Tag Archives: Family Searches

Thoughts on Searching

My family has long been interested in genealogy searches. Several members, including my mother, enjoy trying to find members of the extended family tree, trying to trace our lineage as far back as they can. This can be challenging given that African Americans were counted as property for so long in the US. Despite this reality, it remains an enjoyable exercise in unearthing our history.

More recently, my immediate family has gotten into the DNA testing game. My parents took the test and found all kinds of connections. Most stunningly, the test revealed the existence of a close relative none of us knew about.

We are all in the process of learning about each other, bonding and attaching, figuring out how we feel about all this new found information. The discovery has prompted a rush of emotions that can hardly be articulated as anything but overwhelming.

I had the pleasure of meeting my relative this weekend; at one point in the conversation I asked him what he thought about all of *this,* this being the discovery, how it fit into his life, how he’s managing all of this new information.

He acknowledged that it was overwhelming, but that he’d been wondering and curious for so many years. He had kind of resolved to himself that some questions would never been answered, but to have them answered and to experience acceptance was more than he could have imagined. It was all still settling in.

This wasn’t an adoption story, but I thought a lot about adoptees as he was talking to me. I like to consider myself an advocate of the adoptee voice, but honestly at that moment, that voice and the needs that come with it resonated so deeply within me.

People want to know who they are and where they come from. There’s a desire to connect somewhere, biologically. There’s a need to understand their origin, their history. This is why they search. They have questions, more questions than I could ever dream of.

I listened as my new family talked about wondering who they looked like, who their people were, did they have mannerisms like anyone related to them.

I watched him and marveled at how much he looked like us; I cried when he spoke because it was like listening to another close family member—nearly tonally identical. The mannerisms were so similar too, and yet, he never knew any of us.

It’s more than nurture; it’s nature, and it’s undeniable.

As I tried desperately to stop staring and focus on listening to my new extended family, I thought of all of the adoptees whom I have listened to, including my beautiful daughter Hope. We’ll be traveling to see her side of our family in a few weeks. I was reminded how important those connections were. I imagined how she must have felt when it seemed that she would never have contact with them again. I smiled when I think about how I look at her face and see her birth family. I watch her grow and how her body shape is morphing to look like her aunts. I see her genes coursing through her.

The search for birth families must be difficult. The call to search, the decision to heed the call, the desire and wonder to know what you’ll find at the end of the search and how it will make you feel. It must be so powerful, scary, joyous, heartbreaking and all consuming.

I know that sometimes it’s something feared by adoptive parents, but it shouldn’t be feared at all. We have puzzle pieces that we need to gather. This experience, which is still developing, has provided me with a greater sensitivity to understanding an adoptee’s compelling need to know and to seek out their families of origin.

I feel better about my own search for Hope’s birth mother last year. I told Hope I’d found her; she said she didn’t want the information. She might one day and I’ll be ready to give it to her. Supporting her desire to know is important, and it’s no threat to me and my relationship with my daughter. I knew it was important before, but now sitting in the midst of a different, yet similar situation has me doubling down on the importance of supporting adoptee searches for birth families.

Certainly, adoptees don’t need me wandering in their space and co-signing on their voice, but I hope that other adoptive parents understand and are more supportive of their sons and daughters who choose to seek out their people.

The siren of biology does matter, and our hearts must be big enough to help our families answer if we can.

*Featured Image: giphy.com

Searching for Self

The search for information about Hope’s family started a year ago for me. I starting digging for numerous reasons, I suppose, but mostly I was curious about how this kid ended up in my home instead of with her parents  or with some extended family.  I just couldn’t understand how somebody in her family couldn’t make a kinship adoption work.

Honestly, it is still a mystery to me on some levels, even if I now know–intellectually at least–why.

I poked around with the help of a friend on Hope’s father’s side of the family.  I had more information about him; I knew where he was from; I also had a better sense of who he was because Hope talks about him a lot.

All I have about Hope’s mother is her full name, nationality and a scattering of information in the adoption disclosure records.  Hope and her mother were separated when Hope was very young; there aren’t many memories to go on.

Hope has been wanting to get an account on Ancestry-dot-com. I’ve declined repeatedly.  Lots of reasons for that.  I know that as thirsty for information as Hope can be, that showing her the records I have managed to acquire over the last year, in what I hope is a safe, controlled environment still triggered some emotional tailspins.  And while that’s true, it’s is hard to say no to a kid who just wants to know who she is. Add to that the developmental teen years when identity development is so front and center, well…

This weekend Hope and I visited some family; at some point in my trip one of my sisters was cruising around looking for family on Ancestry.  It was a fascinating process, tedious too, uncovering some family history, maybe a secret or two and just seeing how far back we could go. I noted my own sister’s curiosity about our family.  Earlier in the day I had taken Hope to meet a family member who still lives in the same county, on the same property near where my mother was raised.  I spent a lot of my childhood there playing the fields, picking grapes and berries, listening to box fans whirl while propped in windows during the summer. These experiences in these places with my family are very much a core to who I am.

And just like that, unexpectedly, the tail end of Spring Break was all about family.

So, when Hope publicly asked me to sign up for Ancestry last night, in front of my family, I couldn’t say no; even though I am still not positive we are stable enough to handle what we might find.

So, on the way home, Hope and I talked. Talking about Hope’s mom is tough.  The feelings are raw; the viewpoint is unforgiving, the experiences and feelings are locked in a protective glass case.

I opened the case last night, cautiously. I shared what I knew; dropped a bombshell that I did know about Hope’s lineage. Then I spent a good 30 minutes talking to hope about grace and forgiveness sometimes being for our own benefit, and that I’m sure her parents would have been able to make different choices if different options were available; or if they thought/knew different options were available.  I tried to explain that systems are not always set up to help us in the ways we need to be helped.

Hope wondered what life for her would’ve have been like if her parents had the help and support they needed.  I remember how I felt rejected when the first time she said something like this; I don’t anymore.  I just feel sad because I wonder what life would’ve been like too, for all of us.

When we got home I showed Hope some more papers from her disclosure records that helped me know what I do know about her parents.  There are some things she wants to frame.

It was a bit shocking to me that she wanted to frame a copy of a copy of a document. But I get it. I just wish that we didn’t have to wait until she is 18 to get authentic copies of things she’s entitled too.  It infuriates me that I can’t request them on her behalf–after all, I am legally her mother now. I also know that these documents are important to Hope’s healing and development.

We also talked about what it might feel like to stumble upon some big information on Ancestry.  Was Hope ready?  Was she ok with that?  What would it feel like? Now she’s not so sure she’s ready to search for stuff.  It’s not that I don’t want her to search at all; it’s the uncontrolled environment that scares me.

Even more so, it’s the reaction to information and what it means for my coping with her coping that scares me.

Sounds pretty selfish, but honestly, other than in my own therapy and a couple of close friends, I don’t talk about what the emotional upheaval is like in my “real” life other than to say it’s hard and I’m still standing.

We go through some emotional stuff around these parts.  It’s sooooo much better than it used to be.  We’ve gotten better at processing it, but it is never easy. It takes a toll.

And I’d be lying if I said I wish I could avoid it, even though I know I can’t.

This family journey search will likely be one of the most important, most challenging, most enlightening, most shocking, most scary, most awesome journeys Hope and I will travel together.

I’m scared I won’t get it right.  I’m scared that whatever grace is needed from me will run out.  And yeah, to some degree, I’m scared that I might get rejected.

So, like many things I’m going to work on this behind the scenes for a while and see what I can find so that I’m prepped and ready to help Hope find herself–because that’s what this is really about, right?


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