Search
Close this search box.

019 – Adoption Was Chapter Two Of My Life, I Had To Learn About Chapter One

Michael grew up in Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY. He led a comfortable life in the Williams loving home when he accidentally discovered, at 12 years old, that he was adopted. The discovery that he actually had another identity created conflict in him, especially during his teen aged years.

With spontaneity, tenacity, and a fair bit of luck Michael was able to track down the phone number for a long lost cousin in NY. She sounded the alarm to the family that Michael had found her, and a series of holiday season reunions ensued. But his reunification was not without its resentment. Over the course of two decades he satisfied his curiosity to uncover every detail he could about who he really is. It was an emotional journey of discovery that led him all they way to his family’s roots in the South.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Michael (00:02):

The only thing I can think of was like going to the motherland. America is a nation of still with immigrants, but there is a mother country, ancestrally speaking, so whether you are going to come from Poland, Ireland, Africa or wherever. When you go back to those things, there’s something grounding, something that anchors you and it did for me because I’m looking at this woman. I’m like my life story begin with this woman. It all started in her womb.

Voices (00:38):

Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

Damon (00:49):

This is Who Am I, Really? A podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. Hey, I’m Damon Davis on today’s show. I’m joined by Michael who grew up in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York. Michael was living a comfortable life in the Williams loving home when he accidentally discovered that he was adopted at 12 years old. The discovery that he actually had, another identity created conflict in him during his teenage years. With spontaneity, tenacity, and a fair bit of luck, Michael was able to track down the phone number for a long lost cousin in New York. Over the course of two decades, he satisfied his curiosity to uncover every detail he could about who he really is. It was an emotional journey of discovery all the way to his family’s roots in the South. We pick up Michael’s journey at the beginning, as a child. Michael was raised with six siblings, some biological to each other and many foster children who moved in and out of their home over the years. His parents cultivated a family environment for everyone, including him.

Michael (02:05):

In my world, I, I always, you know, thought that I was born in Brooklyn. That was my starting point and of course later on, I discovered that I had adopted into the family, but I was, I started as before as the Williams foster child and my adoption, wasn’t made final until I was six years old. Even at that point, there was never any differentiation between, Oh these are the biological children, oh these are the adopted children, oh these are the foster children. Cause, I mean, growing up in a household, dad was still with foster kids coming in and out, not ever realizing that I had was in their shoes.

Damon (02:47):

Interesting.

Michael (02:49):

My parents did a really good job. It was an environment of openness and there was this sense of a family cohesion is that even though with the foster kids that were coming in and out, it was just a part of everyday life for us. That whole family environment was cultivated by both my father and my mother simply because that was the only child, his name, and yet I say this to honor my father because he’s deceased freedom and black Williams, he was the only child and he never knew his father and there was an incredible burden in his heart to be a father to the fatherless. What I later discovered was that he actually had fostered nearly 65 inner city children.

Damon (03:37):

Wow. That’s, that’s a open-heart man. That’s really incredible. So you were, you were made to feel so comfortable that it took you a while to figure out that at one point you had been a foster child who was in transition to another place. That’s interesting. What did you think when you realized that?

Michael (03:58):

When I, well, the day that I realized that I had been adopted, I was about 12 or 13 years old and it turned everything on its head because it was confusing. It was confusing to me because I didn’t understand why that information was withheld. Everything just kind of came out in an unexpected way. I’m mean, I was, I had, I was looking through the family photo albums and I discovered the summer day camp certificate of completion and it said Michael Harth and I was like somebody made a huge mistake and mom never caught, how could she not have caught this very noticeable mistake? I’m not Michael Harth, who is Michael Harth? I’m Michael Williams. I’ve always been Michael Williams. So then when I brought upstairs to go find my mother about it, she said, where did you find that certificate? I said, well mom, it was in the family photo album and she knew I had this habit of looking through the photo albums and just trying to make sense of who are these folks who are in these black and white photos.

Michael (05:05):

So then it turns out that was the day of discovery. But it was also the day of discovery of my two younger siblings because all the way up until that time well I thought I was born into the family and the foster kids that I knew, they were the ones who were foster kids and then now I’m confronted with the realities. Had no idea, I was once in their shoes and, but I was the one that they, and one of the few that they ended up keeping. So cause there was a whole other history that I was connected to that I just had to know about and that was very traumatic and confusing.

Damon (05:43):

How did your mom make you feel? How did she address your confusion?

