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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Rediscovered and reunited

Friday, July 30, 2010

Janet Atkins, and her husband Richard, look over the paperwork that led to an incredible discovery during their recent vacation in Sonora, Calif. After being separated for more than 60 years, Janet located her long lost family. Ivy Jacobs Photo. [Order this photo]
* Resident searches for, finds lost family while on vacation

An unexpected discovery led to 72 hours that have forever changed a local family's life.

Janet Atkins, 67, Brazil, has always known she had another identity.

"My name was originally Myrna Arlene," Janet recently told The Brazil Times about her birth name before her adoptive family changed it. "I've always known I was adopted. I remember being at the orphanage."

Janet was always interested in finding her birth family in California, but she wanted to wait until after her adoptive parents -- Kenneth and Evelyn Beth Brown -- passed away.

"I didn't want to hurt my family," Janet said. "I had a wonderful life, a loving and supportive family and didn't want to upset anyone."

Although her adoptive father died in the 1970s and her adoptive mother passed away five years ago, Janet was still worried about offending her adoptive brother, Bob Brown.

"When I contacted him, he said go for it," Janet said. "Bob was very supportive."

In June 2010, Janet and her high school sweetheart/husband Richard made plans to begin the search for her lost family and visit Sonora, Calif.

"Richard had asked me if I wanted to search the records in Sonora when we vacationed there before, but I said no," Janet said. "I wasn't ready then, because you never know how you will be received if you find your family. I was ready this time."

But the search wasn't going to be easy.

"We really didn't have any expectations of finding anything of importance," Richard said. "After 62 years, we realized it would be amazing to find anything, not only to find documents, but to find even one of her brothers and sisters alive, would be simply amazing."

Another problem was Janet's limited amount of information, which was based on the memories of her childhood during the late summer of 1947.

Janet remembered her mother and father, an older brother, 14, older sister, 11, and there were twins younger than her.

She also remembered being thrown through the windshield during an automobile accident as a small child. Janet believed her mother died as a result of the accident.

"I also knew our last name was Keddy," Janet said. "That was all."

For whatever reasons, a short time after her mother died Janet was apparently dropped off at an orphanage along with several possessions.

"I still have the pink dress I was wearing that day, and some photos of me as a child," she said.

Janet, Richard and their dog, Suzie, loaded up their mobile home and headed west in mid-June.

"It took a week for us to drive out there," Richard said about the couple's leisurely vacation. "We arrived on a Sunday and everything was closed. We found the Visitor's Bureau open, and they told us about the Genealogical Society at the Museum."

The couple drove around looking at churches for signs of former orphanages, excited at the prospect of what they could find out on Monday.

"It was discouraging to find the library was closed, the Episcopal Church was closed and the local newspaper office didn't have any records dated before 1950. Those records were at the library, which was open Monday, but the Genealogical Society was only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays," Richard said, adding the couple had only planned to stay in the area for two days. "It was a little discouraging, but the Catholic Church was open. We looked through birth and baptism records, but didn't find anything."

Early Tuesday morning, the couple returned to the library and started going through the microfilm of the local newspaper records.

"We were looking for a story about the accident," Janet said.

Instead, Richard found Janet's original birth announcement (Oct. 14, 1942), which identified her parents as Clarence and Evelyn Lucille (Buskey) Keddy, of Standard, Calif.

"It was the first time we had her mother's maiden name," Richard said.

When the Genealogical Society opened, the couple was waiting.

"We found tons of stuff there," Janet said. "The lady that was there stayed after closing to help us."

Janet and Richard were soon looking at the Keddy's marriage license/certificate, which included Janet's grandparents' names.

Then they held in their hands a print out of the search of birth and death certificates of people named Keddy in the area, which included the names of three people related to a woman named Buskey. Two of the names were infant brothers who had died shortly after their birth. One boy was born before Myrna (Janet), the other after her, and both were brothers she didn't remember.

"There would have been seven children if they had survived," Janet said.

One name kept popping up as Janet and Richard looked through the files, Mona Keddy.

"The lady helping us recognized the name," Janet said. "She told us that Mona still lived in town and she called her."

Within minutes, Janet and Richard were on their way to Aunt Mona's house. She was able to clarify some of Janet's memories.

Although the automobile accident had actually happened, it really involved Myrna and her older sister. The two were injured while coming home from an event with the neighbors.

Myrna's mother had actually died after a long battle with cancer and her father was the one who took Myrna to the orphanage.

Apparently, shortly after Myrna disappeared, the twins disappeared too.

