The Search for Her Roots

Like many others, Jackie Anderson's search for her biological roots has unnecessary hurdles.

Tom Andriola January 07, 2015
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Jackie Anderson has been curious about her roots from the time she could understand what adoption was. So when she turned 21 and her mom and dad gave her a gift that her biological grandmother had left for her on her first birthday, she felt as if she had been given a small, but powerful, glimpse into her personal truth. It was a gold cross on a chain, and the box it came in had Rogers Jewelers from Latham imprinted in it.

Every year since then, her birthday has been fraught with restless emotion. She is happy to be alive and grateful for what she has, but there is something major missing for her on that day–and on many other days. She longs for the critical piece of information that will lead her to find her birth mother, and she imagines a jubilant reunion one day.

Until then, all she had to go on is the non-identifying information that she received from Community Maternity Services, the agency that handled her adoption in 1985. It’s not an insignificant amount of information by any stretch. And perhaps with the right amount of research and persistent investigative prowess, the puzzle can and will be solved.

But Jackie and many other adoptees ask why their personal histories have to remain such a secret. Who has that right to say that they cannot have access to such vital, yet simple information? The unnecessary pain and anxiety that is caused by withholding their truths just seems inexplicable.

Instead, Jackie intends to search local yearbooks from 1985 to see if she can discover the identity of her birth mother, an honor student who played flute and piano and was a student conductor for the school band. She has been given the ages and genders of her birth mother’s three siblings, her nationality and religion, and even descriptions about her personality. Similar non-identifying information has been provided to her about her birth father, and even her birth grandparents, ages and all.

She is lucky that her agency had so much information and made it available to her. The New York State Department of Health has an adoption registry where adoptees and birth parents can register to find each other, but that agency provided her with almost no information and simply forwarded the request on to the agency she was adopted through. She is thankful there was a file on her birth family that was maintained and shared with her. It’s outdated, but at least it provides clues that will potentially connect Jackie to the truths of her past.

At the same time, Jackie can’t help but continue to ask the most important question: Where are the names? This is the last critical pieces of information that could potentially enable Jackie to make contact with her biological parents, if she chooses to do so. The identities are known to many, for sure. Friends and classmates from 1985, Community Maternity Services, state officials who maintain the records, the hospital–the list goes on and on. But Jackie remains in the dark about her own past.

Sure, she might be successful one day if she stays on top of the investigation and is persistent in reaching out to Capital Region High School graduates from the mid-1980s. But why does it have to come to that? What is the rationale for making someone like Jackie go through all the hoops and anguish and emotionally draining torture to uncover the information that so many others already know?

Jackie has done well despite the ever-longing feeling to understand where she comes from. She’s highly educated and has a great job. She is close to her family and enjoys life. But all of that doesn’t remove the emptiness she feels inside in not knowing her roots. By no means does that mean she is ungrateful. She is very grateful for her lot in life, indeed. She just wants to know about her complete journey in getting here, and to do that, she needs to be able to rewind the script and take it back to the very beginning of the story.

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Tom Andriola

Tom Andriola advocates for adoptee rights and shares his personal experiences about being adopted and his successful, independent search for both biological parents. To see more of his writing, visit Tom's Facebook page.


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