Anna Kenny with daughter Kathy Hall

A Past Revealed: Anna Kenny Discovers Her Birth Story

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At eighty-seven years of age, Anna Kenny has just learned many details of the circumstances surrounding her birth. In her words, “It has been quite the surprise.”

Anna had sensed that things were “out of place” as a child growing up in a loving family consisting of mother, father and three sisters. “Everyone was always saying things like, ‘where did you come from? You don’t look like any of the others.’  There were all these little hints throughout my life.”

Finally at age seventeen, Anna asked her father directly if she was adopted. Her father cried because they had never told Anna.  “My family was very loving and I was happy.  They never wanted me to feel different from their other three daughters.  At the time there was no way to get the information about my birth parents.  They figured it was in my best interest to not know.”

After confirming her adoption, Anna’s father applied for her official adoption certificate. That was when she learned her biological mother’s name was Mollie O’Hare.  Anna did not have a desire to know more than that piece of information.  She had a family already as far as she was concerned.

Anna completed nursing training at Salem Hospital and worked as an Emergency Room nurse there. She also worked at General Electric as a nurse for three years.  She met her husband George while at General Electric.  They married and she raised four children.  Her love of nursing beckoned.  She made family life and going back to work a reality.  Anna worked for a surgeon in private practice for twenty years.

It was Anna’s daughter Kathy Hall who initiated searching for more family history five years ago. That came to a dead end however as she was told birth records were destroyed from that far back.  She was not deterred.  Kathy again reached out to Catholic Charities and this time was put in contact with an adoption specialist with Health and Human Services.  Kathy had started using Ancestry.com looking for the woman who was listed on the adoption certificate.  Anna laughs about Kathy being ‘obsessed’ with the notion of finding information.  Anna herself had lost interest.

Kathy’s son kept after Anna to do a DNA test. Anna did not put much importance into finding answers, but agreed to the DNA test.  “Six months later I had a total shock.  The results showed that I am forty-seven % Jewish.  I thought my mother was 100% Irish.  Previously one of my other grandsons had done a DNA test and this Jewish ancestry showed up.  I assumed it was on my grandsons’ mother’s side – not our side.”

It was at the end of this past September that Anna received the file of information from the Adoption Search Coordinator of the Office of Health and Human Services. In the file are actual letters her adoptive parents, Catherine and Raymond Finnegan, wrote in application for adoption.

In his beautiful cursive handwriting dated November of 1933, Raymond states, “Since moving into our home we have given her the best of care and the love and affection of a mother and father.  We look upon her as one of our own because she is a beautiful child and has brought loads of sunshine and happiness into our home.  Next year she will be ready to attend school and as she does not know the circumstances which brought her under the care of the State of Mass (we pray and trust that she never will), I would like to be able to send her to school bearing my name legally.”

Anna now knows that her twenty-six year old mother Mollie gave birth to Anna in West Roxbury and relinquished care of the baby at one day of age to a foster mother in Roxbury. Mollie was to continue paying the foster mother, however after only a few weeks, payment stopped. Mollie reported that she had been born in Ireland and had come to Boston three years previous.  She claimed Anna’s father Carl, also from Ireland, had been killed in an auto accident the July before Anna’s birth.  She did not provide Carl’s last name.  There is record of Mollie requesting her baby be placed for adoption the month after giving birth.  She also provided a note to have the baby baptized. Mollie reportedly was unable to care for the child and was in poor health.

After three months, the foster mother needed to return to work and it was at this point Anna was placed into foster care with the Finnegans. Anna remained as a foster child with the Finnegans in Woburn.  Although the family desperately wanted to adopt her, Mollie O’Hare had disappeared.  Legally it was necessary to follow procedures to locate Mollie before adoption could be final.

The files Anna now has document the extensive search to find Mollie. There is a copy of the newspaper ad that was placed announcing Anna Marie O’Hare would be legally named Anna Marie Finnegan and that it was necessary to appear at Probate Court should there be just cause why this not be granted.  The search was unsuccessful.  At the age of five years old in 1934, Anna did become the legally adopted child of the Finnegans.

Interestingly, Anna has a fairly vivid memory of the court day and the court room where unbeknownst to her at the time, the adoption was finalized. She remembers feeling that it was a special day for her but did not know why.

The family is now trying to learn more information about Anna’s father. It has proven more difficult because there was never a last name provided by Mollie.  Anna went from knowing nothing about her early years to now reading over the details contained in the file she now owns.  Every foster home visit and doctor visit is documented; details about each tooth that came in, how she was eating, sleeping, talking, her illnesses, etc.  Anna says, “I read it like it’s someone else.”

What pours from these written words is how much Anna was loved by her parents and three sisters; but Anna knew that love first hand. Now her own family can share in that knowledge.

Today Anna doesn’t spend much time thinking about the health issues that occupy her body. She keeps a positive attitude.  She is grateful for her children who are a great support to her, visiting and getting her to appointments and for her helpful and kind neighbors.  Anna has embraced social media with a Facebook page.  She also likes the convenience of texting on her cell phone.  She still enjoys cooking her own meals.  It has only been five months that Anna has a home health aide coming into the home two hours per week through the home care program at North Shore Elder Services.  Daughter Kathy adds, “It is peace of mind for the rest of the family to have someone else coming into the house.”

Anna seems open for whatever adventure or surprises might be waiting round the corner for her!

Author Info

Jayne Girodat

Jayne Girodat is the Communications Specialist at North Shore Elder Services. Along with ten years in the position of Caregiver Support Specialist at another ASAP, Jayne was a long-distance caregiver to parents for the same amount of time. That experience serves as motivation to better understand the issues of aging and to engage people in conversations about those issues. Jayne's background in teaching contributes to her appreciation of social media as a tool to educate readers on aging concerns. "I love asking people questions. Everyone likes to be heard. When you ask and then listen, you'll find everyone has a story and some of those stories are gems. I think it is particularly important to hear the voices of our older adults. Those are the stories I really connect to and hope to bring to North Shore Elder Services' audience."

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