Michael (05:48):

I assumed that she was ill prepared for that day.

Damon (05:51):

That was a surprise.

Michael (05:53):

She was very, very taken aback by the that I even discovered the certificate. I think it was one of those things that, because it was a closed adoption, you know, that was one document that I guess she didn’t file away good enough, you know, and somehow I ended up just in there and I wasn’t supposed to find out cause she was completely unprepared. I think she did. In retrospect, I think that she did the best she could and giving us some general information. Like for example, she was able to tell me that my full name was Michael Raymond Harth. I eventually learned about the significance of my first and my middle name.

Damon (06:36):

And what are they?

Michael (06:37):

Um, and my birth mother named me after my uncles.

Damon (06:40):

Oh that’s nice.

Michael (06:41):

So I, so I had an uncle Michael and I had an uncle Raymond.

Damon (06:44):

So you retained name ownership and connection back to your biological family. That’s kind of fascinating. Michael said that their home had established such a strong sense of family. The news that he was also an adoptee didn’t change anything with his older siblings. That news bonded him more closely to his younger siblings who were foster kids like himself. But as he got older, he began to question his identity much more than he had before. And that sparked the deep curiosity about how his personal story had begun.

Damon (07:16):

So you found the family photo album and in it it has a camp document that basically says a different name for a child that you don’t think is you. Tell me about what happened next.

Michael (07:29):

Well, what happened was I confronted my, my mother and I said, well mom, they, there must be some terrible mistake here because I don’t know who Michael Harth is. She said, that’s your real name. And that was the day I discovered that I had been adopted.

Damon (07:50):

And, and just what did you think when you, when you, she said that was your real name. What, what did that mean for you?

Michael (07:57):

I didn’t believe her. I thought she was lying for some reason. I thought she was like playing this really horrible joke. I’ve gotten all my punishment, but really, mom, this is a really uncool, you know, but she said, no. She goes, you see, now she calls my younger siblings, all three of us now. Yeah. Well if something happened, I’ll tell you all. And that’s when she told each and every one of us that we had come through the foster care system and then we had been adopted into the family and that’s how we became WIlliams’, so being the oldest of the of, you know, the last you know set of kids I had, you know, a myriad of questions and I would just spouting them off, you know, and my mother said I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Damon (08:46):

Mmhmm.

Michael (08:47):

And that didn’t sit well with me because I’m like, well I got to get these answers. I got to know, I have to know. And it got me closer to my two younger siblings because now we’re looking at each other saying all of us, all three of us were foster kids and were adopted and now we’re kind of wondering and wishing together. Maybe one day we could get some answers and spin a recconnect with our biological families at some point in our lives. To me as I got older, I’ve moved into the adolescent years of age. It became a challenge for me because now I started, you know, really grappling kind of grapples with some identity issues. So in the household there wasn’t this assurance that I was a part of this family continuum. I knew who my immediate family were, but who are my grandparents, who are my great-grandparents, sort of where did they come from? There really wasn’t much of that. Finding out that I had been adopted, it was right before I went right into the adolescent phase of my life. You know, I really struggled with trying to, you know, really gain some sense about my identity, ancestrally speaking. Um, I always knew that my, my immediate family members, they were my kinfolk, you know, because of that love and that bond. But there was really no sense of belonging to a family continuum beyond that. And I had to, I had to search for that. I had to reconnect with that because what that meant to me, and I quickly began to understand that, wait a minute, Michael Hart, that’s a part of chapter one of my life.

Damon (10:32):

Interesting.

Michael (10:34):

What history proceeded me, that led me to be born as Michael Raymond Harth? I need to know that history because in my mind at that time, Michael Williams represented, uh, and still represents to me as chapter two of my life. And I had, and I, and I knew that part well enough to, to not have any insecurities there. Um, what really exacerbated the, the feeling of maybe wanting to pursue the family, my biological family was, um, I guess after a couple of viewings of, um, of roots and being a man of African Americans, the same know, the only things that I had to go off of in terms of the history that I come from in America was enslavement and other period of enslavement. And then the process of, of, of trying to become free again. And that really didn’t do much to ensure a healthy self esteem.

Damon (11:35):

I see.

Michael (11:37):

When I watched the, the mini series, Roots, I began to feel sad that, you know, a, a great part of my community’s history has been stolen and reclassified and we can never get that back again. And then knowing personally that, you know, I had been taken out of a situation and have become disconnected from a piece of my past that I can no longer or I have no way of knowing how to reclaim or recover that also kind of deepened that sense of ruthlessness. So I, I took charge and I did something about it.

