Assumed Name and False Identity

Each of my parents was born with a meaningful name indicating family and personal relationships given to them by the woman who gave birth to them. In the kind of inside joke that only two adoptees could share, my dad sometimes called my mom by the name she was born under – Frances Irene.

It appears that the Frances may have come from a family that helped my grandmother when she first returned to Memphis with her two month old daughter. She probably had some connection to them before she gave birth to my mom in Virginia. When investigating my mom’s circumstances before adoption, Georgia Tann noted some vague family relationship between my grandmother and this family. I’ve been unable to track that back through Ancestry in order to prove it.

It appears my maternal grandmother was sent away from Tennessee to give birth by her father, after her lawfully wedded husband returned to Arkansas where his mother was caring for two daughters given him by his deceased first wife. Why he left her 4 mos pregnant or why he didn’t come back when informed she was in Memphis with the baby, I can never know though my heart yearns to.

Irene was the name of my maternal grandmother’s own mother who died when my grandmother was only 11 years old leaving her the woman of the house in charge of caring for her four siblings, two girls and two boys, the youngest only about a year old.

My mom’s name was changed to Julie Sue. My grandmother adopted a boy and then a girl through Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, Memphis branch. She stated in a letter to the society’s administrator that she wanted a Jill to go with her Jack. My mom’s adoptive brother was named John. So my adoptive grandmother was subtle about that heartfelt intention of hers when re-naming her children

When a person is adopted, their name is often changed by the couple that adopts them. Sometimes their date of birth and even the geographic location where they were born may be altered on the new birth certificate created for the adoptee showing the adoptive couple as their parents, as though these people gave birth to them.

It turned out the name my dad was given at birth was an important clue to his identity. My paternal grandmother named him Arthur Martin. Arthur was the man married to her aunt and she was working at their motel and restaurant at the beach in La Jolla California when she met my paternal grandfather. Unfortunately, he was also a married man. By the time she knew she was pregnant, she probably knew that marital status related to him as well. It appears he never knew he had a son.

Martin was the name of the man who fathered my dad. When I connected with a cousin who lives in Mexico, I discovered that she had my paternal grandmother’s photo albums (a real treasure trove of images). Next to a photo of my grandmother holding my dad in her lap, was the headshot of a man and she wrote his name, Martin Hansen, and boyfriend on the back.

My adoptive grandmother named my dad Thomas Patrick. The Thomas was the man she was married to when she adopted my dad. Since his birthday was only one day off from St Patrick’s Day (and that is why I never forgot his birthday), that may be the only reason for the Patrick part of his name.

However, she divorced that man and re-married and so my dad was adopted twice and his name changed again when he was already 8 years old to Gale Patrick – the Gale being her new husband’s name. It may not have been too confusing for him because he was called Pat all the years I knew him, at least.

In addition to the name changes, an adoptee is dropped into a family they were not born into but must “pretend” their whole lives they are related to. I’ve not cared all that much about names, though I like mine and now that I know about my original grandparents find a “family” connection because my paternal grandmother’s oldest sister was also named Deborah. She was hit and killed by a reckless teenage driver when she was only 3 years old.

Becoming An Ancestor

Wedding Photo – Raphael Vandervort Hempstead and Mary Elizabeth Gildersleeve on April 30 1906

I’m a family historian and a family storyteller. I believe I finally did arrive at my personal destiny – that of discovering and then sharing the true origins and cultures my family was created from. It is a feeling of wholeness that I never expected to have. It is also fascinating, I suppose, simply because it is our real identity constructs. Both of my parents were adopted – with falsified birth certificates giving them identities they were not born with.

A quiet revolution is taking place for adoptees today. More and more are finding their genetic biological families, just as I did. Only a few years ago, this would not be possible but the advent of inexpensive DNA testing and matching sites like Ancestry and 23 and Me as well as social media have made what once seemed like only a dream – possible.

My parents and my in-laws are now ancestors, meaning they have died and no longer walk this earth as physical presences. My husband and I both approach our 70s. We are way to becoming an ancestor. Just yesterday, my husband went into a hours long dialog about all the choices he has made in life to arrive at this place in time with our oldest son. Too often, after our parents have died, we wish we would have asked more questions. Asking questions is not always all that easy when they are alive however and we don’t always know what to ask.

