David tried to find his birth mother in the early 90’s in California. He received non-identifying information back then, but it wasn’t much to act on at the time. Later, in 2015, motivated by his wife and his “lifetime sister”, he embarked on an intense collaboration with his adoption search angel Priscilla. Together they discovered his mother’s name and her location. David found an incredible photograph of his mother in the public library’s archives and was hopeful he would meet her soon. Unfortunately, he was too late to meet her in person. But in the end, he gained a full blooded sister that he didn’t even know he had. They get along great, and wish that they had grown up together.
The very first link I clicked on the screen slowly, you know, was showing an image and it was my mother in her wedding dress. It was the picture from that article. There was a young couple next to me and I just looked over and I said, that’s my mom,
Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?
This is Who Am I, Really? A podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. Hey, it’s Damon. On the show today, I’m joined by David. He grew up in Southern California with one adopted sister whom he lovingly refers to as his lifetime sister. David remembers the day when his family went to pick up Jennifer when she was adopted and they both grew up knowing they were adoptees. He said he didn’t really think about his biological family much until one day it just hit him. He didn’t know anything about where he was from. His curiosity was peaked and fed by Jennifer’s eventual discovery of her own biological father and urging from his wife to keep searching. In the end, David’s collaborative teamwork with his adoption search angel, Priscilla, helped him learn more about his mother and father and connect to his biological sister. Here’s David’s journey.
David grew up in Southern California and was perfectly comfortable with his adoption from an early age, but in his teen years there was a week where everybody was asking him if he was Irish. It turned out his adopted mother had a little bit of confirmation about his original identity.
Grew up knowing my whole life that I was adopted. You know, I was told I, I don’t know exactly at what age, but it was young enough that that’s just what I knew and I didn’t even know what it really meant quite frankly. I just kind of, I would tell people I’m adopted, you know, there was a period I was working, there was, it was shortly after I graduated high school and I was working at the grocery store as a box boy bagging groceries and stuff and the day shift. And so I’d have a lot of, you know, young mothers with their kids and stuff coming through. And in the period of like one or two weeks, I had three or four different people ask me if I was Irish. And I, I had never given it much thought I was raised Jewish. The family history of my adopted parents on both sides were a Russian immigrant who came to the U.S. Uh, my grandparents. So that was the only history I knew, which of course it wasn’t my own personal biological heritage, you know, so I’d never given much thought about, you know, what nationality I was. And so I asked my mother, Hey, you know what, my nationality is? And sure enough, she said, yeah, you’re mostly Irish and a little bit German.
is that, right? People who are watching you on the street, we’re spot on, huh?
Yeah, yeah. You know, as a kid, when I thought Irish, I thought of like red-headed freckled and I’m not bad. Yeah, I guess it’s Northern Irish. We have the dark hair and it’s very common and stuff, but it’s just something I really had never given a thought to. So that was kind of fascinating. And I asked my mother if she knew anything else. And again, I’m probably about 18 or 19 at this point. And she said she knew the last name on the birth certificate or whatever was Roby, but she, she said that, I don’t think that was actually, you know, anybody related to you? I think it was my mother’s first marriage, but she said she knew that I had two older half-brothers from her first marriage, a few years older than me. And I thought, Oh, that’s interesting.
How did she know that? Do you know?
Well, yeah, I found out much later. She actually met my mother in the final signing off on the paperwork after I was born in court, you know, just kind of like formality and that was really all she knew. So that would have been like around 89 no, no. It’d been earlier than that, but yeah. And I couldn’t do anything with that. Yeah, I think you had too much thought. Although I do remember one time I, uh, was with some friends and it was a beautiful day and I just kind of got really sad. I had like a whole thing about where the hell did I come from? I just suddenly felt alone in the universe. I felt like I have no idea where the heck I came from. I don’t know why it hit me all at once. It was just kind of overwhelming.
Several years later after David married his wife, Diane, she suggested he might want to try to locate his birth mother. I asked David why she made that suggestion and whether he thought she was seeing a need in him to search.
