Saturday, April 28, 2012

Talking about ancestry to an adoptee, Part 2

Path to the family tree...or trees?                         photo by Ken Robbins
What's the best way for a birth mother to talk about ancestors to the adoptee? What does "kinning" mean? There are two discussions going on under the last two posts, but they are about the same thing: family connections, whether adopted or biological.

Commenter Maryanne suggested that when birth mothers begin talking about the family ancestors to a relinquished child in reunion, one could use the word "my," if they appear to be uncomfortable with "your" ancestor, as this seemingly disavows the adopted family and ancestral line the individual has heard about, and accepted, growing up. We agree.

Yet we can understand the emotional quandary of some adoptees, who have grown up making a family history that is not really their own by any stretch of biology, theirs, but now they are supposed to suddenly adopt a new persona in their family tree in the persona of a biological grandfather who emigrated in the early 1900s, as mine did, or an earlier ancestor who fought in the Revolutionary War, as Jane's did, can seem strange, and invoke a feeling of Hey, wait a minute, not so fast....I've got other "relatives" of my own, and by the way, where we you when I was getting them? You gave me up for adoption.

Lorraine
BIRTH MOTHERS CANNOT ERASE THE MEMORY OF BIRTH
But as birth mothers who did give birth to the next generation, whether adopted or not, we have a innate and sense that our reunited child is an authentic part of his first family--we gave birth, after all; we know in the deepest possible way, a child is related to us. We nurtured them for nine months in our bodies, we endured the agonizing pains of childbirth, and we produced a body who came out of us. There is no way we can erase our sense that our ancestors are also the child's ancestors, whether adopted or not, because we have produced the next generation. We understand them in the context of generations in our family, no matter how or where they grew up. Yes, some birth families do excise the adopted out, but in a very real sense, they cannot be totally diminished to the status of non-existence, whether or not they are listed in the family tree. Think of this as a variation on Cogito ergo sum. I think, therefore I am.


The adoptee, not having had the experience of birth of a lost child, cannot quite grasp that connection in the same visceral way that birth mothers do. Perhaps after the adopted give birth themselves they can understand the emotional link of the biological better.

All of my grandparents were deceased by the time I reunited with my relinquished daughter, Jane. She was interested in our shared background, at the same time I knew she felt very connected to some members of her adoptive family beyond the immediate. As she got older--we reunited when she was 15--she became more curious, and felt somewhat more comfortable with my family. She came to know not only my mother, but my two brothers, and her first cousins, a few relations by marriage, and at least to my eyes, accepted them as her relatives. But that did not negate or disqualify the cousins and aunts and uncles of her adoptive family as also her family.

Four generations
BE ACCEPTING OF THE OTHER'S NEEDS
If anything is called for during the early stages of a relationship it is understanding and a lack of defensiveness, both on the first mothers and adoptees. Birth parents could proceed cautiously and find out what the adoptee wants to know, and when, and find out how the adoptee wants to proceed linguistically. Some will appreciate being included right from the get-go; others might be put off and feel defensive of their learned, adopted heritage; and still others will feel both ways--glad to be included yet protective of their adoptive family history and heritage. There is no right or wrong way to feel here, but speaking up here early on can make the reunion experience better for both sides of the equation, mother and child. Adoptees could say, You know, I feel uncomfortable with you talking about ancestors in that way, this is all so new to me, maybe I'll feel different later. This can get tricky because sometimes the adoptees feel uncomfortable asking about ancestors, afraid of speaking their true minds, wondering if they are overstepping bounds....yikes, reunion is a road full of potholes to avoid.

On the other hand, having been at a conference chock full of adoptive parents who are also academics, they pretty much recoiled in silent horror--at least that is how they made me feel--when I read from my memoir, Birthmark, which ends before I found my daughter and has these words:
"You have two uncles and three first cousins, and a whole bunch of other relatives who already know about you. I sometimes imagine flying home to Detroit with you to meet my mother. She'd be at the airport, make no mistake.

