What I REALLY learned from taking a DNA test.

What I REALLY learned from taking a DNA test.

About two and a half years ago I wrote my “adoption story” on this blog. It’s honestly not much of a story, but that was actually the point of the post. I do have a bit of an update to share with you. Since I posted my original story I have found my half siblings. I was always lead to believe (with the little information I had) that I had a sister and a brother. It turns out I actually have two sisters and a brother. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting my two sisters, who are really lovely young ladies. I have not yet met my brother (who is the youngest) but perhaps some day. What is it like to finally meet siblings after all these years? Well it’s a bit complicated. Especially since they had no idea they had an older sister out there. But after the initial shock wore off they were incredibly gracious. Our first, and so far our only,  face to face meeting was as awkward as you can imagine but it was good.

DNA testing, through companies like Ancestry, is huge right now. The ads are everywhere. And show’s like TLC’s Who Do you Think You Are? that delves into the genealogy of celebrities make it all seem fascinating. And, actually, it can be quite fascinating. Exploring and discovering your “roots” can be a lot of fun. But for some people it’s much, much more than that. For adoptees, like myself, it can provide answers to life long burning questions. And in some cases, adoptee or not, it can uncover secrets you never knew existed, and that some people would rather were left buried.

A few months ago I decided to shell out the cash and get my DNA testing done.  I already have quite an extensive tree built for my adopted family and I thought it would be really interesting to build one for my genetic family. And if, through this process, I was able to track down my paternal side that would be a huge bonus. It really has been a fascinating process. With the little bit of info I already had from my maternal side, my newly found DNA matches and a subscription to Ancestry I have been able to build my maternal side of the tree out quite far and wide. Although I haven’t came across any enormously tantalizing discoveries there have been interesting little tidbits along the way (like my third cousin twice removed was a world class carillonneur and is celebrated annually by the Parliament with a symposium). When you start with nothing, it’s all pretty interesting!

Then there is my paternal side. Which I still know next to nothing about. The bulk of my DNA matches that have actually built family trees are on my maternal side. There are some matches in the 4th cousin range that I’m pretty sure are on my paternal side but when you have nothing really to go on it can be tricky trying to connect dots that far down the tree. From what I have been able to piece together, I am reasonably (but not where near certain) confident that my biological dad was from North Dakota. And that’s about the only direction I have as of right now. Trying to put this puzzle together has been an exercise in frustration yet I am really enjoying the challenge!

So what have I REALLY learned in this journey? It’s not family secrets or royal ancestors (although that would have been cool). No, what I actually have discovered has been more about human nature and my own sense of identity. When I first got my DNA results back I really had no clue what to do with this information. I needed some direction. So I joined a few DNA/Genealogy groups to try and make sense of it all. And being part of those groups has been the most fascinating part of this whole journey. Besides finding useful information these groups are also filled with a lot of emotion. Joy, hope, heartbreak, bitterness and pain. So much emotion. Tearful reunions. Painful rejections. Life changing secrets uncovered. Dead ends. The whole spectrum. And through it all what I have discovered that despite still having a lot of questions unanswered, despite not having grown up with the most loving and supportive family, I still don’t feel not whole. Sure it would be nice to fill in the gaps but it doesn’t haunt me not knowing who contributed the sperm that was half of creating me. And when I see other people torn apart by not knowing those answers I am very grateful that I am not. Now I must fully disclose that when I first located my birth mother and she out right refused to acknowledge my existence, it stung. I was bitter, for a while. But that was years ago and I have grown a lot over those years. I have learned not only to live with that rejection but also to come to have some empathy for a woman who was an unwed, pregnant teenager, in a time where that was just not acceptable by social standards. I don’t know how she felt. I’d like to know, but it’s not my right to know. Maybe she was scared and ashamed. Maybe she was indifferent. Those were/are her feelings to own, not mine. I have always, and will always, assume that she did what she felt was best for me, and maybe for herself. And I know a lot of adoptees don’t feel the same way I do but I honestly don’t feel that she owes me anything. Again, that doesn’t mean I don’t want anything, but I honestly don’t think it’s my “right”.

So I will keep plodding along on my ancestry journey, trying to see if I can figure out that paternal side. I love a challenge and this is turning out to be a hefty one. I may never put it together. And quite frankly even if I do, I’m not sure what I would do with that information. Would I reach out to a man who may not know I even exist? A man that more than likely has a family of his own. A wife, kids, probably even grand kids. I guess I will cross that bridge if I ever get to it but if I don’t, well I just don’t. It doesn’t change a thing either way.

 

This article has 2 comments

  1. I remember my mom working on a paper copy of her family tree when I was a kid. She eventually put it on Ancestry and shared with other members. I remember looking at the paper copy at a young age and asking many questions. I always thought it was interesting to see all the info on people I knew and had yet to meet. A few years before she passed away she was working on my father’s tree. I always asked my dad about his family because they were in Scotland, many we didn’t know. I now have connections with cousins, 2nd cousins I would have never known otherwise. I am trying to keep it up but it is not easy.

    You have such a positive outlook on this subject and believe it will help others get through the struggles.

  2. Since you got your DNA done, you’ve created a little spark in me. It would be neat to find my biological parents but I’m not sure that I’m up to the (time and brain teaser) challenge that you are.

    Fortunately, like you, I feel complete whether I find my biological family or not. Hey, maybe we’re even related…#nt

    Besos Sarah.

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