It’s a relief, being able to use Douglas’ name now. Since identifying him, there’s been a fair bit of back and forth correspondence with the agency that has been working to locate him. So far, it’s been dead end after dead end. But, our case worker has been brilliant with looking into alternate routes, she doesn’t seem ready to give up just yet. Finally, someone who emulates my own outlook on all of this!
I think it’s important to keep track of where our search efforts have taken us so far…that way, it allows for additional advice to be provided without unnecessary doubling up. So what has this agency been doing for us over the past few months?
Following on from recollections of extended family members, gaining access to records in New Zealand (Electoral rolls, birth/marriage/death records dating from 1994 to present day) was made a priority. Douglas had spoken about moving over there for work at one stage. When he suddenly ceased contact with his family in 1994, it was assumed that he had gone ahead and done that.
The problem with gaining access to such records is that there are laws in place that require proof of one’s relationship to the person being located. Understandable. Given that Mum’s pre-adoption birth certificate has no father listed at all, that presented an issue where being granted access was concerned. We thought (both the case worker and I) that due to the circumstances surrounding the search, that we’d get a little leeway on this, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. I couldn’t help but express my frustration at the situation to our case worker. The falsification and patchiness of those birth documents was more often than not due to the unforgiving nature of society at the time. And yet, even now, adoptees struggle to gain the right to know of and/or locate their immediate families. It wasn’t their fault back then, it sure as hell isn’t their fault now. BUT I DIGRESS.
Basically, the idea that Douglas moved over to New Zealand was and is just that. An idea. But, it has definitely been concluded that he no longer lives in or has even died in Australia. Our next step following the road block with official records in New Zealand was to find a professional genealogist over there who could do some research on my behalf–I looked into this…and soon realised that for the amount I’d be required to pay for these services, I may as well go over to New Zealand myself to do the legwork. Which is now under serious consideration.
Between phone calls and emails with the agency, I have been exploring other possibilities. I have notes on everything I’ve covered so far research wise, all the databases I’ve checked, what search terms I’ve used in each, who I’ve contacted and exactly what I’ve asked of them, the responses I’ve recieved etc. I was at a loss after reading back through all of that…I felt I was surely missing something, that there had to be other avenues I hadn’t explored myself. So I took to the genealogy groups and a couple of Facebook friends who have experience in this type of thing. From these enquiries, a few things came up:
- Checking the ABN directories-Douglas was listed as a labourer on the Electoral Rolls, even if he’s at an advanced age, it was worth a look. This directory is available online.
- Searching the Electoral Rolls, death, cemetery and obituary records for Douglas using his mother’s maiden surname, Saxby (why that hadn’t occurred to me before now, I’ll never know).
- Googling “Douglas Saxby”.
- Utilising the Companies Register in New Zealand, another online database.
- And, most recently, I learned that death records are available on the NZ Births, Deaths and Marriages website after 50 years (which wouldn’t help me in this case), OR, if the deceased’s date of birth was at least 80 years ago…Douglas would be 80 this year. So, I will be checking this database on the 31st of December this year, under the various spellings of his surname and his mother’s maiden surname to see if I get any hits.
I completed searches with the top four options, each turning up zero results of relevance. Surprise, surprise. I also emailed our case worker regarding the possibility that Douglas could be using a different surname. Using this information, she went ahead and carried out searches based on that–turning up one result. Unfortunately that result was much too young to be Mum’s father. She did, however find a D. Purcill living interstate here in Australia, which she called Mum about. Mum, having done this all before with the first search, took very detailed notes and passed them along (she very seriously called me out to the family room to hand them over to me one afternoon, here I was thinking that someone had bloody died. Thanks Mum).
The case worker was drafting a first contact letter to this Purcill individual and wanted to give us the heads up. I realised that I’d sent a letter of my own to a Purcill in the same vicinity back in June/July and quickly emailed to clarify if that particular person was the one the case worker was planning to contact. I hadn’t received a response from that particular person and had taken to Facebook to see if I could work out what the ‘D’ stood for–I got my answers, it wasn’t our guy. Unfortunately the case worker WAS preparing to contact the same guy that I had…oops. Luckily this was all worked out before the second letter had been sent! Look, the White Pages has been an amazing tool in all of this. That’s where I’d found him initially! After that, I was asked to compile a list of all the relatives I’d made contact with, to prevent future double ups.
Going forward, I made the suggestion that we turn our focus to Douglas’ nieces and nephews, Mum’s first cousins. I’ve mentioned before that three of them had been located on Facebook. Perhaps facilitation of contact using a third party may increase our chances of success. The case worker ran with the information I gave her on them and a week and a half ago, I received a call saying that an address for one of them had been found and that a draft contact letter had been drawn up.
This letter won’t be being sent out until early December. From what I have been told, it asks for the recipient to make contact with the agency and from there, we will see what happens. I hope that they are open to doing so, as they may be the last direct link we have to Douglas. I am cautiously optimistic.
You’re probably wondering–am I worried about this being seen by them, by Douglas’ nieces and nephews? Not particularly. I’ve weighed up the risks and discussed it with Mum and Douglas’ cousin. But, in the unlikely event that they should see this, I’d really like for them to know that we don’t want to cause trouble. We don’t expect anything from them, we’d just like the opportunity to gain definitive answers at the very least, as anyone would. We really hope that they are in a position to allow us to have this chance.