In 1966, Eileen Rowan was a 19-year-old woman living in Philadelphia. When she became pregnant, she left Philadelphia to live with an uncle in San Francisco, Calif.
"It was customary then, there was such a stigma attached to being pregnant and unmarried, you went away," Rowan said. "I knew the father and I would never work out so I knew it would be better if an adoption agency could find a good home for her."
After living in California for seven months with her uncle (a San Francisco architect), Rowan gave birth to a baby girl.
Eileen Rowan and Jan Minor were recently reunited.
"They never let me even see her," Rowan said. "She was taken away, right away. I named her Vicky and put her up for adoption with a Marin County, Calif., adoption agency. This was a 'closed' adoption. That means you agree that there can't be any contact between the birth mother and the child.
She continued, "They advised me that adoptions can take up to a year but I decided to give them two months. I don't know what they thought about this 19-year-old kid telling them they have two months to find a home or I will come back for her. I was told that they found 'the perfect family' for her before the two-month period was up."
Rowan headed back home to Philadelphia where she started college in the fall and then married.
"I went to the University of Pennsylvania Veterinarian School, graduated as a veterinarian, had my career, had my own hospital in Long Island, N.Y.," Rowan said. "I never tried to break the agreement I made when I gave her up by trying to contact her. But, 21 years later I called the adoption agency and sent them a letter with all of my contact information. I sent them a letter to put in the case file in the event she wanted to locate me. The letter said, this is where I am now, this is how I can be contacted. I can always be reached through the American Veterinary Medical Association."
The Minors adopted baby Vicky and changed her name to Jan. The Minors also had a 16-year-old son named Gary. Jan Minor's parents never told her she was adopted and for the next 46 years they all kept the family secret. Then in 2005, Jan's mother died and two years ago her father died. That's when brother Gary told her the Minors were not her birth parents.
"I thought I was dealing with it but over the next several months every emotion came out," Jan said. "Just to try to figure out what I was feeling I entered counseling. Once I decided I needed answers, my husband, who is really great with computers, started contacting adoption agencies and the hospitals and we got nowhere. Everything in the state of California is 'closed.' I couldn't get a copy of my own birth certificate."
Through her counselor Jan found someone working "in the adoption system" in California that could help her. They gave a few details to this person and in about a week she got back with important information beginning with her birth name Vicky Rowan.
"Once we had the last name and the detail that my birth mother lived with an uncle in Marin County, my husband contacted the San Francisco Public library and asked them if they could look up Rowan under the white pages from 1966," Jan said. "We knew he was an architect and interestingly the white pages at that time listed the occupation. They found a Robert Rowan in Marin County listed as a 'draftsman.'
"This information plus Census information and working backwards we came up with the name Eileen Rowan," Jan said. "A search on the Internet brought up a veterinarian named Eileen Rowan at a veterinarians office in Cape Coral and that's how we found Eileen.
"Forty-seven years went by and I never heard anything," Rowan said. "I assumed something catastrophic had happened or she wasn't interested in finding me. So after 47 years I wasn't thinking about it. Fortunately I told my husband about the adoption because one night last September I received a phone call from Jan's husband Shawn. He asked a number of questions: 'Is my name Eileen Rowan?' 'Did I live in San Rafael, Calif. in 1966 with my uncle Robert Rowan the architect?'
"When I heard that, I knew where the conversation was going," she continued. "Shawn explained the whole process they went through to find me. I asked, 'So, what took you so long?'"
"The whole process took 9 months January to September," Jan said. "And if we didn't find someone on the inside willing to help us, I don't think I would have ever found Eileen. I've talked to people that have spent years and years looking for their birth parents."
"What I want the message to be for women that gave their children up to the adoption agency is, don't give up even after all these years" Rowan said. "Even if you have to hire people to do the looking for you just don't give up."
"This has been an amazing experience," Jan said. "One thing I always thought about is that now that my parents are gone, I don't have any family. Because of this I now I have lots of family. On a scale of 1 to 10 this experience is a 10."