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Real Name: Unrevealed
Case: Lost Family
Location: New York
Details: In 1944, Joe Soll was in kindergarten when other children teased him about being adopted. Not knowing what the word meant, he went home to his mother and asked her about it. She told him that he had been adopted and that his birth parents had died in a car accident. Joe had been adopted as an infant in 1939 by Charles and Florence Soll. Charles was a successful attorney who passed away in 1960. Twenty years later, Joe learned that his birth parents had not died in a car accident, but that Charles had hidden information about Joe's real family. Eventually, Joe was able to access records that showed he was born Robert Wilson on November 3, 1939, and that his birth mother's name was Ruth Haverman. He learned that Ruth had apparently lived at 677 Lexington Avenue in New York City; however, when he questioned the home's owner, he claimed that a Haverman had never lived there. He did learn that a family named Habersack had lived there and that the home had once been an unwed mother's home.
While looking through his father's files, he discovered that Charles had corresponded regularly with an adoption agent named Bessie Bernard. While looking through the archives, Joe discovered that Bessie Bernard had been arrested for baby-selling in 1949. His adopted mother Florence confirmed that Joe had been sold to them by Bernard through a black-market baby operation. Joe learned that Bernard had placed several ads in local newspapers in an attempt to find babies to sell. She charged around $2000 per baby (a large sum in the 1930s and 1940s). Bernard had the babies brought to New York and had their birth records changed to say that they were born there. Finally, in October 1949, authorities arrested Bessie Bernard, but when they tried to collect a black address book, she struggled with them and gave it to her father, who escaped and disposed of it. Authorities believed that the book contained the names of her clients. On June 30, 1950, Bernard was found guilty of illegally placing children for adoption. She paid a $2500 fine to avoid serving jail time; she passed away in 1989.
Joe fears that he may never find his family because Bessie Bernard altered so many of his legal documents. He is now searching for his biological family, but has few clues. He believes that his birth mother was named Ruth Haverman or Haversack, and that she had a friend named Lucy Bint. His father was also named Robert Wilson and was an engineer in Hartford, Connecticut. Joe Soll believes that he may have been born in either New York or Florida.
Extra Notes: This segment was featured as part of the April 8, 1992 episode.
Results: Solved. Joe Soll now lives in New York and is a Psychotherapist; he helps other people with adoption issues. In 2013, Joe decided to DNA testing through Ancestry.com and he was able to get a match to two first cousins, Karen and Mel. Sadly, Joe learned that his birth mother Ruth Braverman had passed away in 1987. However, Joe has since been reunited with Karen, Mel, and several other relatives, including a half-brother named Robert.