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Better to know the WHOLE truth

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Posted: 8/12/2011
Note: Names, Identifying informaiton and details may have been altered to protect personal identities.

My name is Terese and I contacted SQA on behalf of my mother, Kristi. She has spent the greater part of my childhood searching for her biological parents. About 10 years or so back she actually found her birth father and was able to meet him. Last year, he passed away from stomach cancer. My mother has dealt with cancer herself now for the last 6 years. While she is currently in remission, I worry that she may not live long enough to find her mother and it's something that she desperately wants, and I wanted to try to contact you as somewhat of a belated mother's day gift for her. My husband and I saved and sacrificed so that we could hire a professional company to find my maternal grandmother and fill the void in my mother's life.

When my mother met her birth father, he gave her a photo of he and Nancy shortly before my mom was born. Thankfully, we also have the original adoption records, which were made official in February of 1964. The birth mother's name was Nancy Armonds, and the birth father was Frank Randazzo. Nancy was born in May of 1942, and was 22 when my mom was born in Cook County, Illinois. She was married at the time, but had recently finalized her divorce.
Kristen and Julie were the two researchers I worked with during the search. Kristin worked with a woman named Susan to narrow down my birth mother's maiden name, "Scott." It turns out there was only one "Nancy" who was divorced in Illinois in the right time frame. The woman's age on the divorce papers coincides with her age when the baby was born. However, the man she was divorced from was not Frank Randazzo, so it seems there was an extramarital affair prior to the divorce. Also, the woman's married name was not "Armonds" but "Ammons."

The next step was to search for obituaries for members of Nancy's family. Although there were many people with the same last name that have died over the years, few lived in Cook County Illinois, and even fewer were listed with any family members named Nancy. When the facts seemed to fit together correctly, Julie found current phone numbers for Nancy or members of the deceased's surviving family to ask if there had ever been married to a man by the last name Ammons, or whether she had given a baby up for adoption. One after another, these Nancy's were ruled out.

Meanwhile, I requested a complete copy of the record of the divorce of Nancy and William Ammons, and checked to see if my mom's birth father had ever been divorced. This confirmed the Ammons were divorced March 27, 1963, and Nancy's middle initial was J. they lived in Lake, Illinois at the time. Unfortunately, Nancy's ex-husband William died in 1977, so there was no way to get more information about Nancy from him. Also, the divorce record verified Nancy's birth date, which was another important puzzle piece, and helped Julie narrow down the list of Nancy's.

She also searched high schools in Cook County for anyone named Nancy Scott who graduated from high school in about 1960. She hit the jackpot when she found Nancy in Chicago's Senn High School yearbook from the class of 1960. At last, we had our first photograph of my mom's birth mother. That also meant Nancy definitely lived in that area of Chicago in 1960, so Julie searched the Chicago Directory for that year for families with the last name "Scott." She found one Joseph Scott with a daughter named Nancy. I could feel that we were getting closer, but the birth dates didn't quite seem to line up correctly.
Finally, Julie located the right Nancy. Her married last name is Lewis and she lives in Johnsburg, Illinois. One interesting fact that caught us by surprise is that Nancy was adopted herself. Julie found an adoption notice in the newspaper on the day of Nancy's birth. She verified that Nancy Lewis did graduate from Senn High School, and she was married and divorced from William Ammons. In the following years she married and divorced two other men as well. With her third husband, she had two daughters, Janet and Deborah. Nancy's father was Joseph Skudlarski, who changed his name to Joseph Scott in 1944. Nancy's mother was Sophia Bura, and her parents were from Warsaw, Poland. Joseph died in 1976, and Sophia lived until 2005.

The first person in the family Julie spoke with was my aunt, Janet. Janet she confirmed that her mom graduated from Senn High School and that her real date of birth is May 3, 1942. It shows up as May 3, 1940 because when she was younger, her mother was ill and her father needed her to drive her mother to doctor appointments. Because she was not old enough to drive, her father took her in to get her license and lied about her age in order to obtain it.
While Julie was on the phone with Janet, she sent her the photo I have of Nancy and Frank and Janet confirmed that it was, in fact, her mother. She nor her sister were ever about my mother's adoption, but she said Nancy is a "very private person" who has just recently started answering questions as Janet has recently began genealogy research. Janet knew that her mother was married to William Ammons and that they divorced before her parents married.

I was hoping for a very warm, emotional reunion. Instead, I got a cautious one. Janet indicated that she would speak to Deborah and then her mother, Nancy. She thought that she would be the one talking to her since she lives so close and Deborah is in Wisconsin. She promised to call Julie back in a few days; she wanted to process all of the information and speak to Deborah, too.
When Julie gave me all this information, I had mixed emotions. On the one hand I was very relieved and excited that the case was solved. On the other hand, I was cautious. I wondered what it meant that Nancy is "a very private person." Would she be open to a reunion with my mom and her family? What if she wasn't? Would it be better to tell my mom that she couldn't be found, or fess up and admit I found her, but she didn't want anything to do with us? Also, a few days isn't too much to ask, but with my mother's health condition I was petrified that I would get a phone call in the middle of the night and be faced with the tragedy that they missed each other by "just a few days."
I ended up going to visit my mom that night and telling her everything. We leaned on each other and hoped for the best. Eleven days later, Janet called me. She confessed that Nancy had not taken the news well, and was not interested in meeting my mom right now. This was devastating news, but was softened by the fact that both Janet and Deborah have open hearts and minds and are excited to get to know our family and blend us with their own. We have talked on the phone several times, and I am confident things are going to work out just fine. Now all I feel is a profound sense of relief that I was able to give my mom the answers she needed before it was too late. I hope to live every day following my mom's example. She has accepted this whole situation with grace and understanding, and with the knowledge that she can choose whether to respond with love or judgment. She is willing to give her birth mother as much time as she needs, and she always says no matter what happens, it is better to know the whole truth.

Written by Mica Burton on Terese's behalf.
Client ID# 245302
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