I freely share so much about my life. Someone may want to know about me. Their life might be changed by knowing that I existed. They might be empowered by knowing that they once had the same dreams I do. We’re all future dead people, and 100 years from now, someone like me will come looking for you.

Certainly, this is what adoptees are doing today. This is what I have done regarding my true family of origin. My family origins journey began in cemeteries. The cemetery in Pine Bluff Arkansas to be precise. I sat by my maternal grandfather’s grave and talked to him. Then I discovered that my mom’s half-sister had only died a few months before. Darn, I missed that opportunity to know her. But I was able to get to know her daughter thanks to something her best friend posted about my cousin’s mother on Ancestry. During one wonderful afternoon, she shared with me photos and stories from the many photo albums her mom left her. We were both sad that our mothers never got the chance to meet. Certainly, her mother always hoped my mom would show up. The state of Tennessee was not helpful, when my mom inquired. Today, it has all changed for adoptees like my mom and dad.

The photo at the top is my dad’s grandparents, sent to me by a cousin (with whom I share my paternal grandmother) who lives in Mexico, thanks to Facebook messenger.

Common Adoption Issue Books For Kids

Someone mentioned a book about a rabbit couple who adopted a squirrel and then take the squirrel to meet the other squirrels. Living in a rural area, rabbits and squirrels are everywhere. I searched but could not find it. There are some books that I did find that do not God or glorify adoption.

Pink Flamingo by Jane Porter is not about adoption per se. It is about a Lion raised by Flamingos. He meets his Lion family and ends up being the best parts of both the lions and the flamingos. Descriptions of the book say is about learning to be yourself, even if that means you are different from those around you. And truly, adoptees very often DO feel different from the rest of the family they have been embedded in.

The Mulberry Bird by Anne Braff Braff Brodzinsky seems to touch on some of the issues that tear apart some mothers and their child and end in adoption. The mother bird is looking after her baby bird in the forest, when a huge storm scatters her nest. Try as she might, she just can’t give him the protection he needs. She faces a choice: continue to struggle on her own, or give her precious baby bird to another family who can care for him in their strong, secure nest. The book addresses common issues in adoption such as the enduring force of a birth parent’s love and contact post-adoption to the importance of nurturing an adopted child in his or her new environment. It is a timeless and enduring tale of sacrifice, wisdom and love.

While not about reunion per se, a school assignment to complete a family tree can be painful for a child who was adopted. Lucy’s Family Tree by Karen Halvorsen Schreck tells the story of when Lucy comes home from school with a family tree assignment. She asks her parents to write her a note to excuse her from the task. Lucy’s adoption from Mexico makes her feel as though her family is too “different,” but her parents gently and wisely challenge Lucy to think some more about it. By the conclusion, Lucy feels better about her situation and has devised a way to create a family tree that honors both her birth parents and the parents who are raising her. 

It is fairly common for adoptees to fantasized about their original parents. In Oliver, A Story About Adoption by Lois Wickstrom that issue is addressed. Oliver gets angry at his parents when he is sent to his room for playing in a tree that was too young to be climbed. Oh, if only he still lived with his birthparents! What could he do if he were with them? Be a scientist? Or a trapeze artist? Do other people wish for other parents when they are angry with their own? The adoptive parents let Oliver know that when they were children and got angry at their parents, they fantasized that they were adopted and that their natural parents were more fun to be with.

Jazzy is a transracial adoptee who is the heroine of her own story. In Jazzy’s Quest – Adopted and Amazing by Carrie Goldman and Juliet Bond issues of identity, the challenge of fitting in and seeking an answer to the question of special vs different are validated. Jazzy, loved and supported by both her birth and adoptive families but still struggles. Where do interests and talents actually come from ? Your adoptive family, your birth family or truly, from somewhere deep inside yourself.

Family Separations and the Judge

No child should be separated from their Mother, rather we should work on means to keep them together!! No matter what. There are very few children who wind up truly unwanted. Most of the issues their parents face are temporary and, with proper support, the family can be preserved.

Republicans have suggested that one of the reasons she should be given a lifetime appointment on the highest court of the land is that she has seven kids. Constantly bringing up how many kids she has is part of an attempt on Republicans’ part to (1) draw a distinction between Barrett and what they view as childless heathen Democrats, (2) claim that any opposition to her confirmation is anti-mom, and (3) suggest that since she’s a mother, she must be a good person who couldn’t possibly issue rulings that would hurt millions of people.

