Monday, December 19, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - Birth Mother's Letter

In my last post, I mentioned how I was working on writing up a new "paper" to share with the family this holiday season, but I wasn't sure what to focus on. I finally decided I need to share the current state of my search for the birth families of my Great Grandmother, Frances Marion (WILLIAMS) KNOWLTON (DOW) MONTGOMERY.  So... yeah, I'm not quite sure the proper way to put that on paper.  She was born Frances WILLIAMS.  Adopted by a KNOWLTON family when she was about 2 years old. Later, she married Raymond A. DOW, but Raymond died before their only child was born (my grandmother) and then she remarried Floyd MONTGOMERY.  I don't really expect anyone to follow all of that. It's confusing enough for me sometimes, but it sets the stage for what could be a messy research project.

Frances was born in 1914 in New Jersey.  All the rest of my mother's family was from Maine... all the way back to 1790 and earlier, so in addition to the adoption, this is my first project where I've had to do some long distance research.  It's been a long road, and I think I may have found the right family, though I am still trying to get some supporting documentation.  What's made it more "fun-strating" (that's my name for something that is fun and uber frustrating at the same time) is that this whole time, I've been guided by a letter from my GGrandmother's mother, Louise HARDING to my GGrandmother written sometime around 1930.  For anyone that's researching adopted children's ancestry, this letter would seem like a gold mine, but until recently it has raised more questions than solved problems.

As I think about the Geneablogger's blogging prompt, Amanuensis Monday, and my most recent project to document what I've been able to find, it seems only fitting to share the context of this letter today ...

"Frances you were born here at 180 Wayne St., Jersey City, NJ Sept 10th, 1914. Your name is Frances Marion Williams. David was born here at 149 Wayne St., Jersey City, NJ March 1st, 1913. Your birth record is here in courthouse. My name was Louise Harding. Your father's name was David Otis Williams. Your brother has the same name. You had a sister Mildred, but she died when only a week old; if you want to know anything else that ???? I will tell you.

David Otis is your brother's name to. You were baptized at St. Bridget's Church where Edna and George Jr. was Baptized. David was Baptized at Grace Church here also.

Do you intend to get married is that why you ask me where you were born? If so, I hope you will be very happy but don't forget to write to me. Does your boyfriend know I am your mother? You have nothing to be ashamed of, as I have good people and I know your Dad's people were goof. you had one Aunt who was a Nurse. I don't know if she is still living or not as your Dad told me Gram Ames did not like to talk of her.

I wish Gram Ames was ok with me. I would go see her some time. I like her even though she don't like me. I am glad she is alright. I put your birthday's in ink so you can remember them. it is the 10th Sept 1914 and Son is the 1st March 1913"

And that's the letter that started the search. I've posted to message boards, Facebook groups, mailing lists, etc...  all with no good leads.  I called and wrote to St. Bridget's Church in Jersey City, but they never even acknowledged my requests for baptismal records as far as I can tell.  I was intimidated to request records from the State of New Jersey since you're supposed to prove out your family ties.. After all, that's what I was trying to accomplish with this research. It wasn't until a new member of our local genealogical society mentioned she was researching her grandchild's birth parents and I made some off the cuff comment like, "Maybe I should have you look for my Great Great Grandparents," that the research really took off.

So, I'm curious. If you were doing research on an adopted family member, and all you had for information was this letter and a picture of Mom and baby that came with it, what would your research path look like?


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