John did the seemingly impossible. He solved a 91-year-old family mystery and successfully found my birth grandmother’s next of kin – an 85-year-old nephew – who was able to finally tell us about my birth grandmother who would have been 111 years old if she had still been alive!
When it was finally solved, John shared with me that my family’s case was the hardest case he has ever tackled. He ended up working on it for over 9 years. Overall those long years, he showed a remarkable resiliency and dedication to both my mother and me. He faithfully and regularly checked in with us, giving us search status reports even when there was nothing new he had to report and he never, ever gave up.
My mother is now 91 years old and ailing. She does not have a lot of time left and we had begun to believe that we would never find out what happened to her Birth Mother after all these years. John always understood how important it was for me that we find the answers about her birth mother before she passes on. And John did it! I was able to share the news of his discovery with my mom was just a week before her 91st Birthday.
We were both in shock. All we ever knew was that my mom had been abandoned by her birth mom at 3 months old in 1923 and was raised by her birth father and paternal birth grandparents. Since there was no formal relinquishment of parental rights or adoption involved there were no legal records for us to attempt to access. The only thing I ever had was the name of my Grandmother. Nothing else. And, unfortunately, it was a fairly common name.
The “official story” told by her father and paternal grandmother was that one morning, she simply got up, said that she couldn’t do this anymore and walked out on her baby and husband and never looked back. As you might imagine after being told this, my mom has lived her whole life angry at her mother for abandoning her and with very little desire to find out whatever happened to her as a result. She simply believed the story and never felt the need to know anymore. It was my sister and me who always felt that there was more to this story than she was told. There simply had to be. And, thanks to John, we now know that my mom’s father and her paternal grandmother had repeatedly lied to her about the circumstances of her mothers leaving.
I first approached John over 9 years ago and asked him for his help. After years of painstakingly considering and then eliminating virtually every other person who had a similar name and who was alive at the same time and who had ever lived in the large metropolitan area where my mom was born, basically going down one dead end after another, John finally found and spoke to my birth grandmother’s 85 year old nephew – her “next-of-kin”.
This nephew confirmed that my birth grandmother was his Aunt but even more importantly he told us that back in 1923 – before he was even born but just months after my mom was born – his Aunt suddenly and mysteriously disappeared. Both my birth grandmother’s younger brother (his father) and my birth grandmother’s father had filed missing persons report with the police and had spent years searching for her but to no avail. They eventually and regretfully came to the conclusion that she must have met with foul play. For there had never been any “falling out” between them and it was the only logical reason why she would have disappeared without a trace.
After John shared this news with me, I drove over to my mom’s and shared it with her. At first, she couldn’t wrap her mind around it. All her life she had believed what she had been told – that her birth mother had simply just walked away – abandoning her – never once coming back or attempting to contact her.
Thanks to John finding her next-of-kin, we now know that she not only left my mom as a 3-month-old baby and her husband but, at the same time, she also went missing from her own family. If she had just walked away from a bad marriage and/or was suffering from post-partum depression following the birth of her baby daughter – like we always thought – then her family would most likely still have known what had become of her. But she disappeared at the exact same time from her own parents and brother as well. And they spent years trying to find out what had happened to her.
So my 91-year-old mom now knows, for the very first time in her life, that she was not abandoned by her birth mother but, instead, that her birth mother was taken from her just as she was taken from her own family. And she knows that her mother’s family had searched and grieved for her.
I have since spoken at length to my newly found 85-year-old cousin and have delighted in getting to know him and learning more about that side of my family. I suspect that we will never know the specific circumstances of her death but the fact that she did die is now beyond doubt.
I understood when John told me, at the end of this long search, that it has been the most difficult case he has ever undertaken. Because she disappeared at the young age of 20 she never left much of a record or trail behind for any of us to be able to follow. The fact that he eventually managed to find her 83-year-old nephew still alive and who could verify the story of her disappearance – when virtually everyone else involved were long gone – well, it is nothing short of miraculous.
I can’t say enough good things about John. He is absolutely tenacious in his efforts. He never gave up and he always, faithfully, kept in touch with us over the years. Even when he had no news to share – he would check in. I can’t recommend him any higher than this: Should you find yourself in the midst of a difficult family search John Suggs is the person you want to have in your corner.
Thank you, John! You gave my mother the most priceless gift anyone could have ever given her. You gave her back to her mother.