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Searching for my Mother

I first started to search for my family in 1965. Being 21 years in those days I was considered an adult, and I also finally threw off the habit of getting other people to make decision for me, a habit which institutionalization breeds. The possibility of my mother and father living together was never a possibility I ever contemplated. My natural feeling was that my parents had never married, and would never know each other from Adam. It was a gut feeling that proved to be correct, and if I was told something about my family from the Liverpool Social Services when I left the Cottage Homes then my search would have been that much easier. The information that I received from them was at my request, when in 1999 they gave me an outline of my years of care with them. Under British law the social services are not obliged to disclose anything, but Liverpool Social Services have a policy to give a limited outline if your history was written before 1986. If written after that date, in British law all information has to be given on request.

Searching for my Mother and her family was so much easier than looking for my Father. I had in my possession an identity card which was issued to under 16 year olds during World War 2. How it came to be in my hands is a mystery, but it was the one document that finally lead me to my Mother. My first home address was recorded on the Identity Card, so I went to see the parish priest who's parish included my Mother's home. He knew the family and informed me that my mother had married an American GI, and had gone to live in Florida. He also disclosed that my Mother had two Aunts that lived in Handfield Street, and that he would speak to them about me when they visited the church on Sunday. As these Aunts were devote Roman Catholics I didn't dream that they would refuse to cooperate in my search for the woman who brought me into the world. Their immediate reaction was to deny all knowledge of me, and refuse even to speak with me. So I went to see one of the Aunts in her home, taking with me Grace who had acted as my Aunt during my Cottage Home days. The appearance of both of us on her door step, out of the blue, hammered home to her that we meant business, and would take no messing. She invited us in and admitted that her niece was my mother, but that it would be a mistake to contact her in America, giving as her only reason that one day I would have my own family, so why should I intrude into someone else's.

My persistence paid off and my mother's aunt finally agreed to contact my mother, and for the very first time I met her in the July 1966 when she came to England from Florida for a six week holiday. I refused to raise questions with my mother when I first met her, believing that if I gave her time, she would relate to me the circumstances surrounding my birth. I am no more informed now as I was in 1966, although I have on a number of occasions sought information from her.

Search for my Father

The search for my Father took about 15 years, contacting the American Embassy in London in the year 1983, and getting their reply on the 19th April 1983. Their advise to me was to contact the ;

Military Personal Records Center, 9700 page Boulevard, St Louis, Missouri 63132, USA

The letter I received from the Embassy was designed to deter me from going any further with my enquiry, which was a signal to me to continue in my search, yet with more vigor. I was determined to find my father as I had sons of my own and I wanted them to have a family history. I found it impossible to speak about my father to my children as I knew nothing about him. Also I wanted to find my father for myself. To have gone to the grave not knowing who my father was would have resulted in me dying with the disappointment of not knowing where I had come from.

With the limited resources that I had I continued my search, writing to all kinds of people in the USA, yet without success. They only thing I knew about my father was his name. On her first visit to England to see me my mother took me to see a life long friend of hers in Liverpool. As soon as I got through the front door of her house Joyce my mother's friend said to me "Oh you do look like your father, I shall never forget Ira Smith" The name remained with me, as I believed that the circumstances and the way I discovered it, suggested that Ira Smith was truly his name. One thing that did prolong the search was that Joyce believed that my father was stationed while in England, at a large US Military base in a place called Burtonwood, about 12 miles from Liverpool. This proved to be incorrect

The internet was the great tool that accelerated my search for my American family. It put me into contact with all kinds of knowledgeable people, and from the time I sent my first E-Mail until I spoke with my father's sister in Oklahoma was just 18 months. Over the internet I purchased a book called "How to Locate anyone who is or has been in the Military" by Richard S. Johnson. The book was not too much help in my search, but it did list the e-mail address of a Lt Colonel Phil Grinton. (E-mail him here) He specializes in tracing the GI fathers of English children. I immediately e-mailed him, and from then on my search became so much easier. He informed me that the USA segregated their troops and that if my father was black then he would have been assigned to what they termed a "Coloured Unit". In Lancashire England during 1943 there were only three places that these Coloured Units where located, and one such place was about four miles from my mother's home, so I knew that my father must have been stationed at Magull near Liverpool. Armed with this information I wrote to the Military Records Centre in St Louis, requesting that a search be made for Ira Smith on the pay rolls of the 13 Regiments stationed at Magull in the September 1943, the time of my conception. The Centre was reluctant to heed my request, the lack of staff being the reason given. I refused to give up and made not a few telephone calls, and finally they found my father's name listed, and he was the only Ira Smith connected to the Units that I had submitted. The Company "B" 390th Engineer Regiment the regiment he belonged to, meant nothing to me, but his military service number was very important. Mr. Pellegrini the official at the Centre, also informed me that my father had died in 1986, and according to his information my father's records were destroyed in 1973, when a huge fire destroyed approximately 80% of the military records. I learnt that my father came from Kansas, but that is all the information that I had. At the insistence of Phil Grinton I wrote to the Public Library at Kansas City, Missouri in February 1999 and they furnished me from their archives, Ira's obituary, which appeared in the Kansas Star. It was a mine of information. I discovered that I had 10 siblings, and now knew all their names, along with the names of his sisters who lived in Oklahoma. I searched the internet for their telephone numbers with no success, until I decided to trace my Aunt Betsy's number. My father's sister's name appeared in my search of the telephone directory in Muskogee, and I first contacted her by phone in the May of 1999. I immediately loved her, she was and is a delightful lady, and if my father was half the person that she is, then I really did miss out not meeting him.

My first meeting with Aunt Betsy occurred in the May of 1999 when along with my wife, we were flown to Kansas and then to Oklahoma to be filmed with my American family for the making of a television documentary called "Brown Babies" I still had made no contact with my siblings, so they were not able to feature in the film, but after the film crew had flown back to England then I finally contacted my three sisters by telephone, one living in Washington State, the other in Denver Colorado, and then Pamela who worked just 5 minute walk from the hotel we were staying at in Kansas City. Pamela took my wife and I to her home, and then on the following day we had a splendid day at the home of her mother who also lived in Kansas. On Sunday my wife and I flew back to the UK; only to return in the November 1999 for "Thanksgiving". I then met my other sisters, Irita and Teresa, along with Ira jr and his family.

I have yet to meet all my siblings, but I am working on it. The United States is a very big country, but in the providence of God I hope to meet with all my father's children and my brothers and sisters.

Some important Links

Social Security Death Index for the United States

American War Library