Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Search, Part I

1945 Elkhart City Directory... Millers, Millers, and more Millers...

My mother had things easier than most adoptees looking for their birthparents. Since she was initially an advertisement in the newspaper, her birthparents and adoptive parents had met each other. Information was traded. Names were taken. So even in a world, this should have been easy, right?


The name used in the South Bend Tribune advertisement - Dorothy Turner - was obviously fictitious. Finding the ad was one of my first research goals, and I was shocked at how many parents were seeking homes - temporary and permanent - for children of all ages in post-World War II northern Indiana. There were so many that I had to copy several entries before I found the correct one. I think this made my mother feel less like a used car. She was not alone. There were others.

Finding the advertisement was largely an exercise in being thorough. I had not expected to glean much information from it, nor did I need it. My mother had been told the names of her parents her entire life. They were Frank Krueger and Marie Miller. Marie had been married previously, and she had a four-year-old daughter, Sandy, at the time my mother was born. This would be cake.

Our first trip to the Elkhart Public Library was a complete dud. Krueger was not a name readily found in Elkhart County, Indiana, and of the few people bearing this surname, none of them were named Frank. And keep in mind that the Elkhart-LaGrange County area of Indiana is home to the Amish, the Mennonites and all their descendants. Finding a singular Miller in such a place is as laughable as finding a Yoder, Bontrager or Stutzman with nothing else to go on. Nonetheless, like a good genealogist I made note of every Marie Miller in the pre-1946 city directories of Elkhart and Goshen in attempts of finding a Miller husband with a Marie wife that was dissolved or nonexistent after 1946. No candidates stepped forward.

The other obvious research avenues yielded nothing as well. There was no birth announcement for my mother in any of the local newspapers. Goshen General Hospital had destroyed their records many, many years before. Even a desperate plea to the Elkhart County Health Department looking for the birth certificate for a Sandy Miller born around 1942 was met with the expected response. We were not privy to that sort of information.

I went home crestfallen that my research skills were not honed enough to find two people whose names I knew in a place that was given. My mother was just defeated. This should have been like snatching candy from a baby. Something was wrong with the information we were working with. There had to be flaws in our basic premise. I realized I had made a huge mistake. I had not questioned two of the people that were present during these events in 1946; the two people who had met and talked to Frank Krueger and Marie Miller. I had not talked to my grandparents. They were still living and they were cognizant of our search, but I had not asked them a single question. The information I was working with was the information my mother had known all her life. I had no initial reason to doubt any of it.

And as good genealogists, we all know that we are not reliable sources for own dates of birth. We are not coherent beings as newborns. We know only what we are told by the participants of that event. If I were to know more about these elusive birthparents, I had to ask the other set of parents that met with them.

So off we went to Osceola, Indiana, to talk to my grandparents, my mother accompanying me mostly to appease me (and because I couldn't drive). She had been told the same story over and over and over again for the last thirty-five years. What could we possibly learn differently now?

A lot.


  1. Please don't leave me now, I want to know more.

  2. This is a tale that keeps getting more interesting.

  3. I must confess I'm not really a blog reader but you have me hooked now. In my own research I can sympathize. My family has tons of Smiths, Ewings, and Weeds. All common names...ugh
    Rick B