Hi everyone, Katie here.
Calm down. We're not done yet. Despite how chapter 4 ended, with Glogirly's discovery of her birthmother's death, the story is far from over. Now put away the kleenex and read on...
But first, if you've missed my previous posts be sure to check out:
Glogirly really struggled with her discovery. To find and lose someone so quickly, in the blink of an eye, was hard to take. She was too late. Her birthmother died before she could find her. Glogirly had been living and breathing this search nearly 24 hours a day and she found herself mourning a woman she never knew. All she had of her was a birth and death record. Other than the background report, everything in-between was an empty mystery.
Even though she knew in her heart that Alice Mae Beecham was her birthmother, she needed to be absolutely certain. She needed to know not only for herself, but if she were to decide to contact the family, she HAD to be sure. Glogirly searched for more details and more family members every evening after work, every weekend, often late into the night. She had assembled a comprehensive family tree including generations back and forward. She used a large piece of black poster board sprinkled with a family tree of post-it notes. Most of the family had been easy to trace back. She even found her great, great grandparents in Dover, England. This was the first time in her life she knew her ancestral heritage.
Tracing the family forward was looking good as well. She found an address and phone number for her birthmother's oldest brother, James H. Beecham. She found his wife, Armrel. She found two sons and a daughter - Craig, Paul and victoria.. They would have been her first cousins. She found possible address records for the eldest brother's three children. Phone numbers too.
As Glogirly was piecing together the family tree, she was thinking about her end game. This search had turned into a science project of sorts. Glogirly had lost herself so deep into the details of the data, she somewhat separated herself from the emotion of it all. Eventually, she'd run out of family to search for, not to mention post-its. She had to think about what she was she going to do with all of this information. Her birthmother was gone. Did anyone else even know about her? Would they want to? It was risky. She dreamed of an Oprah-style outcome but knew there was just as much of a chance it could turn into a Jerry Springer episode.
There was a part of Glogirly that wanted to pick up the phone and dial her uncle's phone number...maybe even her cousin's. She even thought about calling and hanging up, just to hear the sound of their voice. But deep down she knew that was not the way to handle this. If she was going to pursue contact, it had to be in writing. A letter that would allow the recipient to take it all in. Something private, respectful and articulate. But to who?
Glogirly knew that if she was going to send a letter, it had to be to one of the sisters. When it came to matters of the heart, an unwed mother's pregnancy, a long lost child suddenly showing up...Glogirly just knew this was a matter meant only for the sisters.
That was a problem though. She knew the sisters' given names, she knew their birthdays, and where they were born. But she didn't know their married names. And without that information she would never find a single address.
Ancestry.com proved to be very fruitful with a variety of public records. Sadly, marriage records were few and far between. They could only be accessed in a limited number of states. For many states, California included, there was no access at all. Assuming the two sisters stayed in California as it appeared the rest of the family did, Glogirly was out of luck on marriage records. Oh she tried. She searched all the states that allowed access to marriage records. In fact, when searching Nevada she found her cousin Craig, the oldest brother's son. A Nevada wedding to a woman named Angela. Maybe a Vegas wedding.
Finding her cousin Craig and his wife Angela led to birth records for their three children. More and more family uncovered by the minute.
Glogirly had to get back on track. She needed the sisters. She had to figure out how to find their married names. She needed to get creative. Focus, Glogirly, focus.
Young Glogirly with her fancy white gloves
Doing the dishes
Young Glogirly & her adoptive mom
She had a couple of ideas.
An obituary. If Glogirly could get her hands on her birthmother's obituary, it would likely list the married names of the sisters. Yes! An Obituary! Her birthmother's death record indicated that she had died in the small California town of Coalinga. She searched the Coalinga newspaper archives online. Nothing. Coalinga was only 100 miles from the San Luis Obispo area where Glogirly had found the rest of the family. Maybe she was buried there. That local newspaper had nothing online either. She searched all the cemetary records she could find thinking that might give her some clues. Again nothing.
So Glogirly did something she had not yet resorted to in her search. She picked up the phone. Can you believe everything she had come up with so far was found entirely on her computer? Not one phone call, yet she had already unraveled a lifetime of mysteries. She called the San Luis Obispo Tribune. She was transferred from one person to another and finally another. No, there were no records that old that she could access. They told her to try the local library. So she did. She was transferred only once and didn't even have to talk to a machine. She found herself talking with a sweet woman that sounded like the stereotypical librarian from her childhood. Why YES, she could request a photocopy of a specific 1996 obituary. All she had to do was put her request in writing with a $10.00 check and send it to the library.
