My mother was adopted through a private closed adoption. My grandmother never told my mom she was adopted, but one of her cousins told her when she was a teenager. It is unclear if my grandmother never told anyone or if she swore everyone to secrecy. Either way, it seems all of the answers died with her. I have discovered my biological family using DNA. There were twists and turns and ups and downs, but I did it and am grateful.
Learning Our Family Secrets
It had always been my dream to find my mother’s birth mother and reconnect them. My mom and I took a DNA test back in 2013, but at the time I didn’t really know where to start. I didn’t have many close DNA matches and NJ adoption records were sealed.
Trying to find our biological roots, my mother and I visited with one of my grandmother’s friends. Her friend didn’t remember many details, but she did remember the name of the adoption agency. She rememered because she had tried to adopt a child herself, but since she was a single woman at the time, she was denied. I contacted the agency and they gave me forms to fill out. They couldn’t release any identifying information, but they could give the background information to the adoptee.
I gave my mom the paperwork thinking she would share in my excitement, but she was hesitant, so much so that she never filled out the paperwork.
A Death, A Birth, and A Game-Changing Birth Certificate
My mother passed away in 2015 without ever knowing another blood relative besides me. And with her passing, my then 4 month old son became my only known blood relative. My biological father was not around, but my (step) dad and I have always operated as father/daughter and we became even closer when my mom passed. At this point, I became even more committed to finding my mother’s family.
Since my mom was now deceased, I was able to fill out the paperwork with the adoption agency to get background information. I learned that my grandmother was in the military when she became pregnant. In January of 2016, the law changed in NJ and adoptees and their descendants were able to get copies of original birth certificates. This was a game changer! A few weeks later I had my mom’s original birth certificate in hand. I now knew my mother’s name at birth, where she was born and her mother’s name…score!
My “Search Angel” Found Even More
With all of this new information in hand, I joined a genetic genealogy group on Facebook and posted about my story. In this community, people who help you find your loved ones are called “search angels”. Shortly after posting, an angel reached out to me and we immediately got to work. She taught me as she went and I learned so much about DNA matches and how to create family trees. It wasn’t long before I was headed on a road trip to NC with my family to meet my moms first and second cousins! In the midst of sorting through matches and doing all of the triangulation to figure out how those matches were connected to me, my search angel made a shocking discovery…the identity of my biological father!
More Family Reunions
I’ll start by saying my dad I grew up with will always be “Dad”. My relationship with my biological father is complicated but he gave me the greatest gift…siblings. I have been the only child of an only child all my life and now I have 5 brothers and one sister. One of those brothers died tragically in 2009, before I ever knew he existed. Side note: it’s an odd feeling to mourn someone you have never met, but nonetheless I feel that loss. I know some of these stories go a different way. I feel very lucky to have folded in with my new siblings so seamlessly. It has only been two years but I feel like I’ve known them my whole life.
As the child of an adoptee, as a bonus child, and now a bonus mom, I understand better than most that blood relation is not a requirement for family. But I think for most people, seeing yourself in others is something that is easy to take for granted. Each of my siblings is like a mirror to me in one way or another. Learning about them, listening to them, understanding them has allowed me to learn so much about myself and to fill in a void I didn’t even know existed.