...You're part of our family too, right now. Your grandmother said she was going to change her will and leave you, in a trust, the same she is leaving her three other grandchildren. It's not much, but we want you to know that we think of you. And one time, she told me that when she dies, she wants on her gravestone four grandchildren, no matter who knows and who doesn't and who asks questions."
The room was as still as that grave, and only one adoptive mother had the courage to talk to me at the following reception. She asked how I felt when I heard adoptive parents say, "This child was meant to be a part of our family...." I was grateful to talk to her because she did want genuine conversation with a living, breathing first mother. There were a few other birth mothers there--including Maryanne--but I certainly felt like an "outlier."

DOES 'KINNING' REPLACE AUTHENTIC HERITAGE?
Present also was Signe Howell, the imposing Norwegian lady who proposed the theory of "kinning," a kind of emotional twining in of the individual to the adoptive family, which someone has brought up in the comment section about the Dutch adoption situation. From the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, an abstract of Howell's paper:
"With empirical material obtained from a study of transnational adoption in Norway, an argument is made for the concept of kinning. By this is meant a process by which a foetus, new-born child, or any previously unconnected person, is brought into a significant and permanent relationship that is expressed in a kin idiom. Through a focus on adoption within a cultural setting that emphasizes the flesh and blood metaphor as central for kinship, the ambiguities and contradictions embedded in the relationship between biological and social relatedness are thrown into sharp relief. Questions of race and ethnicity also become pertinent to the kinning drama of adoptive parents which involves, it is argued, a process of transubstantiation of the adopted child."
Got that? Transubstantiation is the name given to the concept in Catholicism that bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ--not a mere representation, but in reality. This always gave me pause in my religious belief--how could it be, the communion wafer was still a wafer. This is also similar to a Mormon idea of a blood transfer that is apparently not taken any more seriously today than I take the body-and-blood concept of transubstantiation.

Of course some of the "kinning" concept makes sense--the child does feel a part of his new family--yet at the same time the original family must then be de-emphasized. As far as I recall Howell made no reference to including the natural family's story into the adoptee's heritage. The original family counted for nothing; their story was simply erased. Howell's lecture made me want to walk out; I felt she was spouting malarkey under the guise of academia. I had few doubts about how she dealt with her own adopted children. I believe she said she had more than one. I also remember feeling--before I knew who she was--that she was particularly unreceptive and angry when I gave my reading. I wanted to duck from the vibes I felt coming from her.

Later quite by accident I found myself walking alongside Howell to another lecture. No one else was around to diffuse the chill between us, as frosty as the nip in the air that day. I was the birth mother she did not want coming back, whom she had relegated to non-status, non-mother, non. She was someone who did not understand how I could possibly feel about my surrendered, and now reunited, child. Jane had not yet died; we were close at this time. We were talking a few times a week. Howell and I had nothing to say to each other. I was relieved when we reached our destination and went our separate ways.--lorraine
-------


Sources: Kinning: the Creation of Life Trajectories in Transnational Adoptive Families
THE KINNING OF FOREIGNERS

Previous posts related to this one:
What does "ancestry" mean to an adoptee?
Adoption in the Netherlands is "undutch" while America's love affair with it continues






32 comments:

maryanne said...

Some clarification is needed here. My suggestion in comments on the previous post about using "my" rather than "your" when describing ancestors and family members to a found adoptee was meant to be used only when that particular adoptee was uncomfortable with being told about "your" ancestors. It was NEVER meant to be used to exclude an adoptee who wanted to be included in the natural family's family tree, or who preferred you to say "your ancestors".

This will vary from person to person, and you really have to take the cue from the person you are speaking with, your son or daughter. I certainly was not laying down any general rule for speaking to all adoptees, only making a suggestion for those where there was already difficulty around this subject. I think some misinterpretation has gone into this post, and want to correct my piece of it.

theadoptedones said...

To start with my aunt always used your "birth" grandma I guess as a way to respect my other family. I told her it wasn't necessary because I had two families so she could drop the "birth".

Lorraine Dusky said...

Maryanne is right, I did misread her comment at the earlier post, and have since changed the copy of this post.

But I do not believe I suggested that it should ever be used to purposely "exclude," just that using it unless requested by the adoptee might make her or him feel more "excluded" from the family tree he is biologically related to.

Lora said...

As and adoptee (Closed era) I grew up with family stories of our A family. We could either set ourselves apart or assimilate that heritage as our own. For the people we knew and loved, it was "my grandmother" But for the more distant ones it got a little more complicated when the only connection was by blood. Then I just sort of played the good adoptee and nodded my head when told of the distant relatives.

