some information. Get back to the friends from Facebook who helped you and see if they have further ideas or can direct you to a Search Angel who knows how to proceed from here. There are so many resources now we did not have years ago, and people who can help you use them.

    Just some thoughts, if she left the country shortly after you were born, is there a way to check immigration information? You said it was a very unusual name. If it is ethnic, do you know the country that name would have come from? I would follow up with Paris as well given her art background. Please keep us posted as you find out more.

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  20. Julia, Emily,

    Maybe this has been mentioned -- there should be a way for you to check the census data for every decade to see if your mother turns up...

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    1. Jane great idea except in the US.. Census data does not become public for 72 years. The most recent census available is from 1940, and that just became available in 2012.
      I know because we were waiting for years for it to become available and then for it to be transcribed.. Largely by volunteers. One night in fall of 2012 I went online to see if all states were available. They were and I entered the info we had. There were only ten results and one was clearly a match to my husband's info he had. I sat crying as he was asleep with a fever. He came out and asked why I was still up and I said we finally found her. It was exactly 52 years after his relinquishment (not birth date.)

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    2. Thanks for the information, Jessica.

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    3. Jessica: Wow, what a great story. Made my morning--we, it's already afternoon.
      We are all waiting Julia Em to see how this plays out and all of us are cheering for you.

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  21. Realistically, if Julia's mom moved abroad, she probably relocated to Great Britain or Ireland, where they speak English. I'm not saying that it is definite--just that it is more likely. She would have a much easier time getting a job in a country where she spoke the language fluently. Of course, she may have spoken a second language. But statistically, England and Ireland are more likely places for emigration.

    Julia, maybe you could try to find out if your mom had any siblings. You could try to track them down. If not, then you could see if your grandparents had siblings, and who those siblings' children were. (Your grandparents' nieces and nephews). Maybe a cousin of your mom's would know what happened to her. Even if she isn't alive, there is the possibility that she had another child (or at least a stepchild, who could tell you about her life).

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    1. Hi everyone! Steve, according to what I was able to find, there were older siblings. God only knows if they are still living (I doubt it), but that is going to be one of the next steps.

      @ Jessica: I wasn't aware about the census records.....thanks for the info. 1940 is the last I could find. And, in New York City (not State) I don't think they were taken every ten years. At least not back in those days.

      @ Lee: See....as you say, a first mom can not forget. I hope your daughter contacts you again someday. As far as my birthdate....no, it is not the date we always celebrated. It is a few days off. I do not know why this is the case. My AP's must not have an ABC for me. They never gave me one, and if they had it, they would have used the correct date. That always was a weird circumstance for me to understand. How do you not clarify the date on which your adopted child was born? It seems to me that they asked very few questions at the time this all took place. And they were very bad at keeping documents. When I pursue the passport thing, I will have to ask them if they have any other paperwork, and I am very curious to see what they have. If anything.

      @ Tiffany: you are absolutely 100% correct. I can not share this discovery with my AP's. And you stated it very clearly when you say they brought it upon themselves. I have the info now. I need more and I may find more, but they do not have to know. If I get anything out of them when I mention applying for a passport, I will keep that separate from whatever I learn on my own.

      As I am muddling through all of this, I think of my AP's being so insecure that they could never even bring up the subject of my own adoption. When I look at them now, I have to feel sorry for them, in a weird way, because they still believe the fairy tale. Which tells me how out of touch they are with who I actually am as a person. It is hard to explain in a comment, but they think everything is perfect, and I feel totally disconnected from them. It's a shame.

      Thank you all! Hopefully updates will follow....

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  22. Julia Emily,

    NY had a 5 year census for a long time. Most of the records are transcribed but impossible to find things online. I believe they are available at NY City Library. Ancestry.com has immigration records online but I'm not sure how recent. I know I found records in the 40s for ship manifests. Although not an adoptee, my father was estranged from his family before I was born. He was from NYC. I've done a lot of research. If your mother belonged to a particular ethnic group there are additional resources. This is particularly true for Italians and Jews.

    Good luck!


    Everyone in the US has a 10 year census ... by law.

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