I am all about the search. I am all for finding the people with whom you share a blood connection.
I believe that DNA becoming more and more affordable is making DNA testing happen. I have been reading heartwarming stories of people even in their 90's discovering family that they never knew they had, or family that has been lost.
The thing that people do not talk about as much is when family does not want to be contacted.
I have been fortunate with some of the people that I have searched for. I have "new" aunts that I never knew I had. I cherish each and every one of them. I have cousins, I have grand cousins. It is amazing that these warm, loving and caring people are part of my family.
I have also come in contact with people who have not been wonderful. I interacted with a distant cousin who accused me of lying because they did not want to be a part of my family. This person said that I manipulated my DNA to match theirs. Emotionally, I was able to tell that they had a lot of issues, and I did not push. I gave them the space that they needed. It hurt my feelings at the time, because I so badly wanted to have my missing family members. This person (I am being very careful to not identify them) blocked me from Facebook. They blocked me from their phone. How do I know this? They made it a point to share that with me.
Was I overzealous in my actions with them? Actually, I am very proud that I was very polite. I did not intrude in their life. I did not ask a lot of questions. I merely pointed out the match that was on several of the DNA platforms that we both tested on.
If you are reaching out to family members that you do not know prior to your test, the best approach is non emotional. Simply state the facts and go forward from there. Just because you want a relationship with all of your newfound family does not mean that they are even prepared for such revelations. Take it slow. Be prepared to explain how you are related.
If it is a very close match, such as a parent, ask if they are able to talk.
Best of luck!
Since I have been on my search for my paternal biological family, I have been fortunate enough to come across some really lovely people. I have met some of the most helpful people that you could ever want to meet.
I have also met some people who really did not think that I should be following through on finding my biological family.
I would like to comment on that with some cold, hard facts, and probably some raw emotion as well.
I am not a secret. I have never lived as though I were a secret. I am a person. I have thoughts, feelings, emotions, and bleed when I am cut, the same as everyone else.
I am not a secret. What two adults did to get me here was something that I was a result of, not because I was an active consenting person.
I am not a secret. When I am asked for my complete medical history, I can only make a guess at part of my history. Because I don't know.
I am not a secret. When I look at my family, I know that I have traits that belong to my biological parent that I don't know.
I am not a secret. I never agreed to be in hiding so that someone would not have to confront their actions from the past.
I am not a secret. I am not in hiding, nor should I have to be.
I am not demanding a relationship with my biological family, if that is not what they want. But what I am wanting is for them to know that I exist. For them to know that there is someone else in the world who is carrying their genetic line. For them to know that life is messy, that is how we are made. I don't hold any anger or grudges, but I am not a secret.
A problem that a lot of people have when trying to reach out and contact their genetic family via Ancestry and other similar sites is that the family members that they are trying to reach out to don't check their accounts very often.
This can be really frustrating for a person who is trying to discover their family.
Here are some tips that I have used to try and find the family that I am looking for. I hope that these will help you, too!
1. Search the username in a google search, in quotation marks. If the user name is ABC123, I will search "ABC123" to see what pulls up. If I don't get a lot of hits or if I get no hits, I will remove the quotes. Sometimes I get a lot of hits. Sometimes, I am still stumped.
If I am lucky, at one of these posts, there will be an email address or a contact me button. I pretty much know that I have the right person if I find posts by that user name in a genealogy forum or page.
The weirdest one that I have ever looked for? One match only, and it was to a toy boat collector in Europe. Sent an email and heard back from him in less than 30 minutes. He had only taken the test to learn what his genetic makeup was. Never bothered to create a family tree or check back to the site. Imagine his surprise when I united him to a very close family relative.
2. Notice if the user name is a person's name. Some people will just use their name. JohnWSmith, for example would help my search, especially if I had an idea of the city and state that they are in. The more unusual the name, the easier this will be.
