Patrick Madden, who was given up at birth in Dublin and adopted by an Irish American couple in New York, has recently discovered his long-lost Irish family and learned that he is the eldest of eight siblings.
Madden, who was raised as an only child in the Bronx by his adopted Irish father and Irish American mother, only learned about his birth family in Ireland last January at the age of 63.
Madden told IrishCentral that it was "no big surprise" when he learned that he was adopted because he didn't look anything like his adopted parents but said he did not have a birth certificate, which made it very difficult to find any information about his birth mother.
It also made it next to impossible for him to obtain an Irish passport, even though he was born in Ireland to Irish parents and subsequently raised by an adopted Irish father.
Madden said he spent 25 years having "doors slammed in my face at every turn" in his attempts to secure an Irish passport until he contacted a San Francisco attorney who was able to acquire a copy of his birth cert in January through back channels.
The discovery of his birth certificate uncovered a treasure trove of information, including his birth name, his maiden mother's name, and his birthday, which Madden nor his adopted parents had never known with certainty. It also revealed that Madden was born in Dublin (he had previously told people that he was born in Cork like his adopted father).
More importantly, however, the birth certificate also contained an address, which transpired to be for a private nursing home named St. Rita's in Dublin. St. Rita's was notorious at the time for operating a black market of baby adoptions.
Delving through 88 pages of Tusla records from St. Rita's, Madden and his wife Connie discovered another address, that of his birth mother's grandparents.
Out of hope rather than expectation, Madden sent a letter to the house explaining who he was and using his birth name but didn't expect to hear anything back as it had been 63 years and he was sure the property had changed hands.
However, he received a call the following Monday and said he froze when he heard an "old Irish woman" on the other end of the line, initially thinking that he was speaking to his birth mother.
The woman quickly informed him that she was not his birth mother but his second cousin, adding that his birth mother had died 20 years previously in 2003.
"She told me I had five brothers and sisters, I was the oldest of the six. I've come to learn that I was the oldest of eight. There were two other kids who were adopted," Madden told IrishCentral. "God bless her for having the courage to call up."
Madden spent time connecting with his newfound brothers and sisters over the next few weeks before flying over to Ireland to meet his family with his wife and two adult daughters.
Connie told IrishCentral that her husband had been frequently communicating with one of his brothers in the days leading up to the Irish trip, adding that they both received a huge surprise when the same brother met them at the arrival gate in Dublin Airport as a surprise.
"On the day we landed in Ireland and came through customs, I looked to my left and recognized a man from a photograph on Facebook. It was his brother waiting as a surprise. It was so emotional. What a feeling," Connie told IrishCentral.
The week that followed was a "whirlwind," Madden said.
"We had a great time. I met five of my brothers and sisters in total. Another guy is in Scotland and there's a sister in Surrey.
"The remarkable thing was that it was like 63 years vanished. I was home. I often felt homeless or I didn't feel attached or connected," Madden said, adding that there was always "something missing."
He added that he had been to Ireland on several occasions before discovering his birth family and said the most recent trip felt different because it was with his "blood."
Madden said his birth family was just as emotional about the unlikely reunion as he was.
"They felt so bad that I wasn't there all these years and I found that really hard to swallow. They were extraordinarily emotional. They were so happy to see me, it was like a missing link for them."
He said he also received his shock when he met his younger sister and discovered that she bears a remarkable resemblance to his eldest daughter, joking that she now knows what she will look like when she turns 55.
Madden has kept in constant contact with his family since the emotional reunion and said it has been a "truly remarkable experience".
"It was a long road to get to it, but the fact that we're there now and feel part of something is delightful."
"It was like we were together forever. I've never heard of anything like it."
He added that he hoped his story can inspire others to "be a pain in the ass and not take no for an answer" when trying to trace their family story.
"I kind of hope somebody might read about something like this and gain something from it."