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David Jordan was 7 or maybe 8 years old when his parents told him he was adopted.
He remembers going to the attic to be alone with his thoughts.
“I stayed in that attic for about two or three hours crying,” he said. “Most adoptees have this hurt and feeling of abandonment when they find out that they were adopted, and I would say that happened to me, too.”
Following that delicate moment came years of wondering. What is his birth family like? How might his life be different if he had not been given up for adoption?
“You tend to build up an image and you tend to idolize your birth mother,” he said.
In a process of discovery that lasted for decades, the Cary, N.C., man traced his roots to Hardin County. He hopes to meet some of his surviving relatives for the first time in Danville and get information that could lead to the identity of his birth father when he visits next week.
He hopes to write a book about the search and what he sees as a growing public sentiment to give adult adoptees full access to public records that might allow them to learn about their birth families. He would like to see the process simplified so others might avoid the years of searching he went through.
Jordan’s search for his birth family moved from idle wondering to an active investigation after he graduated from college.
He was motivated, in part, because a doctor asked about his family medical history, but records available to him only said his mother’s side of the family was healthy.
In 1981, Jordan reached a dead end trying to get more information about his birth family from the state.
By speaking with the attorney who handled his adoption, he was able to learn a little unofficial information. The attorney had heard Jordan’s birth mother had an 11-year-old daughter when he was born.
That’s where the search remained until 1995, when Jordan’s first child began asking questions about her grandparents and why her father’s adoption meant he didn’t know about part of his family. He had a son on the way, who he knew eventually would want such answers.
The Internet was becoming widely used by that point and Jordan thought he might uncover more information by conducting online searches.
An Internet search, research in state archives and a birth certificate listing his adoptive parents as his mother and father taught Jordan that a woman named Dorothy Lee McComas gave birth to him in Hardin County in October 1957.
He also learned she was born in Kentucky in 1920. But no state records showed a girl of that name born that year.
Jordan paid the state that year and again in 2012 to locate his birth family. The attempts were unsuccessful.
After the second search by the state, a judge agreed to release Jordan’s records to him.
Those documents gave a name and birth date for his mother as well as the fact she listed Fort Knox as her home, had a child and gave up her son because she couldn’t provide the security she wanted him to have.
The only information about his father was the man had a good education.
Jordan used that information and his own birth date to comb through the state birth index in Frankfort until he found information related to his birth.
“I read through that 400-page book until I found my entry, and there was the name ‘Dorothy Lee McComas,’” he said.
His mother listed her name from a previous marriage, rather than the customary maiden name on the adoption paperwork, which is why no one was able to track her down.
Jordan had his DNA tested at various websites specializing in genealogy and reuniting families. A Kentucky woman he met online at a Yahoo! group named “theregistry” during the search process sent a list of all the women named Dorothy born in Kentucky on the day his mother was.
Census information and www.ancestry.com led Jordan to the most likely candidate for his mother, Dorothy Lee McCormack.
More digging led Jordan to surviving members of his mother’s family. DNA tests showed they were related to him.
He expected his mother might be dead by the time he found her identity and learned she died in surgery at age 55.
Jordan was disappointed to learn his half-sister died in 2008.
“Back in 1995, if I had been able to connect, I would have been able to meet my half-sister,” he said.
Jordan hopes family members or his mother’s former co-workers can tell him more about his father when he stays at Shaker Village in Harrodsburg, where she used to work.
“It’s great, and I’m very anxious to meet people next week and see if there’s a family resemblance,” he said. “I’ve got some cousins, and I feel like we’re already close friends.”
He also can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jordan hopes his story will increase support for making records open to adult adoptees so they can learn more about where they came from.