When I found out at age 45 I was actually Irish, I did not know how to process that. Still have a problem if someone asks my heritage I seem to go back and forth depending on who is asking. I am Irish, but have never met a single Irish ancestor including my mother. How to know what being Irish means?

As usual I feel I don't quite fit in anywhere. How to change a lifetime of trying to shape shift into one family to fit into another that doesnt really want me?

Lorraine Dusky said...

Oh Lora, you encapsulated what so many people who have been adopted hint at--the ping pong of [which/both] family.

My daughter was pleased to find out that she was Irish and could celebrate St. Patrick's Day with her adoptive mother. She said that one holiday was the one that made her think of her "roots" more than others. Eventually her amom learned she was Scottish rather than Irish, but Jane still like that Irish part. As I am 100 percent Polish {even tough one grandad served in the Russian army, but that was Poland under Russian rule), the Irish part of Jane came from her father, whom she never met.

maryanne said...

My son last St. Patrick's day, admitted to being able to celebrate from both sides, adoptive mom was Irish, natural grandfather was Irish, so my kids are one quarter Irish and all get a green shirt from me:-) But only one of my kids, Dan, likes Irish music like I do.

So the Czar's army got your grandpa, Lo? Mine left Poland to avoid it, and Russians were never his favorite folks.

Jean said...

My mother couldn't care less about ancestry. My dad felt a greater connection to his family history. It's been many years since he and I met. When we did, he not only told me the family stories, but also drove me to the graveyards. At the time we met, he lived in another state. He would drive back, pick me up, and we would visit his brothers and cousins then drive by the old home place and visit a cemetery or two.

I do remember trying to absorb this new ancestry. It was unfamiliar at first. I can't say that I felt connected to them right away, but I did see it as a necessary step in achieving what I hoped to achieve by meeting him.

Within a couple years, he moved back. That was in 1989. It's been a long time ago, and so much as changed since then. But in retrospect, we had an amazing influence on one another. He left home in 1963 and didn't come back until we reconnected with those roots together.

Learning my ancestry was (and still is) an amazing experience for me. I consider myself very fortunate that my dad brought me into the larger family fold without reservation or hesitation. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Of course, that's just me, but this was the best possible outcome for me. It was a little uncomfortable at first. I didn't know this new history, and I had to let go of those adopted ancestors who were all I ever had previously. But for me, the payoff was more than I ever could have imagined.

Lorraine Dusky said...

Yep, Maryanne, not only did the czar's army get my grandpa, he was stationed to be a guard at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.

Of course I imagine him in a great uniform with gold braid et cetera, inside the palace, guarding, you know, the Faberge eggs and the royal kids, but he was probably outside in the cold. He died when my father was 17, well before I was born, and so many of his stories died with him. However, he could speak Russian, as well as Polish, and my dad could understand Russian, if not speak it.

Our ancestry and the stories that go with it mean a great deal to us, they inform us where we fit into the tree of life. Even though my own stories are spare compared to those who have roots in this country that go back to its beginnings (my husband is a descendent of Rebecca Nourse, who was hanged at Salem), they are meaningful and important to me. I can only begin to comprehend how complicated issue this is for those who are adopted.

I hope that shows such as "Who Do You Think You Are?" and the one on PBS, "African American Lives" with Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. influence on the minds of the people in state legislatures re the sealed birth certificates of adopted people, but it will be subtle and we sure know it is slow.

Good lord, if Obama was adopted, think of the huge uproar that would arouse.

Anonymous said...

Maryanne, I understand your point about when to use "my" and "your."
However, couldn't the problem be entirely circumvented by just asking your found child what words s/he prefers to use?

--Heather

Anonymous said...

Lorraine,

Obama being adopted why would there be a huge uproar?

Lorraine Dusky said...

Heather: that's the point maryanne and I make--tread carefully and ask...

And Anon: There was such a fuss over Obama's OBC that if he could only come up with an amended one, folks would go even more crazy than they are now. I saw someone the other day trying to make the case that his OBC was false, that he was born elsewhere than Hawaii, etc.

People believe what they want.

Anonymous said...

@ Heather,

Although I respectfully agree that an adopted person can choose the words that our comfortable to them the fact remains that ancestry is defined by blood and genetic lines. Although and adopted person may have a preference on the words "my" and "yours" it does not change the definition of ancestry.

