MEDFORD LAKES, N.J. — Eric Schubert was curious to learn more about his grandparents, who died before he was born or when he was very young.
That inquisitive nature — coupled with extra time on his hands as a young child due to illness — led him to genealogy and he’s never let it go.
Now a junior at Shawnee High School in Medford, Schubert has run ES Genealogy since his freshman year, and while the business was started a few years ago, it actually was born years earlier when he was 9 or 10 and took his first baby steps in the field.
“I was super-prone to pneumonia when I was a kid, so I would be home for two or three weeks and I would just annoy my mom and sit on the couch and watch TV, nothing very productive,” said Schubert, 16. “She saw a commercial about genealogy and was like, ‘Why don’t you try that? That might be interesting.’ So I did it. I haven’t stopped. I think she regrets that a bit now.
“From Day 1, I knew what I was doing. It was like supernatural. It was pretty funny. I was super young. My grandparents all died when I was very young, so I thought it was kind of an interesting way to learn more about that and their families.”
The Medford Lakes resident estimates that he’s done more than 500 genealogy cases in the last few years, helping people “learn about their heritage”.
In New Jersey, a law took effect in January of 2017, which allows adopted people to obtain copies of their original birth certificates, and other related documents. In Pennsylvania, the law went into effect in November.
Lenape High School science teacher Kate DeSantis used Schubert’s services recently. Adopted as an infant, there was only a little information about her birth mother but that’s all Schubert needed.
“It took me about 12 hours,” he said. “New Jersey (adoption) records came out about a year ago. She tried and she couldn’t crack it. She called me. She was on the phone with her aunt the other day. She has four or five siblings. That’s just a few hours of my time.
“That made my week, made my year doing that because she had so many siblings.”
He said DeSantis had little information on her birth mother other than her name. He found a Virginia connection and that state had marriage records available for the years he needed.
“Her mother moved from Jersey to Virginia and got married,” he said. “It was luck there that I had a married name to go on. From there, I was able to find her obituary. She actually died last year. I hate finding that … For the most part, it’s a happy ending. Her mother is deceased, but she has four siblings, an aunt.”
DeSantis, who was raised in North Jersey, was amazed by Schubert’s thoroughness and efficiency. She’s in touch with two of her four siblings and has been in touch with her birth mother’s sister. She believes the four siblings are full siblings and that her birth mother married her birth father some years after giving her up for adoption.
“He’s an amazing kid,” DeSantis said. “He is like a wizard. He really is. He’s a great kid. What he does is unbelievable. He’s so fast and he digs up stuff like unbelievable.”
She was referred to him by a math teacher at Lenape, who had used Schubert to do her family genealogy.
“She was saying, ‘Oh, he’s great, he gets census records, draft cards, whatever he can find,'” she said. “I’ve always known I was adopted. My (adopted) mom is 90, my dad has passed away and I thought it would be nice to do a genealogy on my family. I emailed Eric and I said, ‘By the way while you’re at it, see if you can find anything on my birth mother.’ This kid, within a day came back. She passed away four days after my birthday last year.”
But Schubert kept updating DeSantis and saying, “‘Oh, but she had four kids and she had a sister who lived in Lumberton. Here’s the address. Wait they moved’.”
“It was crazy,” DeSantis said. “He was able to send me my birth mother’s obituary, and a photo of her that was from the obituary that he had dug up online.” He later put a scrapbook together for her.
She plans on visiting two of her siblings in North Carolina once school is out.
“Mind you, I’m 61 and I’ve been raised an only child,” she said. “Yeah, except I have four siblings. I believe that they are full siblings. I have a photo of one of my siblings. No DNA test required. The two of us look very similar.”
Schubert is drawn to adoption cases because his late paternal grandmother, born in 1941, was adopted. He began researching her birth family and the end result was an extended family they’ve been in touch with.
“I think it’s a supercool story in general with adoption stuff,” he said. “It took me about two to three years to crack her case. She has a half-brother over in Philly. So that turned out well. I do it for anyone who’s interested. I did it just for my family for a few years.
“It’s insane. I can’t really put it in in words. I don’t think a lot of 16-year-olds would say they’ve changed someone’s life. I love it. It’s just a unique way to interact with people and help people out and not all of them take that long. It really transforms someone’s life.”
Schubert uses the Internet to do searches. He gets copies of the U.S. Census, old newspapers articles, obituaries or important documents, such as marriage certificates, draft cards or birth records and combs through information.
He’s done plenty of cases for free, he said, but his fees run about $90 depending on the amount of work that goes into it or if he makes up digital files of the family tree or scrapbooks.
“I could do it 24/7,” said Schubert, who plans to attend college and pursue genealogy on the side. “There’s thousands of people who have no idea what to do with their birth certificates or birth records. I can search something for five or 10 minutes or a few hours and I can help this person totally transform their life. What’s better than that?”
“I think it’s important that people know the past and their beginnings.”
Information from: Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, N.J.), http://www.courierpostonline.com/