BROKEN ARROW, Okla. — Charles Evans learned he was adopted when he needed a copy of his birth certificate when he wanted to join the Air Force. Only later did he learn he was sold as an infant.
Evans, born in 1934, was out of high school in the early 1950s and was ready to try the military.
He had to get the birth certificate from California. When it arrived, it listed his father as Theodore Evans and his mother as Helen Crow.
"I never heard of any such people,” Evans told the Tulsa World. "Not in all my life.”
For most of the first 13 years of his life, Evans grew up in California and Colorado with his adoptive mother, Julia Abrams.
After she died, Evans moved to Oklahoma to live with his adoptive father, Paul Evans.
"OK, so I’m adopted,” Evans said, shrugging it off. "I didn’t really care. Back then, I didn’t see any reason to care.”
Evans grew to care, and what he found out surprised him: He was sold as a baby. The price was a typewriter and enough money to pay his mother’s hospital bill. He learned those details in 1971; his biological sister gave him a letter his mother had written for him to read as an adult.
Evans was born in Los Angeles, the fifth child in a family that was feeling the crushing poverty of the Great Depression.
Evans said it appears his biological mother was pressured by her own mother to give up the baby because they couldn’t afford to feed and clothe him. His biological parents went on to have five more babies.
"I’m a black-market baby,” says Evans, now retired from American Airlines with three grown children. "That’s the kind of thing that went on back then. I wasn’t the only one.”
Evans became more interested in his birth family later in life as he began to wonder whether he had inherited any health problems.
But only in the last few months, with help from a genealogy researcher, has he been able to piece together the whole story.
Using Census Bureau and voter registration records, the address on his birth certificate was traced, in 1934, to a man named Theodore Bohn, who was married to a Helen Crow.
Hospital officials used his birth mother’s maiden name for the birth certificate.
But the father’s name used the birth father’s first name and the adoptive father’s last name.
Records confirmed that Evans was their fifth child, and that five more came after him.
With additional census records, property rolls and telephone books, the genealogy researcher managed to track down several siblings still living in California.
"All of a sudden,” Evans says, "I had this big family out there. And all I had to do was pick up the phone and see if they wanted to talk to me.”
Carolyn Holm, the 10th and youngest child, was adopted by a physician in northern California. She hired a private investigator to track down her biological family 15 years ago, before her birth mother died.
"She was a very, very strong woman,” Holm said by telephone from her home in Redwood City.
The biological father was a musician, Holm said. Of the 10 siblings, at least two have died and one remains unaccounted for, Holm said.
But she said four siblings, including Holm, would be waiting to meet Evans when he travels to California this week.
"We’re all delighted and he will be very well-received,” Holm promised earlier. "He will find that his brothers and sisters are all wonderful people.”
She and Evans have gotten to know each other pretty well over the phone already.
"I haven’t stopped bugging her since I found out,” he said. "I guess that’s what family is for.”