[If this is your first time reading my Adoption Story, it is a fascinating journey told in pieces. For your best experience, start from the beginning at: Adoptee with a Note]
It was July 17th, 2017 when I sent out my messages. On July 18th I received a response from one of my female 1st or 2nd cousin matches. We started a dialogue that lasted most of that day. She shared with me her name and some general information about herself and where she grew up. Her name was Tina Verde (Valentina). Her father was born in Binghamton but moved away later. Most of his family had remained in Binghamton for many years. Tina was so sweet and forthcoming and genuinely excited to have found a long-lost cousin. It was time for my big reveal. I shared my story in a rambling and nervous message:
“I was adopted in 1964 and do not know my birth name. I was adopted in Binghamton (born in Rome, NY). My birth mother was born in 1944 and was of Italian descent. I often wondered about my birth parents and now that I have been a mother and now a grandmother, I realize what a sacrifice and what courage my mother had to have to do what she did. I am not sure that I will contact her if I find her, as I am not sure she wants to be found, but maybe she does? I guess we will cross that bridge when we come to it. I of course, will honor her decision. My fear is that she has already passed or that I would never find her and I would never get the opportunity to meet her and have her meet me and know that I turned out great and am happy. At least to say Thank you. Long story to your question. Lisa”
The message shocked yet intrigued Tina and she said she was going to ask older family members some questions and get back to me. I was relieved by her kindness and graciousness. I cried several grateful tears that day.
As I waited for Tina to respond, I continued my investigation. Now that I had a surname to work with and some of her family member’s names, I was determined to figure out her immediate family tree so that I could see where I might fit in as a 1st or 2nd cousin. As Ancestry delivered names to me, I dug a little deeper by using resources such as Newspapers.com. I found news articles, birth announcements, engagement and wedding announcements and more importantly, I found obituaries. Since Ancestry only shares information about deceased persons, I was able to fill in living family members through the mention of them in obituaries, etc. The information flooded out to me like water spilling from a broken dam.
Most of the Verde family lived in the Binghamton area. By reading the wedding announcements and obituaries, I could see that they attended churches in the Binghamton area, including St. John’s church, the church where Father Driscoll was pastor and where my Nana lived and worked. The Verde’s lived and worked in the neighborhood surrounding St. John’s parish. I couldn’t believe it! This family, which was looking like my birth mother’s family, was living and existing arms-length of me and my family for my whole life. I couldn’t help but wonder how often I crossed paths with these people.
At the end of this long day, I had over a hundred people in the Verde family tree and I had added several living members to the branches through the obituaries and birth announcement articles. I had enough data to begin the process of elimination of narrowing down the identity of my birth mother.
The information I had to work with was her birth year, 1944, that she had three younger siblings and that she had a thyroidectomy. Obituaries provided me birth order, as descendants are listed in birth order. Birth announcements provided me birth years. I narrowed in on a very interesting Verde man, Frank Verde. He had passed in 200x. Frank had several articles written about him in the local newspaper while he was alive. He had a passion for science and taught classes at a local school. He had become quite renowned for his passion and was interviewed several times by the local newspaper. Frank lived in Binghamton and, according to his obituary, was survived by his wife and four children. Frank Verde’s oldest child’s name is Angela, followed by a brother, sister and another brother. I looked for birth announcements for the Verde children. I found them all. Angela was born in 1944. She had three younger siblings. Could she be my birth mother?
I panicked as I remembered that Tina promised to ask questions of the family. I needed to inform her about my discovery before she spoke with anyone and ask her how close she was with Angela. I sent off a message to Tina to tell her that I think I identified my birth mother, her Aunt Angela. I asked if we could talk on the phone.
Tina was very surprised and shocked by my discovery, and she was skeptical. As was I. The information and discovery came too quickly. Tina and I spoke on the phone to go over my information, my discoveries and to compare it with what Tina knew about her family history and her Aunt Angela. She had not yet spoken with any family members. During our conversation, after I had shared my process, Tina asked me if there was anything else I knew about my birth mother. I told her the only other piece of information I had was that my birth mother had a thyroidectomy before I was born.
“Hold on”, she said to me. “I’m pulling up her Facebook photo.”
Tina gasped, then she said, “Oh my God, Lisa! She has a scar right where her thyroid would be!”