I’m a musician. I didn’t mention that, but I’ve had some lyrics that I’ve written, a whole song that wrote, Oh, gave me life, which is about that and some other songs where I’ve made reference to that. And so maybe that might’ve been one of the reasons.
So you weren’t overtly speaking about it, but your, your lyrics were showing some deep emotion and some thought in the background about it, huh?
Yeah, absolutely. Like I said, my whole childhood, I never thought about it and maybe maybe it was back there, but I really don’t have recollection of wondering until you know I was an adult.
Makes perfect sense. So your wife has begun to urge you. What did you think? Were you still in the sort of just like, nah, I’m good. Or did you say, yeah, I’m starting to feel it.
That’s what I did kind of want to find out. And I found an organization in Southern California that helped adoptees and again this is the early nineties so it’s preaired internet and really having the ability to do much on your own. But one of the things that they told me is that you can send to the state for non identifying information and you know they told me what to do. I filled out the form and sent it in.
It was the early nineties before internet searches to locate people was as fruitful as they are now. He found that in Southern California he could submit a form to the state to receive his non identifying information. The results he received were fascinating for David. He learned about the makeup of his biological parents families, about some of their hobbies and interests and began to trace traits that he learned about them back to himself. He still didn’t know how to find them. Then he got a random clue about his biological mother out of the blue.
And I got two pages of information, which was actually really valuable information. Although again, at the time there wasn’t a lot I could do with it, but it still was fascinating cause it it what it is is this information that both parents fill out and I found out my mother was born in New York, my father was born in Texas and she was one of eight kids and Catholic and it did say Irish. My father was the oldest of five boys, so it’s two large families and my family that I grew up with with me and I had a younger sister who was also adopted, my younger sisters, Jennifer, and she was three half years younger than me and I actually remember going to pick her up. It was just kind of cool. Yeah. I just remember kind of getting out of the car in the parking lot and going somewhere. Next thing we know I have a sister.
Wow. And you knew at that time already that you were adopted even though you didn’t quite know what it meant, but now you sort of had a personal experience, you watch someone else’s adoption happen.
Exactly. And it was interesting because in addition to that, one of the things that it said was that my parents were not married and they had lived together for a couple of months and decided they were not going to get married and that’s the reason they’ve put me up for adoption. The other thing that was kind of neat was it had it listed their jobs at the time and you know, education, it also had some medical background. It also told their ages that she was 27 when I was born. I think my father was 30 something like that. It also had like, their like hobbies and interests.
My father with sports and playing bridge and building model airplanes.
Oh that’s so interesting.
I’ve always been into sports, more of a fan that actually a participant and I did play bridge as a kid. Something I learned with my family, but I was really into models. I used to love to build, especially like space models and planes too. So that was kind of interesting. And my mother also was very artistic. She liked to paint and draw and I like to draw and things like that so that, that was kind of neat.
Yeah. And you’re an artist as a musician as well, so you’re the artistic side of your brain, you know, seems to resonate with your mother’s side, huh?
Yeah. Yeah. And so that was kind of neat to find out. Again, this is like 92 I think. And you know, again, I said I still didn’t have any real direction on what to do with this and it was kind of weird. I got a phone call one night from a woman at this organization and she said, your mother’s maiden name is Edmondson. And I was like, cause I had never heard that name before.
I was like, okay, what’s her first name?
Well, she said, I can’t tell you that. And she hung up and it was like, what was that?
Really? So this wasn’t like a formal followup call. This was kind of a, Hey I got a quick thing I need to tell you but don’t tell anyone that’s really good for her.
Hey, I’m breaking law here. It’s like okay, what do I do with this? There’s possibility that my mother’s maiden name is Edmondson, just based on somebody telling me that. And I had the name that I knew, you know that was on my birth record. But again that was my mother’s first husband’s last name. That was her name when I was born cause she didn’t change her name back to her maiden name. So again that was a name that was not relative to me. It just happened to be on my paperwork.
David learned that his paperwork was with the Riverside County courts. He got some specific advice on how to approach the courts in the hopes of getting a tidbit of additional information about himself.
