Nancy from Zeeland, Michigan

Both my brother and I were born in Michigan but grew up in Kansas as adopted children.  Prior to the adoption, our mother taught school in a one room schoolhouse and knew the value of reading.  As youngsters in the 50's, it was a treat to go on weekly trips to the library and check out books for Mom to read to us.  My love for books continues.  I am now finishing a memoir of my journeys.

The library made a significant difference in my life.  I discovered several things about myself and my family history, when the library provided a link to finding my biological family.  With this connection, I later acquired the complete family genealogy dating back to the 1600's. 

Growing up I often felt like a lost child, wondering about my origins.  When working for Social Services I asked for my files, discovering my last name and state of birth.  In 1970, the best resource to find people was the public library.  Yearning to find my "roots," I went there and examined Michigan phone books.  I found listings with the same name and wrote to each one.  Success!  Only one letter resulted in a contact, an uncle in Detroit.  He contacted my grandmother.  One evening I answered the phone to an unfamiliar voice in very broken English.

"Nancy, Nancy?  Is that you?  Oh thank God I finally find you.  This is your grandmother in Wyandotte, Michigan.  I prayed every day that God let me find you before I die.  Now my prayers are answered.  I write many letters looking for you.  Now here you are!  Where is Bobby?" 

We cried joyful tears.  She continued with interesting bits of history.  My head was spinning from the details of my first three years of life.  It was news to hear my birth date and first name were different.  (Since then I have celebrated both dates.)  Suddenly there was another voice.

"Hey Sis, this is Gary.  There are eight of us waiting to meet you and Bob."  Plans were made for a reunion the day after Christmas.  Bob and I boarded a bus and made the long suspenseful journey to meet our younger brothers and sisters.  I was no longer a lost child.  My life would be changed from then on as I became involved in the lives of each of them. 

The reunion was exciting and all were filled with curiosity.  A special memory was the moment my mother gave me a red jacket she'd held on to since I was a toddler.  I was thrilled to receive my baby photos.  It was fascinating to listen to my grandmother describe her own journey.  In 1923, she began the American dream, boarding a ship from Germany to Ellis Island.  Her father was Captain of the Columbus Bremen that paved the way to a better life for her.  When grandmother passed away, I received her naturalization papers from 1945.

In 2001, my cousin Rowland, a genealogist, located me through my siblings.  While researching his ancestral history, he discovered the land our family homesteaded along the Raisin River in Michigan.  If it weren't for the library linking me to my biological family, my cousin could not have located me, especially since my name was changed with the adoption.  We had a wonderful reunion sharing photos and documented history. Rowland gave me a map of the area where my ancestors settled.  I was intrigued to see my biological name on the road named after my family.

Thirty-five years ago, my trip to the library changed my life by enabling me to utilize its resources.  Furthermore, by locating much more than an unexpectedly large family, I was able to access medical information that would turn out to be an essential part of my family history. 

Finding out how and why my brother and I came to be separated from the family was most important.  It is an orphans' dream to find their family.  I now have family trees from all four parents.  I believe I would never have had the sense of peace and self-acceptance that I have, if I had not made the trip to the library in Topeka, Kansas.