By Meg O’Neil
William DeVogue grew up with one goal in mind: to find his birth parents. His journey has taken him 35 years.
At face value, his story is similar to those of other adoptees. But how the Portsmouth resident says he found his mother in 2009, and eventually learned of his biological father, is anything but ordinary.
Born in Woonsocket in the spring of 1964, DeVogue was given up for adoption when he was 10 months old, eventually adopted by a Middletown family shortly after he turned three. While growing up in a not-so-happy environment, DeVogue constantly pressed his adoptive parents for information about his origins.
Finally, when he was 15, DeVogue’s mother handed him a small plastic bag containing a photograph taken when he was six months old, a lock of hair, and a baptismal certificate.
With the certificate in hand, DeVogue began the arduous task of tracking down the parents that he never knew, encountering many roadblocks and dead ends along the way.
In 1992, he got a big break. The baptismal certificate led him to the name Eugene Michael Procyszyn. Scouring through phonebooks and records, DeVogue found Procyszyn’s number listed in California.
After placing the call, DeVogue was elated to hear Procyszyn pick up on the other end. After a short discussion about his mission to find his parents, DeVogue asked him: “Are you my father?”
Procyszyn answered, “No, I am not your father, but I have an idea of who is.”
DeVogue quickly realized that there was a fascinating history behind his biological parents.
Talking on the phone for several more minutes, Procyszyn revealed that he did know DeVogue’s mother was a woman named Anita “Tina” Grace DeVogue, but had no idea as to her whereabouts.
According to Procyszyn, he and Tina met in New York City's Greenwich Village in the early 1960s with dreams of making it as folk singers. Rubbing elbows with those that would go on to become the voices of the generation, Tina and Procyszyn became friends and collaborators with other like-minded artists. The two took part in all that the early sixties had to offer; addiction to drugs ran rampant, and both Tina and Procyszyn could not escape their grasp.
After going their separate ways for a short time, Tina returned to Procyszyn in the fall of 1963. This time, she was pregnant. Tina claimed that he was the father, but the timing did not add up correctly. Procyszyn decided that the two had to leave the Village for their own well-being, eventually relocating to Woonsocket, where his parents lived.
After DeVogue was born in May 1964, Tina and Procyszyn tried to care for the young baby, but with no money and still addicted to drugs, Tina dropped off the 10-month-old baby at an orphanage, and Procyszyn never heard from or saw Tina again.
Now armed with the name of his birth mother, DeVogue once again scoured every record and phone book he could find, searching for any combination of his mother’s name.
“Anxiety built inside of me for years,” DeVogue says. “Time went by, and there was this inner drive that I had to find her.”
The advent of the Internet made searching for Tina somewhat easier but also more costly as DeVogue hired Internet detectives and searched online databases that continued to turn up nothing.
In early 2009, he finally got a hint from one of the last places he imagined: Facebook, the world’s most popular website.
In creating multiple Facebook accounts using both his birth name and his adopted name, DeVogue received a short message a week later from a man in Pennsylvania, who simply wrote, “I see we are looking for the same person.” After a phone call, the man said he knew Tina from Greenwich Village but had no idea of her whereabouts. His closing words to DeVogue were: “Look in Boston.”
The very next day, DeVogue searched through records at the Massachusetts Department of Vital Statistics, and after hours of searching, found a marriage certificate from 1972 with the names Tina DeVogue Voyes and Paul Cohen. A cross-reference search showed that Cohen was still paying taxes at the address listed.
Going against the advice of every legal opinion he had received, DeVogue walked up to the decrepit three-family home in Jamaica Plain in November 2009. Ringing the doorbell, an old man answered the door, asking DeVogue what he wanted. DeVogue answered: “I am looking for Tina DeVogue Voyes and if this is the right Tina, she is my mother.” The old man responded, “You must be William.”
Upon entering the apartment, DeVogue, now 48, saw his mother for the first time. She was frail, her hair thinning and her body ravaged by years of drug abuse. The gentle hug between the two is what DeVogue says he had been waiting for his whole life.
Now driving up from Portsmouth several times a month to visit, DeVogue has learned more about his mother, and as it turns out, it was not Procyszyn who is his father, but instead a rather famous folk singer.
Without getting tangled up in legal issues by stating his name, it turns out DeVogue’s biological father got his start in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s. He met Tina there and eventually became a voice of the 60s, with several iconic performances at the Newport Folk Festival.
Today, DeVogue has decided to dedicate his life to help other adoptees find their birth parents, and offer any support that they may need. Currently in the process of telling his own story with Newport writer and editor Janette van Gruisen, the book, called “Not Forgetting Tina,” will be released later this summer both in print and for e-readers. He also started The DeVogue Project, a fledgling online portal designed as a way for adoptees to not only learn the story of his search, but to also provide a helping hand.
Central to that mission is DeVogue’s message to adoptees: “Don’t give up … Keep looking and keep searching.”