I promised my mom before she passed on that I would wait until I was 18 to start searching. I had his full name and place of birth from my birth certificate, my custodial parents (my aunt and uncle whom I call Mom and Dad) had a couple of items they gave me for my 18th birthday. A couple of letters from my paternal aunt and another from a paternal uncle. Off to the library I went. See the internet hadn't been built yet. My searches were limited to microfiche, the white pages, and those 3 letters. I wrote to the aunt and uncle at the addresses on the letters. No response. I researched his name and the name of the uncle for any news in the area of my biological father's birthplace. There were so many with my last name that I had no clue who was closely related and who was a distant cousin 20 times removed. It wasn't much to go on.
Then life got in the way...I got married, had a baby, moved, had another baby, moved, bought a house and moved again (all within 5 years). Finally, after settling in our new home, I found those old letters in one of the boxes. I immediately sat down and wrote again. What did I have to lose? A couple of postage stamps? I really didn't expect a letter back. I didn't get one the last time.
And then, three weeks later, a letter. Apparently, my uncle's wife had passed away two weeks before he received my first letter. He was so distraught at her untimely death that he packed the first letter away along with some of her things. His daughter had recently gotten married and he found my letter along with some of those beautiful things of her mother's he had set aside for his daughter's wedding day. Again, he planned on replying but life got in the way. So when he got my second letter, he too sat down immediately, and wrote back so he wouldn't forget. It was surreal. Not only did I have a family...I had a huge family. Seven aunts and uncles, 29 first cousins, countless second cousins and my grandmother was still alive at 96. We kept in touch and for my grandmother's 100th birthday I went to visit. (I'm so glad I did, because she passed on 2 years later in her sleep.)
It doesn't end there...see ever since the invention of the internet and sites like Ancestry.com I've been able to trace my maternal family to the 1700's. I traced my husband's family (maternal and paternal) back to France. But for some reason...I couldn't trace my paternal family beyond my grandfather. I don't like mysteries...actually, I do, because I like to solve them. I should have been a detective. My grandmother has been gone for five years, so I couldn't ask her. My grandfather passed away in 1944. My aunts and uncles couldn't tell me much. So I got more and more intrigued. Finally on a family surname message board I met someone who is a distant cousin. All he knew about my father was his birth date and place of birth. So I updated my branch of the family tree and he sent me what I needed to continue my search.
SURPRISE! My paternal branch of the family tree is twisted! The reason why I couldn't trace my paternal family was because my grandfather left his first wife and children, used his mother's maiden name, and married my grandmother! [Insert very strong name calling here.] But what is truly crazy (especially if you believe in history repeating itself)...his son, who was 4 at the time of his death, deserted his family too! Even crazier is my grandmother had no clue about the first wife and family (my uncle sent me her diaries and that woman wrote down everything). I have discretely asked questions of my aunts and uncles and they don't know anything about their paternal family either. Talk about a riddle wrapped in a mystery!
Now I know my grandfather's real name and I can continue on tracing my family lineage. It's a good thing the old guy has passed on because we'd be having words right about now.