Karen Vigneault – Helping Native Adoptees Search

An Interview with Native Genealogist Karen Vigeault-MLIS (updated)


By Trace (DeMeyer) Hentz (adoptee-author)

I was so surprised and happy to receive a gracious email from Karen as I do know many adoptees who get stuck on doing genealogy when they open their adoptions and have a name or family story that says there is INDIAN BLOOD. Once you have a name, you have to connect a parent or grandparent to a tribal roll. This has been a real problem for many adoptees.

The following interview is with Karen Vigneault-MLIS. She is an academic research librarian, genealogist and historical researcher. Karen is a member of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel.

Karen, you have helped a few Native adoptees find their way back home.  Can you share an example?

Above is the link to pics and small article showing all that were involved in Patrick’s aka Quinton’s (his real name) story (see testimonial below).  It was interesting because in his case his mom was adopted as well… but she had passed… so we had to get both cases opened.  By opening his mothers file, we found more info on grandmothers last name. They spelled it wrong, which meant I had to try and decipher what it possibly matched on Aleutian records. I also called Alaska and spoke to people from villages in the area asking if they ever heard the name I thought it was.. In the end we found the enrollment documents on the tribal website.. Patrick filled them out, sent out the adoption records as well.. and ultimately was enrolled…

Opening records seems to be the biggest roadblock for many adoptees.  How have you opened or accessed records?

I myself did not open the records. I had connections along the way and the ADOPTEE did their part in requesting info and documents… It starts with going to family court and requesting to get the records opened.  Here in California we also have CILS (CA. Indian Legal Services)… which also has a form to petition to have your records opened.

You work with another person that trains judges on these types of cases. You have opened records to get the adoptee enrolled. How did you do this? 

(see above) It is important that adoptees cultivate relationships with people connected to the court system. 

Have you used the Indian Child Welfare Act to petition the courts?

Yes, definitely!

Do you recommend an adoptee use someone like you and could someone get in touch with you for your help?

Yes, I think working with someone who already has the experience navigating through websites/ documents and Indian country would make the task a little easier.

[I wish to thank Karen for this amazing offer to help adoptees in their search.]

NOTE:  The Canadian provinces all have post adoption registries. All work basically the same way. When Alberta (for example because it’s the one I am most familiar with) open their registry it was advertised that the records were being opened. In the advertising it was stated how an adoptee could access the records (there was a form), it also addressed the issue of a birth parent looking for a child and how one manages a non-release. Although the system is a bit backed up (it takes a while for the information to be sent) it seems to be working quite well. 

Since this article was published, Karen has successfully helped many friends who are Native adoptees find their ancestors and relatives. (see more testimonials at the bottom of this story)
Her hourly rate for genealogy is $40 (and can be negotiated.)
This offers hope for many of us! But remember that adoptees must do all the necessary steps to get their adoption records. She explained why this is so very important.

EMAIL: kumeyaayindian@hotmail.com



Hi, my name is Patrick Yeakey.  I am writing on behalf of Karen Vigneault.  I am a current tribal member with The Village of Afognak in Alaska.  I am an Alaskan native adoptee that has recently been reconnected with my people.  I have Karen to thank for this.  Because of her passion for helping others, and her hard work, Karen helped me in this unique situation.  I met Karen about six years ago.  After meeting, Karen became aware of my predicament. I was an Alaskan Native that was adopted out with virtually no way of reconnecting with my people. Karen, given her expertise in genealogy and her skills in networking, helped get my mother’s adoption records unsealed. This allowed us to trace my history back to Alaska and to my blood. What seemed impossible became a reality and I have Karen (and others) to thank for this feat. Over the years, I have witnessed Karen’s altruism in helping others find their way home.  Karen is making tribal family connections and working to get enrollment for native foster youth.

Patrick Yeakey, RN-BSN (who contributed his story in the anthology CALLED HOME: The Road Map.)


Cynthia Lammers on “Karen Vigneault – Helping Native Adoptees Search“:

Karen was key in helping me get names of my family! She is a wonderful caring woman who wants to help you if you need her! God bless you Karen and THANK YOU VERY MUCH! You have helped me open a new chapter in my life!

God Bless you and your work!

Cynthia Lammers, aka: Sherry Standing Soldier (contributed to the anthology Called Home: The RoadMap)













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