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Recipe Leads to Reunion

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Posted: 1/22/2009
Note: Names, Identifying informaiton and details may have been altered to protect personal identities.

/images/stories.asp?i=20110523130644.0.jpgA shopping trip to an Allendale, PA Walmart Super Center changed Nancy's life and answered life long questions for the Shermans Dale, PA woman.

While her husband Paul was out of town on a fishing trip to Canada, Nancy decided to go visit friends in Allentown, Pennsylvania. During a quick stop at Walmart she had already finished checking out when she spotted a bright yellow magazine with beautiful pies on the cover in a holder next to the isle. Circling back for a closer look, Nancy realized it was a copy of 'All You', a magazine she'd only purchased once before. She remembered the great recipes in the first issue, and decided it was worth the effort to fight the crowd in line to pay for the magazine. She later tucked that issue into her suitcase to read at home after her trip.

Five days later, and back in Shermans Dale, she sat down to read through the issue and on page 79, she was fascinated by a story titled, ' I Use My Sixth Sense to Solve Cases". The story described the career and some of the cases of Florida based Private Investigator, Susan Friel-Williams, who specializes in 'family search and reunion'.

Nancy, born in 1939 in Philadelphia, was adopted soon after birth, and like many others had always wondered about her birth and her biological family. As much as she wanted to search out her roots through the years, each time she asked her mother questions about her adoption she was told that her birth mother had come all the way from Salt Lake City, Utah to keep her birth a secret, and that she should let sleeping dogs lie. Not wanting to distress her mother, she had always put her quest on hold.

As she read the article Nancy realized that since her mother's death, she had not thought about searching until this minute. Even though her biological mother was probably deceased, wouldn't it be a miracle if she could find siblings? The article had a link to a web site at http://www.searchquestamerica.com . Nancy turned on her own home computer and went to the site to look. There was a telephone number there and she wrote it down, but didn't call. The next day, feeling a little braver, Nancy called and spoke to Norma, a Search Consultant with Search Quest America who encouraged her to 'go for it' and finally start her search. Two weeks went by and then her phone rang.

"Hi Nancy, this is Susan Friel-Williams from Search Quest. I understand that we are going to be working together to find your family!" Nancy was amazed that the same person she read about in 'All You' was on the other end of the telephone line. Susan asked her some questions about what paperwork she had pertaining to her adoption, and they went over the information on her adoption decree on the phone. Nancy relayed her birth mother's name, Virginia Ellis, and stated that she was 24 years old in 1939 and was from Salt Lake City. On the adoption decree there was a different surname in parenthesis. That surname was 'very' unusual. Susan cautioned Nancy that adoption searches, especially those from 1939 were very difficult, and that it may take some time to find anything, but that taking the first step by calling a professional was going to be well worth it.

At her desk in Florida, Susan put the notes on the case in order and thought about the unusual surname that Nancy had given her. She had never seen the name spelled that way, and was curious enough right that moment that she pulled up a web browser on her computer and typed in VIRGINIA SALT LAKE and the unusual name. Scrolling down through the entries displayed one entry that caught her eye. It was a marriage announcement in an Iowa newspaper from 1934 that showed a marriage of a Miss Virginia Ellis of Salt Lake City, Utah, to a Mr. Paul VonCrum also of Salt Lake. Amazed that a historic newspaper entry would show such an announcement when the bride and groom were 'not' Iowa residents, Susan surmised that some member of the immediate family must have been living locally. While checking death records, she discovered that Mr. Paul VonCrum had passed away in the mid-1980's in San Antonio, Texas. When no obituary could be found for his death she thought she'd hit a dead end. Trying one more thing she typed VonCrum into another locator database and discovered only 'one' family in the nation with that surname, and not surprisingly, they were living in the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. Susan then placed a call and asked the family to please return her call, stating that she was working on the VonCrum family genealogy for a client and would appreciate their help.

Four hours later the phone rang and Mrs. Patricia VonCrum introduced herself and asked how she could be of assistance. In fact, Pat said she was something of a genealogist herself, and was fascinated with finding missing relatives. Susan asked if her husband was related to Paul VonCrum from San Antonio. Patricia replied yes, but there's a story about that. Robert's mother divorced Mr. VonCrum in 1935 before she knew she was expecting Robert and Paul disappeared. In fact, they didn't meet until a chance encounter between acquaintances of both men tipped them off to where Robert's long lost father was living. "Amazing!", Susan said. "Can you tell me if Virginia Ellis was Robert's mother?" Pat said yes, and then asked how Susan was related to the VonCrum family. Susan stated that she was not, but felt that there was a great probability that her client WAS related.

There was a prolonged period of silence on the line, and then Pat said, "Wait a minute. This doesn't have anything to do with the story I heard about Virginia, does it?" Susan asked her to relate the story. "Does this have anything to do with Philadelphia?" asked Pat? Susan agreed that it probably did have something to do with the story about Philadelphia and Pat said she just had a feeling. It seems that during a family reunion about 20 years ago, some Ellis cousins from the East Coast had tipped Pat that Virginia had been to Philadelphia in the late 1930's and rumor had it that she'd had a baby and given it up for adoption. It had been a huge family secret back in the day, but after all this time the cousin decided that Virginia's children should know that they had a sibling, somewhere. Pat had always been curious if the baby was a girl or boy, and wondered if that child would ever seek out answers. Susan then told Pat that her client, Nancy, was hoping to find a brother or sister still living. Pat assured Susan that she had both, Robert, her husband, and his older sister Karen who also lives in Utah. Susan asked Pat if she would like to speak to Nancy, and Pat agreed with enthusiasm asking that Nancy call her 'right away'!

Placing an immediate call to Nancy, who was very surprised to be getting TWO phone calls from her investigator in one day, Susan told her, "Nancy, I have some news for you. I know I told you this afternoon that older searches can take a long time to solve. However, sometimes unusual information comes up right when we start a search and we find immediate encouraging results. Please grab a pen and paper. I have some information to give you."

I found your birth family. You have a brother, Robert who was born in 1936 and a sister Karen, who was born in 1934. They are both still living and live in Utah. They know about you and had always wondered if you were a girl or boy, and if they would ever hear from you. In fact, Patricia, Robert's wife would have looked for you if only she'd known your date of birth, but they knew you were born in Philadelphia so I know this is the right family. Here is their phone number. Patricia wants you to call right away! Susan could hear Nancy crying softly in the background and assured her that it was normal to cry 'happy tears' when getting such life changing news. Nancy said, "OH my, you ARE a psychic detective!" Susan laughed and assured Nancy that her case was solved with just plain good detective work. Then Nancy said, "I had hoped to find 'someone' but never dreamed it would happen this quickly!" Encouraging Nancy to call Pat as soon as possible, Susan told Nancy she'd check back with her tomorrow to see how the call went.

The next afternoon Nancy called Susan and told her that she had spoken to Pat for an hour and had a wonderful conversation. Later that evening her phone rang and it was her sister Karen on the phone. Karen said she had always wanted to have a sister, and Nancy agreed it would be nice getting to know one another.

Nancy has now received pictures of her family as well as a copy of some of Pat's genealogical records on their shared ancestors. She is looking forward to a trip later this year to meet her Utah family face-to-face, and then in February she will meet her investigative team that found her birth family in person when she and Paul come to Florida.


(Written by Susan Friel-Williams)
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