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NY Woman Traces Her Roots To Tennessee
May 24, 2011 / WSMV.com
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- More than 60 years ago, an adoption scandal rocked the state of Tennessee. In 1950, an adoption agency in Memphis was unmasked as a black market baby seller.
Years later, some of the children who were adopted from the Tennessee Children's Home Society are being reunited with their birth parents. They're finding answers to lingering questions that have haunted them for years: Where did I come from? Do I look like my parents? Do I have brothers and sisters?
Ann Sherman, a 63-year-old woman from New York, had no idea what secrets were about to be revealed when she asked to have her adoption records opened.
She remembers the day her records came in the mail.
"I cried. It was very emotional. When I got the envelope, I held it for half an hour. Should I open it? Am I opening a can of worms? Am I opening Pandora's box?" Sherman said.
The clues in Sherman's adoption file helped private investigator Norma Tillman find Sherman's birth family. They're from the Chattanooga area.
"Ann was the oldest of 10 children by different fathers, and each of the 10 was given up for adoption, except the last one. She kept the 10th child," Tillman said.
The unsealed records show Sherman's adoptive parents in New York were mislead. They were told Sherman's parents were high school graduates in their 20s of Jewish heritage. They weren't. They were Baptists, first cousins and 16 years old.
Misleading adoptive parents was a common scam by the Tennessee Children's Home Society. The parents were often wealthy couples from New York and Hollywood.
"It was reported that the babies were $5,000 and up. So these people paid for these children. And that's why they called it a baby-selling racket," Tillman said.
The woman who ran the Tennessee Children's Home in Memphis was Georgia Tann. She died while an investigation was pending. Tann's alleged accomplice was a judge who removed children from their homes and placed them with Tann, according to published reports from the time.
Many poor and illiterate mothers were tricked into giving up their children.
In 1990, Channel 4 profiled one Nashville mother who says she was misled when she gave up her 5-month-old girl.
Lucille Horton, unmarried and uneducated, signed papers she couldn't read.
"She told me it was temporary, for a foster home," Horton told Channel 4 in 1990.
It wasn't temporary. Her baby was sold to a couple in California.
Channel 4 found Horton's daughter in Los Angeles in 1990 and reunited them.
Ann Sherman, the adoptee from New York, is still waiting for her reunion. She's talked on the phone to her biological half-sister, Sophia. They hope to meet in the fall.
For Sherman, the mystery has been solved. She knows where she came from.
"I'm very happy I found my biological family. I had been wondering about them a long time, for 63 years," Sherman said.
Most adoptees, Tillman said, are not looking for a relationship as much as they are looking for their identities.
"It's OK if she meets them; it's OK if she doesn't meet them. She's got her answers now," Tillman said. <!--stopindex-->