“People will not look forward to posterity, who never looked backward to their ancestors” ~ Edmund Burke [1729-97]
I have talked before about missing a biological connection, not seeing myself reflected back physically, personality wise or natural talents, not being able to know “I” fit. It had nothing to do with my family dynamics, relationships or any of that, it was that “I” needed that connection to my family and history for myself. I have always needed to know even when I resigned myself to never knowing. Yet I never talked about it, just like I never talked about a lot of things. My tendency has always been to withdraw deep inside myself. Whenever I feel stressed I withdraw. I need to sort things out myself and by myself. Luckily, nowadays, I have a husband who understands this and does not press as he has the same tendency. We both draw strength from each other simply be being together, words don’t matter, togetherness matters.
The day I decided to reach out to my aunt I drove by her house first, trying to decide whether it was better to knock on her door and at least being able to see her once, in case she slammed the door in my face, or call and risk never getting to see what she looked like. And while I was driving down her road I saw a woman walking down the side and knew instantly that she was my aunt, I just knew, and deep inside of me I knew she would not reject me. We don’t look alike but yet we do, simply because parts of us are alike and when you look at a picture of us you see without a shadow of a doubt that we are related. We had an instant connection that to this day I cannot describe, I was in a state of awe to be talking too, and with, my aunt. A priceless connection that is denied to far too many of my fellow adoptees, a connection denied to me until there was “just cause”.
Since I have found my maternal family I have also traced my ancestors back in time. I have studied the history for each era and place they lived, studied the various censuses, followed their migration routes, learned about the challenges and overall gleamed clues about what type of individuals they were. This combined with the knowledge my aunt has given me, has given me so much insight into who I am and why I am the way I am.
“I saw behind me those who had gone, and before me those who are to come. I looked back and saw my father and his father and all our fathers, and in front to see my son and his son, and the sons upon sons beyond. And their eyes were my eyes. As I felt so they had felt, and were to feel, as then, so now, as tomorrow and forever. Then I was not afraid for I was in a long line that had no beginning and no end. And the hand of his father grasped my father’s hand and his hand was in mine, and my unborn son took my right hand and all, up and down the line that stretched from time that was to time that is not yet, raised their hands to show the link, and we found that we were one, born of Woman, Son of Man, made in the Image, fashioned in the Womb by the Will of God, the Eternal Father.” ~ Robert Llewellyn
The definition of being an adoptee is that we have two families, so why do people still to this day think it is wrong that we want to know where we came from? And how is it right for those who know where they came from, to even say we don’t need to? What moral right do they have to define us as “less than” when it comes to knowing what they have always known? What right does any government have to deprive us of this innate knowledge that is at the very core of who we are?
And in the adoption community there is to varying degrees, this need to deny that biological ties matter. That if they acknowledge that nature matters, then they become “less than“. Why can’t each of our families just stand on their own merit? I think that is one of the greatest frustrations I have is that in the need to justify that an adoptive family is “as good as” or “better than” a biological family, they miss the point that without our biological family we would not exist, or be who we are. The blood of my ancestors flows through my veins, their genes make up who I am, without them, I would never have existed in the first place. We are the products of both nature and nurture there is no denying that reality. Just like adoptive parents who grew up in their biological families are who they are, because of both nature and nurture, so are we, we just have two different families.
I just wish both nature and nurture could be celebrated equally in the adoption world without people feeling the need to justify their side and dismiss the other side…
I stumbled upon this website and article Notes On Genealogy and History
By Michael Schroeder, Professional Historian Who Researches and Writes Family Histories. Small portion below but well worth reading the one page article in full.
On the other hand — and this is the funny thing — genealogy comprises the one branch of practical historical inquiry that captures the imaginations of millions of ordinary people. If you walk through the doors of just about any local, county, or state historical society in the nation, you will be entering a veritable beehive of activity – people scurrying about, sifting carefully through piles of documents at the reading tables, sitting stock erect at the microfilm readers for hours on end, their eyes glued to the screens.Historians know this, of course, but tend to regard it as an inconvenience because the genealogists always get the best chairs.Historians ought to know better. Those genealogists are not looking for data. They are looking for a connection.
