A Genealogist’s Family Story: A Blind Baby & Kind Strangers

This is a bittersweet family story, about an abandoned blind baby and the kindness of strangers. But it is also an interesting story about family history research, telling the tale of a genealogist finding the facts about her grandmother.

Melissa Archibald wrote us about the brick wall on her family tree involving her grandmother—and how she solved it.

She wrote:

“I wanted to thank you for posting the historic newspapers from Saginaw, Michigan. I thought you’d want to know how GenealogyBank solved my problem. My Grandmother was an abandoned baby and I did a search one day under the terms “Sunshine Baby,” Saginaw and blind. The only thing I knew about my Grandmother was her nickname “Sunshine Baby,” she was born in Saginaw, and that she was blind. I had been searching for 15 years to try and find out the truth about my Grandmother who was abandoned but also blinded because of it. One amazing service you have. I found her.

“Thanks again for making these papers available online. My Grandmother had seven children who all wondered about the mystery surrounding the birth of their Mother and your service has answered all of our questions.”

Here is what she found doing genealogy research in GenealogyBank:

The story of her grandmother, an abandoned baby—a sympathetic story that touched people’s hearts in Saginaw, Michigan, and around the country. The Sunshine Society, dedicated to helping blind children, had a chapter in Saginaw. They put out the call for the public and for “every school child in Saginaw [to] give one penny to the Sunshine fund for the blind baby.”

blind baby abandoned, Saginaw News newspaper article 25 November 1904

Saginaw News (Saginaw, Michigan), 25 November 1904, page 11

But, who was this baby? Could the parents be found?

The old newspapers give the brutal details.

It was a grim day when Grace Vergeson put her newborn daughter into a suitcase and left her in the “closet in the house where she had been working.” We don’t know what she was thinking. Was it post-partum depression? Did she think the baby was already dead? Were others involved? We don’t know all the reasons or circumstances, but we do know that the baby was not discovered for three days. By then she was “totally blind as a result” of not having had proper medical care.

Mother's Cruel Act, Grand Rapids Press newspaper article 19 November 1904

Grand Rapids Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 19 November 1904, page 2

The young mother soon “signed release papers relinquishing all claim on the child,” turning the guardianship of her child over to the Sunshine Society.

Gave Up Her Babe, Flint Journal newspaper article 25 November 1904

Flint Journal (Flint, Michigan), 25 November 1904, page 4

A brutal story, brightened by the kindness of the members of the “Sunshine Society,” and the fact that the blind baby went on to have a wonderful life, marrying and raising seven children.

It is almost impossible to find the parents of an abandoned child. Melissa had been searching for the answers for over 15 years—and that patient research paid off in the old newspaper archives at GenealogyBank.

 

 

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Written by Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp is the Director of Genealogy Products at GenealogyBank. Tom Kemp is an internationally known librarian and archivist – he is the author of over 35 genealogy books and hundreds of articles about genealogy and family history.

He previously served as the Chair of the National Council of Library & Information Associations (Washington, DC) and as Library Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

An active genealogist, he has been working on his own family history for 47 years. With the rapidly growing online archives at GenealogyBank – it is a great day for genealogy!

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