by Becca Stevens
In February 1971, my grandma and grandpa adopted a daughter. At that time, they agreed with her birth mother, and decided that they would not reveal any information about her birth family, unless their new daughter decided she wanted to know more or needed to know more for medical reasons in the future. Luckily for them, their daughter always felt that she knew all she needed to know about her family, since they never made her feel lesser than or doubt their love for her. The little girl they adopted was my mother, and prior to this class, we still knew nothing about her birth family.
In the almost 50 years since her adoption, my mother has never been in direct contact with either of her birth parents. Their identities have stayed secret, even to my mom. Before this semester started, I sat down with her and we had a long talk about what this course might bring up. We were both fully aware that there may be some uncomfortable truths that we would learn throughout this process, but mainly, that there was a chance I may discover biological relatives on her side. After our discussion, she gave me her blessing to continue with the course, but was not sure how she felt about knowing about any biological connections I might find. I obviously decided to respect her privacy and truly did not think that anything too interesting would come from that.
However, I was wrong. As soon as I got my DNA matches back, I noticed something interesting. I had a match that Ancestry classified as “Close Family,” meaning this relationship was closer than a first cousin. I shared 1,724 cM of DNA with this person, over 51 segments. This works out to be about 25% of my DNA. This estimate meant that this person was likely a grandfather or an uncle of mine. Since I knew for sure who my paternal grandfather and all my uncles on that side were, I concluded that this had to be somehow connected to my mom’s side. She had warmed up considerably to this project by this point, so she was fascinated when I told her. So fascinated, in fact, that she decided to purchase an Ancestry test of her own. Her results confirmed my hypothesis that this man was my maternal grandfather. According to her DNA results, the two of them share almost exactly 50% of their DNA. After almost 50 years, she finally has a name for her father.
My mom and I are still deciding whether or not to reach out to this man and contact him. It’s unclear if he even knew that my mom was born, so we don’t want to make things complicated between him and his family. It can also bring up some feelings with my mom’s adoptive parents. We don’t want them to feel that they weren’t sufficient or that she had to go looking for other parents.
Whether or not we ever reach out, it’s still pretty cool to have put together some part of her history, something that was previously a total question mark. I’m so glad that I decided to take this class!