top of page
  • Writer's pictureMary Ellen Gambutti


Our quick fall getaway north to Lake George, NY was just what I needed to put life in a clearer view.

Welcome to my website and blog, friends-old and new!

You may have come to my blog because you are an adoptee, from my generation--maybe much younger. You could be a member of the adoption constellation, the spouse, full or half-sibling, a biological, or adoptive parent, or supportive friend. Maybe you are an adoption-informed therapist. I welcome you all-- seekers like me--wanting to understand more about this institution of adoption in which we have, in some way, found ourselves connected. Thank you for listening to my voice!

My view is from the perspective of a Baby Scoop Era adoptee. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The Baby Scoop Era was a period in anglosphere history starting after the end of World War II and ending in the early 1970s,[1] characterized by an increasing rate of pre-marital pregnancies over the preceding period, along with a higher rate of newborn adoption.) I was born and relinquished in 1951 in Greenville, South Carolina.

When I was six, I could scarcely fathom my adoptive parents' bedtime tale of abandonment and rescue. They had no information of my origins, so they fabricated a story of a family that came before them. I fantasized about the "accident" that severed me from kin. Who are the lost people? Who are they to me? I didn't have the words to ask, and nothing more was offered. Since there was never a mention of a first mother, I imagined I wasn't born like the other kids. I was different. I could see I was unlike my adoptive parents and their extended families. I knew I wasn't really theirs. Until I was eight, when they adopted an infant to be my sister, I was an only child. I had no mirrors growing up.

I much later learned the truth, that my mother chose to have me in a Catholic hospital, and that I was brought at two months to a Catholic infant home across the state. Although my adoption was arranged through Catholic Charities and a York County lawyer, I am not permitted to have the records of my origins.

At twenty-six, my mother carried me to term without the support of her parents. She had left her two-year-old daughter in their care at their Greenville home, having divorced my half-sister's father less than a year after their Texas marriage. Our mother's predicament was not without shame. Her father was a sharecropper and textile millworker. She was a barmaid without an education. So, my origins are humble. That my adoptive parents gave me plenty, doesn't remove my human right to my identity, and to my heritage.

"Adopted" was a condition, an ailment that warranted special treatment. Anxiety and fears my adoptive parents couldn't fix, and often exacerbated with chiding or discipline. I would, in my teens discover I could tamp down the aches with alcohol and drugs. I was no one. It seems to me that a consequence of relinquishment is a neediness that isn't easily filled. I haven't had much therapy, but I read adoptees' stories. I read about the primal wound caused by infant severance.

I began to wake from this lonely fog of uncertainty and confusion when I was forty, when I realized it was the time to take action. Then I was driven to find her, and myself. Whether my people were poor or rich. Whether my birth mother was "worthy" or not. Learning that South Carolina and many other states held the truth from us adoptees was the impetus to get what is mine.

I was fortunate to be able to search for and find my mother, having paid for a records breach that yielded her maiden name. I was in my early forties and paid a fee to the adoption agency for sketchy, non-identifying information. At seventy-one, by SC law, I still may not have my birth records. There can be no "privacy issue," since my adoptive and biological parents are deceased. These are archaic laws that adoptee advocates are turning over, state by state.

It seems to me that a child's removal from her natural family must be reserved for only the saddest cases. Adoption itself can be a kind of abuse for which there is no healing, in my view. We should preserve families: encourage and assist mothers and families. Protect (restore) women's right to healthcare and choice. I am strongly in favor of adoptees' right to our original birth certificate, and foster care and family health history.

Years after my search and reunion with maternal kin, I discovered my paternal side by DNA test. Now I have my full story, and am grateful to have been connected with my origins. There is no excuse for any state to withhold adoptees' vital records.

Born Ruth Ann, renamed Mary Ellen at ~ 6 months, in car bed upon arrival home with new parents.
1960s woman with child sitting on car.
My birth mother, Leila, suffered many losses. Susan, pictured was a 1/2 sister I would never know, but was known to our 1/2 sister, Karen, had a seizure disorder. At 16, she drowned at her young friend's picnic.
The Caffrey's July, 1952.

No matter how religious, how strong their marriage was, and the hard work and good intentions of my adoptive parents, I was different from them. From my perspective, our parent-child relationship was hindered by early separation, and by my Dad's military career. I shared my birth mother's wound. Her rebelliousness, insecurity, anxiety, losses, and loneliness; the alienation that made me perceive I was different from everyone--that was also my birth mother's.

Discovery by DNA test gave me my full story. I am grateful to have been connected with my origins--biological family. I wrote the story of my disconnectedness that is lessened but never leaves in I Must Have Wandered: An Adopted Air Force Daughter Recalls.

