Social and biological disconnet…

Elle over at Lost Daughters has a post up that I read yesterday, talking about her love for genealogy and documenting her adoptive family tree.  She talked about how this is her social history, the feelings evoked in her digging into and uncovering what happened that are missing in the stories told.  Elle was adopted from Korea to Sweden so while her voice and experiences are in part, unique to her locale, her love for her social history and adoptive family tree genealogy isn’t unique, others like me share it.  Nor is her perception wrong from others, even family members, that as an adoptee we aren’t supposed to care about where we came from, but, at the same time we aren’t really part of the genealogical tree of our new family because we don’t share DNA, so we shouldn’t be interested.

To me, other peoples perceptions seem to leave the adoptee in yet another void, you aren’t part of your old family anymore so just move on, you are a part of this family now, but not really because you were adopted, and the family tree is a biological historical document.

Genealogy and family trees are my hobby and I seem to always be in the midst of some puzzle in one of my four trees.  I talk about it a lot, here and on my old blog.  Beth, my friend also adopted is also into all of her trees too.  Snippets below just for context, but not really what the post is about, so feel free to skip.

[Me]…right now, I deep into the 1600’s of my biological paternal family tree. It’s amazing – also finding many similarities to dad’s family tree in the 1600’s including geography, religion, etc…just bizarre and I can’t put it down…

[Beth] I’m lost in the 1600’s with you! Where in the world are you? I’m lost in the family stories that are in so many ancient History books too, I can’ t imagine I could ever possibly read all of what I have found.
It is bizarre. I too see the similarities in my and my dad’s tree, mom’s too. Once I got back far enough I have been able to link us all to common distant ancestors. Amazing. And not just my afam, but many of my friends too.

[Me] MA, ME, NH…all those good Puritans who arrived…

[Beth] I’m hanging out with the Quaker’s! in VA, PA, MA and what is now WV, OH. I was shocked to find so much written history in Ohio and Illinois in the early 1700’s and before. VA was pretty pitiful.  he Quakers sure are scary to me, as nice as they are. Yikes, I wouldn’t have made it far there. No wonder many of mine ran to the mountain wilderness to be with the wolves, mountain cats, bears and natives that wanted to kill them! Better than peaceful civilized Quaker town? YikesI agree, run granny run!

Today, family tree assignments are talked a lot in the adoption community, many seem to want to only focus on the biological family tree.  Of course many adopted children now also have history with/of their first family so that complicates the matter.  I don’t think there is any right answer that can be applied to all adopted children, just how to handle a specific assignment for a specific child, this post is not trying to say what is the right way for anyone.

I’m not sure if I ever had to do family tree assignments in school, but if I did, they would have been based on our family tree*, because that is all that I would have had, and I knew it so well.  Not to mention that adoption then was handled as you are now in this family tree, not your original.  At the same time, I’m not sure I would have even thought to do otherwise, or wanted too, because mom and dad and family were/are my family.  Just like Elle states in her post, “I got my social heritage as well from my mum and dad…” 

What I think we should ask, has the pendulum swung too far, instead of finding the middle ground?  In the move to acknowledge, and value the first family, have we created yet another void?  A void that now includes not just the perceptions of others, the adoptive parents and adoptee as well, that says you are family, but your family tree is not your adopted family tree?  You are part of our family, but you only belong in your original family tree?  We can’t be in both trees?  Is it not acceptable if you choose to use your adoptive family tree in school assignments?  The family you are part of, share family traditions, culture, history, but it’s not your family tree too?

Hoping some who knows exactly what the assignments encompass will chime in…and anyone with an opinion…

*I do want to note that I do believe ‘adopted’ should be noted in the record of the person in a family tree for historical purposes.

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7 comments

  1. kellie3

    This is a subject that just came up for us.

