Real Names: Elizabeth Hanson and Walter Perry
Case: Lost Parents
Date: April 1949
Details: Forty-five-year-old Brenda Abbey of Chester, Virginia, is searching for her birth parents; they gave her up for adoption when she was an infant and they worked for the Settler and Wilson Traveling Carnival. In April 1949, Brenda was adopted by Sulen and Thelma Zeemer of Petersburg, Virginia. When she was sixteen, Brenda learned that her birth parents had worked for the Settler and Wilson carnival. In 1983, Brenda developed a serious health problem; because of her need for her family medical history, Virignia officials released a copy of Brenda's birth certificate. Her birth parents were Elizabeth Hanson and Walter Dean Perry; she also learned that she had two siblings. The most important clue for Brenda's search was her father's occupation. The certificate stated that he was a representative for the "Midget Review". Brenda began looking for anything about the carnival during 1948. She found an article that mentioned "Singler's Midgets" which she assumed was the group that her father worked with.
In April 1994, Unsolved Mysteries joined Brenda to experience her search first-hand. Brenda visits every carnival that comes within two-hundred miles of her home. Several carnival workers were interviewed; they discussed carnival life during the 1940s. At first, Brenda thought that some of the workers had actually known her mother. However, she soon realized that the woman they were talking about was too old to be her mother; Brenda's mother was twenty-four at the time. However, one carnival worker thought that the woman may have actually been Brenda's grandmother.
Another lead Brenda followed involved a man named Ward Hall, who had booked carnival shows on the East Coast. Ward knew carnival workers back in the 1940s; however, he did not remember Brenda's parents. A few weeks earlier, a judge allowed Brenda's adoption papers to be un-sealed. The documents revealed where Brenda's parents had went after her adoption: Alaska. Despite this information, Brenda learned that the Settler and Wilson carnival never traveled to Alaska. She can also find no information saying that her parents traveled there alone.
Brenda is hoping to locate her birth parents and siblings.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the May 25, 1994 episode.
Results: Solved. On the night of the broadcast, several relatives of Brenda called the telecenter, including her mother, brother, and two of her sisters. There were also calls from friends of more of Brenda's siblings. Brenda was saddened to learn that her father had died in 1959, but she was joyful to learn that she has eleven brothers and sisters. In August 1994, Brenda's sister Martha Oak, of St. Clair Shores, Michigan, hosted a reunion; although Brenda's birth mother was unable to attend, Brenda was finally able to meet four of her siblings: Martha, Thomas Chillog, Susan Donner, and Frank Smith.
However, at the time of the reunion, three of her siblings had not been located. Fortunately, when the story was re-aired, another brother was found in Florida, and a pair of twin siblings were found in Ohio. Brenda's search is finally over.