Damon (12:15):

So in 1996, just days before his 18th birthday and the day before Thanksgiving, Michael launched his search. He had compiled information about his adoption for years from his mother that he would use to finally find his biological family. He had his biological last name, the name of the Catholic orphanage in Brooklyn that handled his adoption, the knowledge that he had a biological sister 13 years older than himself, and that he was from Brooklyn, New York. Using a $5 calling card with only 20 minutes on it, he began calling directory assistance in New York.

Michael (12:50):

When I called directory assistance, quite naturally, I asked for random numbers, uh, under my, uh, biological surname. And I started with Brooklyn naturally and I went across the, all the rest of the, um, the four other boroughs. And so that meant that I had to ask for numbers in Staten Island, Queens, Bronx, Manhattan, all of that. And um, every call, the last operater that I got was the first operator who took my call when I first sought it out. And she said, wait a minute, I remember you! You can’t keep calling in like this. And I said, ma’am, I said, listen, I can’t, I just gotta be honest with you. I’m searching for my biological family. And she was touched, she said, I will give you three more numbers and that’s a red flag enough. Okay. I said, okay, I’m grateful. Whatever you can give. So it turned out that, you know, in the process of me calling back and you know, going to get some boroughs and asking for these random numbers that, uh, all of the operators are so gracious enough to give to me. I ended up with a total of about 40 numbers.

Damon (14:05):

With a calling card, you just kept calling them.

Michael (14:07):

Yes. And actually to set up the whole scene. I was scheduled to work that night, but I had some time off during the day thats usually running around and after I completed all my errands and that’s when I called the operator from direct assistance in New York and I accumulated those numbers and I began to call each and every one of those numbers and I cannot, I had a tremendous amount of instincts during this entire process. I cannot begin to tell you how I knew, but it was like I knew that that wasn’t it. It was like, Nope, I’m sorry to bother you. Have a nice day. Call the next number and the next and the next. And finally the last number, there was something different about this last call. I said my initial opening.

Damon (14:52):

And what was that?

Michael (14:52):

My opening was, hello, my name is Michael Raymond Harth. You know I’m looking for my biological family. Do you know of a child that was born on, I gave my full date, date of birth and all that and she said, what was the name again? I said, Oh my name is Michael Raymond Hart. And she says, no it can’t be. And now I’m thinking like, what is she talking about? No, it can’t be. Damon, I was, I was at that point in time I was starting to get nervous. I’m like, wait a minute. I just did this on a humbug and I, I mean I kinda was hoping that I would make the connection but then this is feeling strange now.

Damon (15:31):

And this is the very last phone number?

Michael (15:34):

The very last number that I called on that list. Damon, I tell you. She said, I think I know of a child who was born with that name on that month and year. Weren’t you the child that was placed in Angel Guardian Social Home in Brooklyn? I said, how did you know that? I think nobody knows that unless I volunteer that information. She says, I’m your first cousin and we’ve been looking for you as 18 years.

Damon (16:03):

Oh wow dude.

Michael (16:07):

And I was about to turn 18 in 5 days.I passed out, cause I’m remember hearing her voice on the phone, but like the phone, the receiver wasn’t up to my ear. I just try to just put it off to the side or something and be like, Oh my gosh what the heck just happened? At that moment, the door downstairs flung open and my mother yelled out, Michael! She was doing last minute Thanksgiving shopping, you know, and I’m like, Oh, this is like crazy. So I’m like, Oh my goodness, this is happening so fast. I didn’t really think that I was really going to find someone in this, you know, my first attempt, it just happened with like a huge whirlwind and my cousin, she was very patient and she got so excited and she started crying and all of a sudden, this was a very emotional moment. But once she, um, and I both recomposed cause I still wasn’t convinced. She was emotional. I was in shock. I wasn’t convinced because I wanted her to confirm the age. It was something about her finding the age differential between my sister because she, when I was told I had a sibling, they didn’t tell me that it was a, or if it was a sister or a brother, it was, I had a sibling who was 13 years older than me. That’s all they knew.

Damon (17:36):

But she said sister specifically.

Michael (17:38):

Yes. She said she is your sister still alive? I said, cuz, slow down because she was really just just spewing out whole hosts of information out of sheer excitement. And I said, I said, okay. I said, okay look, you said I had a sister. Let’s go back to that. How old is she? Now remember, I was getting ready to turn 18. The minute she said, oh your sister’s 31, I said, Oh my God.

