Persistence Pays Off

Finding my birth mother in a yearbook.

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I am an adoptee. I was adopted at 1 month of age, on Valentine’s Day in 1980. I have known I was adopted since I was 6 years old. I have always wondered who my birth mother was.

I started searching for my birth mom around May of 2012. I had information on her that was considered “non-identifying information,” given to me by the adoption agency. I had her date of birth, first name, ethnicity, her hobbies, marital status, and occupation. I decided to assume she had a Polish last name, given she was of Polish descent. I feared it may get me nowhere.

I spent the next 10 months researching every woman with my birth mom’s first name in the United States with a Polish last name. I used a specific search site for my search. Then I contacted, either by phone or mail, everyone with my birth mom’s first name who also had a Polish last name in New Jersey. I searched all other states on the east coast including Florida.

I also contacted every person with my birth mom’s first name born on her date of birth that was listed on the search site. I came up empty-handed. A few weeks later I decided to see what I could find on an online yearbook site. I knew I was born in Bergen County, New Jersey. I figured my birth mom would’ve graduated in 1958, based on her date of birth. I went through all the New Jersey yearbooks that were available, thinking she may have grown up in New Jersey. There were women with my birth mom’s name and with Polish last names that looked kind of like me, or so I thought. I was looking for anything.

I began utilizing search angels–people on the internet who reach out to those in search of all types of family members. They devote their time to searches and have databases they use. A search angel was helping me locate my birth mother by her first name. Many of the women she found had gotten married, so we crossed them off. I was told my birth mom was unmarried in 1980. Yes, she could’ve gotten married later in life. But we had to eliminate names somehow, if only temporarily so as not to get overwhelmed.

Weeks went by. We found nothing. I decided I would peruse a different online yearbook site. The week of May 6, 2013, I was looking at a high school class of 1958 yearbook. I came across a picture of a woman. I almost went right by her. She was at the bottom of the page, her last name was hard to read, and almost cut off.

I put her aside, looked at a few more photos, and called it a night. The next morning I took another look and felt a spark. It was identical to my high school senior photos, except I was smiling and she was not. I sent the picture out to my parents and brother. My dad replied, “Oh my goodness, I think you found her!” My mom said, “This is not a coincidence.” My brother said, “Amazing, looks just like you!” My brother also told me he thought I was playing a trick on him, dressing up in 1950s attire. It was her. I had found my birth mother.

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