‘This is my family!’

Gordon Woods / Journal — In three weeks, Marie Maltby will meet some of her siblings for the first time after a genealogy website helped the family make connections. Many area residents know Marie from Vespasian Warner Public Library.

A ‘miracle coming full circle’

Imagine believing for your entire life you were abandoned by your parents decades earlier.  Then, imagine discovering you were, in fact, abducted.  As you searched for your family, they were searching for you. 

A Clinton woman knows what it’s like, and thanks to a DNA kit she received as a gift, she is closer to solving a long and complicated puzzle. 

“What I have learned is that my name was changed,” Marie Maltby said.  “The people who abducted us are the people who took us to the police.” 

Suddenly, Marie’s kidnapper became someone who claimed they simply “found” the two children. 

“My father was married and had another family.  My mother had an affair with my father for several years.  In those several years, they had four children.” 

“When my father went back to his wife, he took my oldest sister with him.  My mother had my brother and me, and then she had my youngest brother, who was a baby at the time of the breakup .” 

Marie’s mother became ill and went into the hospital. 

“I believe that was when she had the next child.” 

The man her mother was with at that point and was father of the latest child, did not want children. 

“He was the one who took us while she was in the hospital and gave us to somebody to get rid of us,” Marie said. 

When she got out of the hospital, Marie’s mother asked him where Marie and her brother were 

“He said, ‘they’re gone’.” 

Marie’s family lived in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York City at the time, before she and her brother John went to the orphanage.  Once adopted, her adoptive family moved she and her brother to Florida. 

“That’s the story I have now, and I’m waiting to speak to my mother.  She has told my youngest brother she does not know what happened to us.  She just knows that we were taken away.  I think she, probably, for all these years, had thought that we were gone.  You know, that we were dead.” 

Marie doesn’t know how long she and her brother were with the man who abducted them, but “I don’t think it was a very long time.” 

Marie said the story in the documents she received from the orphanage claim she and her brother were abandoned by her mother and father. 

“But, I believe the story that’s being told to me by my family.” 

The narrative given in the orphanage documents tells that Marie and her brother were cared for by the mother of a friend of Marie’s mother. 

“In my paperwork, it says we were dropped off with her in January of 1960-something.” 

Marie said she didn’t come back for nine months. 

“That tells me that maybe she had a baby in that time; I don’t know.” 

                  

“Now, I am hearing stories from my oldest sister, who was raised by my father, and my youngest sibling, who was raised by a cousin.” 

Marie discovered she was actually one of eight children.  She has three full siblings. 

“The home can only go by what they were told.  The home has my name one way, my birth certificate is another way, and my birth certificate from my adoptive parents is another way.  And, then I got married, so my name has been changed a few times.” 

Marie and John spent five years in the home for foundlings run by The Franciscan Sisters of Mount St. Frances, in Peekskill, N.Y.  At age 11 and 12 they were adopted by a family in Florida, who had two other children. 

Unfortunately, because of abusive conditions, John left when he was 14.  Marie eventually left at 19. 

“My brother and I always kept in contact with each other even though we lived different lives,” Marie said.  “When we were both in our 20s, my brother went to New York in search of our mother.  He came back to Florida with no news.” 

Marie and John both got married.  Marie had three children, John had two.  But, they often talked about not knowing their family history. 

“But, we thanked God our children were born strong and healthy,” Marie said. 

In 2010, Marie began working at Vespasian Warner Public Library.  She and then-library director Joan Rhoades had talked about Marie not knowing her heritage or her family, so for Christmas, Rhoades gave Marie a DNA test kit from Ancestry.com 

“I was delighted, Marie said.”  “I took it home and followed the instructions to send my DNA to them, and in a few weeks I would find out my heritage.” 

Marie learned she was 18 percent Puerto Rican and 31 percent Spanish. 

“I was so excited about that but still wanted to find my mother. 

She created a family tree with as much information as she could garner, “and waited for someone to find us.” 

John learned the orphanage had closed.  A fire destroyed many of the facility’s records, but a local library still had some of them on microfilm. 

“I gave them specific information about when both my brother and I lived at the home, and they searched their records,” Marie said.   

In three weeks, Marie received a manila envelope from the library, which also sent her brother’s information. 

“I read through all the pages and cried and cried.” 

The orphanage had given Marie her mother’s and father’s names. 

“This was speculation,” Marie said. 

She said they didn’t have her mother’s full name, her birth date or much of any information from her. 

“I thought this was it, this was how I was going to find my family was through the paperwork from the orphanage,” Marie said.  “In one little section of the paperwork it said that my mother was from Puerto Rico, that she had left a son in Puerto Rico and had another baby.” 

This information further complicated an already murky landscape. 

“When I looked at the paper, I said to my brother, ‘How could that be true because we were never told there were any other siblings.” 

Marie and her brother didn’t know they had an older sibling. 

“When they (the orphanage) asked what my name was, the lady told them my name was something, but it wasn’t that name at all.” 

“I found out what my name really was.   

Marie learned her given name was Elizabeth and her brother John was named Juan. 

Marie and John originally planned to travel to New York City to try to find more information about their mother and father, “but COVID hit, and no one was going anywhere,” Marie said. 

Then, on May 14 this year, Marie received a text message a day before her youngest son turned 30. 

“As I read the message, my heart began racing.  It was from a young lady telling me she was my niece and that her mother was my sister,” Marie said.  “She had done the Ancestry.com DNA kit, and it came back a 25 percent match!” 

Marie called her children to her house, and her daughter contacted the niece.  Marie discovered she had a younger brother who wanted to meet her and John. 

“I was hesitant until they mentioned my brother by a nickname only I knew,” she said.  “When my youngest brother got on the phone, he told me he had been searching for my brother and me for 50 years!” 

That brother told Marie she and John were abducted and given away and that her mother and father had been searching for them ever since.  Marie’s father subsequently passed away. 

 

Television makes

the connection 

What Marie and her brother hadn’t known was other family members had spent the past half century trying to find them. 

About seven years ago, a segment on Miami-based Spanish language television network, Univision, featured Marie’s youngest brother and a half-sister telling about how her family was trying to locate Marie and John. 

Marie showed the segment, which was uploaded to YouTube, and explained what they were saying. 

“That’s the first time I saw my mother was when I saw this picture.” 

Marie also pointed out a photo of her half-sister, which appeared in the television segment.   

“We all look so much like one another,” Marie exclaimed while watching the video again. 

Marie has spoken to her mother over the telephone but has not yet met her in person. 

Marie’s daughter started a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising enough money so Marie and John can travel to Florida to reunite with their mother and siblings. 

Marie said the journey has brought many conflicting emotions but said everyone was receptive to making the connection after so many years. 

“My brother and I had no idea anyone was searching for us,” Marie said.  “I was very emotional,” she said about seeing the television segment with her family. 

“I got chills and started screaming, “This is my family!” 

Marie’s family, separated by time and distance, who spent a half century searching for one another will be able to complete what Marie described as “a miracle coming full circle.” 

To help Marie in her quest, go to http://gofundme.me/93da1416

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