3. Notice if the user name gives a clue. JohnWSmithGolferNYC would really help you out in your search. The username JWSNYC tells me nothing, unless there are matches on the initial google search.
4. Make notes of what actions that you take as you go. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to find the great lead that you had, only to find out that you can't find it.
5. IF you decide to send emails, take the time to create the same email in a word processing file, such as Microsoft Office or Open Office. That way, you can merely copy and paste over and over to all of the contacts that you find.
6. Make notes of all of the emails that you send out, and if you get responses, make notes of them as well.
Good luck on your search!
I was beginning to doubt whether or not I would ever be able to write this article!
As all of you know, I have no idea of who my biological father is. This caused me a lot of angst when I was a teenager. I so badly wanted that "Dad" moment that you see on television. The one where the daughter knows that she and her father have a special bond.
Growing up, I assumed that my mother's husband was my father. I had no reason to believe otherwise. I called him "Daddy" and he loved me very much and still does, I am sure. Bring in an ugly divorce and all of the sudden, I knew that "Daddy" was no biological relation to me. I was gutted to the core.
Less than 8 years later, I would be adopted by my Aunt and Uncle. I would now call them "Mom and Dad". I loved them very much then, and I still do now. I honor and respect them very much, too.
As I grow older, it is weird when I am asked for medical information. I have to leave part of my information blank. I simply don't know the answers because I don't know who my father is.
I find it interesting that through the years, I have been discouraged from searching by people. I have been told "What if you are intruding upon his life?" or "What if he has a wife or children?" and similar.
My answer has changed over the years, from quietly backing down my search back then to explaining that I never agreed to be someone's shameful secret. Why should I be a secret, anyway?
After I got my test done from Family Tree DNA, I wanted to know who my father was, RIGHT THEN!
Of course, life doesn't work that way.
I diligently uploaded my DNA to all of the relevant sites. GEDmatch is the massive one that everyone will tell you about. I uploaded to there, and I encouraged all of my family that had been tested to do the same. I joined groups on Facebook and elsewhere that are for people trying to connect with their bio family.
I am referred to as an NPE, which stands for Non-Parental Event or Not Parent Expected. I prefer the easier term of "bastard" because my parents were not married at the time of my conception, or anytime before or after. I truly understand that term, but we live in a gentler time, so NPE it is.
Being a part of these boards is being a part of a community. Adoptees searching for birth parents and birth family, birth family looking for adoptee, people like myself looking for their bio father and similar.
Occasionally, people will post with their reunion story, and they will sometimes post photos of them and one or both parents. It is very heartening to see, and it breeds hope in the soul.
At first, I would scroll through. I did not participate, I only read. I was too scared about all of the what if that was out there. I tried to tell myself that I was too busy or that I was wasting my time, and a bunch of other reasons that were not really valid.
When it boiled down to it, I was scared. I was scared of the possibility of rejection. Of the chance that my birth father did not want to have anything to do with me. Plus many more thoughts that became huge fears that only increased in size during the time that they were allowed to dwell unabated in my head.
I read a post that changed all of that. A woman posted looking for her father. She was in anguish because she wanted to know this man before her grandchild was born. The responses were heartfelt and genuine. People encouraged her to proceed with her search. They told her to be brave. Heart emoji's flew everywhere. She asked the question that had been lying in my heart. "What if he doesn't want anything to do with me?"
The answers back were a balm for me. "Then you know." A woman said. "Give him time. Wait for him to make the decision. Right now, he doesn't even know that there is a decision to make."
Those were the words that firmed my resolve. My biological father, if he was alive, did not know. How could he decide yes or no about knowing me if he did not even know I existed?
I crafted the post over several days. It was really hard for me to try and explain what I now call "My conception story" because I really did not have a lot of details. The ones that I had were not really specific. But they were details. If a person who was born into a traditional family was able to hand out their conception story on an engraved card, I felt like mine was on a dirty bar napkin. But it was all I had.
