Thursday, March 6, 2014

My Favorite Sites


Finding Living Relatives
And Adoption-Related Searches
Using Public Records on the Internet

Priscilla Stone Sharp
Genealogist/Adoption Search Angel

My Favorite Sites for Searching

Google ….  Google    Google  - hands down overall favorite FREE searching site
When searching Google, put names in quotation marks:  "John Q. Public" in various forms "Public, John" and qualify it with the name of a town or other family member, or the word "obituary" or "census" etc.

To find if a website exists for what you’re looking for:

Birth/Marriage/Death Records:
www.genealogybank.com  ($) (SSDI, searchable by range-of-year, is free)
www.italiangen.org  (Free; NYC area)
www.fold3.com  ($) (Mostly military oriented)
http://ssdmf.info  (SSDI by DOB)
http://sortedbyname.com  (SSDI by name)

Newspapers:
www.nytimes.com  ($$)  (New York-area society and news archives)
www.fultonhistory.com  (Free; over 20 million pages of mostly New York newspapers)
www.news.google.com/newspapers  (Free, but not easily searchable)
www.news.nnyln.net  (Free, uppermost NYS counties)

City Directories:
www.spyralsearchsales.com  (City directories and telephone books available for sale on CDs and DVDs)

Obituaries:
www.legacy.com  ($ if obit is archived)
and newspapers

People Finders:




Yearbooks:

Military Records:

Arrests/Mugshots:

Social Networks



Saturday, October 26, 2013


Exciting New World of DNA Family Matching
We recommend that adoptees who have difficult cases to solve and very little non-ID information participate in a DNA study to narrow down their search for families. These are all "non-invasive" tests (i.e., not blood-related) using cheek swabs or spit samples.  In particular, we recommend three companies/sites:
www.23andme.com Cost is $100 plus postage. You will receive genetic markers and be placed in their database and matched with relatives from close to distant cousins. We have been having some wonderful successes from this company lately.  They seem to have the highest number of participants.
www.familytreedna.com which offers a variety of tests. The one most frequently used is the "Adoptee - Family Finder" which will identify both maternal and paternal possible relatives. The cost is $99.  Another valuable test on this site is the Y-DNA for males only (father's father's father's father and so on).  You can also upload your raw data from both 23andMe and Ancestry to this site for a low price of $69 (saving $30 for a new test).
www.ancestry.com Cost here is also $100. This one is most effective when you know at least one side of your ancestry, for example, if you know who your mother was and are searching for your father. You can build a family tree for your mother to sort out matches.
If you want to expand your search efforts even further, there is a free site (donations accepted) you can load your raw data to called www.gedmatch.com, which will allow you much higher levels of comparison with your matches.

Whichever company you choose, we recommend you join our search and support group on Yahoo - AdoptionDNA. We have DNA experts, genealogists and search angels there who will help you understand the very confusing information. Be prepared for a long, steep learning curve, but each day will bring more interesting insights into your biological family and genetic makeup.
Each of these sites has very good introductory videos and webinars. Also look for blogs like CeCe Moore's Your Genetic Genealogist and Richard Hill's DNA Testing Advisor for help.

Update 12/6/2013:
23andMe has suspended the health reporting feature of their DNA program, in response to the U.S. FDA orders, however, will still offer the genealogy (family matching) features.
23andMe Announcement

Update 2/5/2014:
FTDNA can no longer accept uploads of raw data from 23andMe for tests done after about Jan 1st.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tips for Families Searching for Adoptees


Tips for Families Searching for Adoptees
[Update 6/2013]

