Hello Genetic Relative! was the opening line in an email from a previously unknown cousin trying to trace his roots. I understand his search because my father, sister, and grandson were all adopted. I know that adoptees desire to know their family histories for various reasons. Recently, an adult wanted to know the medical histories of their family of origin for health reasons. Occasionally, a person will find out later in life that they aren’t “who they think they are” because for various reasons the truth was kept from them and so they seek it out. For some, their heart craves a reunion of a soul they are related to by DNA, perhaps someone who shares their unique eyebrows or taste for tapenade.
I believe that everyone is entitled to know his or her story. So far this year, I was able to find the family histories of eight people. Some have experienced delightful reunions and others’ messages have gone unanswered. Regardless, the truth is somehow freeing.
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Photo: Jacob Riis/Public Domain
My father is a Private Investigator and I once worked for Pinkerton’s Detective Agency, so I guess being a snoop runs in the family. My current endeavor, as an Ancestry Researcher, started when I solved the nearly 80-year-old mystery of how my dad ended up in an orphanage. People began contacting me – asking if I could shed a little light on their family history.
I have found that most people have a few skeletons in their family closet and sometimes they take their secrets to the grave. Benjamin Franklin said, “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” Secrets can make you sick. Often, the guilt eats away at the person and they make confessions later in life and sometimes even on their deathbed. While I’m not an advocate of unnecessarily airing dirty laundry, there are times when being open and transparent is called for – ESPECIALLY when it involves others. Let’s be honest, in this day and age it’s pretty hard to keep anything hush-hush.
My father was born to Stella Miller, an unwed mother, during a time when these things were certainly not spoken about. He was placed in an orphanage and later adopted. When Stella died in 1979, she took the secret of the birth father’s identity to her grave. Last year, using a DNA test, old newspaper articles, and online family trees we were able to solve the mystery. My father’s DNA was able to reveal what Stella never did and my father was able to meet his birth father’s family.
Being “left in the dark” is not usually a comfortable place to be. When the night is scary the sunrise is a welcome sight. While it’s not my job to publically reveal anyone’s secrets – I love the quote, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Once a situation is out in the open it loses the strangling grip it had on all involved. Do you have a family secret? Open the door and let the light in.
Step #1 – Get your DNA done thru AncestryDNA
When researching family history – or looking for a birth family – DNA is the way to go. In my experience, the paper trail isn’t always accurate, but you can’t deny the science of a dna connection.
I have found that the best way to start researching your family is by AncestryDNA. They have a large database of users and many have family trees connected to their results.
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We Bought Our Baby – Legally.
This article is from 1957 about the Adoption Institute of Los Angeles. I have been helping a friend that was adopted through the Institute find his birth family and it was quite a frustrating search. I have recently found his family using AncestryDNA — but I wasn’t very happy to find this article about “buying” babies! 😦