Damon (18:04):

Mmm. That was it.

Michael (18:05):

That’s exactly how old she would be. That, that’s when I got emotional.

Damon (18:12):

Like a blessing for the holidays, Michael has located his biological family. His cousins sounded the alarm out to the family and the next person who he spoke with was his sister Tanya. They talked for an hour on another calling card. In that conversation he learned that the family had been looking for him for years since he had been removed from his mother’s care.

Damon (18:33):

I can’t help but wonder about your first conversation with your sister. You’ve, your cousin has sounded the alarm, I found your brother and now you’re on the phone with your sister. What did you say? How did that go?

Michael (18:50):

Oh my God. That conversation it was, it was sort of awkward. Because um, blood is speaking, blood is speaking to blood. But at the same time, we’re strangers to one another. So I had to, from my point of view, I felt that, um, I didn’t want to be overly excitable on the phone. I really kind of was cool, calm, collected, and I said, do you know who you’re speaking with? She say yes, I know who I’m speaking with, who I’m speaking to. She says, you are my brother. Basically I mean, we talked about her, she and my cousin actually making an attempt to try to get more information about my whereabouts. My sister recalled a time when they made a few times actually and each time he just hit a brick wall. She said, Michael, we have prayed for this day, we have prayed for this day. We really had limited information. We knew that you had been placed in Angel Guardian home, but you know after you left us after you were taken from us, we really had no knowledge of your whereabouts. Um, and then when I told her that I had remained in New York for for a while since then. I think this is about the disconnect, she was like, what? They told me that you went to Oklahoma and I’m like, no, I was in New York. And you didn’t know this. I was right there.

Damon (20:30):

You mentioned that she said that you had been taken from their home. Tell me about that.

Michael (20:36):

Well, because there was a closed adoption. I became a ward of the state of New York, my birth mother, she had a mental health disability and there was a law on the books that really did not favor single mothers who had mental health challenges. And that really facilitated the process of needs being placed in foster care as a ward of the state. And so I had passed through about six or seven different homes from the time I was born until the time I had been placed into the Williams’ home, which was around 11 months old.

Damon (21:22):

And what’s your understanding about where the family was and their desire to have taken you right from your mother instead of this interceding process of you going to be a ward of the state? What’s your understanding of how the situation unfolded?

Michael (21:40):

My understanding of how the situation unfolded really matured as I got older. I’ve had some experiences since then that really helped me to understand that whole process. I became a Casa volunteer is an acronym that stands for court appointed special advocate for nationwide advocacy groups. And um, I was able to advocate for children who entered the foster care system. I thought it was a good idea to volunteer so that I can get an understanding what that process looked like and what it looked like to me. I now understand that it was an involuntary separation.

Damon (22:17):

I understand.

Michael (22:18):

And all this time, wow, I thought that my mother deliberately surrendered me, but that was not the case. So it meant that many within the family did not even know I existed. And that’s probably why, you know, no one came forward. And when I began to learn about this part of the story, I began to wrestle with this, this feeling of, okay, resentment. No one came to defend me. Even though I was engrafted into a wonderful adoptive family, the why didn’t nobody from my first family come forward and defend my right to stay and to remain under the protection of my family. All of that was upon me unpacking those deep seeded feelings that I felt when I was, you know, a young adolescent male.

Damon (23:11):

The cousin that Michael located revealed an interesting twist of fate that allowed them to connect. His sister had gotten married, so she took her husband’s last name and as a married woman, even the phone bill was in that name. So when Michael was accumulating phone numbers for the hearth family members in New York, he didn’t find her through directory assistance, but his cousin had taken a different track. Intentionally.

Michael (23:34):

My cousin, who I ended up, you know, getting in contact with, she was also married, but the phone was in her name. She decided that she would keep the name and the family surname and not her married name because she felt that one day I would come looking and when that day came, she would be the one to receive that call and sound the alarm to the family.

Damon (24:04):

Wow. What an amazing foresight on her part. Man, that must have warmed your heart to know that she had intentionally retained her own identity as a Hearth in order to let you easily find her when that time came. That’s, that’s really spectacular.

Michael (24:23):

Yeah. Yeah. And it made me, it was heart warming because it made me feel that I wasn’t forgotten. I wasn’t as abandoned as I thought I was. People tried and I was grateful for that, that act of love, their act of hope.

