Kim Catford was born in Vietnam as Ha Van Tuan in February 1973, towards the end of the Vietnam War. At about 6 months of age, he was abandoned and taken to the Sancta Maria Orphanage in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).
50 years ago, in November 1973, he was adopted by the Catford family from South Australia. He was 9 months old at the time.
The Catfords already had 3 daughters of their own, but felt very strongly about adopting him, as they “longed to do something to be involved with helping alleviate some of the suffering” caused by the Vietnam War.
Kim says that he was lucky to be adopted by a warm and loving family. He looked noticeably different from the people around him, however, and sometimes this drew unwanted attention and racism, which was especially hard as a young child. Initially, Kim resented his adoption and just wanted to look like everybody else. However, as he matured, he became curious about his identity, his culture and his biological family.
Throughout his life Kim longed for any bit of information on his biological parents and family history, as he knew next to nothing about his background and biological beginnings. He was provided with a birth certificate with his mother’s name, his Vietnamese name, and an adoption contract. “Searching for lost family in Vietnam is very difficult due to the destruction of records and poor record-keeping,” he explains. “Many babies were given false identities to ensure they were adopted and to enable them to leave the country.”
Over the years, Kim made every effort to learn more about his heritage. He has visited Vietnam several times, including the Sancta Maria Orphanage, but found nothing that could lead him to his biological parents. During these visits he fell in love with Vietnam, the people, and culture. “The Vietnamese people were very kind and empathetic to my situation,” Kim says, “as more than 50,000 orphans were abandoned or adopted during the Vietnam war.”
He also had the aid of a local Vietnamese person to search for his birth mother. However, nothing was found.
Kim went on to start a family of his own: he’s been happily married to Katy for 26 years now, and the two have a daughter, India, who will soon turn 18.
Kim and Katy also have a “sponsor child” whose family they have been supporting through the Christina Noble Foundation for many years, and he has visited her while in Vietnam.
A free DNA kit via MyHeritage’s DNA Quest
In March 2023, MyHeritage announced another installment of DNA Quest, our pro bono initiative to provide DNA testing to adoptees to help them find their birth families. Kim heard about the project and decided to apply. “I have struggled with my identity and not knowing about my mother or father or if I have any siblings or other family,” he told us. “I also would like to know if I am full Vietnamese or mixed race, answering questions as to my heritage and origins.”
Kim was granted a free MyHeritage DNA kit as part of the program, and shortly after, in June 2023, he received his results.
His first big surprise was the Ethnicity Estimate: it showed that he is half Scandinavian, not half American, as Kim had assumed all his life.
The second surprise came a day or two later. Kim discovered a DNA match with a first cousin, Ninna Korsgaard from the U.S., and a first cousin once removed from Denmark — Kaj Norman Jensen. The two solved his life’s mystery and revealed to Kim, with great sensitivity, the identity of his birth father: Niels Korsgaard.
Suddenly part of a large Danish family
Niels was born in Denmark in April 1933. In 1951, he left for the United States, following in the footsteps of his two uncles to pursue the American dream. Kim says that according to social security records he found, a year later, in 1952, his father was drafted into the U.S. Air Force and stationed in France, Wyoming in the United States, Saigon, and briefly, in Germany. He served in the U.S. military for around 20 years, and in 1973, returned to Denmark. Kim isn’t sure whether his father ever knew about his existence, but he probably left Vietnam a few months after Kim was born.
Niels passed away many years ago, in 2005. “I was sad to learn that,” Kim admits, “but it is still great to finally know his name and find out about him and his family.”
Since Niels was one of 10 siblings, Kim suddenly found himself part of a large Danish family that he hopes to meet one day. None of them had known that Kim existed, which suggests that his father also knew nothing.
For Kim the journey has just begun. “I am still wanting to find out if my biological mother Ha Thi Ky is still alive and possibly locate her. I would like to find more information about my father’s family, life and military career and meet or talk to anyone who may have known him or served with him during his time in Vietnam.”
“This has been a massive discovery for me,” says Kim. Given that he had no information on his father, he believed he was more likely to find information about his mother — whose name appears on his birth certificate.
“It has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for me, not knowing my biological family, always wondering if they were alive and what they look like,” says Kim. “I would like to thank MyHeritage and the DNA Quest program for supporting this incredible initiative for adoptees to find some answers to questions and identify our biological family.”
“For some reason, I knew DNA was always an option, but I was always mindful and scared of going down this track and finding someone but being rejected again or just scared of what may eventuate. It was really me wanting to find out with some accuracy of my actual ethnicity for myself and my daughter. I am glad to finally know these answers now.”
Many thanks to Kim for sharing his story with us! If you’ve also made an incredible discovery via MyHeritage, we’d love to hear about it. Please send it to us via this form or email us at email@example.com.
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Source: My Heritage