I added a few photos of me, and a few photos of my mother. Within a few hours, I had people asking to help me. Asking where my DNA results were posted to. Making connections and letting me know what those connections meant. I was really happy, and excited.
This month, I got my very own "search angel". A search angel is a person that helps you with your search and points you in the right direction, asks your contacts questions, and does what is needed to narrow your search down.
My search angel has been amazing. She has asked me questions and helped me on my search. By using my DNA information and my contacts through my DNA test, she has been able to create a family tree with me in it. She sent me an image and said "I think that this man is your father." I stared at that photo. I could see me in him, but for some reason, I didn't want to see the link when she told me that this man was deceased. It was like being gut punched. Shortly afterwards, a photo was sent to me that, if it turns out that he is my father, she is my half sibling.
We will know soon enough, but I am possibly on the path to knowing the other half of me.
Book Review: The Other Mother: A Woman's Love for the Child She Gave Up for Adoption by Carol Schaefer
I am a member of all 3 parts of the official adoption triangle, and involved in other parts as well.
The adoption triangle is Birth Parents, Adoptive Parents and Adoptive Child. I am also a sister to a sibling that was placed for adoption. So if there is an adoption angle, I might have a little bit of insight about it.
Because of these issues, I follow books dealing with adoption. Birth parent stories always grab my heart. A while ago, I was gifted with The Other Mother by a friend of mine who is also a member of the adoption triad. I read the book over 2 afternoons in Paris, sitting on my small balcony of my tiny apartment.
I placed my child for adoption in the mid 80's, around the time that the author, Carol Schaefer was beginning her search for the child that she placed at birth.
Although there were a lot of things that had changed, many things remained the same. The marginalized feeling that she speaks about; the looks, the feelings of holding a secret, of the world continuing on as normal while this life changing event is happening to you are all things that must be a universal sentiment of the unwed mother who is placing her child up for adoption.
Although my conception story was different, I did not have a loving relationship with the person that got me pregnant, I did have the same relations with my family when I was pregnant. My aunt and uncle made sure that I was away when my grandfather decided to come into town unannounced.
Carol's book brought a lot of healing for me. I read it during a time where people did not as freely an openly discuss or admit that they were a birthmother. To be acknowledged as a person of value, not just as an unwed mother created a lot of healing in my heart. I sent a copy to my birth child's adoptive mother, and she sent it back, unread with a note that read "I cannot read this. It is not my side of the story." I thought that it would bond us, but she was not ready for that in her life at that moment. Years later, she would confess to me that she didn't read it because she was scared.
If you are a part of the adoption triangle, I highly recommend this book. The story of her strong feelings for her unborn baby, her struggle to search and her reunion story are compelling and touching. For birth parents, there is a lot of healing in those pages. For adoptive parents, there is a lot of explanations of circumstances and understanding. For birth children, here is the emotional map to what your birth mother may have been going through before you were born.
I have kept a copy of this book on my shelf at all times, and I have purchased copies as gifts for friends that were adopting or foster to adopting children in order to help them know what the struggle was in many of our hearts.
I hope that you will get a copy of this book, it is well written and very compassionate.
No matter where you are in the adoption triangle, if you are searching for your family, while you are waiting on things is the perfect time to make a kit in the event that you are united.
This can also turn into a valuable resource for you in the event that you get in contact with your person/family that you are looking for.
I will tell you that when I was posting everywhere, looking for my birth relative that was placed for adoption, I knew the facts by heart. When she contacted me via AOL instant messenger, I could not even remember her birthday, a date that I knew for over a decade.
I can remember fumbling over the keyboard, trying to express how I felt, but my fingers would not even strike the correct keys!
Here is what I would do now.
Create Pages. Make a separate page for each of the following topics:
Their basic facts that you know for sure. These would be confirmed facts.
Facts that you cannot confirm. (In non identifying information, I was told that my family member was raised by people of specific professions. One was true and one was not.)
