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JULIE CARTER'S SEARCH TIPS
(Note: These tips were written with a searching adoptee in mind, but many of the ideas can be easily and safely adapted for a search by a birthparent as well.)

Searching with non-identifying information & Finding your birth familyname

It may be to your advantage to have someone read over your non-id to see if they can pick up on any important things that you have missed. An experienced searcher may be willing to do this for you, but don't forget about others such as friends that can look at it from a non-emotional angle.

Make a chart. Have areas for name, age, year of birth, age at time of birth, year person would have graduated from high school, occupations, Year of death... Year of marriage... Chart out each family member, starting with bmom, birth grandmother, birth grandfather, birth aunts and birth uncles. Add all the information you can glean from your non-id to this chart. Add if someone wore glasses, or played specific sports in high school... this is all going to be useful to you when you are researching in yearbooks.

Begin with a starting point. This starting point depends on many different things. Birthmother's age, her marital status, if she stayed in a maternity home... Let's start with birthmother's age. If birthmother is older, in late 20's or 30's, she probably didn't go anywhere to give birth to you. Especially if she already had children, or was married. So the place to begin in this scenario is the town in which you were born. If birthmom was young and did not stay in a maternity home, she may have been from the city you were born in, or a surrounding area. But, most young mothers especially before the 70's were sent away, whether they stayed in a maternity home or not. If birthmother was staying in a maternity home, she may have been from anywhere, including the city that you were born in, out of state, or the other side of the state. Catholic Social Services of Detroit and Kalamazoo were notorious for switching cities. Birthmothers from Detroit would go to Kalamazoo and Birthmothers from Kalamazoo would go to Detroit. So use your instinct, and listen to your heart, then pick a starting point... Maybe you can start with a list of 3 choices; you have to start somewhere, then it is a process of elimination.

BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENTS
If your birthmom was married, there may be a slim chance that your birth announcement was put in the paper. Check out all the newspapers in the town you were born in starting on the day you were born, and going for about 3 days. It helps to have your time of birth, as birth announcements have the time printed. (This is how I found my own.) Births of illegitimate children of unwed mothers would not be published in a newspaper. That didn't start until later in the 70's.
BAPTISMAL RECORDS
If you were baptized Catholic, you can try going back to the Church in which you were baptized in first. Ask to look at the ledgers of baptism. It is said (I have never seen this or even researched baptismal records) that the birthname is crossed off, and replaced by the adopted name.
HOSPITAL RECORDS
These records are almost impossible to get, especially if you do not know your birth name. Maybe a nice person at the hospital would tell you who was admitted that day, or the names of the babies born on that day, but this is a huge long shot... Maybe the public library will have the towns newspaper on microfilm. Sometimes in the smaller towns, especially in the earlier years, the newspaper would report who was admitted into or discharged from the hospital on a given day.
ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE
These will be impossible to get if you do not know your birth information, so wait until you get additional information before requesting this.
ADOPTION DOCUMENTS
Ask your adoptive parent's if they have any copies of any of the documents from your adoption. If you were born in the 50's or before, the odds are good that they received something. If they had a lawyer involved, I have heard it said that, with the adoptive parents permission, the adoptee can have access to their family file. Many of you feel it hard to talk to your parents about this; if all else fails, there is a word called "snoop."
YEARBOOKS AND CITY DIRECTORIES
This is one of the hardest steps to explain, but I have found many birthmother's names, by using yearbooks and city directories in conjunction with the non-identifying information. Yearbooks and city directories can be found in the library, in the town you are researching. Make sure you have your chart that I asked you to make in the beginning. You are going to be using yearbooks to find your birthmother and her brother and sister. Get the yearbook out for the year that your birthmother would have been in her highest grade at school (you may already know she was 25 and dropped out in 10th grade or that she was 25 and a high school graduate.)
If the non-id tells you she had a 20 year old sister and a 17 year old brother, then you would get a year book out for the year her sister would have been 18 and a senior and also get the year out for the year her brother would have been a senior. (He would be a senior the year you were born.) (Remember to always give or take a year.) Then start in the A's see if each of the books have someone with the same last name. If so, write their names down on a list. (If you aren't African American, then you can skip over those, or if you are African American, just look for them. If you know that your birthmother was red head, and the person you are looking at has black hair, then that is probably not your birthmother.) You should also have a POLK city directory out, for the corresponding year of your birth. This is where you will use your grandfather's occupation. I will give an example: Your non-id says your grandfather was a plumber. Take the last name from the yearbook, that you think may be a possibility and look it up in the city directory. If the last name was Carmichael, then look that name up in the city directory. If there is a Mr. ? Carmichael that is a Plumber, then this very well could be the family you are looking for. Highlight this name on your list. Yes, you may have to go through every school's yearbooks in the city, but again it is a process of elimination. If you really believe you may be on the right track, then you need to make use of the city directories.
CITY DIRECTORIES