Damon (24:41):

So Michael’s sister, Tanya decided she had to meet him and she couldn’t wait. She drove several hours from long Island to the Poconos where Michael was working at a resort waiting tables, saving money for school. It was an excellent first connection for the siblings, but it was only a taste of the moving experience he would have meeting the rest of his biological family.

Michael (25:01):

The way she, she actually surprised me on the job. I was in the process of getting everything ready for the evening and I set my tables and everything. And then Terry, who was my, uh, the floor manager at the time, she said, Michael there is woman outside and she says she’s your sister, Tanya? And I went and the double and the double doors opened up. There she was and I said, Tanya, you came to see me? She said, I couldn’t wait. I could not wait. I couldn’t wait. I had to see you personally. So she drove up from long Island and she stayed for that weekend and I made sure that she had the best room and everything you know.

Damon (25:47):

You had the hook up.

Michael (25:48):

Yeah, I did have the hook up, took a picture together. We had drinks the whole nine yards. It was really truly an amazing bonding experience between a sister and her younger brother. And then of course, that was the precursor to the big family reunion. And once I made my way down to New York to see everybody, that meant that I got the chance to meet my biological mother in person.

Damon (26:22):

And how was that?

Michael (26:24):

Oh my gosh, dude. It was like going to the motherland. America, the nation is filled with immigrants, but there’s a mother country, you know, and incestuously speaking, so whether you’re going to come from Poland, Ireland, Africa, or wherever. When you go back to those things, there’s something grounding, something that anchors you.

Damon (26:48):

Mhmm.

Michael (26:49):

And it did for me because I’m looking at this woman. I’m like, my life story begins with this woman. Started in her womb, chapter one of my life. She has this piercing, this piercing set of eyes. And I could tell because of her, her, uh, her health issues and mental health issues, we were kind of limited in the way that we were able to fully interact. But her eyes talk, she had the kind of eyes that could see right through you, but they were loving. I felt passion. I could see hope in her eyes. And she just looked at me and it was just extended stare between two of us. And then she said, you are my son. I know you’re my son.

Damon (27:43):

She knew it. She could identify you.

Michael (27:46):

She knows. Yes, she was a woman of few words that night, but she knew she had to say that.

Damon (27:52):

And how did that make you feel?

Michael (27:54):

I was, I felt validated. I felt validated because I knew that I was secure in the fact that my adopted mother, I was her son, you know, and, and looking at chapter two of my life, and that is my mother. But I needed to know that I wasn’t forgotten, that I wasn’t a throw away. I needed her to say to me, I know who you are. I recognize you. I just needed that. That moment in time was just fabulous and I will never forget, we said grace over the food and we held hands. You know, we stood around the food and we prayed and it felt like a tremendous homecoming. I was not expecting that.

Damon (28:41):

That’s right. And I forgot that you said it was four weeks after Thanksgiving that you met them. So this is a Christmas dinner. Homecoming reunion. Wow.

Michael (28:55):

Yes. Yes. But it wasn’t without any opposition, of course.

Damon (29:01):

Tell me about that.

Michael (29:01):

Before I mentioned I had a very heart to heart conversation with my adoptive mother who absolutely forbade me to go. She was scared. She was over protective, you know, she still didn’t understand because even up until this point, by this point, my mother knew what had happened. It took her a while to process.

Damon (29:21):

Yeah. So, so tell me, I apologize for cutting you off, but I realized that we didn’t really go to the point where you are on the phone with your first cousin and your mother is barking at you to come help her with these Thanksgiving groceries and you, I assume at some point you had to get off the phone to face your mom. Tell me a little bit about how it unfolded when you finally got off the phone and at what point you decided that it was the right time to tell your adopted mother what had transpired.

Michael (29:52):

Well, actually after I helped my mother unload the, um, the car with groceries, I, it just slipped in. I said, Mom, you won’t believe what just happened. And she said, well, I think I found my biological family. Okay, now put that jar jelly in the cupboard up there. You know, she just kept directing me with the groceries. She heard it, but she really didn’t hear it. It wasn’t till later that night when I came home from work, I asked to use the phone and I made the call and I spoke to my cousin and, and all that after those calls had been made, then my mother called me into her room and she says, I want to talk to you about something. That was the most awkward experience. The tension was very thick because I began to feel that my mother resented me for having bothered to look without consulting or confiding in her. And I was put in the awkward position of having to explain, well, you know, I really didn’t believe how find them, but I mean it was just on a humbug and you know, I’m trying to, you know, soften the blow but, um, but then at the same time I couldn’t deny the fact that I was happy about the discovery even though I clearly could see that she was not thrilled at all, but I was not going to, um, you know, deny myself those kinds of, and I didn’t know how to console my mother anymore than I thought I could, you know, I said, you know, nothing’s going to change between the two of us, but I have to do this. And unfortunately I went throughout that entire unification process without the support of my adoptive family.

