This film got 4 Academy Award nominations
and is based on a book by Martin Sixsmith.
Obviously well regarded, the true story based on the book by Sixsmith, that was up for Academy Awards such as Best Picture and Best Actress (Judi Dench), is a heartbreaker.
Philomena Lee was an Irish girl sent away to a Catholic charity run by the Sisters of the Good Sheppard to have her illegitimate baby. Many of these girls were from very poor families and very underage. Some did not survive childbirth. Let me be clear that as portrayed some of these nuns have a punishing attitude towards women who got pregnant without marriage, in Philomena's case a first love, but it goes without saying in the film that some of them were probably pregnant by rape and incest. That Philomenia had been searching for the son she gave up and her son, also for her, and that these sisters LIED to both of them, keeping the separation between them, and that by the time Philomenia and Sixsmith did identify her son, it was too late because he had died young of AIDS is especially horrifying.
Yet, I need to tell my readers that this experience is not ALWAYS the experience with Catholic Archives and nuns or members of Holy Orders, even as I have waited many years for a branch of the Sisters of the Good Sheppard's to respond to a request. I've also asked the Catholic Archives to intervene with them for me without success. Simply, their numbers have dwindled down and they do not have the time to look up old records for me, and I frankly do not think I could speed anyone up with the promise of unasked for pay, not even if it was a significant donation. The attitude that the nun in the film has was not just her own, but often the attitude of the culture at the time. Perhaps Irish Catholicism was especially punishing. Certainly you would not find our present Pope Francis with such an attitude.
But as a genealogist I was watching the film hoping for more clues as to how exactly Philomenia's son was found by Sixsmith, and I think I'm going to read the book in case there are some research lessons to be gained by reading it. All films tend to cut through a lot of information in order to get the essence of the story down. I watched a special feature about the real Philomena Lee. and I realized how courageous she was to let her story be told in a journalistic article written by Sixsmith. I take it that funding the travel that he did with this woman may have been funded by a news business and that he was under pressure to reveal what happened, even as Philomenia had mixed feelings about doing so. She also has forgiveness, which for her is healing.
For those of you who are BIrth Parents or Adopted Children looking to find one another, the various REGISTRIES where you sign up to be matched are probably the first thing to do, and can be quickly successful. Philomenia as portrayed had her mind made up and her head on straight during the search, even as she encountered terrible disappointment; many of you need to be in therapy to deal with the search. I say that because it is not a genealogists place to be leaned on to the point of having to play therapist or be a persons great support through this process and I've had searchers waver and cancel on me unable to handle the process.
Depending on where you live, what COUNTY and STATE you were given up for adoption, various rules may apply. In some cases getting identifying information on a parent after a Closed adoption is near impossible BUT the registries cut through all that. A Closed adoption was sometimes how ALL adoptions were done and does not necessarily imply that the situation in which a child was born was especially bad. There are even families who simply gave children they knew they could not support up for adoption because they already had so very many!
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