Real Name: Unrevealed, possibly Ruth Haverman and Robert Wilson
Case: Lost Family
Location: New York
Details: In 1944, Joseph M. "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. For reasons unknown, 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. His birth mother's name was Ruth Haverman. She apparently lived at 677 Lexington Avenue in New York City. However, when he questioned the home's owner, they 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, Joe discovered that Charles had corresponded regularly with an adoption agent named Bessie Bernard. While looking through the archives, he discovered that Bernard had been arrested for baby-selling in 1949. Florence confirmed that Joe had been sold to them by Bernard through a black-market baby operation. He 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). She 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 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 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 believes that he may have been born in either New York or Florida.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as part of the April 8, 1992 episode. Other cases of black market adoptions include: The Children of Georgia Tann, The Children of Ethel Nation, and The Parents of Gale Samuels.
Results: Solved. Joe later moved to New York and became a psychotherapist. He now helps other people with issues related to adoption. In 2013, he decided to do DNA testing through Ancestry.com and was able to get a match to two maternal first cousins, Karen and Mel. Sadly, he learned that his birth mother, Ruth Braverman Kanaryk, had died on April 12, 1987, at the age of seventy. However, he has since been reunited with Karen, Mel, and several other relatives, including his younger half-brother Robert.
- Joe's Website - Adoption Healing
- Joe Soll's story at PBS Finding your Roots
- That Arc Bends Toward Truth, Too - March 2, 2014
- Ruth Braverman at Find a Grave