Damon (31:43):

Did you get the impression that had you been, and I don’t mean to make any judgment as to how you, how it’s unfolded for you. Did you get the impression that had you included her in your desire to search more openly, that your discovery of your biological family might not have been as much of a blow, a surprise?

Michael (32:05):

I do. I do. I really do believe that it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise and it would have been met with such resistance, but you know something? I was in a flow. I felt spontaneous. It happened so spontaneously and you know what? I was asleep. She even mentioned during my childhood that I even had thoughts of even finding my family. I didn’t want to seem like, you know, I wasn’t grateful, but ever since that day of discovery. I mean that feeling of wanting to reach out and connecting to find my family of origin just kept growing and growing and I just couldn’t continue anymore. I couldn’t contain that more.

Damon (32:50):

And it can be also very hard to pause yourself when you’ve got an excitement over something and energy towards it and enthusiasm to really pause, take a half a step back and look around you to see what feelings other people might have and actually gauge whether it’s the right time to stop and say, Hey, I just want you to know I’m kind of excited about starting my search. You know, and to reassure people that you still love them, that nothing will change no matter what happens. It can just be really difficult to put the brakes on for a minute and gauge when the appropriate time to share your search with your adoptive family is, unless it’s been an open topic from the very beginning.

Damon (33:36):

Michael has taken advantage of the opportunity to meet his relatives beyond the reunification with his immediate family. He delved into the family history in an amazing process of meeting the elders in the family. He’s accumulated in array of information from aunts, uncles, and cousins who were tremendously supportive and understanding where Michael was coming from and his passion for learning his personal history. His journey took him to North and South Carolina where he connected with parts of his roots. Michael talks about South Carolina first.

Michael (34:06):

Well in South Carolina, I was able to visit the grave site of the earliest ancestor that I know of who had the same biological last name. His name was Daniel Harth and he was born in 1836 and died in 1915. I actually visited his grave site.

Damon (34:32):

Wow, that’s spectacular.

Michael (34:35):

Damon. It was emotionally jolting for me, um, because I dare to say that I’m probably the first descendant, biological descendant, that was be able to trace the family that far back in history and then identify an actual, um, grave site. Um, that’s still standing, that’s still virtually well intact and I’ll never forget it. Uh, a cousin led me to the burial site and I will never forget when we turned down that dirt road and we took it all the way to the end, it eas a dead end, but it opened up and it was just, you could tell we just feel the history in those parts of Orangeburg and we parked the car and we broke out and we kind of scoured it, you know, all four corners of that cemetery. And finally, we went back to the car and there was just presence that I kept feeling. I said, I know, I know Daniel is here and I just kept thinking about the painstaking time and energy spent and scouring through geological records. I said, you know, this is like the pinnacle of my research, pertaining to this particular ancestor. I said, I got to find his grave site.

Damon (36:08):

Yeah, you’re there. You got to find it.

Michael (36:10):

i’m there, you’ve got to be there. You’ve got to be there. Damon, one of my cousins that came with us said, Michael, maybe he’s behind you. I turned around and there he was.

Damon (36:21):

Are you serious? That’s incredible.

Michael (36:24):

When I placed my hands on that headstone. It was a beautiful, I believe this beautiful inscription. I placed my hand on that headstone and something came over me, Damon. I began to weep so hard. I tried very hard to control that energy because I felt embarrassed. A moment ago, we were just laughing and having a good time and now I’m bawling my eyes out and I remember cause my cousin was like just go ahead and let him know what you want him to know and I just, the only thing that I could come up was thank you for surviving slavery. I also had researched him back during the pre civil war era. This ancestor had been enslaved.

Damon (37:16):

Mhmm.

Michael (37:16):

I have the document where he was sold at eight years old with the rest of his family for $1,321 I just began to thank him for surviving slavery. Thank you for surviving Jim Crow.

