Monday, August 25, 2014

Doubts

Birth Certificate of Carol Sue Miller, 31 December 1946

After the November, 1982, reunion of Carol (DePrato) Lacopo with her birthmother, Helen M. (Timmons) Strukel, many questions were asked. Of the many pressing question that all adoptees have swirling in their heads, the biggest one has to be "Why?" In my mother's situation, some of the basic story regarding the circumstances her birth was relayed to her by the parents that raised her. Since hers was a privately arranged adoption, both sets of her parents had met, and the life circumstances of all had been discussed. My mother always knew that her birth parents had not been married, but there was the supposition that they had intended to do so shortly after her birth. My mother always knew that her mother had been married previously to a man named Miller, and that the surname given to her at birth was her mother's married name at the time, and not that of her true father. And although she was unaware that she had three older half-siblings, she did know of the daughter four years her senior by this first marriage, Sandra Kay Miller.

From 1982 up to Helen Strukel's death in 1987, the story had been rehashed and picked over numerous times. A handful of minor details were sprinkled here and there, but the basic storyline never changed. So trying to find documentation of these details scattered among several governmental offices was never a pressing issue. Unlike many adoptees who beg agencies for the tiniest scrap of non-identifying information in hopes of locating their birth parents, my mother had already found hers. Why should I work backwards to locate the paper trail already attested to, discussed, and witnessed by living individuals?

Because I am a genealogist.

And because I alone had doubts. If Helen was living with her first husband, Eldon Miller, when she became pregnant with Carol in the early spring of 1946, could she positively, unequivocally, and without any doubt whatsoever state that he was not her father rather than Frank Strukel? Eldon and Helen obviously shared a bed within their marital home. Although Eldon had his string of very visible affairs, and Helen was secretly hiding her recent infatuation with Frank Strukel, was it not possible that despite their mutual disregard for each other, that Eldon required her to submit to her "wifely duties"? Even once?

Of course, this was never discussed, and any time I raised such a doubt, I was dismissed with a flippant wave of a hand. After all, everyone who would listen to my story would emphatically state that Helen would KNOW who she slept with. Eldon Miller proclaimed with little doubt in his divorce petition of July 1946 that his then-wife Helen was pregnant with another man's child, so he obviously had no reservations about the child's paternity being his own. Frank Strukel signed away his paternal rights when Carol was relinquished to Raymond and Arreda (Dobyns) DePrato, thus acknowledging fatherhood. And in five years of telling the story repeatedly, Helen never wavered in her stance. So why would I feel the need to question the events of 1946 over forty years later?

Because I am a genealogist.

I have before me a copy of a letter that I wrote from my apartment in West Lafayette, Indiana, on 31 October 1988, while I was in my second year of veterinary school. It is a letter sent both to the St. Joseph County (Indiana) Department of Public Welfare and to the Indiana State Department of Health requesting that the adoption records and original birth certificate of Carol Sue Miller be released.

Of course, opening records sealed by a state law takes a lot more effort than writing a letter requesting it to happen, but it did provide me with information regarding the recently passed legislation known as Indiana Code 31-19-18: "Establishment of an Adoption History Program Administered by the State Registrar."

The construct of the program is quite simple. Identifying information regarding an adoption can be released if the State Registrar receives the appropriate application and registration submitted by both the adult adoptee and the birth parent. Once a match is made, information is released. For adoptees and birth parents seeking each other independently, this state-run agency provides a perfectly structured avenue for a reunion. In my situation, information I had already discovered six years previously could be used as a tool to release the records regarding my mother's birth and adoption.

Unfortunately, my studies and graduation, my mother's remarriage, the death of my grandfather, and life in general proved to be roadblocks toward accessing this information. Additionally, there was apparently no rush on anyone's part to help me obtain information that would just retell the same story we already knew. But after I had graduated with my doctorate and settled into a new job in Granger, Indiana, I was close enough to home to pester the appropriate parties into action. 

On 11 June 1992 an "Adoption History Information Release" was provided to three consenting parties who had filed petitions regarding the adoption of Carol Sue Miller in 1947: Mrs. Carol Sue Crumet of Niles, Michigan (adult adoptee); Mrs. Rosie A. DePrato of Osceola, Indiana (adoptive parent); and Mrs. Dianne L. Moore of Elkhart, Indiana (birth sister). It is this release that allowed me to receive the many pages of documents made by the St. Joseph County, Indiana, Welfare Department  during its investigations that I have used in the earlier narratives.

And with the release, my mother was provided with a copy of her original birth certificate. This was the one document she had wanted to see for forty-five years. And upon this precious document was inscribed the name of her father:

Eldon Duane Miller.

3 comments:

  1. Back in the day the birth mother could write the birth fathers name on the certificate. She could have just written on there at the hospital because she didn't want to answer a bunch of questions and be judged. You couldn't really know for sure without da tests.

    ReplyDelete
  2. DNA testing? In 1992? How absurd!

    ReplyDelete