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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Alberta adoptee finds biological family online after nearly 4 decades

(Charlene’s sister Priscilla Giesbrecht, Charlene Whitford and sister Crystal Whitford.)



An Edmonton woman who was adopted at age three found her biological family using social media.
In less than 24 hours after posting a photo of herself on Facebook posing with a poster of handwritten information about her birth mother, Charlene Whitford, 41, was reconnected to her family.
She said that she was overwhelmed with the quick response and that her post was shared over 12,000 times.
A cousin of Whitford’s first saw the post on Facebook and added her as a friend, who then put her in touch with her extended family.
Whitford’s birth mother’s sister then called her and told her that her mother Margret Whitford had died 28 years ago.
“As much as I wanted to and I hoped and I was looking forward to meeting her,” said Whitford.  “I did break down when I was told that she was not with us anymore.”
She also was told that her birth father had also died.
Despite learning of the loss of her birth parents Whitford discovered that she has a large extended family including nine brothers and sisters.
They were all adopted out as well.
“So, it’s kind of like a bittersweet story,” said Whitford about reuniting with her family.


“I just had so many emotions overcome me that I ended up crying right then and there.” Charlene Whitford


Just 10 days after she first made the Facebook post, Whitford met some of her family members, including three of her sisters in Edmonton.
“It was very overwhelming,” she said.
At the meeting, one of her aunt’s brought a picture of her birth mother and showed it to her.
“I just had so many emotions overcome me that I ended up crying right then and there. Just looking at the picture of her I could finally see a mirror image of myself.”
Whitford said she grew up in a loving German family, speaks German and identifies with that culture.
Her legal last name is Schmidt, however she changed her last name on Facebook to her birth mother’s Whitford to make it easier for her biological family to find her.
Whitford said her adoptive mother has been very supportive of her reuniting with her biological family.
“When I came and told her before I went to meet them all, she was so happy for me, she had a big smile,” said Whitford of her mother’s reaction to the news. “She was almost in tears herself. She said ‘I’m so happy for you.”
She learned that her birth mother Margaret was Cree from the Saddlelake Cree Nation north of Edmonton and Whitford is looking forward to getting in touch with her Indigenous roots.
“It’s been great. I’m going to my first pow wow in June in Saddlelake. I’m looking forward to it. It’s already circulating up there that I’m coming.”
To sum up the experience and witnessing first-hand the power of social media Whitford believes finding her family that way was meant to be.
“It’s absolutely amazing and it was divine timing! Everything happens for a reason and I couldn’t be happier right now.”
She is still looking to find two of her siblings, a brother and sister and plans to again use social media with hopes of locating them.

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