I learned early on that her mother had multiple personality disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, regularly abusing, starving, and otherwise neglecting Rebecca and her other children; once leaving Rebecca (then age 14) in a condemned house with no electricity, running water, or food for over a week. Upon the report of abuse and neglect by a concerned neighbor, Oregon State took custody of Rebecca and her two younger siblings and put them into foster care; they were unsuccessful in finding Rebecca’s birth father.
The problem was that the man named as the father on Rebecca’s birth certificate, Donald Kloess, died in 1967, nine years before she was born.
While we were waiting for the results, I created a private, unsearchable tree for Rebecca, who was almost paranoid about her privacy. On Facebook she used a pseudonym, not wanting any contact with her birth mother. Fortunately, she was on good terms with her aunt on her mother’s side and had a file folder full of information on her maternal side of the family. I was saddened but somehow not surprised to read about and research the history of mental illness, suicide, and abuse on her biological mother’s side of her family.
When the results came in, it was easy to separate Rebecca’s paternal matches, as her aunt had already tested with Ancestry. It wasn’t long before I was able to send a preliminary message to Rebecca, that her paternal great-grandparents were probably Benjamin Bates and Emmeline Esler. This couple had met and married in Minnesota, and were in Multnomah County, Oregon by 1940. As I had time, I would add information to Rebecca’s tree, tracing all the descendants of Ben and Emmeline’s 12 children. Most of them stayed in the Portland area, which made things a little harder. I would need to follow each of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to the present in order to find a possible candidate for Rebecca's birth father.
Hello - I am a professional genealogist, working with an adoptee who has unknown parents. You show up as a 1st-2nd cousin match; from my client's other matches I'm seeing close matches to the family and descendants of Benjamin Bates and Emeline Esler. My client was born in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area between 1965 and 1980. At this point, they are interested in family history; making contact is not a goal.
Although this cousin responded to my email, the conversation stalled in November.
Then on January 5, I got a positively perky email from a new 1st cousin match:
Hello! My name is Kari Hill. I recently took the Ancestry DNA test and found out that someone named R.K. is likely to be my first cousin. I would love to know more and would appreciate any information that you can give me.
Kari and I were soon corresponding by email, as she answered my questions and I relayed them to Rebecca. Rebecca said I could tell Kari her name, birth date and where she lived.
On January 5, Kari emailed me:
My mom’s name is Betsy Ross Granberg. Daughter of Betsy Ross Granberg. Unfortunately, three of her brothers have passed away. Benjamin Granberg, Fredrick Gordon Granberg, and just recently Harold Granberg. I still have a surviving uncle Arthur Granberg, but I highly doubt he would be her father. If I had to guess, I would say Frederick (Gord). I hope that helps! Please let me know if I can help in any way.
Less than 4 hours later, Kari emailed again:
Hello! Yes, my Uncle Gord was married to Beverly Curtice and had a son named Harold Lee Granberg. After asking around we are very sure that My Uncle Gord was the father…. I would like to meet her if she’s up for it.
I relayed the messages to Rebecca, and her reply was one word:
I asked if that was a familiar name, and she said, “We always thought Gordon was a last name. A private investigator tried to find him when I was in foster care, but he was searching for “Gordon” as a last name.”
I think it was just later that same day that Kari and Rebecca connected on Facebook, followed by several other members of her birth father’s family. Although Fredrick Gordon Granberg died in 2012, Rebecca’s older brother Harold welcomed Rebecca to the family, sending her loving emails, texts and photos.
As it turns out, Fredrick Gordon Granberg loved photography, art, and public speaking. He loved taking care of others and telling jokes – all traits that Rebecca shares.
In early January, Rebecca told her friends on Facebook:
Tonight, over my sister’s elk stew and homemade bread, I learned who I am. And though my birth father is no longer living, he would have wanted me; his family wants me, and I have another brother... As a scrappy foster kid who aged out of care believing I was unwanted, I forged ahead but always searched for him. Today, after 41 years of not knowing who I was, I know my name.
Not all adoptee/birth family reunions end this happily – but it was a joy to play a part in this one. I think my biggest contribution was in persuading Rebecca to do a DNA test in the first place, and then in being a shield for her privacy and a go-between with potential paternal matches.