A Marion woman's search for her biological father has turned into a mystery-- one she hopes readers might be able to help her solve.
Although Tara Colada has put a lot of effort over the last year into locating the man who fathered her, the story of her search is a short one that's been mired in dead ends, adoptions and aliases.
At 18, Colada learned that the man she believed to be her father wasn't biologically so, but for several years, she had no interest in tracking down the man who was. She had a name and that was about all she needed at the time.
“I just never had an interest, really, up until this point,” she said. “But now that I'm older, I'm really curious whose DNA I share and about other family that I could contact through finding out his genealogy.”
Last spring, after the coronavirus pandemic forced the doors of the Lincoln Theatre shut, the 33-year-old found herself out of work and ready to begin her search.
“I had just lost my job and had a lot of free time and decided that would be the perfect time to explore and investigate and try to figure out who my biological father was.”
At that point, Colada knew her father's name was Doug Anderson. And she knew that in 1986, he lived with another man in a B-building apartment at Severt Hills Apartments and that he'd worked at the Western Steer in Abingdon.
But that information led her nowhere. Neither housing nor employment records were kept that far back.
So, she did what so many others have done to try to track down biological family: she took a DNA test.
“I took the 23andMe test in March and got the results back in May and when I opened the results, the one thing I had in my mind was 'I am going to know who my biological father is. It's just going to pop up, I'm going to know who he is and I'm going to know everything,'” she said.
To her disappointment, the test didn't turn up any parental matches. But, it did lead her to discover another close relative-- an older half-brother who lives in Maryland.
“It didn't even cross my mind that I might have brothers and sisters out there in the world,” she said.
Colada's brother, Michael Moon, had also registered with the genetic testing company in hopes of locating his father. The two were excited to learn of one another and began exchanging what little information they had about their father.
That's where the siblings hit a snag.
Colada had known her father's name to be Doug Anderson, but Moon knew his father to be Robert Holland.
“We were kind of like, 'well, this is weird, because my mom told me a different name,'” Colada said.
“At first, I was like, well maybe my brother knew about this Robert Holland, but maybe it wasn't the same person.”
But, they were able to confirm that Doug Anderson and Robert Holland were one in the same through an old Polaroid photograph Moon's maternal grandmother had given him.
Colada, who'd never known what her father looked like, showed the Polaroid to her mother.
“He sent it to me and that was the first time I'd ever seen him,” she said. “I showed it to my mom and she said, 'Oh, yeah, that's him.'”
From there, Colada and Moon tried to piece together what few details they had of their father's mysterious life.
They knew that Moon's mother had met Robert Holland in Florida. The pair traveled back together to Maryland where she lived and they dated for about two years around 1979 and 1980. While in Maryland, Holland lived in Greensboro with Moon's mother and worked at a furniture store called Gerardi Bros Furniture in Denton.
Moon's family told Colada that Holland kind of fell off the radar around the time Moon was born in 1980.
The siblings have a huge gap in their timeline between the time Holland went off the radar in Maryland in 1980 and Doug Anderson showed up in Marion around 1986.
Colada's mother met Anderson at her best friend's wedding. Held in the backyard of her friend's apartment at Severt Hills, several neighbors attended, including Anderson and his roommate who lived next door. The two hit it off and dated for about a year, planning to have a child and live a life together. Colada's mother told her Anderson often talked of wanting to move away with her, but she had two older children and didn't want to uproot them.
Before Colada was born, however, the relationship between her parents soured and the two parted ways. At her baby shower, Colada's father sent her mother roses and one last plea to leave with him, but she had already moved on. That was the last her mother heard from him.
Her mother later married the man she'd met while she was pregnant, and he took on the role of Colada's father until they divorced when she was four years old.
Not too unlike her biological father, Colada, whose legal last name is Henderson, took on the new last name when she was in high school.
“I just felt weird having a person's name that I really didn't have a strong connection with,” she said, noting that now that she knows the man wasn't really her father, it seems more fitting that she have her own last name.
Now that she's in the thick of her search, she can't even really be sure what her last name should have been. It could have been Anderson. Maybe Holland. Or, maybe it should have been something else entirely.
Her mother knows, at the very least, that Doug Anderson's paychecks from the Western Steer were written out to that name. She'd seen them with her own eyes.
Doug Anderson didn't talk much about his life with Colada's mother, she said, and Robert Holland seemed to have been just as unforthcoming with Moon's family. One similarity the two women learned from him was that he was from England, though he didn't have an accent.
The secretiveness, the name change, the bouncing around the coast make Colada's imagination run wild.
“For him to be traveling the way he was and for him to be so secretive and be using alias names. . . .Who was he? Was he in the military? Was he a hit man? Why did he have two names? He could have had more than two names. We don't know.”
She's searched public records under both names about as far as she can, she said. She's dug around in courthouse records, checked listings in old phone books, and even asked former bartenders who might have had memorable interactions with him around the time he was in the area. Employment records for the now defunct Western Steer and housing records from the Marion Redevelopment and Housing Authority don't go near as far back as the 80s, so Colada has been unable to find a trace of her father.
Since their initial DNA tests, Colada and Moon have also taken several others in hopes of finding family on the other databases. Colada has also hired a private investigator and a genealogist to aide in their search.
“I think it's just important that we make those connections,” she said.
Without her interest in finding her biological father, she'd have never learned about her brother, she said. Since their connection, the two have grown close and have built a good relationship. Discovering one another has also motivated them to continue their journey.
“There could be more out there, so even if I don't find my father, I'm finding other family, and family is really important to me and building those relationships with people before we get too old and it's too late.”
So far, the search has come up empty. They've had several distant relative matches on the DNA databases, most in England, but even those turned into dead-ends since most had been adopted and don't know their own biological families.
Colada's genealogist recently contacted a genealogist in England who they hope can pull records there to find some clue to move forward.
“I'm really just not sure where to go from here,” she said “They start working on a family tree and it ends up going nowhere because of all of the adoptions and mysteries and everything. We don't even really have a name to go by. It's hard to even start the process. It's like, where do you begin?”
Colada has come across a few people who lived at the Marion apartment complex at the same time her father did. Some remember him and his roommate, she said, but can't recall any details about them. After so many years, even her mother couldn't remember his roommate's name. Colada believes learning the name of the man her father lived with could prove helpful in her search.
She hopes someone might recognize her father from the Polaroid. He'd have been about six years older when he lived in Marion and Colada's mother told her he had longish, graying curly hair at that time. Colada estimates he'd now be in his 70s if he is still living.
Colada and Moon have set up an email account for tips anyone might have to aide in their search. Anyone with information is asked to email them at email@example.com.