    My husband and I and our two youngest children went to see his grandmother recently. This is his adopted grandmother (his mom’s a-mom). (Of course, I never considered her anything other than just his grandmother). Because of the turmoil that has split our family because of the our granddaughter’s adoption, we have not seen her in a while.
    To our children, she is the grandma who makes the most excellent quilts which she freely gifted them while they were there. My son, a.k.a. the blanket boy, was in heaven. They also walked around looking at the old pictures she had hanging on the walls. Many of these were pictures of long lost relatives who were not ancestors of my children. As I said, this never entered my mind prior to my granddaughter’s adoption. Now, I see my children looking at these pictures, and I feel a little different. It’s okay that they celebrate this family. I’m okay with that. As okay as I was before. I am not okay with the fact that there is another family out there they have been totally denied. People they have never known and will probably never know. Maybe because I am now part of a family my granddaughter may never know, and I feel that loss for all of them and myself? I don’t know. It’s all complicated and sad.

    In the case of my husband, his family tree in school would have excluded all biological family on his mother’s side except for his mother and siblings. He would have used his a-grandparents with no distinction that his mom was adopted. Everyone knew she was adopted, but no one pointed it out for any reason.

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    • TAO

      Adoption certainly complicates things…doesn’t it. I’ve been mulling on this subject for months. It seems to be such a sensitive topic, perhaps it is just how the schools present the project. It seems like it is damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. I just don’t like how boxed in the adoptee may feel. Reading Elle’s post yesterday just made me sad that she felt like her post was too pro-adoption for some, despite the fact that she wanted to research and acknowledge she was part of both trees. I go round and round in circles – why can’t we just have both in genealogy seeing as we are split between nature and nurture….I don’t know…

      I’m going back to the old blog – it’s too hard to try to move all the stuff over here that I want to keep. And none of the themes have page that you can create a blog roll on easily, except the theme over on the old blog…I might keep this one semi-active and perhaps post other stuff here…in such a flux…argh.

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      • kellie3

        Yes, I’ve come across some of the same issues. The blog roll thing is irritating. I finally went with a self-hosted blog, and imported my stuff from the old blog. I still have a lot of clean up, though.

        After I commented on this post, I remembered you writing on this subject before and maybe I commented then, too? I hope I’m not repeating myself too much. I do tend to sound like a broken record when it comes to adoption, though.
        My personal opinion on the subject, fwiw, they are both your families. You should be able to claim both of them equally. It’s too bad one side has to make an adoptee feel bad about the other if that’s what they are doing.
        Being the side who is shut out and denied, it is easy for me to say that. I’ve been put in the middle before, though, and it’s not a pleasant place to be.

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  2. cb

    I consider myself to be part of both family trees. They both contributed to “what makes me me”** – my adoptive parents heritage contributed to what made them the people they were which contributed to how I was raised and my bfamily’s heritage contributed to what I was born with.

    **in 6th grade, we had a project called “what makes me me” – I don’t recall having a family tree project.

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  3. cb

    “*I do want to note that I do believe ‘adopted’ should be noted in the record of the person in a family tree for historical purposes.”

    I agree. This can especially be important when doing medical research using one’s family tree.

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  4. beth62

    There are many branches on my FAMILY tree. I choose to celebrate them all. I encourage my family to celebrate them all, and their connection to each branch, each person, whatever that may be. If today I had to do a family tree assignment, or one for my kids, I would include all of the branches I could in the space I had to work with.

    What’s so bad about being adopted and letting it be known if that is your choice??? I get two family trees, and I claim them both rightfully for what they are – Family. I claim my husbands tree too, I am connected to it forever thru my children. I claim every family tree branch I am listed on, I can, why shouldn’t I?

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  5. beth62

    This week I got to sit by my (((Dad))) and look thru old old old pictures, portraits and letters of his family I had not seen before. Many from the early 1700’s! Museum worthy documents (I have my work cut out for me now.)

    He told me everything he knew about the people and places and I made notes on things and wrote as fast I could. It was a true joy for me, and I am certain for him too. If I don’t record the things he knows it will go unknown forever when he is gone. Things like who that is standing next to his grandma in the pics, whose house that was, what event that was, why they were there and details only he would know. this is not my bio father or ancestors, I do this to know them better, to give the information to them, to my siblings, nephews and nieces that I love dearly and any future family.