I am not sure what problem Heather is asking Maryanne to circumvent. Biology is a fact of nature. What is there to be circumvented? Natural laws of nature of that we accept them as true?" For instance if your "found" child prefers to identify with their Italian adopted family when their ancestry is Irish then s/he may prefer to be be called Italian but by the laws of nature they are still Irish. It is just a fact. Preference in how we identify our ancestry is something that might make a person more comfortable but it's basis is not factual unless it is a true. Just because adoption embraces the "as if born to" myth does not change the true ancestry of and adopted person regardless of what words someone prefers to use.

maryanne said...

Anon !2:36:

Nobody here is debating biological reality, that everyone is physically descended from their biological relatives, not their adoptive relatives. That is just a plain fact. Nobody is asserting that adoptive ancestors become biological ancestors or contribute to the adoptee's DNA. That would be ridiculous.

But in adoption and other complex family situations, there is also emotional reality and value beyond the cold facts of the situation, and that is where how one addresses the issue gets sticky.

Some adoptees value the adoptive family's heritage as theirs by adoption, and resent being suddenly expected to replace that with their biological heritage, with a family that gave them away. Others have always felt alien and excluded by the adoptive heritage and eagerly embrace their biological heritage as their only true heritage and their rightful connection to family. Others try to incorporate both into a collage of who they are and where they came from, and value both.

How each adoptee feels about this and deals with this matters very much in reunion, beyond "just the facts, M'am". As natural mothers in reunion, I do not think it is our place to insist that our children see it our way, but rather listen to them and deal with the subject of heritage honestly but with sensitivity to their point of view, whatever it is. There is no one right way that works for everyone.

Lori said...

Just out of curiosity, but, honestly, why can't both be accepted at the same time? We are who we are. Genetics do make a difference. Your connections to things like music, art, even food preferences are partially genetic.

My family is a very old, extremely large one. I have cousins, albeit distant, in every corner of the world. My family is Irish. The family name is famous in many places and every convolution of the name is still the same family.

My daughter's adopted family is partially - the woman - Greek. My daughter talks about her "cousins" etc., but in a way that sounds distant as if she barely knows them.

Both groups are her family. She is connected deeply to mine and by association to theirs....

What's the issue? Semantics?

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

Maryanne already answered this for me, but I will just clarify my thoughts.

I agree that factually our biological parents' ancestors are our sole ancestors. (I am an adoptee, and I only identify with my biological ancestors.)

But, I believe that all adoptees have the right to ask others to honor their beliefs.

So, my point was let's not beat around the bush. Let's just ask one another how we want to be identified.

--Heather

Linda said...

There is a difference between "accepting" both family trees and claiming to be a part of an adoptive tree.

As an adoptee, I find it incredibly insulting to be told I am part of my adoptive family tree, and find adoptees who believe this to be true are either a) in denial about their adoption or b) ignorant about basic biology or c) both.

It's about genetics, people. Genealogy, means genes.

While I appreciate my adoptive family's stories about their ancestors, they are NOT "my people", no matter how much I loved them, or they loved me. They are not my children's people, either.

Adoption changes our names, NOT our DNA, no matter what the Mormons, other cults or people in denial want to believe.

"BIRTH MOTHERS CANNOT ERASE THE MEMORY OF BIRTH"

Just as an adoptee, ap, religion or legal procedure cannot erase an adoptee's DNA. Its impossible.

maryanne said...

Linda, in fact genealogy is not the same as DNA or about DNA. It is about the legal record of relationships, especially the farther back you go, with no way to know who was actually genetically related to anyone else.

DNA testing does not lie, if done scrupulously, but people have always lied, especially to cover up infidelity and illegitimacy. Some number of people have always actually not been the biological children of the man whom they thought of as father. Who one married was not necessarily the father of the children, but would be the father of legal record. There has always been a significant amount of fooling around, our generation did not invent sex.

Some close family relationships are social and legal, like adoption, and it is not unreasonable for some adoptees to identify with the adoptive family tree, just as it is not unreasonable for others to have no interest in it. Individual adoptees should have the choice how they handle this, and not be accused of "denial" or "ignorance" if their way is not your way.