Janet was told that her father had put them up for adoption, and, in a strange turn of events, the older sister, Marlene, was placed in a foster home, while her older brother, Mel, had been told he was old enough to make his own way in the world.

"(Aunt Mona) had stayed in touch with my older brother and sister over the years," Janet said, becoming emotional. "They had been looking for me for years."

Mona had a phone number to contact Marlene, but it hadn't worked the last time she had called it.

"We got the right area code and a few minutes later Mona was talking to my sister's oldest daughter," Janet said. "She said Marlene was out of town. Mona asked for Marlene to call back as soon as possible and hung up."

A few minutes later, Aunt Mona's phone rang.

"She said, 'You'll never guess who's sitting in my living room,'" Janet said as the emotions rose to the surface again. "And my sister said, 'Myrna's there, isn't she?'"

Turns out, Marlene and Mel were attending a funeral that day in Stockton, Calif., with the twin siblings, Marvin and Maxine, whose adopted brother had recently died.

Overcome with emotion, the reunited siblings decided to meet the next day.

"If they hadn't been together for the funeral, (the meeting) just wouldn't have happened," Richard said. "It was simply amazing."

The next day, after more than 60 years apart, Janet got to hug her brothers and sisters again.

"After 65 years, we had a lot of catching up to do. We spent the whole day together, getting to know each other again," Janet said. "My older brother and sister had found the twins about 15 years ago. They had always been looking for me, but they didn't know my name had changed."

Janet also learned that due to her mother's long illness, Mel and Marlene had basically raised their younger sister. It was emotionally hard on them when she left.

"Marlene said she went to school one day, leaving me at home," Janet said. "I was gone when she came home."

The odd way the Keddy children were separated by their father created hard feelings for some, but Janet is unsure of what to feel.

"I don't know what his reasons were. I don't know what I would have felt if I had met him, but he died in 1987," Janet said. "It was probably tougher on the older children. (Marlene) went from foster home to foster home and ran away a lot, while (Mel) had to get by on his own. It was harder for them."

However, being left at the orphanage near the Thanksgiving holiday left a lasting impression on Janet.

"It was my first holiday all alone. I didn't want to experience it," Janet said. "But I was adopted before Christmas, so Christmas has good memories for me. It took me years with my family and children before Thanksgiving meant something to me again. It's been a lot to absorb, but I had a happy life."

It's difficult to contain Janet's happiness these days.

"I went from looking for brothers and sisters, to having a huge family of nieces and nephews in less than a few days. Seventy two hours changed everything," Janet said. "We're getting together for a family reunion in October. Even my brother Bob is excited to meet my family."

The reunited Keddy family plans to continue looking for other family members and delving into their family history. Although the search can be difficult and scary, Janet believes it is worth it in the end.

"When (Marlene and Mel) found the twins years ago, they didn't want to meet at first. It took a couple of years before they were ready," Janet said. "It's what I felt, but it's something you have to be ready for. It's something that was always in the back of my mind, and if I didn't have my husband behind me in this, I don't think I would have done it. That, and the Genealogical Society in Sonora. If it hadn't been for them, none of this would have happened so quickly. It's just amazing."

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What a great story, so glad you were reunited with your family after so long a separation.

-- Posted by Localguy1972 on Fri, Jul 30, 2010, at 10:37 PM

What a great story. It seems like it all came together because of the librarian. I hope you sent her a thank you card and gift certificate. Without her, you would still be looking at microfisch.

-- Posted by Conservative Dad on Sat, Jul 31, 2010, at 6:34 AM

Good story to start my day with!

-- Posted by RDK on Sat, Jul 31, 2010, at 7:48 AM

Great story!! I too am adopted but have never had the urge to search out my birth mother. May do so some day after my mother passes.

-- Posted by jddriver4960 on Sat, Jul 31, 2010, at 10:59 AM

This is a wonderful article and well written by Ivy. Janet, what a great discovery after years of wondering about your "roots." Now you know the rest of the story--like Paul Harvey would say. There is plenty of love in your heart for more than one family. You are blessed to have had such a loving adopted mother and father, and still had a chance to meet your biological brothers and sisters, and know they still care!!! And we don't want to forget your husband and brother, Bob. They are real great guys for supporting your search.

-- Posted by smilingreader on Sat, Jul 31, 2010, at 3:44 PM

What a wonderful article. Thank you for sharing that with us Janet!

-- Posted by Proud of My Country on Wed, Aug 4, 2010, at 11:54 AM

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