After years of searching, a man finds his family
DANVILLE — For most of his adult life, 49-year-old Sean Patrick Adams had no family and no place to truly call home.
The New York singer-songwriter was born in Dallas, where he lived for a short while with his mother, Patricia Adams, and spent time as an infant with his father's side of the family.
Before his first birthday, Adams' mother took him to the Panama Canal Zone to be with her adoptive parents, who eventually adopted and raised him. By his early adult years, his adoptive parents had died and his mother was no longer in the picture. Adams had no contact with his father, Frankie Leon Taylor, and no memory — or information — about his father or his father's family, except that he was born in Dallas.
"I didn't know much of anything," said Adams, who grew up with his mother's maiden name, and at 16, had returned to the U.S. His adoptive father was a canal zone police officer.
Whether his adoptive family had information or not about the Taylor side of the family, Adams said, they never shared it with him.
He had some contact with his mother through the years, but she wouldn't give him information about his father's family, and his own searches continually resulted in dead ends. Even a genealogist's help failed to turn up solid information.
"I tried to never give up hope, but it wasn't looking good," said Adams, who had no idea that he had an uncle, Tom Taylor, who was looking too.
A retired assistant police chief in Carrollton, Texas, north of Dallas, Taylor developed an interest in family history as a child by listening to his grandfather tell stories about the family.
Through the years he worked on family history, not only piecing together the family tree but searching for family members, like Adams, with whom they had lost touch. When Taylor started his own family, he got more interested in Taylor history, and even more interested as he neared retirement.
"The chase is fun," said Taylor, who had searched the longest for his nephew Sean Adams in addition to three of Adams' half brothers, all younger, including Justin Taylor, 30, who was born and raised in Danville and Shannon Shilow Taylor, who was born in Rantoul in 1979.
"I had been trying to find Sean for about 48 years, and the other boys as I could, but I had to make a living," said Tom Taylor, who had a relationship with Justin when he was younger, but lost touch until several years ago when Justin called to re-establish the relationship.
Tom Taylor saw Shannon after he was first born, but not since and is still searching. His efforts to find him through the boy's mother's family have been rejected, Taylor said. Taylor also had contact with the fourth nephew, Kevin Todd Taylor, off and on through the years, but eventually lost touch with him, too.
All four boys have different mothers, and Tom Taylor said his brother "was not settled," and worked mostly in construction, but sometimes as a cook.
"He was everywhere," he said.
And Adams was his brother's firstborn, but all Tom Taylor had was what he thought was his name, Sean Taylor, his birth date and his mother's maiden name.
Tom Taylor's mother (Adams' grandmother) had kept in touch with Adams' adoptive parents by mail for a few months after his mother took him to Panama in the early '60s, but the correspondence from Panama stopped, Taylor said, and they lost track of the boy.
Adams' grandmother, who died in 1978, struggled with losing the family's first grandson, Taylor said.
"It almost destroyed her emotionally. She was very distressed about it most of her life," he said.
"She was traumatized over losing him as all of us were, but it struck her particularly hard."
About 13 years ago, Taylor hung up his badge and began devoting a lot more time to his searches, delving into the Internet and traveling to libraries and courthouses in other states to pore over records and piece together family history.
Late one February night, sitting at the computer, Taylor decided to search for Adams using his mother's maiden name rather than Taylor.
That brought up a short biography, on a musical-artist website, about a Sean Patrick Adams, a singer-songwriter, living in New York, who was born in Dallas and grew up in the Panama Canal Zone.
"It seemed too coincidental to me," said Taylor, who messaged Adams through Adams' Facebook fan page, giving him the details he had about his nephew.
Back in New York, Adams had only recently started putting information about himself online and didn't see the Facebook message right away. But when he did, he knew that if it wasn't a joke, it could be what he had been hoping for his whole life. He messaged Taylor his phone number, who didn't get the message until late one night and called Adams at 12:30 a.m. New York time.
The two talked for three hours and traded enough information to know their searches were over.
"I got the goose bumps," Adams said. "I almost fell out of my chair crying."
Adams said that although he was disappointed to learn his father died in 2005, he had some closure knowing that and was excited to know he was speaking to his uncle, who told him he had three half brothers in addition to more extended family in the Dallas area.
Adams called his brother Justin Taylor in Danville the next day.
"I freaked out," said Justin Taylor, who owns the downtown business Hoarder's Paradise at the corner of North and Vermilion streets.
Justin had known his whole life that he had three half brothers but had never known any of them. He bought Adams a bus ticket, and the two brothers met in Danville for the first time in February, and their uncle came up to join in the reunion.
Justin said there's definitely "something in the blood," referring to similarities in looks, actions and personalities between him and his brother.
"It's weird to me," said Justin, who just got back to Danville last week after he and Adams spent some time in Texas, meeting extended family and visiting graves of their father and other relatives.
"It's really fun. I'm having a good time, getting to meet Sean after all these years," said Tom Taylor, who added that when he looks at his two nephews, he sees his brother, whom he misses very much.
Justin Taylor and Adams both hope to track down their other two brothers and hope they, too, want to establish relationships with them.
As an adopted child, Adams said, what's important is finding the truth and not that Dad was a NASA scientist.
"And that was the case for me," he said. "There's good and bad in all of us."
Adams is planning to move from New York to Dallas to be near his family and might change his name from Adams to Taylor after all these years. Justin tried to convince him to move to Danville to be near him, but now Justin is thinking about moving to Texas some day.
Adams said finding his family is one of the "coolest things" that's ever happened to him. He said he's been on his own for a long time, not really knowing where home was and then by some sort of divine intervention this happens a little more than a month ago.
His uncle believes there may have been some divine intervention as well the night that he decided to try the name Adams after so many searches for Sean Taylor.
"It was such a coincidence that I happened to change his last name on the Internet inquiry. He told me (later) that he hadn't even been on the Internet for very long, and the biography piece had not been on there very long, so even if I had changed it to Adams previously, he wouldn't have come up. It had to be somebody was doing something to help us," said Tom Taylor, whom Justin and Adams have asked why he cared so much about finding them.
"I think family is probably the most important thing that I live for. I mean, what else is there?" Tom Taylor said.
Adams said it's been a crazy journey since that phone call from his uncle a little more than a month ago.
"It's been great," he said. "It replaces a real big hole in my heart that I never knew how to fill. And I have a place to call home."