Again, I do not think anyone is denying DNA which is a physical fact and undeniable. I look at my son and see my grandfather in a picture of him as a young man. That is DNA, undeniable. But genealogy (the word far predates our knowledge of genes) is a very different thing.

Lorraine Dusky said...

Emotionally, knowing that your great great great grandfather did something and you find a connection with yourself, within yourself--is vastly different than being in a family tree with an asterik, mental or real, as adoptees are in the adopted lineage. It gave me a great sense of connection to learn that my Grandmother Drozduska (feminine ending) wrote letters frequently to the local newspaper. There was a sense, of ah, that's where that impetus in me came from. My granddaughter who was adopted (out) is a poet, and does spoken as well word with a jazz group. Her grandfather (my daughter's father) would be very pleased with the jazz connection, as he wasa jazz aficionado.

Not having been adopted, I can't speak for them, but knowing there is no blood connection and that the mix of traits is totally chance, seems to set up a disconnect. I know that when my husband pulls out pictures of relatives he no longer has any ties to, or even know where they are, he says, These are the adopted cousins... Yet one of his blood cousin's children has been trying to find the sister that cousin gave up for adoption. The papers were in his brother's law office but so far they have not been found. I know they are there.

Anonymous said...

Linda:

What you think is your opinion about how YOU feel about family trees. The fact is another family is raising, loving and accepting the child of another and thus, is part of that family. It is not insulting to many, it is a fact. This is why many reunions fail; the failure of the bio family to acknowledge the adoptive family as the adoptee's family.

Lorraine Dusky said...

Anon:
As you say...."the failure of the bio family to acknowledge the adoptive family as the adoptee's family...."

And not because the adoptee and adoptive family also fail to recognize the biological family, and its place in the history and heritage of the adoptee?

Both dynamics are likely to be in play. Your comment puts all the blame on the biological family. Yes. Of course. Blame the mother. The biological first mother. Always blame her.

Note: To make this conversation (and all others clearer) you may use a name and put it in where it says name/URL. If you don't have a URL or want to list it, you do not need too, and only the name will show, and no link to anything.

theadoptedones said...

Anon May 1 - 8:30...

Could you please explain how you know it is a "fact" that the family of birth is the cause of the reunion to fail because they do not recognise that the adoptee has an adoptive family?

Generally reunions happen between adults - not adult / child still living within the adoptive family home.

A reunion should not be focusing on the relationship within the adoptive family - it should be focused on getting to know each other and building memories that can last a lifetime and create an ongoing connection.

As to Linda's statement - I pretty much agree with her. I have done 3 of my 4 family trees and will soon do the 4th. I am interested in my social family trees but also interested in my genetic trees.

Robin said...

I'm not insulted being included on my adoptive family tree.

As for the sidebar about the comments. Generally the comments that I read were sympathetic. I did not read any adoptee comments about how much better off they were in their a-families. Several from the BSE wrote that they would like to be able to find their natural parents and extended family. Perhaps I was reading a different article.

patti said...

Linda, I am an adoptee. I do not erase DNA when placing myself on my adoptive family tree. I am not in denial.

If it were just about DNA, all of us would be in deep shit, because our ancestors could not prove paternity. Philandering has always happened.

Some adoptions were kept a secret, babies were switched at birth, etc.. The need to keep illegitimacy a secret has ever been great. Before DNA testing there was no way to expose this stuff. I know of several anecdotal family stories where infants were given away and records were forged.

The genetic family tree which you militantly attach yourself to is not a clean history of DNA. Such a tree does not exist for any of us. It sounds to me like you are the one in denial

Family trees pass down shared values, shared stories, shared culture, etc. Pressuring an adoptee to remove themselves from these is just plain mean.

Lorraine Dusky said...

Robin: After looking at the comments, I saw the same thing too today. Taking down sidebar. Of course, maybe hoards of people read that here and commented???

Dana Seilhan said...

I am in the odd position of not being an adoptee but still having some adoptee issues, because my dad got custody of me when I was three, and then I was lied to about who my real mother was. Then after the truth came out, my stepmother still expected me to call her Mom, would tell me about friends of hers who said I looked just like her, and so on and so forth. It was pretty sick, though it took me years to come round to understanding that.

