This is going to be an usual blog post for me.
It’s a plea for help with a family puzzle.
Here’s the thing…
I have spent a good chunk of my adult life trying to solve a vexing family mystery.
This beautiful woman is my Grandma Snow, my dad’s mom.
We thought we knew her well until her death in 1991 when we found out she was adopted.
My aunts found a family history document in the lining of her dresser drawer that had the word “adopted” scrawled next to her name.
Why didn’t we ever know this?
After learning she was adopted, we launched a search for her birth story.
Who were her parents?
What happened to them?
What is her adoption story?
Oh, there are theories like that she was left in a bundle on my great grandmother’s doorstep.
Or that a midwife delivered her and gave her to my great grandparents when the mother died in childbirth.
Or that the Mormon leader, Joseph F. Smith, who was my Great Grandfather Hyrum Smith Harris’ uncle, arranged for the adoption.
Joseph F. Smith’s wife, Julina, was a midwife and delivered many babies, so we have speculated that maybe she helped with this adoption, and perhaps that’s why they named their baby, Julina.
My favorite theory formed while reading the compelling book The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.
The book illuminates the brutal tales of abandoned children who were piled on trains from New York City and sent out to train stations across the country between 1845 – 1929 for people to poke, prod, foster, and adopt.
Some of these trains carried infants, and they made it as far as Utah and Texas — places where my grandma lived as a child.
I sent a letter to the records department of the New York Children’s Aid Society – just in case.
They had no records of a little orphaned baby in Utah or Texas in 1909.
We’ve searched vital records, court records, personal journals, orphanages, correspondence, church records, and visited with countless relatives.
Always dead ends.
We’ve given up on this for years at a time, but then, something sparks our curiosity, and we start searching again.
We want to know her story because it’s our family story.
So, speculation aside, here’s what we know…
- Records say she was born July 3, 1909 at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City.
- She was blessed in Provo, Utah in July, 1909 by Roy Passey, her adopted father’s brother-in-law.
- In 1910, she shows up on the U.S. Census in Garza County, Texas where her father, Hyrum Smith Harris (45) and Delia Twede Harris (38) lived and owned a sheep ranch.
- Personal correspondence mentions having Julina “come to them,” and others mention that they “got their baby” in Texas. There is no mention of how they got the baby from Utah to Texas or how the adoption was arranged.
- She had no siblings. Hyrum and Delia had a child, Mercy Rachel Harris, in 1891, but she died a few months after her birth.
- She married Alton Roswell Snow April 23, 1928. After his death, she later married Mark Elwood Berkhimer April 14, 1969.
- We have submitted our DNA to Ancestry.com and continue to try to find matches that might help.
So, where do we go from here?
If anyone has any ideas, please share them.
Share this blog.
Help us solve this mystery.
Maybe there is no reason for us to know.
Maybe her story is unknowable.
But, if anyone has any further details, hints, stories, correspondence, journals, or anything the slightest bit helpful, please share.
We would love to know about this beautiful woman and her story.
11 thoughts on “Help Me Solve a Family Mystery”
Do you have any way of tracing her DNA? Like a lock of hair? It may be one of those mysteries that will have to wait until the next life.
That’s an interesting idea about finding a lock of her hair Linda! I will have to look into that. I agree that some mysteries might have to wait!
DNA testing and then use a Search Angel (free) that works on adoption cases.
Thanks. I’ve tried DNA testing and will look into search angel.
I’ve heard good things about Priscilla – she’s helped a lot of adoptees born in the 50’s, 60’s – she’s a search angel.
Boy, y’all look like her. I’m going to have to read that book….what a tragedy.
I’m sure you’ve gone to the genealogy library in SLC. I hope you can find something…maybe someone somewhere will know something.
That’s what I keep hoping Caren! You should definitely read the book.
Where did you have your Dna tested? Transfer elsewhere too or have it done in more places. Ask other biological family members to have their DNA tested also and monitor matches for everyone altogether.
Thank you for your comment. My aunt (her daughter) had her DNA tested through Ancestry. My daughter and I are waiting for our AncestryDNA results too. Transferring the results is a good idea. Do you have recommendations?
I did either family tree and or ged match.