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Genealogist offers free help finding a missing person

Talk aims to help find missing family members

On Aug. 1, the Wilsonville Public Library will host a free talk by genealogist Connie Lenzen entitled “Lost Parents: Adoption Research and Finding Other Missing Persons.”

Lenzen, who bills herself as a “general practice” genealogist, is licensed by the Board for Certification of Genealogists. This certification affirms Lenzen’s broad-based knowledge of genealogical research.

“I do things like answer peoples’ questions, or get people started,” Lenzen said. “Last week I was working with a woman in Louisiana who was going to a family reunion and wanted to put together a pedigree chart.”

But adoption research holds special interest for Lenzen. She traces her interest in the topic to an early interest in solving the puzzles of her own family history.

“I’ve been doing adoption searches for what seems like forever. My first adoption search was for my grandmother’s mother, who was born right after the Civil War and adopted,” Lenzen said. “We have a lot of adoptions in the family.”

Lenzen says that missing persons research fits hand-in-glove with her work as a genealogist.

“I like to do missing people, since I do that a lot without intending to,” Lenzen said. “Sometimes people want to find a cousin, maybe because the cousin has information about the family that they don’t have.”

Individuals interested in their family history also might wish to persuade their distant relatives to take a genetic test, since doing so can provide vital information about one’s family tree.

In Lenzen’s view, dishonest records are what makes an adoption search difficult. “The biggest challenge is that any kind of document they find is going to have lies on it,” said Lenzen. “For so many years, adoption was a taboo subject. People weren’t supposed to have illegitimate children, so they’d do everything they could to hide it.”

But those who spend time in the field acquire a sense for sifting through truth and falsity. “You have to become adept at telling what is a lie and what is not,” Lenzen said.

Many people who are interested in reconnecting with a missing person or a birth parent are in their twenties or thirties.

“But when people are young, a lot of times they don’t have the money to pay for a professional,” said Lenzen.

Hence, Lenzen’s talk aims to give people the tools they need to begin to conduct their own searches. Attendees can expect to leave the talk with tangible tools they can employ to find a birth parent or a missing person in the present day, which the library’s event listing notes is “a period marked by closure of records and privacy issues.”

At the same time, Lenzen is careful to note that the talk will not teach attendees to violate others’ privacy.

As such, the talk will be somewhat general in nature, although Lenzen says that she will be able to share some stories of past successes.

Although Lenzen has, by her estimation, hosted 20 or so talks like this one, she remains excited about her work and the information she has to share.

“I love the mystery,” she said. “I always liked solving problems. Genealogy is a great big problem that you can solve.”


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