Although I met her extended family and for a while thought of them as aunts and uncles and grandparents and such, at this point I no longer consider any of them family. In no way do I think of myself as related to them. Instead I think of my real mother's family as my family and her ancestors as my ancestors. This despite the fact I have never had a good relationship with my mother and have mostly been neglected by the extended family.

I would say to any adoptee who feels uncomfortable with being included in their natural family that they should just ride the feeling out and work it through. Your feelings don't change the reality that you were raised by genetic strangers. The fact remains that you would not exist if not for your ancestors, and only your mother surrendered you for adoption. None of your other maternal family did. There is nothing wrong with claiming them.

(I'm assuming here that grandparents didn't bully your mom into giving you up. But even if they did, that doesn't mean aunts or uncles or great-grandparents or cousins had any hand in it.)

Listen to those adoptees whose mothers have rejected them a second time and then you'll understand how tremendous it really is that your extended family has just doubled in size--or quadrupled, for those who've found their fathers too. And that's for those of you whose extended adoptive family even recognizes you as a relative in the first place. I've heard some horror stories.

Dana Seilhan said...

And...

"genealogy is not the same as DNA or about DNA. It is about the legal record of relationships, especially the farther back you go, with no way to know who was actually genetically related to anyone else."

That's because they didn't have DNA tests when they first invented genealogy. But now we have those, and there is no excuse.

It's like the birth certificate versus, say, "adopted" embryos or egg donation. I say it's time we updated our legal documentation to match the genetic reality. The Ashkenazi Jews versus Tay-Sachs disease demonstrates what happens with too much inbreeding. And they do it on purpose. Are we now going to impose this on children against their will, in the name of defending an outdated institution?

Of course, I'm one of the weirdos in the "adoption triad" community who wants adoption banned in the first place. Foster arrangements are possible for children who really do need new homes, and I would encourage reformation of that institution--it desperately needs it. But this business of falsifying legal documents and playing Let's Pretend We're Family has got to go. In my not-so-humble opinion. It wouldn't hurt my feelings if they criminalized lying to children about their origins, either. But then, as I mentioned in my previous comment, I have reason to be strongly biased in this regard.

Jean said...

I agree with Linda. Genealogy is about genes. That's always been the intent. No, there were no DNA tests in the past, but there was an effort to accurately record bloodlines. Consider the purpose. Those old European royals didn't want the jester's kid ascending to the throne.

Family history is a different subject, but genealogies are intended to accurate record biological lineage. Getting upset about it won't change it.

People are certainly free to reject the importance of genealogy, but it still means what it means.

ms. marginalia said...

ge·ne·al·o·gy/ˌjēnēˈäləjē/
Noun:
A line of descent traced continuously from an ancestor: "combing through the birth records and genealogies".
The study and tracing of lines of descent or development.

Genealogy can be used to trace the history of families, and writ broadly, I as an adoptee fit into the history of my adoptive family. I am legally a member of that family. I am on the family tree that my aparents have made. I am not insulted to be there.

That said, and although I love sharing the history of my aparents' families, their ancestors are not MINE in terms of "descent."

Maryanne points out that family trees are not always correct in terms of patrilineal descent, due to lies about who fathered which child. We cannot go back 50 years, 100 years, 200 years and be sure that we share that bloodline, but that's a red herring. That is true of EVERYONE; yes, people had adulterous relationships and weren't honest about them. Who cares? I am not the lineage police. But family trees, as we know them, are USUALLY about genetically related individuals, with amendments for adoptees, second marriages, half-siblings, etc.

What I also know is that genealogy is not value free. Family trees, invented or otherwise, have been created to argue for people's legitimacy and claim to power. Blood counts. Bastards are (usually) excluded from the family exchange of power.

To say that bloodlines have nothing to do with genealogy? That's tripe. I am marked, on my aparents' tree, as an ADOPTED child. That's not offensive, it's the truth. I had been erased from my first family's tree, up until this point, because of shame issues related to my being illegitimate, and then legally not belonging. I CHOOSE to reclaim my place on my first mother's family's tree because I feel I belong there. I am fortunate to be supported in that.

On the other hand, there is another family, somewhere in Spain, and I also belong on THEIR tree. I am sad that I have no way of finding my way back there, or tracing my Iberian roots. They don't even know I exist. C'est la vie.

