When Ray Baxter told his parents he was getting married, his mother told him to sit down, she had something important to tell him.
Out of love and respect for the couple who adopted him when they found out they could not have children, Baxter waited three decades to begin his search for his birth parents.
Plain curiosity was a one factor that prompted Baxter's search. Then, his doctor told him he had high blood pressure and asked whether anyone in his family had the same condition. Baxter felt it was time to find some answers.
Baxter started his search by tracking down the name of the agency that handled his adoption.
The New York Foundling Hospital was listed on his birth certificate. He learned his surname was Meade, and having that information was a big advantage.
He requested a letter of non-identifying information. The letter the hospital sent back merely provided Baxter with the ages of his birth parents and the jobs they held. He knew he was of Irish-American descent and that his adoptive parents had kept the name his birth mother had given him.
Next he began looking through old census records to see whether any families out of 8 million met his search criteria.
After a stroke of good luck, Baxter learned his mother's first name, Anna, from a whited-out copy of his birth certificate.
An Internet database allowed him to search for women still living in the United States, born in a particular year, who had the first name Anna; he got 300 hits.
Baxter started making calls. He would say, "Hi, My name is Ray Baxter and I'm calling from California. I'm doing genealogy research on the Meade name. Was your maiden name Meade?"
Finally, a woman living in Florida said that her maiden name was Meade, and that she hailed from New York City. When Baxter asked whether she was born in a certain year he sensed the hesitation in her voice as she wondered how a stranger could know that information.
Baxter's heart pounded; he was certain his three-year search was over. He said, "Let me tell you the real reason I am calling. I am searching for my birth family. My name is Raymond." He gave his birthdate. Anna still hesitated.
Baxter repeated his name and birthdate and asked, "Are you my mother?"
With a hesitant sigh, Anna said yes.
Baxter quickly said, "I'm not here to disrupt your life, I just have some questions about my family background and medical history and I'd like to know my mother."
Mother and son met for the first time three weeks later. "We had a wonderful, tearful reunion," said Baxter. "For me, this was the first time I was able to look into a face that was similar to mine, but older."
A week later while Baxter prepared to go home, Anna decided to tell her other children about their long-lost brother. She first called her son Joe and told him to sit down because she had something important to discuss. After Anna told Joe about his older brother, she handed the phone to Baxter.
The two men made small talk for about 10 seconds before Joe asked, "Do I have this right? Are you my brother?"
"Yes," Baxter answered.
Joe's wife entered the room and Baxter heard him say, "Rose, I'm talking to my brother."
She replied, "Big deal, you talked to him last night."
"No. No. this is my older brother."
At that moment, Baxter decide to fly to New York to meet his two brothers and three sisters.
One of the sisters remained skeptical until they met. "She gave me the biggest hug I've ever had," grinned Baxter.
Baxter used the same non-invasive approach when he contacted his birth father, Sam.
"While he (Sam) never wanted to tell his wife and children about me, we had some excellent phone conversations and met in person twice before he passed away."
Baxter has three siblings on his father's side of the family.
Baxter, who resides in Pine, is happy he has a relationship with Anna and his younger siblings.
For more information on adoption or locating birth families, contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Adoption Information Clearinghouse at http://naic.acf.hhs.gov or call (888) 251-0075.