Just a fragment of memory was all that decided whether Jamaica Plain resident Barbara Ohrstrom would find out who her birth parents were. Ohrstrom, who was adopted as a child, has detailed that quest in her book “Searching for the Castle.”
“I thought about my birth parents: Who are you? What happened? How did this come to pass?” Ohrstrom said she asked herself when growing up.
She had entered the foster care system in 1962 when she was 2 years old and was formally adopted several years later, losing her original surname. Back then, Ohrstrom said, officials reissued the birth certificate with the adopted parents’ names, while sealing the original. But luckily for Ohrstrom, the new birth certificate maintained the town she was born in, Wareham.
Fast forward years later, when Ohrstrom was 18 years old and living in New York City, having run away from her adopted family. She said she started the search for her birth parents, but hit one roadblock after another, with Massachusetts having strict adoption rules about revealing their identities.
But, Ohrstrom said, she had a memory of a children’s book with a name printed inside the cover: Orstom. With that single piece of information, she headed to Wareham’s only hospital, hoping that the institution had the original birth certificate on file.
Her slightly skewed memory was close enough and Ohrstrom was able to get her original birth certificate with her birth parents’ names, which jumpstarted her journey detailed in the book. She eventually did locate her parents, but did not receive the results she had hoped for.
“I did find my parents, but they were deceased. It was devastating,” said Ohrstrom.
It was especially so as she located her father just eight months after he passed away from a pulmonary embolism in the lungs.
“It was awful. I was so, so close,” she said.
Ohrstrom, who is now a project manager at a Northeastern University writing center, said when she first began the search she had doubts. But, she said, she overrode those feelings, as it was something she had to do. Ohrstrom said she wrote the book to tell her story and provide an example on why states should have adoption laws that allow for revealing of the birth parents’ identities.
“Searching for the Castle,” which was released last year, is available at online and local retailers.