Photos that you have labeled and their relationship to you as well as the relationship to the person that you are looking for.
Basic medical information. Only list confirmed things, not assumptions.
Contact information. Your contact information that you are willing to share. I advise extreme caution about giving your home address until you know one another better. Although you may be family, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Have a hard copy (printed off) of all of this information as well as a digital copy. Most likely, you will be exchanging information online at first, so if you have a folder with everything in it, you won't have to do a frantic search like I did at 3 in the morning.
I also recommend taking the time to make copies of every single photo you have of family members when you make a family tree for your reunion. It is easier to comprehend facts when you can put a name with a face.
My adopted relative told me that of all of the things that we gave to her, the most valuable was the photos and the family tree. It was really confusing for them to try and learn all about us.
Write a brief bio of the family members that are in your family.
If you are the adoptee, simple facts about your adoptive family are great, but your birth family will really want to see photos of you growing up as well as know about you. You can make it sort of generic at first, but let them know how your life has turned out. Your birth family, especially your birth parents want to know that they made the right decision for you. For birth family, include photos of birth parents at early ages to present. If the birth parent/s are deceased, let them know the cause of death as well as if the parent was cremated or buried. Also note the location of burial if that applies.
If you are the birth parent, write a bio about yourself. Where you were born/raised, what you do/did for a living, how many other children you have, the relationship with the other bio parent, religion and medical history. This may be uncomfortable for you to do, but please realize that most adoptees want to know their history. When I shared with my family member about our shared parent, I will tell you right now that there was no judgement on their part. They only wanted to know more about the birth parent that they would never know personally.
Create a contact information page for yourself to add to your file that is current and correct. Decide now if you want your social media to be a part of that page.
Good Luck With Your Search and NEVER GIVE UP!
My life has been a little bit hectic with getting married and moving house. One of the things that I have been wanting to do is to get a nice email out to all of my "good" GEDmatch relatives.
I have been putting this off, wanting to write a "good" email.
I bit the bullet this week, so I wanted to share my do's and don't's right here.
When writing, make excellent notes of WHO you emailed. Include the test kit number, the email address, and if there is a name or initials listed, note them.
Don't make your newly found family member do all of the legwork. List off the surnames that you know of as well as how you are related.
Adopted? No problem. Just mention in passing that you were adopted from city/state and the year of your birth.
I emailed 25 people in my first batch and I got back emails from 7 of them.
The most common responses that I received were:
1. I manage a lot of different family members/kits, so can you please be more specific? (That is why I now include the test number, email and name in each and every email.)
2. What surnames are you researching? That would at least tell me where to look.
3. Where did you have your original test done at so that I can check there as well?
This caused me to change my email to the following (identifying information has been changed for privacy concerns)
Title of email:
Hello GEDMatch DNA cousin!
Body of email:
Hello, my name is Dixie and I matched your test kit T123456 on GEDmatch.com. The person that I match is John Doe.
I have known connections to the following surnames: Brown, Green, White, Black and Grey. I hope that we can compare family trees and determine where we match as I have a lot of brick walls in my research that I would love to get past.
My email address is PirateDixie@gmail.com , My webpage is www.cocktailsandswagger.com if you would like to learn more about the research that I have done so far.
I look forward to hearing from you and comparing notes. Attached, please find a photo of me and my mother so that you can put a name with a face.
I am excited to get to know another cousin!
Notice I answer as many of the questions that my new family members will have? I want this to be easy on them, not a chore! I enclose a picture so that they can put a name with a face and decrease the likelihood that my email will be discarded.
Feel free to use this email, with your modifications, of course, for personal use.
Let me know how your GEDmatch emails went in the comments below.
Hugs and good luck,
I write a lot about genetic genealogy, family trees, DNA, and home life as well as the occasional product review. Comments? Email me at CocktailsAndSwagger@Hotmail.com