Pam Slaton is living her dream. She tracked down her birth parents, volunteered her sleuthing skills to other adoptees, became a professional investigative genealogist and landed a reality show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, sharing her story.
Her journey into family history got off to a rocky start with the search for her birth mother. She hired an investigator to help her; after she located her mother, Slaton was quickly rejected and absolutely devastated. “I never dreamed my birth mother didn’t want to know me,” Slaton said.
She then set out to find her father. The only information she had was that he was a 6-foot-5-inch Italian mortician living in the Bronx. She later found him, using the little information she had as a jumping off point.
Because of her success, Slaton suggests gathering all the facts you can find before doing any research, even if you think they aren’t relevant. Any details could end up being important information. Do a Google search with the information you have, and see where that leads you. “Peel back one layer, then the next, then the next, like an onion,” Slaton said.
But don’t let the facts you have limit you. “Sometimes the more information you put into a search engine, the less you get back,” Slaton said. Names can change or be misspelled, handwritten records are hard to read and and maybe indexed incorrectly, or information you think is right could be wrong. Try removing some information and using a wild card search to yield more results.
While researching for her clients, Slaton utilizes military, census and other records to find birth families. She often uses the information found in those records to trace the ancestral lines forward to locate other living relatives.
If a client is trying to locate a living relative or birth parent, Slaton advises them to make sure you are emotionally ready. The reunion could be a very joyful or upsetting experience for everyone.
She also tells her clients to be respectful and confidential. Don’t call everyone with in the phone book the same name as a birth parent.
And it is this sort of knowledge and compassion that leads clients to Slaton. “When I speak to clients, they know I totally get it,” she said. “It makes me feel good that I’m that support to them.”
“Searching For ” starring Pam Slaton premieres tonight at 9 p.m., on the Oprah Winfrey Network.