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Lost and Found

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‘Only child’ goes on trek to find previously unknown siblings

By Taylor Riley

 

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Peggy Edmonson always knew she was adopted. Her parents never kept anything a secret from her. Just because it wasn’t secret, though, didn’t mean it wasn’t a mystery.

Edmonson, a La Grange resident, was always curious about the story behind her birth in France in June 1950. Where was her mother? And did she have any siblings?

Edmonson questioned her adoptive parents, John and Nadine Perkins, but all they seemed to know was that her birth father, Clarence Collins, was an officer in the American military stationed in France, and her mother, Monique Olivier, was French.

“Kids on the playground would make fun of me for being adopted and all I would say was ‘My mom and dad picked me, yours just had you,’ ” Edmonson joked.

John was a commanding officer in the military and he and his wife decided to take Peggy as their own when Collins and Olivier decided to give her up.

For years, that was all Edmonson knew about her birth family, but in September, everything changed when Edmonson decided to take up a free offer on Ancestry.com.

“I was fooling around and then I thought, ‘Maybe I should try to look for my family,’” Edmonson said.

At the bottom of the webpage, the query asked for keywords. Peggy plugged in the few words she knew: her mother’s name, her father’s name and her birthplace.

Hesitantly, she pushed the “enter” button.

To Edmonson’s surprise, her birthmother’s family tree popped up. Needing more validation, she reached out to the distant cousin that created the ancestry page.

The cousin messaged Edmonson back with a complete list of names, birthdates and locations of Peggy’s biological brothers and sisters.

“I was always an only child,” Edmonson said. “I always longed to have siblings…I hated being an only child.”

Edmonson was so shocked that she had found her family, that she wasn’t sure what her next step should be, so she went on with her daily life. She was scheduled to volunteer at the Hope Health Clinic and she couldn’t wait to tell her friends about what was happening in her life.

Janet Warren, director of Hope Health, wanted to help her friend with her journey in any way she could. From her office, she typed Edmonson’s birthfather’s name into a search engine.

From there, came a query on a message board from 2010 asking for information on a “Margaret Collins.” It turned out the writer was a sibling of Edmonson’s, who had been searching for her for years.

“My family had been searching for me and I didn’t even know it.” Edmonson said.

Edmonson immediately replied to the message: “My name is Margaret Collins and I’m who you’re looking for.”

Meanwhile at the clinic, everyone was on the edge of his or her seat.

“Everybody here at the clinic was so happy for Peggy,” Warren said. “We knew it was very important to her for a long time to find her family and she didn’t have a resolution. Everything was right there, all the keys. It was the pathway to move on.”

While she was waiting for the message back, Edmonson went on Facebook to search for her siblings. Amidst the friend requests to her siblings, she came across pictures of one of her sisters, with someone who looked to be their mother.

“My heart started beating so fast…I thought, ‘Could I be looking at my mother?’ ” Edmonson said.

And then, a severe ring startled her as her phone lit up with an unknown number. Upon answering, she found out it was her biological sister, Clara, who lived in Oregon.

Peggy and Clara talked for two hours that day and the two women, two years apart, realized they had more in common than just their bloodline.

Edmonson found out that she and her sister were both crafty people, loved history in school, they lived in the same states growing up and they also learned that they both had a daughter named Amanda and a granddaughter named McKenna.

“It was amazing the similarities,” Edmonson said. “I thought ‘Lord, after 64 years you have finally brought us together. Why, after all this time?’ ”

Edmonson has also been in touch with her sister, Jossie, who was also placed for adoption and grew up in France. Jossie, who was hesitant to speak to Peggy at first, told her sister about the dramatic life of their mother, Monique.

According to Jossie, Monique had first given up Jossie and then Peggy after both unplanned pregnancies. Monique later married the father of the other siblings and moved to the United States.

Monique later reunited with her sons and daughters, minus Peggy, before her death in October 2013.

The mystery continued when Peggy received information from another woman claiming to be the daughter of a man that married her mother for a short time. At this point, Peggy is still trying to figure out if this man, rather than Clarence Collins, could be her biological father.

To this day, Peggy doesn’t know the real reason her birthmother gave her and her sister up for adoption and while she’s curious, she isn’t judgmental.

“She was our mother and she did the best she could at the time,” Edmonson said. “I’ll never know all the answers. Curiosity killed the cat, and while I wonder, it’s not a burning desire in my soul.”

There are many stones left unturned in this ancestral mystery, but Edmonson said she feels her life has been blessed in the last few months.

“I feel such a peace in my soul,” Edmonson said. “These stories don’t always turn out well, but mine has turned out extremely well.”

Edmonson is currently undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer, but she hopes that after treatment, she will be able to travel to meet her newfound siblings in the flesh.

Edmonson has planned a Thanksgiving trip to Oregon to meet her six brothers and sisters. She plans to visit her sister, Jossie, in France in Spring 2015.

Email us about this story at taylorriley@oldhamera.com.