    My Dad has great love and respect for his maternal ancestors, especially his grandfather and grandmother whose home he grew up in with his divorced mother and two siblings. A very special educated grandmother of means he always spoke well of and grateful to know. (very similar to the way I talk and think of my maternal adopted grandmother who I was grateful to know, who touched my life deeply) The documents he had were kept and assembled by his grandmother, for him. She was the family history keeper, and proud of her family, saw the importance of knowledge of long dead ancestors.

    A few years ago, not so long after meeting my other parents and family, when I showed interest in his mother and her family who I had never met, he asked why would I be interested? Sort of mad I think, thinking I had ditched his ancestors and what they’d left me with (him) for my own. I simply answered, “Because it’s your mother, your grandmother, why wouldn’t I be interested in them? I am interested in you.”
    That one sentence fixed everything between us. It hit home for him.

    While looking thru the artifacts I saw a picture of his grandmother when she was 8 years old, in 1888! What a treasure to have IMO! It floored me when I saw it. I was speechless. I thought I may have some sort of stroke or something LOL It was as if I was looking at a picture of my niece, my Dad’s granddaughter. Spitting image of her. Without speaking, or passing out, I got up, showed my son the picture and he saw the same thing I did. “OMG!” was everyone’s response to seeing this pic. They sat up in their chairs, got up to find more light to see, were floored and as excited as I was.
    This is SO big to me. I can’t wait to send this pic to my brother, he is not in the know yet, Merry Christmas 🙂

    MY niece, the daughter of my abrother, the biological granddaughter of my aparents looks just like her 2nd great grandmother!! And no one knew it until now. We had always looked for a strong family resemblance in her (her twin brother looks just like his dad) and hadn’t quite found one until now. I understand why I may think more of this than others due to my adopted experience of not knowing…

    When I showed my mom the pic and asked if this young lady looked familiar, she just said, it looks like “Mary” and handed the pic back to me. No excitement like me and the others, no amazement like seen in my dad. Just, “oh, that’s nice”.
    It really upset me! My heart just ached.
    But I have begun to understand her. I am not blaming myself!!, but I think it is partly “my fault”. My Mom has obviously put biological connectedness in the not-so-important-box due to me, her adopted daughter, due to our connection, and her strong connection to my kids. I get it, I see how this can happen, it’s not a bad thing by far – but it is a bad thing. That is where the shaky ground is found in adoption – for all of us in my family.
    Now my quest is to make it un-happen 🙂

    When I found my husband and my adad shared very distant greatgrandparents – blew me out of the water – meaning my children are bio related to my aDad!! Is that not a big deal? It is to me!! and I really don’t think I am wrong.
    Dad wasn’t so thrilled about possibly sharing some genes with my husband LOL (can’t blame him there 🙂 ) But my mother’s response was “Well, that was so long ago it really doesn’t mean anything.” Um, it means what it means, and “nothing” is not what it means, it means something.

    I’ve always felt sort of guilty for this disconnect, and annoyed. I’ve always tried to celebrate bio connection in my afamily, even before I found mine. Maybe when I was little it stung a bit? Maybe it stung a lot for my Mom? I think the shaky ground found there stung far worse. I think she thought it was something to avoid in front of me. I see it in amoms today online. Being fair, being inclusive, being equally loved – not a bad thing. But what it leads to can be a bad thing IMO.

    But to be able to avoid it around me, she avoided it always, everywhere. I was the one who pointed out that her new grandbaby looked like her, or looked like dad, or looked like my brother, or his wife… it’s what people do. I felt bad, especially after my kids came, and my bros kids came, that they felt uncomfortable talking about that stuff. So I mentioned things I noticed, I brought it up, I celebrated it hoping they would do the same for me. It’s just something that wasn’t done so much in our home, not so important really.
    It IS important.
    I will convince my Mom that she can put all of her children’s and grandchildren’s connection to her and to their ancestors in the It’s-OK-for-it-all-to-be-important-and-known-and-Celebrated-box.
    Me and mine will be just fine, we want it that way for us all.

    The quote that goes something like, “What side of a rectangle is more important to the rectangle?” echoes daily in me 🙂

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