Monday, January 29, 2007


JOHNSTOWN — Matthew Francis will tell you he is in no way dissatisfied with his life.He is married and the father of two young girls. But there is something missing for him, something that stops him from feeling whole: His identity.And there is more to his quest.The 34-year-old Bonita Springs, Fla., resident is on a mission to find his birth mother – not only because he wants to know where he comes from, but because his daughters are suffering from genetic heart conditions and he needs to know his family medical history.“I kind of want to know who I am, too,” Francis said. “I want to talk to the person who gave birth to me and see what nationality I am.”Francis was able to find out that his mother was a Johnstown native born in 1955. She had a brother who was born in 1952.Records show that in 1959, the children’s mother died from complications of alcoholism. Their father died in 1962 during open-heart surgery. Both were Protestants.After their deaths, the children were sent to Rhode Island to live with cousins. Francis was born in 1972. His biological mother was 17 years old when she gave birth to him.The name that was given to him at birth was Benjamin David.While living in Rhode Island, Francis petitioned the courts to have all of his adoption records unsealed. Although he was able to supply letters from his daughters’ pediatrician and cardiologist explaining their health situation, the judge refused to unseal the records.“It is extremely frustrating,” Francis said. “I just want to be able to get my medical information so I can help my daughters and have this information in my pocket.”The judge did provide Francis with the Johnstown connection, but was not willing to divulge his mother’s name.“The judge can open the records if he sees it as worthy, but I guess this case isn’t,” Francis said. “The lives of two young girls are at stake here, and I had to bite my tongue.”Francis’ daughters – Taylor, 9, and Joie, 6 – are in no immediate danger, he said. But more severe problems could develop later.“It has been determined their conditions come from my side of the family,” he said. “It would be a lot easier for them to be treated if we had my medical information.”Francis has spent time searching the Internet for information and wandered onto an adoption site where he made a connection with Carol Larsen of Easton, Md.Larsen, who gave a child up for adoption in the early 1960s, is a member of a volunteer group called Search Angels that helps people who have been put up for adoption find their biological parents.“I sent (Francis) an e-mail and expressed interest in helping, since I once lived in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island,” Larsen said. “Over the next few months, I asked him questions and he sent me original copies of everything he had, and we’ve just gone on from there.”She also has hit roadblocks in trying to uncover the information.“It seems everyone’s hands are tied,” Larsen said. “But I continue to do this because I want to help.”Larsen said there is a growing movement to have adoption records opened, but since each state’s rules are different, it is no easy task.“It’s almost like the government is holding our medical history hostage,” she said.Francis also would like to locate his birth father, but he said no information on him can be found. He hopes to find a relative who could provide that information.Whether Francis’ biological mother is alive or not is another question plaguing him.“I hope she is alive so she can fill in the pieces of the puzzle,” he said.“If I could find her and everything would work out, I’d love to have a conversation with her and then see what comes next.”In the meantime, Francis keeps searching, and he isn’t giving up hope of finding the answers he needs.He is hopeful that someone out there can tell him something – no matter how insignificant it may seem.“A little piece here, a little piece there,” he said.“Everything counts.”

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