It's always wonderful to see parents and siblings signing up and involved in searching for their lost children.  It gives adoptees hope and courage to persevere knowing their original families might be searching for them, too, and are open to contact and would be happy to hear from them.
  I'll tell you what I tell all birth families -- that is, the only things you can do are:
1.     Sign up at the State registry.
2.     Join on-line search groups – The Registry at Yahoo Groups is a good one that will offer aggressive search angel (free) help in addition to a passive registry (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/theregistry/).
3.     Contact the agency that handled the adoption and ask to put an updated medical/family history report in the file.
4.     Sign up at International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISRR) (download the form from www.ISRR.org or visit them on Facebook (Reunion Registry – ISRR).
5.     Register with www.registry.adoption.com  (ignore the ads for paid searchers; this is a free site to register).  Keep a list of every place you post and check back often; these are passive sites that will not notify you of a match. 
6.     IMPORTANT:  In the on-line registries, don’t put every bit of information you have; hold some items back to use for verifying that a respondent is legitimate, some things only your true son/daughter would know.
7.     Purchase a list of all MALES/FEMALES born on that day from Ameridex www.kadima.com.  IMPORTANT:  Watch the cutoff date -- lists are not available for birthdays from late 1980s-forward.  Also, these are not “birth indexes”; these are lists of people born on that day with their CURRENT names, which have been culled from public documents – drivers’ licenses, credit applications, voting registrations, etc.
8.     Assuming he or she stayed in that area, you can look for people still living there.  Take the names to FREE sites such as www.veromi.info (People Search), www.intelius.com, www.pipl.com, www.dobsearch.com, and Google to learn more about them and perhaps find a picture if they are signed up on Facebook, MySpace, etc.  Also check www.classmates.com to see if they are signed up (Classmates is a small membership fee).
9.     If you don't want to purchase the list from Kadima, you can get a membership at David Gray's (www.adoptionsearching.com) (about $25/yr) and search for everyone within a certain zip code born on that day.  Repeat the follow-up steps at veromi, intelius, pipl, Google and classmates.
10.  You can also do the search yourself for free at www.dobsearch.com however, it will not filter male or female like the Kadima list does and will give you many duplications.  The advantage to this site is that you will see places lived and associated persons (spouse, children and other family members).
11.  When you search Google, put the name inside quotation marks in the search bar (i.e., “John Q. Public” or “Public, John Q.”) to get the best results.
12.  If you are in the area where you believe they were raised, go to the public library or school library and peruse the high school yearbooks for the years they would have been 14-18.
13.  Place a "Happy Birthday" ad in the local paper or Craig's list, around the time of their birthday.  "I think about you every day,” “Would love to see you again," etc.  (IMPORTANT:  Be cautious of responses from Craig's List -- there have been scammers known to populate that venue.)
14.  Contact the local newspaper and television station and ask if they are interested in doing a story about families searching for people “lost to adoption.”  This might be more appropriate for siblings searching for an older brother or sister, since the media is usually hesitant to help mothers.  On the other hand, the more mothers who contact the media gets the message out there that we are here and open to contact and longing to know about our son/daughter, which in turn might encourage more adoptees to begin a search.
15.  Set up a special "search page" at Facebook or MySpace or MyLife with your name as it was when you gave birth and put in your interests or profile "searching for child born on [date] in [city]".  If you have other children, be sure to add them as friends and post pictures.  Believe me when I tell you how exciting it is for an adoptee to search the internet and find pictures of his or her bio family!
16.  Finally, be sure to have a special email address specifically for your search to field responses. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Saving You From Yourself


Saving You From Yourself

I nominate Kinsolving, Troy Dunn, Pam Slaton, Search Quest, Worldwide Tracers, OmniTrace and all other so-called "professional searchers" who have for years, unchallenged and unregu­lated, engaged in the worst kind of vulture capitalism, price-gouging, exploitation, and manipu­lation, and who have made literally millions of dollars off of the pain and heartache of adopted persons and those who are searching for them, people who, for too long already, have been unfairly disenfranchised and discriminated against by the adoption industry and state laws sealing birth records. To do so unabashedly, all the while mouthing platitudes of support and lip service to adoptee rights to OBCs - their identity, family history, heritage and the identity of those to whom they are blood related - and engaging in offensive self-aggrandizing and self-promoting television programs without informing their victims that there are many search and support groups with no or minimal fees and hundreds of search angels all over the country who charge nothing and have just as great, or better, success rates, is deserving of a group Demons of Adoption Award. – Nomination for Sixth Annual Demons in Adoption Award, PoundPupLegacy.org


One of the great things about being an independent, free agent (in every sense of the word) Search Angel is the ability to remove myself from associating with the unsavory underworld of adoption.  I refuse to, knowingly, have anything to do with any organization or individual who profits from adoption by trafficking babies and children, such as adoption agencies and lawyers, or paid search companies who exploit adoptees and those who love them.   If you’re here reading my blog, it’s obviously too late to save you from being victimized by the former, but here’s hoping I can save many thousands of you from losing your hard-earned money to the latter.