They were pretty busy, the librarian explained. She could expect to receive the obituary in about 4-6 weeks. 4-6 WEEKS? Why couldn't they just email her a PDF? Or just read it to her over the phone?
Glogirly is many things. But she is NOT patient. She couldn't leave her computer alone. She was obsessed with looking for the last sister.
Back to Google, Glogirly's trusted search engine friend. She found a website called PeopleFinders.com. PeopleFinders is a subscription based search engine for finding people and obtaining public records about them. It's different from Ancestry.com in that it's not really something that's used for genealogical research, but rather a way to locate more current information. Some even use it to find out where their ex-husband is living or get a criminal background report on a new boyfriend. It's a pay-to-play sort of thing. Glogirly felt a little seedy signing up for the one month trial membership. But it looked as though the information could be more up to date and relevant than much of the historical data found on Ancestry.com.
Glogirly started by searching for herself. She wanted to figure out how PeopleFinders worked and get familiar with the ways she could search for information. She found herself quite easily. Of course she knew her own name, place of residence, etc. When she looked at herself on her computer screen she saw something that got her thinking. There was a list of possible relatives next to her name. She saw her dad, her ex-husband, her current husband, her stepson, and also a couple of names that made no sense at all. Not everything was accurate, but most of it was.
Glogirly had an idea. Now this is complicated so I'm going to go slow.
First she reviewed what she had on the oldest sister:
- Her given name was Jeanette B. Beecham.
- She was born in 1924.
- She lived in San Luis Obispo county, California, at some point in time.
Next she pulled up the PeopleFinders advanced search window:
- She entered Jeanette in the box for the first name.
- She entered B in the box for the middle initial.
- She entered 1924 in the box for year of birth.
- She entered San Luis Obispo in the box for city of residence.
- She entered California in the box for the state of residence.
The only thing she left blank was the box for a last name. And then she hit ENTER.
Wow. Pages and pages of Jeanette B. Somethings in California.
Here's what Glogirly was thinking:
- All she had to do was click on every single Jeanette B. Something and she'd see a list of possible relatives.
- Next, she would search the names of those possible relatives in Ancestry.com in hopes of finding a birth record.
- If she found a birth record, the mother's maiden name would be revealed. (Remember the four pieces of information on the birth records? The mother's maiden name was the KEY.)
- If the birth record listed Beecham as the mother's maiden name, she had a match. The baby's last name on the record would be the mother's married name.
Only 18 pages of Jeanette B. Somethings to dig through. A, B, C...where to begin. She started with the A's. The first search went exactly as Glogirly predicted. A list of possible relatives appeared. She searched each of the names in Ancestry.com for birth records. Mother's maiden names all over the place. Johnson, Swift, Monroe... Birth record after birth record and not a Beecham to be found. She kept on.
The A's definitely did not have it. Neither did the B's. But then there were the C's. Cotter to be specific.
The records were confusing though. She found a Jeanette B. Cotter, a B. Jeanette Cotter, a Blanche J. Cotter and a Blanche Cotter. Some of the ages matched, but others didn't. One of the possible relatives listed for all of these name combinations was Sharon Lee Cotter. Glogrly searched for Sharon Lee Cotter's birth record.
And there it was. The mother's maiden name was Beecham. The oldest sister, Jeanette B. Beecham was Jeanette B. COTTER. Was Glogirly ever happy Jeanette didn't marry a Zimmerman!
She thought there might be more children than just Sharon Lee. She searched birth records with the last name of Cotter for the infant and Beecham for the mother's maiden name. Now she was just showing off. She was a regular private eye. In addition to Sharon Lee, there was Patrick, Michael, Richard and Candace. They all popped up right away. In fact she saw that of the five children there were two sets of twins. All four born on the 17th of the month. What are the chances of that?
Just below the birth records was a sad discovery. A death record for Richard, one of the twins. He died just three weeks after he was born.
And another death record. Charles Henry Cotter, Jeanette's husband. He passed away in 1982. This meant that Jeanette had been without her husband for 25 years.
These tragic discoveries reminded Glogirly that the data and records she was poring over were not just names, dates and places. Finding Jeanette Cotter was more than just making her way through the alphabet. Jeanette was a person. She had experienced loss and pain. These records, they represented milestones and events. Some joyful, some private and painful. These records were the mark of a family.
Glogirly shut the lid on her computer and went to bed. She thought about the heartache Jeanette must have lived with. Losing a child. Losing your partner. Glogirly felt like she was somehow intruding into the private lives of these people. She knew their birthdays, the names of their spouses and children, she knew where they had lived and where some had died. Glogirly thought alot about whether she was crossing the boundaries of privacy. She needed to pause and make sure she was doing the right thing.