One of the problems with Coney Barrett is her own worldview – according to her own opening statement in the Judiciary Committee hearing, her own biological children are super intelligent but the black children she adopted were damaged, ie she “saved” them. This is known as white saviorism.

In one of the only discussions of immigration to arise during the confirmation hearings, Barrett declined to say whether she thought it was wrong to separate migrant children from their parents to deter immigration to the United States. “That’s a matter of hot political debate in which I can’t express a view or be drawn into as a judge,” Barrett said in response to a question from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Booker said he respected her position but asked again: “Do you think it’s wrong to separate a child from their parent, not for the safety of the child or parent but to send a message. As a human being, do you believe that that’s wrong?”

Barrett told Booker she felt as if he was trying to engage her on the Trump administration’s border separation policy. Under the policy, immigration officials applied a “zero-tolerance” approach to undocumented immigration and separated families crossing the border through Mexico. “I can’t express a view on that,” Barrett said. “I’m not expressing assent or dissent with the morality of that position—I just can’t be drawn into a debate about the administration’s immigration policy.”

Booker responded that, actually, he was simply asking “basic questions of human rights, human decency, and human dignity,” which one might think a staunchly pro-life individual and mother of seven might be able to answer.

Jill Filipovic described Barrett as “Pro-life until birth” which is the real problem with a lot of Pro-Lifers. Filipovic goes on to say about the Judge – “Booker wasn’t asking about the family separation policy as a legal matter. Like her views on abortion, she could presumably separate her personal feelings from her legal ones. She’s been happy to put her views on abortion forward. Why so quiet on family separations?”

Where is Kaya ?

Imagine.  This girl has been “missing” for at least 8 years.  If not for the behavior of her adoptive parents, Jose and Gina Centeno, her disappearance would still be under the radar.

An investigation was prompted after her adoptive parents were accused of harming her siblings, a 17-year-old girl and 15-year-old boy.  It was these children who made authorities aware that they last saw her when she was between 8 and 12 years old.  She was a student at John Reed Elementary School when she was removed in second grade, purportedly to be homeschooled.  As a parent who’s children have been educated at home, I always hate these sensational stories (and of course, grieve these things happen) because they cast a bad perspective on the practice of educating one’s own children.

In July, authorities in Mexico notified Sonoma County child protective services of allegations of abuse against the parents by the Centeno children after they were sent out of the country about 1.5 years ago to live with a family there. Neighbors of the family’s members alerted Mexican authorities about the alleged abuse.

The Centenos had adopted five children: three siblings and later on, twins. Gina and Jose separated and Gina has been raising the twins, according to police.  Prosecutors have charged the pair with felony kidnapping, alleging that they concealed the three older siblings to obtain adoption assistance funding, according to court records.

Jose and Gina Centeno gave Kaya’s younger sister and brother an explanation for why she disappeared, although that information has not been publicly revealed. Investigators did find evidence in the family’s home “to corroborate the victims’ statements about the abuse,“ police said.

Thankfully, the Centenos are being held in the Sonoma County Jail on $18 million bail and are expected to make another court appearance on Oct. 5. They each face life sentences, if convicted.

To report information about the case, call the Rohnert Park Public Safety Department at 707-584-2612.

Not An Uncommon Experience

I was surprised to find an adoption story in Isabel Allende’s new book A Long Petal Of The Sea.  It is a “familiar” story for me, steeped as I am in Georgia Tann lore.  It happened often that a young woman was told by Tann her baby had died when in fact it had been taken and adopted out.  My own mom believed she had been taken from her original parents by a deceptive story and then transported from Virginia to Memphis TN.

The young woman in Allende’s story is unwed and has been sent away to have her baby in secrecy at a convent.  Though initially willing to give her baby up for adoption she then announces that she will not give her baby up for adoption.  She says that she plans to raise it.  So then, she is drugged senseless, which continues for some time even after the birth.  When she is lucid again, she is told the baby died shortly after birth, strangled by the umbilical cord.

I will have to finish the book to see if that baby turns up later in the story as having actually having been adopted.  That would not surprise me in the least.

I read a rather harsh criticism of this book but as a lover of history and other cultures
with some hispanic background having grown up on the Mexican border, I am enjoying her story immensely.  It is decidedly a woman’s kind of tale.