Genealogy is a wonderful hobby. Discovering the truth about your past, about your family, about yourself. But when you are adopted, the obstacles that you must overcome to make these discoveries are many. Often, if you are lucky, you start with just a name, the name your birth family gave you neatly typed out on an adoption decree. And if you are really lucky you will have a less than common name making it easier to advance your search. I was one of the lucky ones. Not only did I have a name to start with I had a few good leads provided on my non-identifying information that helped me to actually start a family tree.
Being in the days before computers and the internet, information was found the old fashioned way: searching local cemeteries and combing through microfiche and old city directories at the library.
One of the first rules I learned quickly in my searches is when you need information from other people, never tell them you’re adopted. If you do you will find that doors quickly slam in your face. Friendly warm smiling people quickly take on a cold dark stare, like somehow you just insulted them. And in a few instances you are told outright that you don’t have a right to the information you are seeking before they dismissively turn around and walk away.
But despite a few set backs, I found my birth mother and her family after about six months of searching. However, my search would not end there. From our first meeting until our parting of ways nearly fourteen years later she would never reveal who my birth father was or anything about his family. So, while the search was technically on, there was no name or starting place like there had been the first time around.
My first true break did not come until about a year ago when I was contacted by someone on ancestry.com. This person kept running into my family tree on my French side of the family. He wanted to know if I would be interested in taking a DNA test to see where we were related in our family trees. As I read his emails I noticed his careful choice of words, similar to something I might have written while looking for information on my birth mother. When I asked if he was adopted, he replied that he was. As it turns out he wasn’t as lucky as I was. He didn’t have a name or any useful non-identifying information to start with. His way of searching was by testing his DNA with various family finder services and trying to match or add his results to his current family trees. As I considered his request I didn’t know if testing my DNA would be helpful for me or not. But, I figured it might be helpful to him, figuring out how we were related could help him narrow down his tree enough to point him in the right direction.
It took about six weeks to finally receive the results from my DNA tests. As it turns out I found quite a few second to fifth cousins on my French side of the family tree, including my fellow adoptee who talked me into the DNA test. What I also found was a starting point to finding my elusive birth father by finding a third cousin on the Irish side of my family tree which had until now remained a total blank. As I continue to sift through the enormity of his family tree, I also continue to find more DNA matches as new people test. Along the way, while networking with some of my closer matches, I find more fellow adoptees that are also searching for the truth to their roots. In working together collectively with the information that we have, we each hope to find the answers that we have long sought after.
If you are interested in furthering your family tree research with DNA testing you can visit either 23andme or FamilyTreeDNA online. It’s amazing what you might find.