Between 1945 and 1973, about 350,000 unmarried Canadian mothers were persuaded, coerced or forced into giving their babies up for adoption.
Many babies were illegally given away, like a puppy at the pound, for a nominal donation to the church. On Christmas Eve, 1952, I became one of those babies. From the moment my grandmother shared the story of my adoption, my birthday wish every year was to find my mother. I started the search in 1973 when I was 20.
In 2008, the Province of Ontario changed its law, enabling legally adopted persons access to their birth registration records. That document usually contained the birth mother’s name at the time of the child’s birth, her home address, age, religion, nationality, and professional occupation. Armed with that information, the adoptee could search Ontario databases and telephone directories, and in time locate their birth parent. Birth father names were seldom on this document as it was not a requirement.
After many communication exchanges (with the provincial government, the hospital where I was born, and the Children’s Aid Society), we discovered that an adoption had never taken place. I was simply given away by Mother Superior at the hospital. This resulted in denial of my access to any birth records.
In 2013, I increased my search efforts with an intense focus on DNA. DNA became my only source of hope. In December 2013, I tested with 23andMe. DNA indicated that I was Eastern European, with a Croatian parent. A DNA genetic genealogist, Olivia, found my post on a Canadian adoption website in February 2017 and offered to assist. She had me test on Ancestry.com to ensure we covered all possibilities and Olivia uploaded my DNA info to GEDmatch, a website designed to assist adoptees. Olivia provided a quick primer on centimorgans, DNA, SNP’s, Haplogroups, and how to understand the connections with my new 3rd and 4th “cousins.”
I sent messages through 23andMe and Ancestry portals to my new cousins asking them to share their DNA, family surnames, family trees, and their residences in Europe, the US and Canada. We explained the mission to find my birth mother. I messaged more than 150 cousins at numerous times during the journey.
As the months progressed, many of the “cousins” became invested in my search. We exchanged personal email addresses and telephone numbers, creating a “Village of Cousins” desperate to help “the baby find her mother.”
Olivia texted, “Nadean, so many of your cousins are moved by your story. When I talk to them, they refer to the baby (you) and of wanting to help. You might not have parents at the moment, but you have this amazing growing family of cousins who care so much and are doing their utmost to help us. It is really quite incredible. In all my years helping adoptees, I have never seen such an outpouring of care and compassion. They want you to succeed.”
My newfound cousins were instrumental in finding my parents through their connections, inspiration and unfailing encouragement. It is a testament to how helpful and meaningful the connection between cousins can be, even in scenarios without a personal history.
Ancestry DNA found my birth father’s family in June 2017 when his daughter was tested. He died in 2000.
In finding my father, we zeroed in on the remote town he immigrated to in Canada in the early 1950’s. Utilizing detective skills, we found my mother healthy and well.
In sharing my journey, my goal is to inspire readers to find faith, hope and the courage to persevere, despite the odds. To never, ever give up! Finding my birth father and then my mother enabled me to come full circle and to be at peace with my life!
Learn More About Nadean’s Journey