Adopted person searching for biological parents - give me your anecdotes
December 13, 2004 8:09 PM   Subscribe

I am an adoptee, and this AskMe post motivated me to ask- to any of you who are A) adopted and searching, or B) adopted and have found Bparents or siblings or C) have anecdotes on how friends have found parents or siblings.... How did You/They eventually find their kin?
I am all over message boards, registries, etc. I'm looking for other options. Any input appreciated.
posted by exlotuseater to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm adopted, but won't try searching for my birthparents until both my parents are dead. Apparently it's pretty easy in Wisconsin though.
posted by drezdn at 8:22 PM on December 13, 2004

Response by poster: I held off for as long as I could, but my Bmother was ~34 when she had me, my Birth sibling was 7 when I was born, and I'm 31 now, so time is running out. My sense is that it's particularly hard in NY. (I received my non-identifying info a couple of years ago, but there's not much inthere.)
posted by exlotuseater at 8:27 PM on December 13, 2004

I'm adopted, and I have no desire to search for my birthparents by any means. I also highly doubt that I ever will want to search for them, but that's just me.

The only thing I would want from them is their medical history, but maybe that's only because of my own, somewhat complicated medical history.

Good luck on your quest.
posted by carabiner at 8:30 PM on December 13, 2004

My friend is adopted and she inadvertently found her birth mother a few years ago. In the back of her high school yearbook her parents had printed a baby picture with the congrads, etc. (Un)Fortunately, it was the same picture that had been sent to her birth mother. Fast forward a year or two, and my friend ended up in the same college class as her birth grandmother, who recognized her name from the yearbook. On the last day of class, the grandmother handed my friend a card and said, "Read this later." Inside was a not very gentle note declaring everything. Turns out my friend has known a lot of her birth family throughout school (very small town).

My friend was shocked and really freaked out. She had thought of one day finding her mother, but not then and not there. This also affected her adopted parents, who have been nothing but supportive, but heartbroken at how much upset it has caused. She now has a good relationship with her birth family, but it took a long time for her to work up the courage to speak with them.
posted by dual_action at 8:50 PM on December 13, 2004

I am adopted and know the name of my birth mother. I thank her for giving me up but I have no desire to seek her out. My parents were the people what raised me. DNA carries much but it is the people who took the time to teach and direct me who are my family.
If a biological relative sought me out I would not be upset but I don't need to seek them out.
posted by arse_hat at 8:57 PM on December 13, 2004

Isn't it important for adopted folks to find their birth parents just to know about family medical history?

I know it's a sticky situation, but I'd probably want a single sit-down discussion with my birth parents just to know if cancer, heart disease, or anything else runs in the family that I need to watch in my own life (if I was adopted).
posted by mathowie at 9:03 PM on December 13, 2004

I really belive all adopted children ought to get a complete family medical history. It is odd never being able to tell a doctor what runs in the family.
posted by arse_hat at 9:06 PM on December 13, 2004

Response by poster: arse_hat and mathowie- that's part of it. I've had an awful lot of health probs., and I want to potentially have children someday (congrats to you #1), but a genetic counselor and a family tree help immensely. AH- I agree with the "parent" definition- I don't feel differently, my adoptive parents are, for ALL intents and purposes, my "real" parents. I just have a need to know. I didn't when I was younger, but I really do now.
posted by exlotuseater at 9:14 PM on December 13, 2004

This story is on topic, kind of: In doing some genealogy research, I googled my grandmother's maiden name. The site at the top of the list was the story of a guy in my hometown that was looking for his great-grandfather's grave, and how he eventually found it. I emailed him, and an hour later he answered me, saying that not only did we share that ancestor (his great-gf, my great-great-gf), but he already had me in his genealogy. That was neat, but that's not the best part of the story.

This cousin of mine has tracked down everyone in the world that he can find that shares his last name (about 1000 people). One turned up in England, a child refugee during World War II, after his family was killed, and had lived with no known family ever since. Although my cousin hasn't linked him with our branch of the family, he did find out that this guy in England had several first cousins still in Poland that had survived the war and helped them get together. Could you imagine believing your whole family was dead, then finding out you have a bunch of cousins? How cool!
posted by Doohickie at 9:23 PM on December 13, 2004

exlotuseater, the health issues and having children is scary. I have suffered from debilitating depressions and both of my sons have inherited that from me. I think it might have been a bit easier if my parents had known what to watch out for as I was growing up. If you do seek your birth family out I wish you all the best. I have no real wisdom to add, but from watching friends follow this route I would suggest that you be gentle with both your families and please don’t take it as a personal rejection if your birth family rebukes you.
posted by arse_hat at 9:29 PM on December 13, 2004

Response by poster: sorry to keep piping in- A_H : I'm completely prepared for that- I understand the whys and wherefores of that happening. Thank you for the good wishes.
posted by exlotuseater at 9:33 PM on December 13, 2004

My grandmother was fostered as opposed to legally adopted back in 1928. She applied for a passport about six-seven years ago to go see her son in the UK and was told she needed to get a birth certificate. It had never occurred to her that her birth mother's name would be on the certificate. At that time, my grandmother was about 70 and my mother did some quick searching and found out that Nana's real mother was still alive, and that she had multiple sisters living within a couple of hours from us. Of course, at her age my grandmother has no desire to meet her birth family, and my real great-grandmother probably is dead by now.

