Open Records Help Adoptees Fill in Blanks

On a spring day in 2012, my original birth certificate arrived in the mail. What am I going to find out, I wondered nervously. Taking a deep breath, I opened the envelope from the state of Illinois. Inside, a non-certified copy of my original birth certificate gave me my mother’s married and maiden names (her first name is Lillian), her age (28), address at the time of my birth (Northbrook, a suburb of Chicago) and her birthplace (Washington, Indiana).

My original birth certificate
My original birth certificate with the first birth certificate listing my adoptive parents

Up until then, I had figured my mother was probably a teenager when she got pregnant with me so I was surprised to learn she was 28 years old. My husband, Tom, and I question whether she really was married. That seems fishy.

Of course, this document does not come close to answering all my questions, including one very big one: “Who was my birth daddy?” (He was “not legally known,” according to the birth certificate.) Still, it was thrilling for me to get answers to these very basic questions about my life, questions non-adopted adults never have.

Illinois is one of the latest states to unseal birth records, the Associated Press reported.  Some 350,000- adoption records were sealed in Illinois beginning in 1946 and, since 2010, close to 9,000 people have claimed their birth certificates from the state.

The Associated Press interviewed adoptees from Illinois who got in touch with their birth mothers. I haven’t done that. Other than visiting and similar sites to learn more about my birth mother, I have not made any real attempt to find her. She could be dead for all I know.

I can only imagine how tough it must be to meet the woman who gave you life and then gave you to another family.  If you have made contact with your birth mother, I would love to hear your story.


9 thoughts on “Open Records Help Adoptees Fill in Blanks

  1. It’s a surreal feeling to hold and read your original birth certificate for the first time isn’t it. I have mine framed on the wall but mine is a certified raised seal copy with the fancy paper like your amended is – with a notice it is not the legal birth certificate on record at the bottom corner – mine was court ordered / different state. But that isn’t what you asked.

    My mother had already passed when my records were unsealed. I had hired an adoption searcher so I found out via email, but was also provided an obit for an uncle. That led me to my aunt and that was an amazing reunion/meeting seven years ago. Good relationship with no drama or issues – we think alike, we have common interests, she’s open-minded and she’s my aunt, and her words that she always has been my aunt. I have met others in the family that were just the same but distance kind of limits it. My siblings…I have a limited relationship with one, but of all the family – I thought that would be where my connection was – but wasn’t. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way for any of us – reaching out or not reaching out – as long as we are kind and respectful and it is right for the person.

  2. Your experience makes me want to dive into my personal search, TAO. It sounds like it’s mostly been good finding your biological kin. But there is a part of me that doesn’t want to open a can of worms or meet people that I dislike or people who basically reject me. I’m sure many adoptees must share my fears. Thanks for reading my blog, TAO.

    1. You never know which way it will go – when you are ready it will be the right time and no one says there ever has to be a right time. It wasn’t all roses but there were enough roses to make it worth it for me.

      Did you find anything real on Ancestry?

      1. I found several people with my birth mother’s maiden name living in the area where she’s from so potentially some of those people are blood relatives.

  3. Nice article Lynne!

    I very much agree about opening a can of worms. I feel I have to protect my family from any upheaval that could possibly happen as a result of the discovery process.

    1. I know. But I think my curiosity will drive me to pursue this in spite of the little voice in my head that is warning me to be careful. Thanks for reading my blog, Melissa. 🙂

  4. It is so amazing to see your Birth Mother’s name on that piece of paper. I requested my original Birth Certificate in November of 2011 and it arrived in May of 2012. Immediately I went to the computer and started searching by name. What I found was an obituary for my Birth Mother, but also that she had a daughter (my sister!!!), and that she had a brother (my uncle!!!). I looked my sister up in Facebook, but could tell that she didn’t use it very much and wasn’t sure how long it would take for me to hear from her. I looked up address information for my uncle (right here in Illinois), and also address information for my sister (in Texas), and sent a certified letter with a copy of my birth certificate. Two days later the ball actually started rolling. I received a call – at midnight – with a cousin, an aunt, and my sister on the call. My aunt did all the talking – my sister, who knew nothing at all about me, just sobbed. She was literally in shock and had been dealing with this surprise all day. Finally, at midnight they were prepared to call me. What a joyful celebration it was after we settled into it. We had probably been on the phone for 15 minutes before my sister ever managed to say hello. I learned that my Birth Mother had been through a lot of hardships, but got her PhD in education and was a school principal, loved working with children, was very loved in her community and amongst her professional peers, could dance, had been married for well over 30 years, and was really just a good person all around. Seeing pictures of her look like seeing pictures of myself, and everyone who had been part of her life were simply amazed. The amazement seems to stem from not just my appearance, but according to them I act like her and make facial expressions like her … DNA is amazing!

    Next was my uncle. He called one day and spoke to my husband initially and then to me. We arranged to meet for dinner and when we got there I had no idea what he looked like, but he knew me instantly and hugged me SO tight! We’ve hung out a few times, I’ve met cousins. It’s been a wonderful time. In August of last year I went to Texas to visit my sister, and stayed with her for a week. We had such a wonderful time and it’s like we’ve just always been there – like we’ve always been connected. We talk almost daily – she has a 5 year-old daughter who just simply knows me as her Tee Tee. It’s really been a phenomenal ride all in all.

    My uncle told me my Birth Father’s name, and I found out that he too had passed away, but that I have 2 sisters and a brother. My brother is 2 years older than me and my sisters are 36 and 20; I’m 48, so wow! 🙂 My brother was born when he was 15 and I was born when he was 17 – to a different mother. I’ve met my brother and hung out with him; he’s in some major life struggles, but we made a great connection. My youngest sister came last July to spend a weekend with my husband and I; she and my other sister and their mother live in Arizona now. They had just moved there in 2011. I met a wonderful aunt and several other relatives.

    All in all it’s been a journey – to say the least. I’ve always known that I was adopted and had always wanted to meet my Birth Parents – talk to them, hear their voices, and so on – you know the natural desires. That piece will never be satisfied, as they both passed away early – in their 50’s. That will always be a void, I suppose, and yet the blessings of having sisters and a brother – one sister (in Texas) who I’ve grown very close to – are immeasurable.

    Thanks for asking to hear other stories … at this point I have great pictures and hear great stories about their lives. Take wonderful care, and congratulations to you on your beautiful journey of discovery!

    By the way, I wrote a blog just this morning that you may enjoy reading … I hope so!

    1. Hi,
      That’s great that you connected with relatives after such a long time. It takes some courage to search for family members you’ve never met so I’m glad the reunions went well for you. I have some qualms about searching for biological family but I keep hearing stories from other adoptees like you who have had positive experiences. You encourage me to move forward with my search! Thanks for reading my blog. Now I’ll take a look at yours 🙂 Lynne

      1. Hi Lynne … I’ve done a lot of reading today about adoption – different posts – and want to share whatever I can; perhaps it will be helpful to someone else. Thank you for reading my blog – I just started blogging a few days ago and am still trying to simply set up the page. Whew … Take great care … I’m following you so as to keep up with your writings … I’ll check in with a comment here and there. God Bless …

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