I admit that I am dreading the point at which my children (now in elementary school) are asked to do their family trees. They will have lots of explaining to do, and although I made it no big deal within our family, I can imagine that there might be fallout for them in the classroom.

Linda said...

Absolutely, Jean.

Anon, there is no denial. I am not related by blood to my adoptive family. Their ancestors are not mine, no matter how much I love them or love me. As I said in my comment, I love them and appreciate their stories, but the fact is, they are not my ancestors, or the ancestors of my children. They are related to me through a legal procedure. Genealogy means GENES. Period.

There are members of my natural family who have taken DNA tests for certain lineage societies. Is our tree correct all the way to the beginning of time? Of course not. But I know for certain that my natural family members were here pre-Revolutionary War. My adoptive family members did not arrive in this country until the 1920's.

I disagree, Maryanne -one needs to look no further than England, lol. NO ADOPTED CHILD will ever be king or queen. Bastards have been shunned since day one. Genes/DNA counts. It is the stuff kings and queens are made of. It matters to lineage societies, it matters to professional genealogists. It matters to those who embrace the truth.

Yes, these are MY opinions, and the opinions of people who care about accuracy and truth. Loving my adoptive family has nothing to do with their genealogy. Yes, I am legally related to them, and I am a part of their HISTORY, but not their blood ancestors.

Anon, (LOL) I fail to see how a first parent's opinion about dna REALITY could cause a reunion to fail. In fact, I know some Mormon adoptees who foolishly believe they are now genetically related to their adoptive families. I really do not know of any first parents who do not accept the adoptee's adoptive parents as their family/parents. Why would they accept them as the adoptee's ancestors? They are not. That's reality. You don't think THAT could "cause a reunion to fail"??? Yes...when one party lives in reality and another lives in the land of magic underpants...always an issue.

Anyway, my comment had nothing to do with why reunions fail. YOU made it about that. The truth is adoption changes your name-NOT your DNA. You may gain a loving family through this legal procedure, but you will never lose or change your DNA- no matter what your church/ap's/friends/self/flying spaghetti monster tells you.

Of course you can insert yourself on your adoptive family tree. But you are only there because of a legal procedure, nothing more. Love doesn't magically make you a blood relative.

maryanne said...

Ms Marginalia, absolutely the uncertainty in genealogy as pertains to paternity applies to everyone, not just adoptees. I am well aware of how important it was not to be a Royal Bastard, although some did do quite well for themselves with Daddy's help or without. There was never a shortage of royal bastards, as horny royalty got around!

Looking at the few remaining Royal Families, it does not seem to be a system that worked too well, with as much inbreeding as any hillbilly clan and the usual bad consequences including hemophilia traced through the royal families of 19th century Europe.

Linda, yes, genealogy is supposed to be about blood relationships, but sometimes it is not, and when you go back beyond living memory, there is no way of really knowing.

It is not scientific and it is not DNA or identical to having one's DNA traced, which from what I have read. often involves some surprises, like more racial mixing than some families would ever want to admit to, or those priding themselves on being full blooded this or that discovering it was not so.

This is separate from the emotional issue of which family tree,either, neither or both, adoptees chose to identify themselves with. No, nothing can change DNA or genetic inheritance, but then nobody really believes that anything can and if a few Mormons think that, they are mistaken. Taking an interest or expressing allegiance to one family tree or another by adoptees is a whole other thing.

Anonymous said...

The truth is adoption changes your name-NOT your DNA. You may gain a loving family through this legal procedure, but you will never lose or change your DNA- no matter what your church/ap's/friends/self/flying spaghetti monster tells you.

Hmmm... not that I disagree with you, but statements like these do make blood connections sound like the end-all and be-all.

And what about those who did not grow up with loving biological parents?

Biology is important. Blood does not trump all.

Lorraine Dusky said...

Anon: I do not understand what you are arguing anymore. Linda and Jean and we are certainly not arguing that the ties made by adoption are not compelling and a part of one's life forever. They are simply pointing out the reality of biology. Yet you seem to be upset and irritated by that idea, and want to negate it.

Does it feel that you are being disloyal to your adoptive family? Or are you angry with your biological family?

Or are you an adoptive parent angry with reading these comments from adopted individuals? Upset about hearing how they feel about their biological identity, and that the best adoption in the world cannot change that?