Many people have asked me about my own search. About two months after my search completed I started to write a journal, which started to look like there was promise of making it a book. I even took a college class on self-publishing because I wanted to understand how it could be done. I keep picking it up now and then, write a few more pages, and then put it back down.
I’ll try and provide you with the short version here. One day I was researching something for work and was listening to a webcast online. The speaker mentioned a start-up company with a great idea that he compared to their own product. I was a bit frustrated because he did not go into a lot of detail about this so-called, start-up company. So after the webcast I went to go check them out myself.
They were 23andMe, a DNA testing company. They promised to provide Ancestry results in a simple DNA test for around a hundred-dollars. Being an adoptee, having never been able to find this information out in the past, I thought…sure why not.
About a week later I received the test kit that require some of my saliva in a tube, a signature and then a box to put it back in to mail back. I kind of forgot about it for the better part of a month. Then I was given some initial results I could view online; nothing spectacular, just some curiosities about my percentage my DNA was made up of Neanderthal humans.
It was then that I stumbled across the option to take my results and share them with DNA relatives in their database. Well my results were not entirely in yet, but I pondered the idea. Could I actually use these results to find biological family? Something much deeper in my psyche began to awaken. I could not believe what I was considering. I had given up on this idea decades ago. Yet, here it was staring me back in the face. Before I knew it and hour had passed and I had not even moved my eyes from the acceptance acknowledgement area on 23andMe.
Needless to say, I clicked the acceptance and for the next few weeks time slowed way down while I waited for my DNA relatives finally populate. Thus began a yearlong journey that took me into the depths of many subjects I was not familiar with at all.
I wrote at least a thousand emails to DNA relatives, sifted through even more thousands of documentation on proving one person after another into genealogical family trees initially separated, then later glued together as I found how they connected to one another. I had not even learned about terms like triangulation back then. I used my own familiarity with hundreds and hundreds of names and the contacts I had made to form the connections.
Cousins, search assistants, search angels, online databases, and further DNA testing from several companies lead me down paths that initially became dead-ends, but later proved to be worthwhile as I pushed on.
As I was born in California in 1967, I had special access to a secret microfiche file that could be used to match my birth certificate with that of my original birth certificate (CABI). Meanwhile I used the memory of a non-ID I had sent for from my adoption agency thirty years earlier to recall what was said on the paper I only read one time before losing.
I remembered what the ages were of my birth mother and father. I knew something about Texas as being a state one of them came from. I recalled my birth mother had an aunt that died of leukemia at a very young age. One of the things I learned early on was to be a bit secretive about why I wanted access to people’s family trees, because some of the people from my birth era thought it was their responsibility to keep a wall of secrecy up. So I snuck into their family trees acting as an amateur genealogist, found out as much as I could, then would eventually spill the beans as I felt I had earned some of their trust.
Some doors opened, while others slammed shut. It was very difficult to sneak past people I knew were the first biological family I had ever known; other than my own children. Slowly I discovered individuals until I came upon one that might be my biological half-sister on my paternal side. I contacted her, and over the course of several awkward phone calls she agreed to take a DNA test. I was so excited I bought two DNA kits; one from 23andMe and the other from Family Tree DNA.
Six weeks later I had proven she was my half-sister. Although I could not find her birth father, as he had been divorced from her mother when she was two years old. She in fact tracked him down twenty-four years later on her own. However, their reunion only lasted about a month. She told me he acted like he had been reintroduced to his former wife in a younger form and it became way too awkward for her to continue. This was twenty years ago to her.
I turned my attention to my birth mother. Now that I had a close biological relative to compare my DNA test results with, I could separate all those who did not match with my half-sister into another group; the one that belonged to my birth mother. Once that was done, I started to look at all the DNA based trees I had built and with the help of a fifth cousin we steamed forward building a tree that was based off two DNA relatives that were rather close. One was a second cousin and the other a third cousin.
It just did not make sense though. None of the people in my tree matched the maiden name of my birth mother. So I spilled the beans and told my second cousin what I was looking for. She basically told me she had been burned sharing information with an adoptee in the past and refused to share anything with me.
It was then that I became unscrupulous. I had to know, so I involved my fifth cousin in a plot to help me approach the second cousin as a concerned genealogist on her side. I told her to say that an adoptee was pushing and pushing her for information about the birth mother. I gave her suggestions on where to guess what part of the family I was under. It was then the second cousin told her that my birth mother was no longer a member of this family tree. Her mother had remarried and that stepfather adopted my birth mother and her brother into their family. This was the reason I could not find my birth mother. I was an adoptee looking for an adopted birth mother!
After a few more weeks of questions posed and answers shared with the fifth cousin, I knew I had found my great grandfather amongst seven other of his brothers. I sought the assistance of a search angel who helped me narrow down the seven brothers. She also checked social media and found a picture someone had posted on Instagram just a month earlier. It contained the family my mother came from with the new family she was adopted into. She was only about six to eight years old in the picture.
I took a day off from work that Friday (sick). The search angel and I worked throughout the day collaborating on names, marriages, divorces, and finally found the birth mother. Early in January of 2015 I paid Facebook a dollar to send a instant message to the inbox of an unfriended individual. I included a long list of facts only her birth son would know.
An hour passed. Then she responded. In short she was stunned, happy and amazed that I found her. She said that she had been looking for me for years and had all but given up hope.
We made plans to meet face to face on a Sunday just a few days later. It was amazingly her sixty-seventh birthday. Which happened to also be my first-born child’s birthday. After being separated for more than forty-eight years, I met my birth mother. When we last saw each other I was only a few days old and we were in Sacramento California.
She lived thirty-five miles away from my house in Pennsylvania. We had been living next to one another for at least fifteen years. Since that time I have met many other biological family members.
My biological father refuses to acknowledge me, even with DNA proof. Now I know why. His marriage ended when his wife threw him out. He was projecting his own suspicions on her from his own infidelity. He’s been lying about that divorce to his own children from his second marriage for the past half-century.
Truth is stranger than fiction. I now have a family tree with over two-thousand seven hundred biological relatives in it and I don't regret a moment of my search or reunion. It has been the strangest of times, and the best of times to learn about my roots, my nature, and still use my new found skills with others seeking the same answers.