Again, I will use the name of Carmichael as a reference to explain. I will also give the grandfather, the plumber, the fictitious name of Peter Carmichael. Write down the entry in the city directory for the year you were born. Then go back in years until Peter Carmichael and his family do not appear. Also, trace forward until Peter Carmichael's name or wife's name doesn't appear anymore. When Peter Carmichael disappears, this could mean that he died, (or possibly that they moved) so you will want to ask the librarian if they have death information or obituaries on microfilm. If they don't then you will want to go to the county clerks office and request a death certificate there. Example of how a city directory would read:

1965 Carmichael, Peter M. (Anna M.) plumbr h) 231 Main Street

this gives his name (wife's name) occupation h) is head of household,r) means resides at this address Carmichael, James stdt r) 231 Main Street (this would mean that James is probably his son).

LIBRARIANS
Make sure to ask the librarian if the newspapers for their town are indexed on computer. If so, once you find a name, put it into their database, and it will show you every date that that name appeared in the computer. So if the above name were true, you would want to run the names of Peter M. Carmichael, Anna M. Carmichael and James Carmichael.Read everything in the newspaper that is available on them.
OBITUARIES
Obituaries are what I strive for in searches. This may sound morbid, but if Peter Carmichael died in 1989, the obituary will list where each of his children were in 1989 and what their married names are. If you have a death certificate and no obituary, usually calling the funeral home listed on the death certificate will produce a list of survivors, if not a copy of the obituary.
COUNTY CLERK'S OFFICE
If you are unable to find the records at the library, then you need to go to the county clerk's office. In Michigan, most records (except birth records) are open. Divorce, marriage, death, criminal, licensing etc... You can look in their ledgers for the documents you need. If there is no death on your grandparents, then you will want to look for marriages on any of your possible relatives. Remember, people can marry more than once so, if you find one record, don't give up there; make sure you look for additional marriages, either in their married name or maiden name. I usually take a lot of paper and pencils. County clerks like you to use pencils, and getting copies of all these documents can be rather costly, so if you want to save money, write down what is on a certificate. Make sure to write everything down, because just the littlest bit of information can be helpful in this
VERIFY RIGHT PERSON
When you get close to locating or you have located who you believe is your biological mother, then you need to tie your non-identifying information into this new family that you believe is yours. Make sure that there are at least several points that match up. Same amount of children, same occupations, grandparents' ages are the same as your non-identifying information says your grandparents were... If you think you know her married name and her last known address, then run a DMV check on this person. If they are in the State of Michigan, then this is public, however, you do have to file a form with them of your reasoning for running this. You can also call the city clerk's office and ask if this person is still currently a registered voter in that municipality. Unfortunately, post offices are not of much help anymore; we used to be able to pay a dollar for a forwarding address, but because of stalking laws, this is no longer available. I have called post offices and just verified that this person was still at the same address or PO box under the intentions that I had to send a registered letter.
AFTER ALL OF THE ABOVE
So you have verified that this is more than likely the person you need to talk to. Talk to a search group leader or an experienced searcher to help you proceed from here. There are accurate and discreet manners to make a contact. Get advice, if you're calling, write a script out, make sure it is a good and private time for the person to talk. Writing a letter, in my opinion, should not be a first option, however many disagree with me. A letter can be intercepted by anyone, and that anyone may not know about the child that was placed for adoption. So weigh your options before writing. I have to write a letter, when there is an unlisted number that I cannot get. Then I just say I have a Court matter that I have to talk to them about. Find a discreet way of writing that will not tell the actual reason, but only your birthmother can figure out what the letter pertains to.

Sometimes, however, birth mothers cannot be found with just the non-identifying information. But, it's worth trying to find them yourself first.

Good Luck in your Journeys!
Julie Carter
Adoptee
Searcher/CI


 

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