I received a very unusual request last week from one of my 3rd cousins. (Because this involves living individuals, I’m going to just use a first initial for each person involved.) My cousin (“L”) wanted help in locating her husband’s (“A’s”) birth mother as they had been unable to. She wrote, “Hi cousin! I was wondering if you might provide me with some guidance on how to search for my husband's birth mother. We know her name and date of birth and state of birth, but not much else. I've searched a bit on my own but came up empty. I remembered that your [sic] are a wiz at genealogy so I thought maybe you could give me some ideas. Thanks!“
I indicated that such searches, i.e. finding living people, rely on a lot of intuition, that it might be better if she gave me the information that she had and I’d see what I could do. She gave me his birth mother’s name (“M”), a date of birth, the state she was from, the state where “A” was born, that she had been employed as a “cashier,” and a few other pieces of information that were not pertinent to my search. Since the date of birth was in 1930, I tried looking for her in the 1940 census in that state or surrounding states and came up with nothing. However, I had some suspicions that the information that I had been given might have not been entirely correct. The most suspicious was the alleged date of birth since it would have meant that “M” was 28 years old when “A” was born. Unlike our current society, in those days it would have been extremely unlikely, but not impossible, for a 28-year old single mom to have given birth out of wedlock. Also, the job of “cashier” would have been an entry-level position which is also consistent with someone who would have been younger. I asked “L” where she got that information.
She had the final decree of adoption but that only had the name “M” on it. The other information was on a typed up paper from “A”s adoptive parents who are now both dealing with dementia. I decided to move forward with the presumption that the name “M” was correct (since it was on an official court document), but that the date of birth was not correct and would have been in the later 1930’s to make it more consistent with both the out-of-wedlock birth and the job of cashier.
I quickly hit “pay dirt!” I found a person with the name “M” in the 1940 census in the proper state, but with an age that indicated a birth in 1938 or 1939. And, of course, that also meant that I had the name of her parents and any siblings still at home. Then I found further confirmation with a person named “M” in high school in the city where “A” was born. It was a high school yearbook where “M” was in 10th grade (so that age matched the date of birth on the 1940 census). I also got a thumbnail picture of her class.
I then tried finding any of “M”s siblings in recent obituaries to see if that would give me the eventual married name of “M” and enable me to further research her. Apparently most of her siblings died in the 1990’s which is before obituaries are generally available on websites. But one sister (“B”) (confirmed by names of parents, etc.) only died last year and it said that “B” was preceded in death by all her siblings. So apparently “M” is no longer living (she would be 78 if she was).
However, the obituary gave the names of the “B”s children and I was able to track down one of them and get an address and phone number which I passed along to my cousin “L”. “L” and “A” plan on calling this individual to see if she remembers her aunt “M” and knows any further details that will help “A” bring closure to his search for a birth family.
As I indicated to “L”, this type of genealogical research is sometimes pretty intuitive. You have to know not only where to search and what search terms to use, but when information looks right and when it doesn’t. But in this case, with only 5-6 hours of research, I was able to have a successful result that will help my cousin and her husband.