Hill was born in 1946 and raised in small town Ionia, Michigan. He first learned of his adoption at age 18 when a family doctor whom he had consulted on a small matter asked him "how do you feel about being adopted?" He tucked away this startling information and did not tell his adoptive parents what he learned.
Fourteen years later, Hill's adoptive father, on his death bed, told Hill about his adoption. He said Hill's birth mother's name was Jackie, and she had lived with the Hills the last few months of her pregnancy.
He told Hill she was divorced and had a young son, Hill's half brother. After Hill's birth, she went to Detroit and Hill's adoptive parents had no further contact with her. A year later, she died in an automobile accident.
By this time, Hill had married his college sweetheart, Pat, had three children, and a demanding job. He put aside the information about his adoption until, four years later, he learned later that his wife's cousin, Pam, was searching for a son she had given up for adoption. Hill's wife told hercousin about her husband's brother. Pam "practically screamed at me. 'You've got to find him!"
Hill delved into his search, joining a search group, contacting his parents' friends who had put them in touch with Jackie, obtaining vital statistics records, reading old newspaper clippings, accessing court records, following leads passed along by family and friends. Each lead led to another, some valuable, others into blind-alleys. He was appalled to learn learned that his birth certificate and court records contained inaccuracies and downright falsehoods.
Within a few months, he was able to find his half-brother, Michael. They hit it off immediately, becoming "real brothers"; the only contention between them was that Michael rooted for the University of Michigan. "As a [graduate and] fan of Michigan State, I found Mike's preference for my school's archrival disheartening. But since he was my brother, I chose to overlook that single flaw in his character."
The search to find his father took another 30 years. Again, he plowed through official records, questioned his mother's friends and co-workers, only to end up short. Hill turned to DNA technology, first to rule out one man, and eventually to identify his father.
Hill has retired and devotes himself to educating "genealogists, adoptees, and anyone uncertain about his biological roots" about DNA testing to help them "avoid mistakes and find the most efficient paths to the answers [they] seek." His uses layman's language on his free website, DNA-Testing-Advisor.com, as he explains how DNA testing works and evaluates for-profit DNA testing services.
In time DNA testing may well become common for adoptees searching for birth families. I think it may have even greater value for persons created through "new fertility technologies" to find their egg or sperm donors. While adoptees may be able to access birth certificates, court records, and memories of friends and relatives, those who begin life with the pairing of gametes in petri dishes, have no such search aids.
Hill's memoir is well-written, easy to read, a can't-put-down tale. It's more than that, though, as Hill reveals himself in the process of discovering his roots. When he obtains a picture of his birth mother, he writes of the "delayed grief over my birth mother's death and our lost relationship."
It's a warm story of a man who finds family as well as roots. "Looking back, I do not regret a minute of it. While frustrating at times, my search proved to be a rich and rewarding experience. I uncovered the truth about my birth parents, acquired wonderful new siblings and cousins, and built a family tree for my descendants."
I was pleased that Hill resisted compartmentalizing his families."'I'm a lucky man,'" he told his wife. "'Most people are only blessed with two parents. I had four. Two of them created me from the DNA of my biological ancestors. And the other two molded me into the person I am today.'
"'Yes,' I said. 'Best of all, I don't have to give up anybody in my adopted family. It's not an either-or thing. I'm just adding on.'
Pat's next comment summarized my feelings exactly. 'You can't have too much family.'"--jane
The DNA Testing Advisor
Natural and Adoptive Families: Let's Gather Together
Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA An engrossing account of an adoptee trying to reclaim the biological family denied him by sealed birth records. This fascinating quest, including the author's landmark use of DNA testing, takes readers on an exhilarating roller-coaster ride and concludes with a twist that rivals anything Hollywood has to offer.--Amazon