They told me I was born in LA County but at the time I was born, my adoptive parents were living in Riverside County. So all my paperwork went through the Riverside court. So I had to actually go, they told me go to the court, you know, 10 minutes before lunch and find the clerk and ask them to get five copies of your paperwork. Cause they had to manually take a black magic marker and block out anything that had a name. And so the hope is that on one of those five copies they might miss somewhere.
That’s very clever.
My wife and I, we drove and it was like, you know, it’s like an hour drive and we’d go down there and we do this, we get all the paperwork and you know, there was nothing gained from that. It was paperwork I already had and I kind of got frustrated and really didn’t do anything. And it was like a year later that my first child was born and it was you who said in your intro piece about your podcast. And that was the first thing that grabbed me. You mentioned your first child. And having the resemblance, you know, and this is your first time you have a blood relative. It was exactly the same for me cause my daughter looks so much like me and my wife and it’s weird for people, you know, they’d just grow the normal way and that’s all they know. Everybody looks like them some way. That was something that was really amazing and powerful to me. And then, and we all look so much alike, we’re family of four and you can tell.
Fast forward to January, 2015. Adoption reunification touched David’s family through his sister, Jennifer. His curiosity was peaked yet again because of Jennifer’s experience with her search angel.
My sister Jennifer that I grew up with, I call her my lifetime sister.
I love that.
She was adopted. She’s the person I grew up with, she’s my sister, my family. She had contacted a search angel online and I didn’t even know what to thing about this, you know? And she found her father very quickly. They see each other all the time. They look so much alike. It’s ridiculous.
Wow, that’s awesome.
So she was the one who said, Hey, you really should do this. And I was like, okay, cool. And, and, and again, I still had that great information from the state of California all these years later. And I contacted Priscilla, a search angel and man she is amazing, you know, my sister’s was very quick because the names were uncommon names. My case wasn’t. Irish, Edmondson and, and uh, and there’s a lot of even different spellings of that name, even within the same family, but it took a couple months and I didn’t just give it to her and say, Hey, let me know when you find her.
He worked collaboratively with his own search angel, Priscilla, researching online, digging through ancestry.com, newspapers.com, collecting tidbits of information to help piece his own puzzle together. They updated one another on the clues they had accumulated.
It really was exciting. There was two, three week periods there where it’s like every day I just couldn’t wait to get on the computer and start, you know, searching and it was amazing.
Yeah, I bet. So what did you find? What kinds of stuff did you uncover?
I found a lot of stuff. The weirdest thing, this is totally crazy cause I live in Indiana. I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana. But like I told you, I grew up in LA and I told you my mother was from New York and my father was from Texas. My mother married her first husband in Terre Haute, Indiana and in the 50’s. I was like, that’s crazy. Yeah. That was just kind of an interesting tidbit to find out.
Yeah. Of all the places in the nation.
Yeah. And you know, I ended up searching the newspapers in Terre Haute and I came across, and this was during my little free trial period. I came her wedding, uh, announcement in the local Terahote paper.
No way. That must’ve been so cool.
It was describing, you know, what she wore and only her father attended from her family. Well, after my trial ended, it turns out our local library is really great for resource. You have access to all those websites, you know, ancestry and newspapers, all those websites that you’d normally have to pay for. You can just go to your local library.
Yeah. I think people really underestimate, people don’t know or underestimate the value of the public library for searches like these. I mean the library is just an amazing resource.
Yes. So, and I went and I typed in again, because Edmondson is a very common name. My mother’s at this point, I knew, I knew her name, and again, that’s a very common name, but her father’s name was not a common name. And so I typed that in and the very first link I clicked on and the screen is, its in a library so the computers are a little slower. The screen slowly, you know, was filling an image and it was my mother in her wedding dress. It was a picture from that article. And I’m staring at it.
Oh, that is so cool. You get to see her on one of her most beautiful days aside, of course, from the day you were born.
She’s 22 in the pictures, she’s 22. That was the exact age as my daughter. And they look alike. I was just tears. There was a young couple next to me and I just, I just looked over. I said, that’s my mom. I’ve never seen her before. That was a pretty amazing night.
