I need your advice. I’ve hit a brick wall, and this time, I am not sure I should try and go further. Please let me know what you think.
Some of you may recall the mystery of Baby Rose Schoenthal, the daughter of Jacob Schoenthal and his wife Florence who appeared on the 1930 census in Atlantic City as their fifteen month old child, but then disappeared. She was not on the 1940 census; there was no death record for her in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, and she was not buried with Jacob and Florence or with her grandparents. She was not named as a survivor in Jacob’s will.
I was left concluding that either she had been adopted and thus had taken on a new name or had never even existed. I haven’t yet tried searching for adoption records because it does not appear that I have legal standing to do that, given that I am not Rose, her child, her parents, or any other close relative. I also am not sure where I should search: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or any of the other states in the country where a child might have been adopted. And even more to the point, petitions to unseal adoption records are intended to reveal the birth name of an adoptee. I can’t find any way to search for records of a birth child who was adopted if I don’t know the adoptive name.
I did, however, request a search of New Jersey’s birth records for 1928 and 1929, hoping that a birth certificate for a Rose Schoenthal would appear. I now have received the report back from New Jersey, and they had no birth certificate for a Rose Schoenthal born between January 1, 1928, and December 31, 1929. What does that mean? Well, it means either Rose was never born and the census report is just wrong. Or it means she was adopted and the birth certificate was changed to her adoptive name.
Which seems more likely? Since the census record is so specific—says she was 1 and 3/12, born in New Jersey, and gives her full name, Rose Maxine Schoenthal—I am inclined to think it was accurate (unless Jacob and Florence had an imaginary child a la Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?).
So that brings me back to the adoption possibility. Now I need to figure out how to search for an adoption when you know the birth name but not the adoptive name. I also have to consider whether I should try to find an adoption record. Rose could very well still be alive; she’d only be 86 or so. It feels inappropriate for me to invade her privacy, if she is in fact alive. I am inclined to let this one go.
What do you think? Should I leave well enough alone? Or should I pursue this further?