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Internet search connects rocklin man with birth mother

By: Gloria Beverage, Placer Herald Editor
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Until a few months ago, Cliff Herman had never wondered about the woman who gave him life. “I was adopted at birth. My mother made me aware of my adoption from a very early age,” Herman said. “I remember sitting on the bed reading a book about adoption.” Over the years, Herman recalled, his mother often told him: “You’re very special to your dad and I.” “I always felt like I was their special gift,” he continued. “They made me feel special.” Shortly after he and Cathy were married, Herman’s mother gave him a sealed envelope containing his birth records and some information on his birth parents. “Life happens,” he said. “I tucked it away and forgot about it.” The couple began raising a family and pursuing careers. Whenever his wife would occasionally raise the subject of searching for his birth parents, Herman just brushed off her questions. As their sons got older and began to start their own families, they wanted to know about their father’s genetic history. Herman’s search began in earnest about three years ago when their house caught fire and they lost nearly everything. Ironically, one of the items salvaged from the fire was the plastic envelope containing his adoption papers. “I started looking through it,” he said. “There was an envelope from my mother that was unopened. Inside was a two-page note explaining what she knew about my birth mother — Grace Iris Longtin — her place and date of birth and some brief information about her.” There was virtually no information about his father, except a physical description and a 10-cent Bank of China note. “It mentioned he was a second Lieutenant serving overseas, but his name was unknown,” Herman said. “The note is something he had given my mother. It’s the only thing handed down to me.” The note also mentioned that his mother had two siblings. “With that information in hand and what I thought was a firm knowledge of the Internet, I started my search on Ancestry.com,” he said. But the first thing he encountered was a list of thousands of Longtins. “I learned it is not an uncommon name,” he said. With the help of three friends who are quite adept at genealogy searches, Herman, now 65, began to narrow the search and eventually found his birth mother’s family in the 1930 Michigan census rolls. “I found her parents. I found she was the oldest of seven (six girls and one boy),” he continued. With a little more research and some time on Facebook, Herman located three of his aunts, including one living in Sparks, Nev. He made contact with his aunt and was delighted to receive a photo of his mother that had been taken in 1944. “I just wanted to know who Grace was,” he said. “I wanted her to be more than just a name on a piece of paper.” His aunt told him Grace left home at age 16. After giving him up for adoption, she was married twice (her first husband died) and gave birth to four more children. She died several years ago. Herman is now hoping to talk with his half-brother, the son his mother had with her second husband. “I’d also like to talk to his father,” he said. “I want a better picture of who she was.” In the interim, he’s enjoying getting to know his large extended family. “It’s so interesting to open the door and see a dozen or so people that are related to me,” he said. “Everybody in the family has been very warm, welcoming — very excited. It’s brought them all together.” Although he estimates he spent about 100 hours searching for the Longtin family, Herman sums it up as a “series of really lucky coincidences.” “Every now and then I read a story about people frantically searching for their ‘real’ parents,” Herman said. “I’m not one of those. I really don’t care. I’ve had such a good life, a great upbringing. My adopted parents were good people.” Now that he has connected with his birth mother’s family, Herman believes “the loop is almost closed.” Cathy Herman is excited for her husband. “I think it is wonderful that he found them,” she said. “When we got married 44 years ago, I met his parents. That was it. Now he’s found a half-brother, all those cousins and aunts.” Like her husband, Cathy is looking forward to getting to know his birth family. “It’s amazing what the Internet has done,” she said. “It’s unbelievable that in two months he was able to find so much.”