Adoptee Uses DNA Test for Clues to Roots


SPOILER ALERT!
After twenty-four years of searching for my birthmother and finally publishing a memoir about my journey, I felt some sort of closure. Although my birthmother had already passed away by the time I learned who she was, actually before I started looking, I felt a sense of comfort in knowing who she was and having a few pictures to compare myself to. I also confirmed that I was born the same religion in which I was raised, which made me happy.

Unfortunately, no one I met during my journey knew about my birthmother’s background. They didn’t know her parents, siblings, aunts and uncles. I wanted to know more about her. Here’s the real spoiler alert part. Growing up, I never paid much attention to my father’s family. Since he was my adoptive dad, I didn’t even pay any attention when he told me I had a “cousin” who was involved in developing the Salk vaccine for the prevention of polio. He wasn’t my “blood.” Why should I care who his relatives were? Or the fact that he had heart disease which eventually took his life. This wouldn’t affect me. Maybe I should have paid more attention.

Part-way through my search for my birthmother, I learned that my “adoptive” father was actually my bio father. It’s strange how pictures paint a story. Years after both of my parents had passed away; I came across my dad’s high school graduation photo. I placed it right next to my son’s high school graduation photo. I never expected these photos to be identical. Same hair, same eyes, same ears. If I hadn’t known better I would have thought these were of the same person. Maybe I should have paid more attention when my dad, who had the same hazel eyes as my son, said things like, “I had blond curls too when I was a little boy.” But I was adopted. I didn’t listen.

I don’t spend my days obsessing about my adoption or thinking of myself as an adoptee. It rarely comes up in day-to-day conversation. Until the other day. About a year ago, I took a DNA test with Ancestry.com. I wanted to find some blood relatives other than those I gave birth to. I thought it would be cool to find matches, maybe even a cousin, aunt or uncle who might know something about my birthmother’s family. All I had was her maiden name, Simon, a very common name. For a split second I fantasized that I was related to Paul Simon from Simon and Garfunkel, imagining meeting him and telling him how I liked his songs. But that’s pretty ridiculous. As a matter of fact, I found very few close matches. The closest were third or fourth cousins. And when I looked at their charts, I honestly didn’t have a clue who I was related to. I didn’t, and still don’t, have a clue if the matches are from my mother’s or father’s side. In the meantime, I started adding names to my tree. I added all of those relatives of my dad who I now realized were blood. And I actually found some more. But I have nothing on my birthmother’s side.

I let this go for a while, hoping someday to find a close DNA match. Someone who could actually tell me more about my roots. Until one day I got an email from someone looking for her roots. She knew nothing about her dad’s background. She was hoping I could fill her in. Clueless about how this worked, not knowing which side our DNA matched, maternally or paternally, I couldn’t give her any direction. If she was related to me on my dad’s side, I actually know quite a bit now. If we matched on my birth mother’s side, I know nothing. I voiced my confusion to her in an email explaining that I don’t know how to help her. I totally forgot that I had been adopted. I forgot to mention that I knew nothing at all about one side of my family. I wrote her back. Admitting that I’m an adoptee searching for my roots, I confessed I knew nothing that would be helpful.

Am I missing something with this DNA test? Does anyone know how I can identify the matches as being relatives on my mother’s or father side? I’m so confused. I tried to do the 23andMe test but they don’t allow it in my state of Maryland. I’m not sure what to do next. I don’t want to keep taking more and more tests, but not knowing how someone is related to me is making this more confusing.

If you have any ideas, or would like to share your success or failures in DNA testing, please share. Thank you.

Call Me Ella - An Adoption Memoir

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