Fellow adoptee, author, and friend, Paige Adams-Strickland, has reviewed my memoir and contributed to its

Advance Praise ~

Gambutti addresses the all too common adoptee issues of acceptance, identity and self esteem in beautifully-versed vignettes. Her story telling is flavored with nostalgia from the 1950s and 60s, recreating the culture of times filled with secrecy, conservatism, manipulation and compliance with authority, even if someone questioned or disagreed.

Paige's memoirs can be found on Amazon here:

And thank you, Paige, for contributing this fascinating post that shows the wonders genealogy...
My husband has recently leapt into the wondrous world of genealogy. Within his family, there had been a once charming, sturdy, brick and stone, old farmhouse and land about 30 miles from our current home. The house still stands but it is in abandoned ruin. The property is up for sale on Zillow, and we would like to see it for posterity if for nothing else. My husband’s grandfather and many predecessors lived there. After the death of his grandfather, the property was sold, and his grandmother agreed that is was sensible to move in closer to town to be with the rest of the younger family members where accessibility to modern medicine, education and consumerism thrives. The old family homestead has become a legend over time: supposedly a federal land grant after the Revolutionary war. (We had no proof, only heresy, but we’re working on this!) It was possibly an Underground Railroad site during the US Civil War. (again, no proof on paper, but we want to know.) Talk about finding your truth! My husband isn’t even adopted! While perusing and cross-checking all the listings on , , , to figure out the ownership and succession of this house and farmland, we learned that one ancestor, “John”, adopted two lads, “Samuel”, age 10 and “Martin”, age 5, who were originally the sons of his cousin and cousin’s wife who’d died in the Revolutionary War. (We did find proof that several males, including John, in my husband’s family were Revolutionary War and War of 1812 veterans, and that my husband’s grandfather was a member of the S.A.R.) John had traveled to his cousin’s home after the war ended and found the two boys living in squalor alone and starving with no functional adult to care for them. The boys were around the ages of 5 and 10 respectively. There was no legal documentation of this, only a written family history that another Ancestry member had posted. We are figuring that over 200 years ago with a brand new nation emerging from crisis, it was probably quite common to adopt within your own family (kinship) and not bother with paperwork. John already had five other biological sons, so he would have had no need to acquire free labor nor take on extra people to support unless they were known family members. John appeared to have taken in Martin and Samuel because they were relatives, and believing that family helps family. One working but logical theory is that John received a land grant as a resident of Pennsylvania and sold the acreage. Then he and his family left the state of PA and moved “west” to Ohio, where he purchased (probably cheaper and more) land along the Ohio River, thus founding the town of New Richmond, OH. He may have sold some of that land to turn a profit to buy more property away from the river, (the old family farm house), and to avoid flood issues. That could explain why we have not found it to be an actual land grant acquisition but instead a result of having received a land grant prior. We may never know the truth about that…But I digress… Samuel and Martin are not direct ancestors to my husband’s lineage; one of John’s biological sons is, but as soon as I read that story about how this one particular family survived and re-grouped after the Revolution, my heart goes out to young Samuel and Martin. Samuel did not live a long life and never left the state of Pennsylvania. He married and stayed put. Maybe he wanted to remain back to care for other friends and family who had been a part of his second life after the war. Maybe staying in PA was a way for Samuel to keep watch and cling to something which had become familiar. Martin did venture forth and came to New Richmond with John and everyone else. He became a part of Ohio history as one of the founding members of a small river town, which is now more like a suburb of Cincinnati. I can only assume that one brother was more active and adventurous…more of a risk-taker and the other had already had enough risks in his life so was reserved and perhaps, being the older brother at the time of being adopted, felt less attached and more ready to live independently and do his own thing with whatever time he had left. (Census records between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars were more vague as to showing what people did for a living or who specifically was dwelling in a household.) I feel for both brothers who had to endure the traumas of war and loss of their first parents. Part of “Adoptee-Me” goes: “Adoptees! I found adoptees! Yesssss!!!!” Another part of me goes, “Awwww…That’s awful!”. I have made sure to check out all of the “hints” that provided for these 2 young men, even though they do not have that strong of a connection to the legendary family property. Their lives hold significance regardless. They survived the traumas of war, destruction and loss. They supported their elder cousin’s / adoptive father’s decision to start anew in a different state, although only one young man traveled with the group. They showed bravery and resilience in the face of the unknown, which is how I respect them most. Paige Adams-Strickland

Thanks Again, Paige!

If you are also interested in contributing an essay to a future blog, please message or email me through this website!

Until Next time...

Warm regards,

Mary Ellen I am grateful for your reviews of my book at your choice of online store.

bottom of page