Adopted in Louisiana and Looking for Kin?

Tracing Your Roots: It's a closed-record state, and Katrina complicated things, but don't give up.

Generic image (Thinkstock)
Generic image (Thinkstock)

(The Root) — The search for family roots takes on a special intensity for individuals who were adopted and don’t know their birth parents. Find out why this woman’s husband doesn’t feel like a “free black man in America.”

I am writing you with hope in my heart that you could assist us locating my husband’s roots. My husband was supposedly born to an unmarried, lightly colored black woman in New Orleans on May 2, 1941, at Flint-Goodrich Hospital. She was allegedly raped by a married black servant who worked for the same white family as her. At 18 months of age, my husband supposedly developed severe asthma, and his birth mother was unable to provide the necessary care for him.

Through a mutual friend, a stable, black married couple came to the rescue and agreed to take over the care and custody and informally adopt him. No legal documents were signed by the parties. My husband’s birth mother stayed in the area for a while, found a suitor whom she married, and then they moved to Denver with her new husband and family.  We are led to believe that her next two children were born in Louisiana before the move to Colorado.

I am of white ancestry and have been able to trace my roots to my European relatives. Since meeting and marrying my husband, I thought it would be beneficial for him to locate his birth mother. In 1977, we made a pilgrimage to Denver and met his birth mother and her family. His half-sister Louise told my husband to ask whatever questions he had for his birth mother. When my husband posed his questions to his birth mother, she was most reluctant to provide any real substantive information about the circumstances of his birth. My husband reasoned that perhaps after she got to know our family better, then perhaps she might be more forthcoming with the particulars of how he became born and informally adopted.

Over the ensuing years, his birth mother sent Easter and Christmas cards with brief notes and occasional letters inside. We politely inquired about extended family members and telephoned on special occasions. Nothing that my husband did changed their view of him or his family. About 10 years ago, we no longer received her annual Christmas card. I performed some research and discovered that his birth mother died, without notification from either of his half-siblings. 

At this point in time, it is clear to both of us that his siblings desire to have nothing to do with our family. We accept their decision. My husband only desires to better understand his roots.

Unfortunately, 9/11 and Katrina took place and with them more stringent and restrictive measures for individuals to research their roots in Louisiana, a closed-record state. I have spent days and hours utilizing — with no success — trying to locate my husband’s birth mother’s maiden name, Rose Bailey, born 09/02/1919, or finding a Louis/Lewis Marks born in Mississippi in approximately 1909. We performed the DNA test and uncovered that my husband is 76 percent West African, 18 percent British Isles and 6 percent Eastern European.