That must have been spectacular man.
Yeah. The other thing that was really cool for me was I had started posting about this on Facebook, kind of letting them know initially when I first started, I said, I’m, I’m newly close to figuring out a 50 year old mystery. And I think some people figured out what I might be talking about and other people, you know, they didn’t even know I was adopted. You know, I started getting more and more information and people did know by this point that this is what I was doing. I got home that night and I posted that picture. Really, they’re just really supportive and like, and it’s like, wow, she looks like you. I could see the resemblance, you know, and I mentioned that it looks like my daughter. Yeah. That looks just like your daughter, you know? And it was really such a cool thing. So I’ll never forget the day it was 2015 March 11 and that whole week going back and forth, we learned so much. And somewhere along the line we had discovered that my mother had another child, a daughter. She was 18 months younger than me. I’m saying, okay cool. I now have five half siblings cause my father’s information, it also said that he had two children from his first marriage.
This is in the non identifying package.
Right. So I knew I had four siblings, half siblings and now I’m finding out about a fifth. I never thought about younger kids. Again, It’s just like cool, all right, there’s another half sibling. Somewhere along the line Priscilla found the name of who my mother married. And so I started searching his name and I was searching Terre Haute again because it was obvious that that’s where they hooked up. And I sure enough I came across his first wedding on newspapers.com and, and I’m reading the information and it listed his parents’ names and the information that I had from the state of California was they both died very young in their forties. I was able to find both of their death certificates and that proved to me without a doubt that he was my father. So my mother ended up marrying my father after all. Ironically it was St Patrick’s day, evening.
Is that right?
Like six days after I found the picture of my mother St Patrick’s day, evening, I’m just, you know, downstairs in my basement on my computer and I’d just go, Oh my God, she married my father.
David had also recruited one of his friends to help him with his search. He gave her all of the information he had. The very next day after he confirmed his own parents’ marriage to one another, he woke up to a message from his friend.
So the next morning I wake up and there’s a, a message that had come through overnight from my friend saying, I’m positive this is where your mother lives. And it was an address in the Oregon and I was like, okay.
And what did you think at that moment?
Well, I had seen when I was searching her name and I had seen a lot in California and a couple pop up in Oregon when she gave me that information, I was very intrigued. I thought, wow, this is really cool. So that morning I was searching online again and again, Facebook was a valuable tool in all of this. So here it is. The day after I realized my, my parents actually got married. I came across a link, it was a name I’ve come across and I was confused. I was thinking that it was like a really much younger brother and it was his, his wife posted about her passing away. And this was exactly six months to the day prior. This link I found was six months old and it was from September 18th
And sorry, it was about who’s passing?
My mother. Yeah. So I, you know, I went through this this whole week of just like I foundher, I know what she looks like I now I know where she lives. I’m going to find her. And she died six months prior. You know, it just kills you.
Yeah. And it was only six months. You’ve probably felt like you’d just missed her.
Yeah, I, I just, you know, I sat there and I thought, well, I’m never going to know her personally, but I, I immediately went, Oh, wait a minute. I have a full blood system. That younger sister is not a half sister. A full sister.
,David immediately started searching for his full sister. He was able to locate her on Facebook that same day. The social media platform had given him a lot of information to act on, so he started trying to find ways to call her. He had three phone numbers for her in the city where her Facebook page said she had lived. He nervously called each one, but those numbers were no longer hers and she no longer lived in the city where her page said she lived. Then his sister, Jennifer gave him some good advice on how to contact his full sister and it would only cost him $1.