I was adopted by my stepfather, and when I was fifteen or so I went looking for my real dad with limited success. He came looking for me when I was eighteen, the week before my high school finals (unfortunate timing), and we are now good friends, and occasionally have some nice father-daughter moments.

I had no serious concerns about health but I have some sort of innate curiosity about family history in general. Now especially because I have one child and another on the way, I've been asking a lot of questions about my father's family history. My mother's side, because of my grandmother's past, is full of blank spots that I doubt I'll fill in until she dies.
posted by tracicle at 9:37 PM on December 13, 2004

I've always known I was adopted, and always wanted to seek them out. My adoptive parents have always been supportive: in fact, my dad got me all the forms I needed to get information out of the government.

I requested identifying information (state government of Queensland) after my 18th birthday, but sat on the information for a while before I rushed out. There was information on-file for me, but I may be in a unique case: my birth mother had updated her details with the Department of Families, and my birth father had left a letter for me, both actions which signalled to me they wanted to meet me.

My motivations for contacting were more curiosity than anything else. I wanted to learn more about the circumstances of my birth and adoption, where I got some of my traits from, and wanted to tell my birth parents that I had no hard feelings against them for adopting me out and that I turned out a-ok. I also didn't want to wait around forever and discover that I had cut off any way of contacting them, or even worse, that they had died. I met them both when I was 19, on separate occasions.

I am now closer to my birth father than my birth mother, and am inadvertently closer to my adoptive parents as well. It is amazing to discover all the similar little personality tics that I have in common with my birth parents. My meeting my parents was not without emotional problems for them, but for me personally, I can't imagine anything better.
posted by chronic sublime at 9:41 PM on December 13, 2004

mathowie - Currently (in Ontario), there's Bill 108, which would include a No-Contact clause for either the adoptee or birthparents. I don't know much about it, so take this with a grain of salt - but I think it pretty much states (that if passed), even if I wanted to search for birth parents but they had signed a form saying "no-contact", my medical history could be sealed with no possibility of obtaining information. (That is, if they also declined to include medical history in the no contact list)

But I could be terribly wrong.

On preview: I agree with arse_hat on medical history being able to have the complete medical history available to the adoptee at birth (even for the adopted parents it would be helpful).
posted by carabiner at 9:44 PM on December 13, 2004

I am adopted, and my birth family made contact with me nine years ago when I was 19. Like chronic sublime, I'm also from Queensland where adoption is entirely government-run and adoptees' identifying information cannot be traced until you turn 18.

My adoptive parents had always been open with me and my younger sister (also adopted) about the issue, but didn't generally advertise the fact outside close friends and family.

A few months after my 18th birthday my birth mother made contact with me via a mediator. Just the experience of finding out her name was a big step for me, and I didn't act on it for several months. But my adoptive mother couldn't stand the suspense and coaxed me into arranging a meeting at the mediator's house... about an hour's drive from where we lived. I remember the moment vividly, I can only describe seeing her face as like looking into a mirror for the very first time. The genetic connection was obvious and shocking (in a good way). She brought a pile of photos and I learned all about my birth family, including a full younger brother and sister (twins).

Co-incidentally, her father (my maternal grandfather) had died early that very same morning. She had gone ahead with the meeting for fear that postponing it would risk me
never coming back. But from my point of view there was really no danger.

Over the following weeks I met my brother and sister, my birth father and a large extended birth family, and we maintain close ties to this day. I'm extremely extremely lucky, and I realise that the experience could have turned out much worse than it has.

We also discovered uncanny parallels between our lives. Most surprising was to learn that my birth mother had been a student teacher at my primary school several years before I started there. She even used to check the rolls for children with my birthday, so could quite easily have found me if she had been there longer.

At first I think the experience was a little un-nerving for my adoptive parents, mostly as they were being protective of me, but they were both incredibly supportive and it did bring us closer together.

I totally agree that adoptees have a right to a complete family medical history at the very least. There's a few important things I have discovered, including a potentially dangerous penicillin allergy and a family history of prostate cancer.

Knowing my birth family has also tought me a lot about who I am as a person, in ways I'd never expected.
posted by bruceyeah at 10:20 PM on December 13, 2004

I have a half-sibling out there somewhere who is now 44. Someday I will prod my mother for more details if I gather up the courage (I don't want to hurt her), so I can file with my state's voluntary adoption registry thingie. They match up people if both parties provide enough details. I know nothing other than birth date at this point, and my mom had the child under an assumed name.