Damon (37:33):

in North Carolina, his research also took him back to the pre civil war era in America. He had tracked down more distant relatives in the 1850 census. It can be challenging to go back that far in history to determine whether a black American was a free slave in those days. Michael confirmed that his relatives were free, but he discovered that they had an astonishingly similar experience to his own.

Michael (37:56):

But I noticed something peculiar. I found that in the 1860 and 1850 free schedule census, but they were living in a Williams household and I said, wait a minute, this is unusual. So I had an opportunity to go down to the North Carolina state archives in Raleigh and I presented this find to the clerk who then mentioned, you know, had I ever considered that maybe my ancestors could have been orphaned. I said, no, I never, that thought it never came across my mind. He says, usually the courts would appoint them to a caretaker and this case, the alleged Williams, that was the guy who was the head of household of my ancestors were listed as the children. So I just gave it a shot. And lo and behold, we styled a document that had my birth date of November 29 but the year was 1851, 127 years before I was born. I’m looking at a document that shows that my family, my biological great, great grandfather and his siblings are classified as orphans in North Carolina placed in the care of William B. Williams.

Damon (39:20):

What?

Michael (39:21):

I was shocked. I was stunned.

Damon (39:23):

You were placed into adoption into foster care. Ultimately it’s Will Williams family and you discovered that the exact same thing happened with your own family 127 years prior. Oh man. Yeah, I just got a chill. That’s unreal. That’s unreal.

Michael (39:44):

It was mind blowing to know that. To know that I went through a foster care situation in my own life that completely floored me.

Damon (39:56):

Michael learned that his biological father had been in and out of his biological mother’s life through his genetic genealogy expertise, he was able to track down some cousins on his paternal side. He’s spoken with cousins from that side of the family, but he’s decided that he’s not going to pursue a relationship with them at this time. Still, he went and visited the neighborhood where his parents met in far Rockaway Queens and he feels connected to his origins after walking the streets of the neighborhood where his parents met. Along those lines of genetic expertise, he focused in on some of the health issues that might affect him directly.

Michael (40:30):

And I also noticed too, just being health minded that um, the issue or the awareness rather, not so much issue, but the awareness of being genetically at risk for prostate cancer, um, was very important to me to find that out so that I can become proactive and disease prevention and just kind of make healthy changes to my diet. My disease was, was I think double the national average. I think it’s so fascinating to kind of have that kind of, to be empowered by the information to make necessary changes to kind of, you know, just be disease prevention minded.

Damon (41:08):

That’s fantastic. Modern technology has enabled us to do DNA testing on a consumer level so that we can make these kinds of investments and, um, you know, eliminations in our health and in our, in our activities, in order to pursue, you know, even greater health going forward than we probably normally would have. So that’s really fascinating. Michael, your story has been really unbelievable and I’m so thankful to you for sharing it with me both for purposes of understanding the importance of one’s genetic, uh, genealogical makeup, ah, the historical research that you did. Uh, but most of all just the fulfillment that you’ve gotten from reuniting with your biological family. You sound like you’ve really reached a place of wholeness and I’m really happy for you for that and I appreciate you sharing your story for other adoptees benefits. So thank you.

Michael (42:03):

Thank you so much.

Damon (42:03):

Of course, Michael, all the best to you. Thanks so much.

Damon (42:12):

Hey, it’s me. How interesting was it to hear that Michael discovered his own adoption by accident and then realized that he had once been one of the foster children whom his family nurtured over the years? He sounded like he was really thankful for his place amongst his family in a very loving home. Like so many adoptees, Michael admitted that once he discovered he was adopted, he couldn’t deny his curiosity. Of course, he admitted that if he had included his adopted family in his search, his mother might not have resisted him finding his family and reuniting with them over the holidays. As he was telling his story, I was imagining his family gathered around the table thankful for all of the blessings their family had received, including Michael’s return. I think it’s just awesome that he felt such a deep urge to know more about his own origins, that he would take up genetic genealogy coaching. He used those skills to trace his own roots as far as he possibly could to the beginning of the Harth family in South Carolina and the Williams household in North Carolina. That seemed to be the blueprint for his own upbringing nearly a century later. I hope you’ll find something in Michael’s journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn, Who Am I, Rally? If you would like to share your story of locating and connecting to your biological family visit, whoamireallypodcast.com/share. You can also find the show on Facebook or follow me on Twitter at waireally. This show was edited by Sarah Fernandez.

Who Am I Really?

Find the show on: