Welcomed into two new families so far
Jeanne Marie (Ploeger) Hugh of Laurens spent the first several years of her life in an orphanage. So did two siblings.
The children were eventually adopted by different families. Jeanne had wonderful parents, Helmer and Grace Ploeger, and as the only child in the family, she filled their lives with love.
She has not seen her brother or sister since and she is on a desperate search to locate them.
Hugh was 7 at the age she was adopted in 1951 and has very few memories of her siblings or even her birth parents to go on. In the back of her mind while growing up, she knew she wanted to try to locate the family but because of some circumstances beyond her control, she didn't have the opportunity to do so until a decade ago.
Before she dove into investigation, she asked her adoptive mother for her blessing. She told Hugh that she had always wondered about her original family as well. Her adoptive mother is still living and recently celebrated her 90th birthday. She lives in Ackley.
"My mom also told me I used to cry out for Ricky and Lucinda when I was little. I assume that they were my brother and sister."
The first place she contacted in the early-1990s was Annie Whittenmyer Home in Davenport where she was adopted. She received a copy of her adoption papers which included the names of her natural parents - Edward Alvin Woods and Dorothy Marie (Carter) Woods - and two siblings - Richard Leroy Woods born in 1947 and Carol Lucille Woods born in 1949. There was also included a letter from someone in Wyoming looking for her, by the last name of Nash.
It was not near enough information to satisfy her but enough to get started.
So she turned to the internet and did a people search for the name Richard Nash in Wyoming and Edward Woods in Iowa.
Several entries popped up. She then got busy and wrote letters to all of them, explaining what she was looking for.
A call came in from Richard Nash, and it turned out his mother, Dorothy Marie (Carter) (Woods) Nash, was at his home to celebrate the graduation of his daughter.
He put his mother on the phone and she and Hugh talked for several minutes. They ended by making arrangements to get together.
The reunion was filled with tears. Hugh knew exactly where she got her looks when she met her mom; there is no mistaking that the two ladies are mother and daughter.
As the memories of the children she gave up for adoption came streaming back to her, "Mom cried and cried and cried," Hugh said.
She learned that she had a full brother, whom she didn't know about, who had been born shortly after her parents split up and also seven step-siblings. They all welcomed Hugh into their lives with open arms.
Hugh received a letter from Ruby Woods, the wife of her father, Richard Woods. Arrangements were made for she and her brother from Colorado to meet him at his home in Shenandoah.
"He met us at the door with a big hug," she said. Hugh and her brother learned they had five step-siblings on the Woods side. Her dad insisted on calling her Edna, her birth name, and that was alright with her. The brother and sister met their step-siblings (except for one) and have been welcomed into that family as well.
She has shared a relationship with her birth parents, but neither of them has shared much information on why she and her siblings were given up.
"I don't care. Some things can stay in the background. What they did shouldn't matter," Hugh commented. "I am happy for the life I had and I don't have to dwell on the bad things."
Hugh was also able to learn some medical information about her parents that may be helpful to her. She has learned her father had bypass heart surgery and has high cholesterol, as she has.) She also could be at risk of diabetes which her mother has.
Concentrating on the other two lost members of the family is important to her.
The trouble is, she cannot get into the adoptive records of her brother and she discovered that the orphanage has no records on her sister. She wonders if perhaps an illegal adoption took place. It was revealed in the paperwork that Richard was adopted out in 1950 by a couple then in Pocahontas County.
Hugh has taken many avenues in the search. She has looked through many newspapers from 1950, hoping to find an "adoption announcement." She had schools send her copies from the yearbook in hopes of seeing a face that looked similar to her dad's or brother's. Nothing. She has joined the local genealogy society and hopes to be able to track down additional information.
Hugh also contacted an investigator some time ago but can't afford the high fee he wanted to charge her. Adoption records of her brother cannot be obtained by her due to confidentiality restrictions.
It was also revealed in the information she has gathered that the children were first taken to the Christian Soldiers Home in Council Bluffs, staying there until openings at the Annie Wittenmyer Home came open.
At 61, she is not about to give up.
"It's very puzzling and it's nerve-racking. I keep trying things and end up at a dead end. I learned a long time ago not to keep my hopes up about anything but I do hope I find them, and soon. I'd like this to get done before anything happens to any of us."
She has learned that her dad has cancer so time may not be on their side.
"I'd love to have them back again. This is something that is constantly on my mind. It feels like something is missing; I need them to fill that void."
Anyone who may have any information is asked to call Hugh at (712) 841-6788. Remember, the last names of the children would have changed at the time of adoption and perhaps the first names, too.