With Quebec opening up adoption records, one woman finds answers about her roots

MONTREAL — A Quebec woman who was put up for adoption shortly after her birth in 1955 and spent decades seeking answers about her roots says she can finally rest easy.

Raymonde Thibeault is one of thousands of Quebecers who’ve benefited from the province last year lifting the confidentiality long attached to adoption records in Quebec.

After obtaining her birth mother’s name, the Chambly, Que. woman found a death notice that led her to cousins with answers about the woman who had brought her into the world. She still had few details about her birth father, although a genealogy website suggested she had a half-sister by the name of Josee Fournier.

“But I’ll probably never know about my father, how they met,” Thibeault told The Canadian Press in December.“There’s no one left to tell us.”

One month later, those missing pieces have been found, and then some.

Thibeault sent a copy of The Canadian Press story to a DNA sleuth in the U.S. who used her computer savvy to track down Fournier in a suburb west of Montreal. Fournier — born nine months after Thibeault — didn’t know of her half-sister’s existence when Thibeault got in touch.

Thibeault asked her about the little she knew about her father — such as his appearance and occupation in the 1950s — all of which corresponded to Fournier’s father. After Thibeault’s adoption on Christmas Day, 1955, a 63-year-old secret ceased to be.

“I started to cry,” Thibeault recalled in a recent interview. “We cried together, and I find it extraordinary to have been accepted into this family.”

She learned she has a half-brother who lives a 10-minute drive away. She also discovered that her father — now 93 — is still alive. Thibeault plans to meet him in the near future.

Fournier said she felt a connection the moment she spoke on the phone to her half-sister, who began to cry upon hearing her voice. “Raymonde was really looking for me,” Fournier said in an interview. “When I read the story on her Facebook page, I said ‘My God, I can’t believe someone was looking for me and wanted to find me so badly’.”

For Thibeault, the puzzle is complete.

“I have all the pieces,” Thibeault said. “I still don’t know how my father and mother met, but that’s not such a big deal. I saw photos of him and of the children he fathered. I’m the one that resembles him the most.”

The province has been disclosing more information to adoptees in two phases. Since last June, the Quebec government has been releasing upon request the names of the deceased biological parents of Quebec adoptees and orphans.

Next June, the law will extend to biological parents who are still living. Those people have been given one year to request a disclosure veto keeping their identities private until one year after their deaths.

The law has had a profound impact on Fournier and her family: In addition to finding Thibeault, she also discovered her late mother had given birth to a son, now 68, who got in touch.

“Most families shrink as you get older, but for me it’s been the opposite — an extra brother and an extra sister,” Fournier said. “I find it pretty nice, it’s fun.”

Her half-brother drove from the Saguenay region to meet Fournier and her family, having spent decades trying to find out about his roots. Upon receiving his mother’s name last year, a death notice led him to Fournier and her brothers.

“He’d been looking for us for 35 years,” Fournier said. “I called him on New Years Day, and he told me it was one of the best Christmases he’d had in years.”

Fournier said the family wasn’t sure what to think when a half-brother showed up. But an aunt who was still alive confirmed his existence, telling them she’d been sworn to secrecy at a time when unwed mothers were forced to give up their babies for adoption.

“I think you’ll find a lot of cases like this,” Fournier said. “It’s terrible that women had to do this in that time, give them up for adoption.”

Other half-siblings may materialize, but for now, Fournier is basking in the arrival of new family. “I think we’re going to have a strong bond,” she said of Thibeault. “I have a feeling we’re going to be close.”

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