About

When I was 43 years old, my mom told me, with a shaking voice and tears streaming down her face, that she was not the woman who gave birth to me. For three years she had resisted the pleas of my half-sister, who wanted me to know that our mutual birth mother had died of cancer. Finally running out of patience, she insisted that my mom tell me, or she was going to contact me and tell me herself.
I love my mom, and it broke my heart to see her so torn up, explaining the strange circumstances of my birth and adoption. But as the truth sank in, I was filled with a deep sense of relief, and even–dare I say it–joy.
The revelations of that morning started me on a journey to find out all I could about my birth family and my genetic inheritance. I spent hours staring at the album of family photos my half-sister sent me, looking for likenesses. After that hunger was sated, I searched the backgrounds in the pictures for clues to habits and personalities.
Genealogy, which I’d always dismissed as a game for insecure people who wanted an aristocratic pedigree, suddenly consumed, and continues to consume, much of my free time.
And I’ve taken all three of the major DNA tests on the market.
But here’s the rub: I don’t know why I feel these feelings, and why I do these things. Don’t I already know who I am? Am I not the same person I was before? Why does this information change my sense of myself? Should it? How does it change my already-complicated relationship with the family who raised me? Should it?
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I write about ancestry, genetics, family, and identity. I talk to scientists about what we currently can and can’t know via our DNA. I ask psychologists about the impact of adoption, and the importance (or not) of biological family groups. I follow the growing field of behavioral neuroscience, that examines the intersection of mind and biology.
And most importantly, I make this research accessible to other people like me, people who are powerfully–and yet still mysteriously–driven to try to understand ourselves through our ancestral past.

8 Comments

  1. I did not meet my father until I was 18. I was happy to meet him and even happier that he was not part of my growing up years. It satisfied a deep longing in me, but I feel no regrets about him not being in my life. But the genetic stuff is VERY I threshing to me also, as he and one of his son’s (my half brother) and his son’s three child were/are all probably Asperger’s. Interestingly, my father’s father was the child of a large Irish family in the South with too many mouths to feed and was adopted by a well-off family with two daughters and no son. As much as I would like to trace his family through genealogy, there were no records kept at that time. Everything was very informal. Also, my mother gave up a baby for adoption five years before me because she was in college, had no way to support the child, and her parents threatened to disown her. So much heartache for my mother. I sometimes wish I could find that child, but all the records are sealed.

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    1. I too am fascinated by genetics and genealogy, and also by the fact that so many find it fascinating! What are we looking for; what are we learning?

      Your father’s father’s story does sound typical for the time. Even in the early 1960s, when I was born, there were a lot of informal adoptions going on, and a lot of “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” alterations of birth certificates for people with the right leverage. If my mom hadn’t told me herself, there would have been absolutely no paper trail for me to follow.

      Thanks for sharing your family’s story. My heart breaks for the surrendering mothers too.

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  2. Hello Rose: I found you on Scribophile and am so happy you have a blog I can follow. 🙂

    I am an adoptive mom and like hearing from adoptees so I can get a better idea of what is going on inside of them. I am grateful adoption is more open than it has been in the past, though we still have a ways to go.

    I look forward to reading your posts.

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    1. Hi Lynn! I’ve been a bad blog hostess; sorry for not replying sooner. So good to hear that you’re interested in adoptee issues as an adoptive mom. That will go a long way toward mitigating any issues that might come up, I’m sure.

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  3. I recently obtained the results of my parent’s DNA, and like you, I was floored at the results. My sense of identity- all the built-up myths one has created, altered forever with the opening of an email. I am 44, and as I read your posts, I identified. My family’s secret- while not as recent or personal as yours- shook us to our core. So know I’m scouring the lists of cousin suggestions.

    Good prose, my 4th – 6th cousin, with a high likelihood of a match! Wonder how we are kin?

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    1. Hi, M–wonder how I missed your comment? Nice to hear from you, 4th-6th cousin. If you’d like a little sleuthing help, send me an email or a private message, and let me know which DNA testing service I can find you on.

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  4. It was a match on Ancestry- and I’m still dumbfounded these many months later. What is your email address? I’d love to sleuth! (We ARE cousins)

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