We’re looking for someone.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my posts last week about this topic. For those of you who don’t know, I’m deep in the ancestry.com rabbit hole at this point and its unclear if I’ll ever see the sun again. But, let’s start at the beginning…
Last summer, Indiana passed a law that allows any resident born before 1993 to request access to their previously-sealed adoption records. This was important for my husband and I, since my father-in-law was adopted as an infant in 1965 in a closed adoption. Tony had tried several times throughout his life to learn more about his biological relatives, however he was never successful. He died almost six years ago from biliary cancer, at the age of 47, without knowing anything about his family history.
So, last summer my husband requested access to his father’s adoption records as next-of-kin. Last week, almost 10 months later, we got an envelope in the mail containing a birth record and an adoption record.
Here’s everything we know:
1. Tony’s father on both documents is listed as “unknown.”
2. His mother is listed with the same first and middle name on both documents, “Bonnie Sue.” On the birth record she’s “Bonnie Sue Gordon.” On the adoption record she’s “Bonnie Sue Shongo.”
3. She was 20 years old, and born in New York.
4. My father-in-law was born in Clinton, Indiana… which is one hour away from where he was raised.
That’s not a lot of information, obviously. But through my research so far I’ve discovered that “Shongo” is a wildly popular surname in the Seneca tribe – which happens to be based in New York. We already knew that Tony was Native American (based on appearance and DNA), so seeing a traditional last name isn’t at all surprising.
What is surprising is how many Bonnie Shongo’s exist in New York. (Ha. Haha. That’s frustrated laughter.)
While I don’t have a lot of information, I certainly have a lot of questions. Was bio mom Native American? Or was it bio dad? Or BOTH? Where is dad? Where did Gordon come from? Is it a maiden name? A fake name? Was Tony a Lost Bird, taken from a reservation and magically appearing in Indiana? Is it something far less sinister? Is everyone being truthful?
We might never know.
My asking around has landed me in a closed Facebook group for members of the Allegany Reservation in New York. I have found photos of a Bonnie Shongo who fits the dates, but there’s no certainty that she’s THE Bonnie I’m looking for… and those who may know aren’t too forthcoming with answers to a random internet stranger.
Basically, this post is a big IDK.
We’re not really looking to form a relationship with Bonnie (if she is still living, which is possible because I can’t find an obituary), or any other potential bio family members, so why is this so important to us? Well, because my husband, our daughters, and my brother-in-law are Tony’s only blood relatives. And while Tony had zero family medical history, they only have his.
And when your only family medical history consists dying of a rare cancer in your 40s… you just want more information.
I’ll continue to update as we search, but right now I’m kind of at a road block. Anyone a private detective? Or have experience looking for long-lost relatives? Or have more genealogy experience than my couple years in 4H as a kid? We’re open to suggestions on where to turn next.
And yes. My blonde hair/blue eye husband clearly got his coloring from his mother. 😉