I began this Willows Maternity Sanitarium webpage sometime around March 1998. This page was my personal plea for information regarding The Willows Maternity Sanitarium, which was somewhat nonexistent on the Internet at that time. This was also my way of getting information out there about my grandmother, who was born December 15, 1924 at The Willows, and named Martha Seberger.
Within two weeks of her birth, Martha Seberger was adopted by Gus and Jennie Maier, who changed Martha's name to Betty Jane Maier. Betty had two older brothers and one younger brother, all biological children of Gus & Jennie. Then Jennie gave birth to a daughter, and Betty's life changed. Although Gus continued to dote on his adoptive daughter, mother Jennie soon began to treat Betty as "Cinderella". Betty never understood the change in her mother, until by accident, she learned she had been adopted.
Betty grew up and found the love of her life. They married and had four children of their own. Through all of this, Betty felt a curiosity about her biological parents. In the 1950's, Betty wrote to The Willows. She described her tumultuous childhood and longing to find her birth parents. To paraphrase, the Willows wrote in response that she should forget about the past, now that she is married and has children, and should "just move on with her life." Bettys' young son, who would become my father, promised his mother that he would someday help her find her parents.
My grandparents struggled financially throughout their marriage. But in early 1968, they decided they were going to take their first "real" vacation, a trip to Florida. Betty had suffered with ulcers and had decided to have an operation before the trip. Shortly after surgery, while in the recovery room, Betty complained of a headache, then immediately passed away. Prior to surgery, (I'm told this was normal procedure at the time), a block was placed under her neck then her head strapped down. Her head had been strapped down too tightly, a clot had formed, and when the strap and block were removed, the clot made its way to her brain. She was only 43 years old.
Through the years, my father never forgot the promise he made to his mother. At some point, he wrote to Missouri and received non-identifying information. He was also told all other records were sealed, including the birth certificate. Through the non-identifying information, we learned that my grandmother had been born Martha Seberger. A copy of an infant medical test showed that her birth mother was "Mayme Seberger". We assumed that this was an alias created by the birth mother or the Willows to shield the birth mother's identity. Eventually, we came to believe that perhaps Seberger was my grandmother's legal birth surname. We had seen the name Seberger on a few other papers and concluded that any legal documents probably had to be signed with the birth mother's legal last name.
I shared my grandmother's story with an adoption ANGEL. Through various contacts, she discovered that my grandmother's birth certificate might not be sealed. It might be one that fell through the legal cracks. My hopes soared! Would I finally discover "birthmother Seberger's" real first name? I immediately found the necessary paperwork to request the birth certificate. I never mentioned anything about adoption or adopted. Within a week I received a response stating that, although the had my grandmother's name, date and place of birth, they needed her parent's names. Grrr! I thought I was sunk. Instead of writing back, I phoned, and explained that my grandmother passed away when I was 1 year old (true), she did not know her father's name because he did not raise her (true), and that I knew her mother's maiden name was Seberger. I heard the woman punching in a few things on the computer, then she said, "Here it is. Since we've already received your payment, I'll have this sent out to you right away." My heart was racing but I still could not let myself believe.
It was approximately two weeks later when an envelope from Missouri arrived for me. Here in my hand was my grandmother's original, unamended birth certificate. My only disappointment was that there was absolutely no information pertaining to the father. And the birthmother's name? Mayme Seberger! The only new information I was able to obtain from the birth certificate was the birth mother's place of birth, the key that would lead me to find her. I began searching census records for Mayme Seberger born in Nebraska around 1902-1903. I kept coming across "Maye" Seberger. I decided to dig into Maye Seberger's living family. Her parents and all siblings were now deceased. She had no children that I could find. But I happened upon three nieces and a nephew. Together we learned that their "Aunt Maye" was consistently referred to as "Mayme" in her father's will. A photograph in her sister's handwriting said, "Me & Maye (Mayme)." Although we haven't gone as far as DNA tests, we are all 99% certain it is a match. A family mystery finally solved after 82 years.
P.S. And isn't it ironic, at various points in my childhood, my family lived within 20 miles of Mayme Seberger, who passed away in 2000 at the age of 97! Mayme never had any more biological children.
Who could have imagined that the birth certificate had not been sealed!? If only we had known, which is why I share this story. No matter what you are told, try anyway! Don't mention "red flag" words- adoption, adopted, amended, Maternity home, original, birth parents and adoptive parents.