There are two kinds of paid searchers:  The pay-up-front, no guaranty, such as OmniTrace, WorldWide Tracers, and Search Quest America (which I understand are all tied together financially or have extensive cooperation agreements) and the no-find/no fee firms such as Kinsolving and Pamela Slaton.  Frankly, I don’t have as much of a problem with these two companies, which charge fees upwards of $2,500 to $4,000, because at least they only get their money if they make a successful conclusion to the search.  My only difficulty with them is that they are not fully honest with searchers and inform them of all of their options.

On the other hand, I do not have one merciful or tolerating word for the pay-up-front, no guaranty companies.  I wish people who are considering signing contracts with these firms would do a little research.  Just Googling the company name in quotation marks along with the word “complaint” will bring an eye-opening education, and one will quickly learn that the ethics of these businesses are appalling and that they’re even in cahoots with each other.   For example, I have been credibly informed that, although Troy Dunn claims he is not in the search business any longer, everyone who puts their contact information on his site is immediately referred to Search Quest America, which is run by Susan Friel Williams, a former Dunn employee.  There are also compelling allegations that Dunn receives a kickback for every victim SQA signs up, which he has apparently denied.

Here’s how these companies operate:  First, they get referrals by harvesting contact information from on-line adoption registries that have public contact information.  They have also spent years scouring the Internet, harvesting sites and have formed their own new registries to entice victims.  These searchers will then be contacted by sales marketers who will make grandiose promises and pressure them into signing contracts for minimum fees of $1,500, which are good for only six months and for which there is no promise or guaranty of a completed “result.”  These marketing agents adhere to strict company guidelines to persuade the victims to sign.  For example, they are not allowed to inform searchers of all their alternatives (i.e., that they can get their original birth certificate in certain states, that they should sign up with ISRR – International Soundex Reunion Registry – the largest free on-line registry in the world) or tell them that there is free, competent, very successful help available in search and support groups and through independent search angels.  We have even heard of instances where they have falsely told the victims that they "have no option" but to hire them.  Even if they know a case is fairly easily solved (something anyone reasonably savvy on the computer can do by themselves in a few minutes), the marketing agents will push the victim to sign up and pay the full fee, thus boosting the company’s "success stories" with easy searches.  Even worse, the sales reps know there are cases that cannot possibly be solved (black/grey market adoptions, or private adoptions where there is no birth name and no non-identifying information), yet sign them up anyway just to get the $1,500 non-refundable fee.

Whenever a consumer who is vulnerable, in confusion and distress,
is not fully and honestly informed of all their options,
it is exploitation!

The amount of money these companies have been ripping off people is staggering.  Just an example, an employee of Search Quest America recently slipped up in an on-line forum and declared that the company had “302,000” clients.  Accounting for an errant ‘2’ in there (the message was obviously typed in angry haste), I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say they have 30,000 clients.  In a recent press release, Williams wrote, Since the company was founded in 2008, over two thousand families have been reunited!  For the sake of expediency, I am willing to round that up to 3,000.  Subtracting 3,000 from 30,000, then, would leave us a figure of 27,000 clients whose cases have apparently not yet been resolved.  Then is it reasonable to assume that, at $1,500 each, SQA has raked in $45,000,000 to solve 3,000 cases?  (!!)  I wonder if the IRS is aware of this?  Even just considering the solved cases, it comes out to $4,500,000.  Pamela Slaton on her website claims, I have solved over 3000 cases to date.  Her fees range from $2,000-$2,500.  Again, using the minimum fee, that comes to $6,000,000.

I have been saying for years, if we had put just half of the money and effort that we have been giving to these unsavory rip-off artists over the years into adoptee rights and efforts in state legislatures to unseal original birth certificates, we would have been over and done 20 years ago!

UPDATE - 18 Jun 2013


Since publishing this post "Saving You From Yourself" I have been hearing more stories of how paid search companies have been scamming and ripping off victims. Some have been successful in getting their money back, but that doesn't make up for the emotional pain and suffering they have had to endure. And it leaves these vultures free to prey upon other victims with impunity. I hope you will all take just a few moments to file a formal fraud complaint with the Attorney General's Office. We have got to put a stop to this and make the public more aware.