They are not engaged in antiquarianism. They are on a journey of discovery.
Slightly edited from the original in 2011
BOOKS: Sexual Assault, Loss
May 21, 2019 at 5:27 pm
This is a powerful page! Now, more than ever, an increasing number of people want to know their roots. Genealogy and DNA testing is a burgeoning passion. A good percentage of adoptees want some family tree information, but they also want to know some characteristics of their first family, their interests, etc. They want to know the people they came from. This knowledge cannot come from a social worker’s office, as adoption agencies have been known to falsify records. These agencies wielded great power in deciding what went into a record. The women who gave birth did not see what went into the record! It’s hard to fathom, but she did not even have her own attorney. Only the adoption agency had an attorney. First mothers were powerless, and this powerlessness has been passed down to their children, who are denied the right to know their first mothers. They are denied the right to get their birth story from the person who actually lived it! (In the past, adoption agencies often proclaimed the records were destroyed in a fire. In my case, I was originally told that there had been a flood and the records were water-logged!)
May 23, 2019 at 4:43 pm
Thanks TAO. I enjoyed very much reading about you and your Aunt. It’s hard to describe that phenomenon. It changed my world when I first met my father, brothers and uncles. Eventually the whole crowd was in one room together just looking at each other… it was easy to see we all belonged, our combinations matched up. I saw a puzzle. My Uncles said they saw in me their mother, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, granddaughters, even a brother, dad and uncle or two, too. They seemed very accustomed to it, I was not. I didn’t know how to act, what to do, what to say, I was in a whole new world. It felt like… I wonder if there truly are words to explain that. Maybe all words ever spoken or written could do it.
I found out about my skin then… Many times in my life, just out of the blue, I’ve been complimented on my skin. It happened yesterday. Great and awesome, especially for an old broad right? You’d think. Yesterday, instead of just feeling complimented and saying only thank you, or thanks, my dad gave it to me. I fall back on the old response – Thanks, What makes you say that??
I didn’t notice until later when my husband asked why didn’t I just say thank you, that was weird. Said I sounded insecure and not accepting of myself, or fishing for more compliments. I could see how it might come off like that, and you know, had to laugh a little. Interesting to think about why that could be how it comes off tho…
Then I realized that I wasn’t paying attention or almost like I had forgotten I didn’t have to do “that” anymore. Then I wasn’t so unsettled!
I explained that old habit to my husband, I think I’ve never really explained it, or noticed it in this way…
The compliment was always a clue to me, if I could only follow up on it, was my only thought. Their opinion of anything about me was not the concern. Whether it was about skin, hair, face, sound, ability, whatever, who cares – that compliment, or statement, begged for further investigation. And I asked every question imaginable, especially if they compared me to anyone else. I’ve even gone to look at people others have said had similar skin, or looks. I’m always hearing I look just like so and so. Many saying it seemed so shocked and in awe of it I had to check it out.. The searching detective in me would pay extreme attention to every word, every clue. I followed up when I could. It worked like that for me for forty years, about two thirds of my life, hard habit to break apparently.
I’ve learned I have a familiar face. Some have referred to this as an original face, original skin. I liked that. I’ve learned this face has been in the land I live for centuries, certainly since the beginning of recorded time here.
I always wanted to know. Everything. I was picking up clues way back when I was pulling my little red wagon.
I still have that wagon (for real) and I’ll never stop filling it with more clues of origin. Including DNA tests.
I know where my skin comes from now. I know. I know what it’s like not to know. And believe me, it’s a knowledge and a feeling like no other.💜
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May 23, 2019 at 8:42 pm
Love that – you described the wonder and awe of finally having the rest of the jigsaw puzzle that makes you, you.
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