Aug 20, 2017 - Stories

Ryan’s Search For Family


When Ryan’s mother and father adopted him as an infant, there was a typewritten note slipped into his adoption records with a message from his birth parents:

“We pray that you are happy,” it said.

For most of his 36 years, Ryan has been happy, and for most of his life, he’s been searching for his birth parents to tell them that in person.

“I was [happy]. I am, and I always will be,” Ryan said recently.

This year on his birthday, after all those decades of searching, he typed out his own message listing the reasons he feels blessed. At the end of that list he said this:

“Today, July 29th, my family and I met my birth parents and their families,” Ryan wrote. “Today, on my birthday … for the very first time I can see them, hug them, and tell them ‘Thank You,’ which is the greatest birthday gift that I could ever receive. Today my family gets new members. Today I can share with them all the happiness and love in my life. Today, I am so thankful.”

Ryan on the right meets his biological father Ed, his biological mother, Karen and his biological sister Caroline  for the first time on his birthday. Photo: Jackie Foley

But like all good things, this good thing didn’t come easy.

Where it started

Ryan’s parents adopted him in North Carolina, which has closed adoption records. So even though he always knew he was adopted, finding out more about his origins was problematic. On top of that, because his dad was in the Army, the family moved a lot.

Ryan meeting his father for the first time. Photo: Jackie Foley

His parents, Jack and Terri Moore, picked up the family — Ryan and his younger sister Allisen — as they moved to posts that ranged from Kansas to Korea. That made it harder for Ryan to track down records. But it didn’t stop him from looking or asking questions. When Ryan was in 5th grade, he did an oral report for class at Spencer Elementary School in Chicopee, Massachusetts. The assignment was on what was unique about his family, and his topic was his adoption.


Life Gets In The Way

Two years later was when he first read that note from his birth parents.

But as he got older, even though he was still trying to find his biological family, he eventually had to put his search on hold.

“Life got in the way,” Ryan said.

There was college, the Army, deploying to Afghanistan, starting a new career, and getting married. The years slipped by, and his search was pushed to the side until he and his wife Debby decided to have kids — two sons, Ian, 5, and Ellis, 3.

It was that last milestone that again stirred in Ryan the need to know more about his biological family.

“I always wanted to know,” said Ryan, 36. “But having a family that sparked in my mind, ‘OK I got to find this out.’”

Like most adoptees, when Ryan visited a doctor and had to answer questions about whether he had medical issues in his family, he was at a loss.

“I have no idea.”

That was easy to brush off when it was just about him, but having kids changed that.

“I realized that I didn’t have any health history information for our son,” Ryan said.

We have to find them

At first, that meant just diving back into his adoption records; he found “crib notes” from a foster parent that took care of him before his parents adopted him. Ryan’s wife immediately saw in those notes parallels with the type of things she’d seen with their first son.

Ryan’s parents, Jack and Terri Moore watch as he meets his biological parents. Photo: Jackie Foley

“We have to find them,” she told Ryan.

But the paper records didn’t get him very far with closed adoption policies. Then last year, his wife gave him a 23andMe kit for Christmas. He saw it as a chance to learn about his ancestry and health, and maybe find more about his biological family. The health and ancestry information offered a refreshing opportunity to learn things he hadn’t know about himself. The family stuff came later.

About a month ago, someone popped up on his DNA Relatives as a predicted uncle. It’s hard to convey how momentous something like this is for an adoptee. It was the first person he was ever connected to biologically, his first blood relative.

Ryan took a long time working on the wording of his message. He was afraid that he might say something that would turn this newly found relative away. That’s not what happened.

Almost immediately after sending a carefully worded note, he got a response.

“He is my uncle,” Ryan said, describing the response. “He knows of me. He wants to help.”


When in the past it had taken years, decades even, to find the smallest of details, Ryan found himself on the edge of learning the whole truth in just hours. Two days after that exchange with his uncle, while he and Debby sat and watched a performance of Hamilton on Broadway, Ryan got a text that changed his life forever:

“Ryan, your biological mother, Karen, and myself, Ed, your biological father, have hoped and dreamed of this day.”

Soon, they talked on the phone, and Karen and Ed spoke with Ryan’s parents Jack and Terri. His wife spoke with them. So too did his sister Allisen. Ryan learned that he had another sister, a full sister, named Caroline. And he learned a bit of the back story.

His biological father, Ed, had been in North Carolina helping his dad open a new restaurant while on summer break from college when he met his biological mother, Karen, who was also in college but working a summer job. They started dating but went back to school in the fall, and that’s when she found out she was pregnant. They agreed that adoption was the best option. After Ryan’s birth, Karen and Ed drifted apart, but several years later they met again and married, and had Caroline, Ryan’s biological sister. It was a few years after that they got a divorce but remained amicable, and continued to live near each other in the Boston area.

Best Birthday Present Ever

Ryan, center, with his new extended family on his birthday. Photo: Jackie Foley

After Ryan finally found them, they all arranged to get together in person at Ed’s home on Ryan’s birthday. It turned out to be the best gift.

It was a shock, seeing family members who looked like him and even shared some of the same mannerisms. Ryan and his biological father share an odd trait of raising their voices an octave or two when they kid around, and they both love Formula 1 racing.

“That whole nature versus nurture thing is hard to get your head around,” Ryan said.

But Ryan was just as excited that his biological parents could meet his parents, Jack and Terri. He wanted them to see how lucky he was to have the life that they had given him.

“I have lived a happy life,” he said. “I know how hard the decision was that they made 36 years ago, but I wanted to express to them how thankful I am for it.”

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