So my, my sister Jennifer again, my lifetime sister, the one who got me started on this whole crazy journey. She told me how she, the first person she made contact with was her aunt on her mother’s side. And she made sure by sending back then you couldn’t message somebody directly if you weren’t a friend. If you did, it would just go to what was called other. And most people never even saw that. But my sister told me that back then they had the option, if you wanted to send a message to somebody that they got, that they saw you could pay a dollar, you know, that’s going to weed out any kind of spam. Nobody’s gonna pay a dollar to send you spam. So I did that Sunday morning, this was March 22nd now. And I waited and I knew based on what I knew from her page, I figured she’s probably going to church. So it’ll be sometime after that if she sees it. I had sent a message that says, I really need to talk to you about your parents. It’s very important. And, um, I said, I’m not scamming or this, it’s just important. And, and, uh, my, I made my Facebook page very open and I even changed my pictures to things that she, like, she’s a big Dodgers fan and I happened to have a picture of my family when I’m wearing a Dodgers hat. And so I put that up as my cover. I thought, okay, you know, hopefully I’ll get a response.
You created this safe online space for her to land so that when she came to your page she would feel comfortable with some of that stuff subliminally.
Yeah. Well you know, and she could see, I’m from Southern California.
There’s a lot of information, you know about me and so I was out in the yard, you know, doing leaves and I had my cordless phone in the pocket cause it was my house phone and I just had it in my pocket and I was just doing work and the phone rang and as soon as I looked down at the caller ID, I recognized her area code and I picked up the phone and she says, are you my brother? And just like that.
Yeah. This little sweet voice, are you my brother? And I said yes and we, we, I sat down and we talked for more than an hour and you know, we were crying initially.
Oh my gosh.
On her side it explained a lot.
Well, just, just things that she always had feelings about. But the, the, the thing that was amazing to find out was I was an absolute secret. Nobody knew at all except for my two parents and my mother’s parents. Cause when she got pregnant, she went from Terre Haute to Glendale, California. She went there and she stayed there. And that’s where I was born. My father, who was still married to his first wife and had two young kids, he picked up and moved to Glendale, California. And you know, I still don’t know at what point they ended up getting divorced cause that had to have happened fairly quickly after that, you know, um, my, my mother had already been divorced. My mother is divorced. It’s kinda funny. It’s almost exactly nine months before I was born. It’s like nine months and two weeks before I was born.
Nobody ever knew, including like, um, my mother’s best friend, she never ,knew none of her, her, a couple of siblings that are still alive, never knew nobody, but nobody ever knew.
David emailed his new found sister Mary, the information that he had obtained from the state of California, which totally confirmed everything for her. That was March of 2015 he got to meet her in person just a few months later.
So after we talked, it wasn’t until that was March and it was June 20th.,2015 was when I finally got to meet her in person, my family, the four of us. We flew out to LA and we met and she also had, her daughter was there, so my niece and my kid’s first cousin now we had already become Facebook friends as well. And so they already kind of knew each other and it was amazing to meet in person. But also, it was a little bit of an awkward day because I think we ended up having too many people there.
So, I mean it would’ve just been better to be just us. Especially I think just the two of us initially.
I think that’s important.
That’s right. Yeah. If you’re there managing your kids and she’s managing her kids and it’s meal time and they’re bored..
We even have more people than that. So definitely that would be some advice I would tell anybody. Jjust from ust make sure initial contact is really just one on one, no matter what the situation is. There really should be.
That makes sense. Cause it really is just about you in the beginning. Right?
Yeah. Cause there’s so much to talk about. And again this is after having many multi hour phone calls. There was almost three months from when we first connected till we first met. You know, from the distance and, and it’s funny because we’re kind of not like the rest of our family or our blood family.
How do you mean?
Especially on the political side. The family is very conservative and neither of us are.
I see, I see.
Oh yeah. We have, we think a lot of like, and it’s, I think it does really kind of bother both of us that we didn’t get to grow up together.
Because I mean just how close we’ve become in just over two years. But I think, I think we both kind of knew very early on just in our phone conversations that we can just kind of be that way with each other. But all right, let’s just make this what it is and act like we did grow up together.
That’s really cool. Yeah.
Like I said, I set out looking to find my birth mother. I really didn’t even think about my father cause you know the information I knew from the state. I just thought the only way I’m ever going to know his name is if I do find my birth mother and then to find out everything that happened that they got married and then I have a full sister. I mean I could never have even thought about that.
Yeah. It’s amazing the scenarios that you uncover that you know your imagination can take one trajectory and the reality is a completely different area.
