Saturday, April 9, 2016

Looking for your birth parents? Create a Facebook Search Party!

photo credit:  engage.synecoretech.com
Today I am writing about a collaborative approach to finding one or both of your birth parents. This is especially helpful if you have already gone down the genetic genealogy/DNA testing route but you don't have close enough cousin matches to make a connection with one of your birth parents.

Keep in mind that statistically, you could get a close match any day, with the number of people testing; however, there are certain adoptees, like myself who have a parent who was a recent immigrant to the U.S. that may prevent you from getting close enough matches in a timely fashion.  For example, you will be looking in your DNA, and see all sorts of distant cousins from Italy, but you just can't pinpoint who that parent is, because you only have clues, and not cousin matches close enough to begin investigating their genealogy.

But looking at your ancestry breakdown, you realize that this parent is at least 1/4 Italian, maybe even 1/2 Italian and you notice that a big majority of your matches have ancestors living in Detroit, Michigan.  You may not have a close cousin match, but you have some valuable information to use when you create your search party.

Creating a search party is really simple on Facebook.  You create a new secret group (make sure it is secret because you will have sensitive documents and information posted in this Facebook room). Once you have created your secret group, you can begin to invite people to join your search group.

Here is how I did my own.  First, I thought about all the people who were currently helping me or following my journey in some way and invited them into the room, which is very easy to do on Facebook.

photo credit:  spynotebook.org
Some of the people I chose were related in different ways within the adoption community.  Here are some examples of the people I chose and why:

* my friend who is a genealogist and has been working on my tree since 2006
* my search angel who was already familiar with my case and has interviewed people in the past
* a group of writers that showed interest in my search and/or knew my story and wanted to help
* a few friends I met through this blog who felt compelled to help me.

*Note, sometimes the more obvious people you know will not be the ones to really dig in and help you.  Your best friend may not be a good choice for your search team or he/she may.  You decide.

I chose around 40 people, but I know other people who have less than that.

These are the special skills you want your search party to have:

* good genealogy skills -- very proficient in looking up information on Ancestry.com, Familysearch.org, etc. (obituaries, newspaper articles, city directories, etc).

* good legal skills -- knows where to find what legal information and where (i.e. marriage certificates, divorce decrees, etc.)

* Very persistent diggers, people with analytical minds and good intuition (can go from point A to B really quickly, can sniff out falsehoods, can find yearbook photos in a single bound and can create a "story" out of your information)

* Thinks outside of the box (not afraid to write to strangers for information, will purchase and send DNA tests to potential relatives, etc.)

* Genetic genealogy skills -- a thorough understanding of what the DNA results mean and how to interpret them properly

* Good people skills  and social media skills so as not to offend those people who will be providing leads or information and locating relatives on social media

* People with psychic gifts (if in doubt, read this book for further understanding on how a psychic helped adoptee Rhonda Noonan find her grandfather, Winston Churchill.)

Ok! So you have invited your friends who are smart and savvy, but you may be lacking some people with skills you need.  What I did, is I posted a general update on my main Facebook page asking if anyone wanted to join the search team.  I was very fortunate to find a new person with all of the above skills rolled into one person.  She is the rock star of search angels and was able to take my search to a whole new level.

If you still need people with skills, start asking friends for referrals. Think of people who are into genealogy, who enjoy investigating or love crime shows (raises hand!).  Think of your friends who are problem solvers and actively love following a trail to its conclusion.  Invite them! Leave no stone or person who can help unturned.

Important warning! Only invite people you trust to keep your information confidential or have the confidence of somebody you trust.  You may create your search party and become uneasy about one or two of the members, especially if you do not know them face to face.  If this happens, do not be afraid to remove them from the search party once you have gotten to the bottom of your unease.

Next:  Begin to upload documents with the "story" of your birth/adoption and your search.  I will give you examples of how I did this:

First I posted a document I received from my adoption agency (the Non-ID) so everybody could read it. I later posted my original birth certificate when one of my searchers asked what it said about my father on there.  Many adoptees do not have their original birth certificate due to closed record laws; however if you do, be sure to post it for your searchers to see.

Next, I posted a summary of the interviews with friends and relatives as well as conversations I had with key people so my searchers could read them and interpret them for themselves.

Next, I posted what my DNA was leading me to believe about my ethnicity, location of ancestors, etc.

You want to post these documents in your secret room but do not make them novels. Each of my posted documents were one page and summarized the information to the best of my ability.  Details are important but telling every detail is exhausting and possibly confusing to those who are new to your search.  Here is an example of how one aspect of my search party unfolded:

In my own search for my father, my non-ID from the adoption agency is contradictory to the interview with one of my relatives who remembered my father.  This is very common as adoption agencies were notorious in not getting proper information or documenting outright untruths during the closed era.  Let your searchers figure out what THEY believe is the correct scenario.  You have looked at this stuff until you are blue in the face.  You want a fresh perspective from your search team on what they believe your story is leading to.

From there, each of your searchers will take a lead and run with it or will "profile" your parent and the story of how you came to be (think of criminal profiling -- it's similar).  One might start looking up friends of one of your birth parents on Ancestry.  One might start combing through yearbooks for clues.  One may research at the library.  One may contact you individually and ask more questions about a particular angle of your search.

The hoped-for result will be many new documents posted in the room for all to see, many new leads, new people to talk to and fresh ideas on where to go next.  The best result, of course, is to find your birth parent.  It can happen! Just have faith!

Be sure to be available to answer any additional questions your searchers may have in a timely manner so you can keep this ball rolling.

When you create a search party, anything is possible and magic will unfold if you have the right chemistry in the room!!  Be prepared to find anything!

And please drop me a line if you are successful in this endeavor.  Would love to hear from you!