After years, adopted woman finds biological family
LEOMINSTER >> There were many questions, and frustratingly fewer answers, but Theresa Malcolm hoped the search for her biological parents was about to take a massive leap forward.
After years of research, she had finally managed to track down a copy of her birth certificate, but it came with a bit of a surprise.
In place of "Theresa Malcolm," the name she had been going by for the last 50 years, was "Jacqueline Ann Beauvais."
"It was really weird and I wasn't expecting it to have it on there, to be honest," Malcolm said of the discovery.
However, her birth name was only the second-most important name written on that document. Printed on her birth certificate was also the identity of her biological mother, a woman named Penny Marie Beauvais.
Reading that name was a moment that had been decades in the making.
Shortly after being born at Burbank Hospital in Fitchburg, Malcolm was adopted by a couple in Leominster. The family relocated to Canada when she was 5, where Malcolm lives to this day.
"I've known I was adopted for as far back as I can remember, and my adoptive parents always told me that when I got to the right age they would tell me all the information I'd need and help me find them," she said.
Malcolm admitted she had been hesitant to ask about her biological parents for years, fearing that doing so would hurt her adoptive parents.
"She never wanted to admit she wanted to find her parents for the longest time," said Pamala Dupuis, Malcolm's adopted sister.
"When she finally did, it was difficult for her to find out details, and she would run into roadblocks."
Malcolm did eventually learn from her adoptive parents that she had come to them by way of a closed adoption through Catholic Charities, and that her biological mother had been only 13 years old when she was born.
Apart from that, Malcolm had few details to work with. She would do research on her own, looking for her parents on various adoption websites but never with any luck.
That all changed in 2015, when she decided to post about her search in a Leominster community Facebook group.
"After about two hours I had over 500 people who had messaged me words of encouragement, tips on things they had done, phone numbers to call, adoption agencies to contact. It was unbelievable," Malcolm said.
One of those hundreds of people was Leominster resident Susan McNeill Spuhler, who had some experience with tracking down birth certificates.
"I have friends who are adopted and I just feel that if people want to find their family then they should be able to," she said.
McNeill Spuhler directed Malcolm to the state archives' birth records where they were able to find the birth certificate. Malcolm then posted in the Facebook group again, this time sharing the name of her mother.
"Once she said who her name was and what town she came from, I dabbled a little online and found who I thought might be her maternal uncle," explained Heather Kristine Bashaw, who had been following Malcolm's story since her first post on Facebook.
She gave Malcolm the contact information for Leonard Beauvais, of Maine. Malcolm contacted him via Facebook that same day and learned that he was, in fact, her biological mother's younger brother.
The two were able to meet for dinner a few weeks later. It was the first time Malcolm had met someone she was related to by blood since the day she was born.
"A week later he called and said, 'We want to do something for you, we want to take you to Arizona to meet your mother," she said.
Malcolm was reunited with her mother on Mother's Day in 2015.
"It was completely amazing," she said. "From the first hug I just didn't want to let go of her. There was no awkwardness or anything. I felt like I was home."
Although Malcolm's mother would die of cancer less than a year later, the experience gave Malcolm the chance to meet other biological relatives, including her two sisters.
"The immediate emotion was shock and awe," Rae-Ellen Smith Rodger said of learning she had a long-lost sister. "I was distracted all day and didn't get a single thing done at work."
The two sisters bonded over the similar life experiences they realized they share, and have since become close.
"I love my sister more than words," said Smith Rodger. "It is quite amazing how much alike we are, quite scary in fact. I can't wait to see her again."
Since finding her biological family, Malcolm said her life has taken a turn for the better. Members of her adoptive family said the change in Malcolm has been noticeable.
"She always seemed like she had a void, that a part of her was missing," said Dupuis. "Since she had found her biological family she appears more at peace, more whole, and we are glad she did."
The use of social-media sites in tracking down biological parents is a trend that Catholic Charities area administrator Noreen Landry said she has noticed increasingly over the last decade.
"We don't get the same volume of calls that we used to, but a lot of that has to do with all of the adopted children aging out," said Landry, who works for the Catholic Charities' adoption history and search program in Worcester.
Landry explained that the program will receive anywhere from 50 to 75 calls a year from people trying to find their parents and that they often cluster around Mother's Day and Father's Day.
In a given year, Landry will organize three or four reunions between adopted children and their birth parents.
"Most have gone very beautifully, but some aren't quite what they hoped for. It's still good, though, because they're at least able to have that experience and some closure," she said.
While Malcolm has managed to track down much of her biological family, she still has more questions.
Going to Arizona meant Malcolm was able to ask her biological mother about her father, whose name was absent on the birth certificate.
Her mother told her that her father was named Robert Law, that he had been living in the area of Townsend and that he would have been 18 when she was born.
Since her biological mother died in February, Malcolm has once again returned to Facebook for answers.
"There have been people who have gone and looked in yearbooks and in records and have found a few people that had the same name as him, born around the same time, but I haven't reached out to any of those people yet," she explained.
For the time being, Malcolm's search continues.
Information from: Sentinel & Enterprise (Fitchburg, Mass.), http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com
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