I worry that if this person is a female (we don't know), she needs to know she has a family history of breast cancer and should be getting yearly mammograms. Also she/he could be a carrier of bipolar disease, like my mom was, or face early debilitating heart disease, like my maternal grandfather.

I'm intensely curious about this person but my mother just wants to put everything behind her and pretend like it never happened. So I may never get details even if I work up the courage to ask.
posted by beth at 11:31 PM on December 13, 2004

As I mentioned in the post you linked to, I'm adopted and tracked down my birth parents about five years ago. The process was pretty straightforward for me -- I contacted the adoption agency that handled the whole thing and they dug up my file out of the archives. Someone went through and redacted all the "identifying information" about my parents, but I had first names, DOBs, etc. With that information (and some junior detective work online), I was able to track down my father in about 10-15 minutes via the Internet. Some people search their entire lives, I was fortunate enough to do it in a few minutes. Mother took a bit more effort, but tracked down her brother who put her in touch with me.

FWIW, my main motivation in looking for my birth parents was actually to get a medical history. I was going to need some innoculations against Yellow Fever and something else and the doctor asked "do you have a family history of kidney disease?" I was like, hmm, good question. So I went home and asked my mom "do we have a family history of kidney disease?" She said, "umm, well, I don't think so, but errr it wouldn't really matter in your case would it?" A der der. Point being, your birth parents are your birth parents and I thank my lucky stars every day that my mother gave me up for adoption (she was 15 when I was born). Your family, though, the people that raised you are your parents. YMMV and you may grow to have an incredible relationship with your birth parent(s) but don't fret if it doesn't happen.

I'm happy to chat with you about my search, etc. but would prefer to take it offline as one of my birth parents could be considered somewhat of a public figure and hasn't told their kids about it; I promised I would take care with that, so feel more than free to email me at the address in my profile and we can go from there. The one thing I can say is that I had no luck whatsoever with the online registries, etc. The other person has to be looking for you for those to work. If they're not, then you're pretty much SOL. If they are, phenomenal, but you've just gotta find the right one.

With regards to telling your folks, I've known for as long as a person can remember that I was adopted. My folks actually made it a really special thing for me and I remember growing up, my favourite story at bedtime was about the "day they got me." My mom and dad are the greatest so I was very careful about how much information I gave them about finding my "real parents" (God, I hate putting it that way.) After I had finally met my mother, I told my folks about it and dad was fine ("Hey son, I understand.") Mom didn't take it quite as well, so I just kind of left it. If she asks me anything about it, I'm more than happy to tell her. I just won't bring it up because I know it's likely to upset her.

Whatever you decide to do, it's a big step and it will play games with your mind. (Am I being unfair to my folks? Are my birth parents going to want me to contact them?) Best of luck with the search and even best-er luck after you've tracked them down.
posted by lazywhinerkid at 1:55 AM on December 14, 2004

I am not adopted, but my sister was and so have been a lot of my friends. Actually, my sister was given up for adoption by mother.

My advice is to not expect much from your biological family. You should be prepared for an un-Oprah meeting. Not everyone who places a child for adoption wants to open up that wound again. Those wishes should be respected.

My sister found us when she was in her early 20s. Although, I welcomed a new sister, it was horrible for my mother and my brother. My sister not wanting to wait for Catholic Charities (the adoption agency) to do all the paperwork, managed to circumvent the system by having a cop in the small town that she lived in, go into sealed records at the courthouse and get all my mother's info. The info led my sister to my maternal grandparents who didn't know that my mother had a child (or so my mother thought for 20+ years). One day my mother gets a call from my grandmother telling her that her daughter was looking for her. This was extremely traumatic for my mother and I feel that my sister was completely in the wrong. Had she used the system properly, my mother would have been contacted by Catholic Charities and been given the opportunity to establish a relationship with my sister before the entire family and all the neighbors found out about what happed those many years ago.
posted by Juicylicious at 9:49 AM on December 14, 2004

I'm not adopted myself but have two anecdotes:

One of my SILs is adopted. She has never felt the need to look for her birth parents. I, cynically, wonder if this is, at least in part, because her adoptive parents were famous ("were" because they are both dead now). Her oldest son is interested but SIL won't help at all and he's been left rather frustrated.

My husband had a child at 15, or rather his 16 year old girlfriend did. The girlfriend was forced by her parents to give up the child (a girl) and my husband had no say in the matter. Both my husband and his grown son have registered in Ontario (Canada) to allow her to find them if she so desires. This was six or seven years ago and there hasn't been any contact yet.

Sad but funny: they didn't know that what they were doing (sex) would make her pregnant. Admittedly, this was in the 1950s. My husband (54) jokes that he's still waiting to be told about the "birds and the bees" from his father.
posted by deborah at 8:22 PM on December 14, 2004

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