I had no idea who my father was for the first 74 years of my life. Given up for adoption, all I knew was what the adoption records stated: that my father had died before I was born.
I often wondered who he was? How did he die? Had he even known he was going to be a father? Since I was born in 1944, was he a soldier? Did he die in the war? Was his death the reason I was put up for adoption?
My adoption papers, offering no clues, merely stated about me:
“The boy is a dark-complexioned child, thin and wiry with curly brown hair and large somewhat solemn eyes. On…the day before his third birthday, the child…was brought to the house of adoptive parents. Nothing is known of this child’s life up to this date.”
Seeking to find the answers that have eluded me all my life, I submitted my DNA to Ancestry.Com. When the results came back, I got my first clue: the DNA showed that my father was of African heritage and that my paternal DNA matches in the database were all Haitians. Unfortunately, because so few Haitians have submitted their DNA for testing, the matches I had were few and only distantly related.
So I hired a professional genetic genealogist, John F. Suggs, to help me in my search. It was from him that I finally learned who my father was: Lionel Durand, an eminent Haitian journalist. Sadly, I also learned that my father had been alive and well for the first 17 years of my life but had never known of my existence.
Lionel Durand had been denied his right to know me – and I him – and to be named as my father on my birth and adoption documents.
In 2006, I asked John Suggs if he would attempt to locate my long-time friend’s birth mother. My friend had been adopted at birth in 1967 in San Francisco. The only information he had was her name at the time of his birth and the city in England from where she hailed. He’d had a very strong yearning to reunite with her his entire life and spoke of her frequently. He had been able to locate the home where she lived in San Francisco at the time of his birth and had driven past it from time-to-time, drawn to it because it was his only connection with his birth mother. But that was where his trail ended.
John researched a lot of different avenues both in the US and in England in order to find her. The turning point came when he located the woman’s marriage records and married name and discovered that she was still living in San Francisco. Armed with that information my friend immediately opened the San Francisco telephone book. Unbelievably, there she was listed using her married last name, first name spelled out in full (an unusual spelling of an otherwise common name), and her maiden name’s initial. She had intentionally listed herself in the telephone directory in a way that he could easily locate her once he had her married name. It seems she was now widowed but had remained in San Francisco rather than return to her native England in the hope that he would one day come searching for her. Incredibly, for over 20 of those many years apart the two had been living within 1 mile of each other. They had regularly walked the same neighborhood sidewalks, shopped in the same neighborhood stores and ate in the same neighborhood restaurants.
When he made the first telephone call to his birth mother, he got her answering machine. Not knowing for certain if this was indeed his birth mother, he was truly very, very excited that the voice on the recording sounded like a woman of her approximate age with a British accent. He called again. This time she answered. After confirming that she was indeed the same woman whose name he had, he said to her “I may be your son” to which she replied “You may be. Is this John?” She had named him John before the adoption, but his adoptive parents had changed his first name. Not knowing that, she had been looking for a man named “John”. They immediately made plans to meet, after which they grew very close and involved in each other’s lives. The birth mother is now included as a member of his family. Both birth mother and adoptive mother are “Mom” with a special love for each for the unique roles that each has played in his life.
Nearly 40 years of wanting to know each other had passed. Two things kept them from finding each other: her last name changed due to her marriage and his first name was changed at adoption. It is mind-boggling to think that these seemingly very minor things kept these two apart for decades.
Thanks from the bottom of our hearts to John Suggs for locating the information that reunited this mother and son, who are now very happy sharing in each other’s lives.
I could not move on with my life. I have a successful career and have grown up in a nice family with loving parents. But I have not married and I do not have children. This is no accident and I knew that my past, the unknown, was keeping me from moving on.
Family Orchard was referred to me by a legal source in the adoption community. I admit I had this card for over a year before I used it. And it is funny that some things really do happen timely.
Mr. Suggs, founder of Family Orchard, was efficient, supportive, and has a sensitivity and wisdom that was reassuring. Honestly, they were traits I rarely have found in someone outside the adoption triad. I felt understood!
His interesting and impressive background makes him beyond equipped to do this kind of work. My adoption journey has been an emotional and frustrating one, a journey of regret and of lost love found again. Mr. Suggs was patient and sensitive along the way and has provided insight that only a professional could.
When others had failed, when I had tried and backed down so many times and for so many reasons (excuses), Mr. Suggs gently led me down a path I was afraid to travel alone. And it was so worth it! With his guidance I found my birth father. Because you will learn, once you start working with Mr. Suggs, he won’t take the credit. It has been my search: my journey.
We discussed community resources, books, and documentaries. He opened up a door I had long forgotten I closed! And I remembered a time when I was more involved in the adoption community and utilized resources. It was a refreshing reminder that this journey doesn’t have to be done alone; there are always ways to self-growth and ways to connect to others if you want it!
It has taken ten years but I found both my biological parents and reunited them with each other. (And it is quite a story.) What this reunion may turn into is still unknown. For me, the search was never about a relationship, although this has been a nice residual effect. My adoption journey has been about finding truths and about letting go, letting go of the past, letting go of regret, and letting go of the burden of wonder.
The most surprising feeling I still have is empowerment. I set a goal and it wasn’t easy but I did it. I did it! AND YOU CAN TOO. The time is now.
Family Orchard is a resource you can trust. It is a professional service that will deliver. Words cannot express my gratitude.
I am writing this after having met my birth mother for the first time this morning and I need to thank and commend John Suggs for all of his work and dedication that made it possible.
Being adopted, it seems as if there is something (missing) inside that drives you to find out who your birth parents are – like a search for treasure or the holy grail – but much more personal. After years of on again/off again searching with no results I contacted John and almost immediately had the name and contact information of my birth mother.
With John’s care-filled coaching and counseling I spoke with her several times over the past months by phone and was able to successfully move the conversation from her initial outright denial of our relationship to our finally meeting in person this morning. She brought me photos of my extended birth family and shared with me who my birth father was along with the circumstances that led up to my birth!
Due to John’s skill and expertise a dream that I had for most of my life has come true. I cannot thank him or recommend him highly enough.