Yeah. But you know, one of the things I still want to do, and it was Andre, your first guest. This is what he mentioned that intrigued me. I still want to get my original birth certificate and this is why I really would like to get it because on his, they had a name for him and I would love to know if my mother named me.
Yeah, it’s true. You had an identity, you were her son your whole life, but in that moment when you were born, she would have thought of a name for you.
I was also born the day before Thanksgiving, and my sister Mary did tell me that that was always my mother’s favorite holiday. I know for the rest of her life she thought about me, you know, I’m thinking.
Wow, that’s amazing. That’s a nice feeling to have. That makes your own Thanksgiving even that much better. Right?
Out of curiosity, did Mary help you gain a connection to your mom and how did she do that?
Yeah, so you know, that’s, that’s the fabulous thing is that she, she immediately sent me pictures of, you know, various times of her childhood with her and, and even some pictures of, of her younger than that and, and telling me what she knew about both sides of the family. But on the other side I actually helped her reconnect with her own family members that it’s like some she had never met and I feel good about reconnecting her with her own family.
Yeah. Oh yeah. That’s, that’s really spectacular. You, your presence has resurrected some old relationships. That’s super cool. So in closing, what do you think, you’ve done a lot. You did a lot of research and you did it over many different years, across different decades, various technological capabilities. You’ve had search angels and friends. Is there anything that you would do differently? What would you change? What do you wish had unfolded differently?
Well, you know, I certainly wish I would have taken advantage of, especially here where I live in Fort Wayne. It turns out our public library is only second to the Mormons, you know, the Utah public library as far as, um, birth genealogy. That’s been one of the biggest things here. And, and I’ve lived here 17 years and I certainly could have taken advantage of that. And with the information I have from the state, I, I’m sure I would’ve found her much sooner.
Well, congratulations on connecting with your sister. I’m so sorry that you missed your mom by such a short period of time, but it sounds like you’ve connected with so many other family members as just, that’s a, that’s a spectacular adventure you were on, man.
It really was. It was, it was a little bit of a roller coaster, but it was a heck of a ride. It really was.
I can imagine. I can imagine. And now you’ve got just a little bit of closure and as you look at your own kids, you can look at your sister and all your half siblings and see a direct tie in a family tree relation. That’s super cool.
And the coolest thing is my, my, my niece, Mary’s daughter, her name is Alison. She just had her own child, uh, last month it was, it was the, yeah, the beginning of April. And, or I mean it was the beginning of, um, it was in March, beginning of March. And I went out there just a few weeks ago. I got to see the babies, like the closest thing to a grandson.
And I said to her, I said this, this is my first blood relative who’s always going to know me just as uncle Dave. I’m not surprise Uncle Dave.
That’s right. That’s right. Very cool. Well, good to not be surprise Uncle Dave. I hope that you will, uh, share your story and the fact that you did this with your lifetime sister Jennifer. I would love to talk to her about her adventure, but in the meantime, congratulations to your family on expanding with that little person.
Cool. David, thank you for taking time tonight and I appreciate it so much.
Great talking to you.
Hey, it’s me. David sounds so happy now. He has two wonderful sisters, one in each family. Who are all now family together. It was so great that his younger sister Jennifer had found her own family and was able to pass on the experience of using a search angel to her older brother. It sounded like they did an amazing amount of work online and at the library to uncover as much information as they could gather about David’s family. I could almost see David sitting in front of the library’s computer screen as the image of his biological mother filled the screen in her wedding dress. What an amazing moment that must have been then to go home and have a message from a dedicated and helpful friend that said, she definitely knew where his mother was. Sadly, David’s mother had passed away before he could get to know her in person, but what a great feeling to have his biological sister, Mary, call and outright ask for confirmation that he was her brother. While he didn’t get to know his mother. It sounds like he feels close to her through Mary. I hope you’ll find something in David’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 really? This episode was edited by Sarah Fernandez. If you would like to share your story of locating and connecting to your biological family visit, whoamireallypodcast.com/share. You can look for the show on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @waireally.