Friday, July 5, 2013

Melanie's Story: I Discovered My Birth Family Through a 2nd Cousin Match at AncestryDNA


Melanie has been kind enough to share her amazing story with us in her own words.

"My Adoption Search and Reunion" by Melanie

In 1968, I was placed for adoption during what is referred to as the "Baby Scoop Era". Young single women who found themselves pregnant usually did not have any support, including their own family. They were enticed by family and church to place their babies for adoption in order to give them a better life with two parents. During this period birth records, including original birth certificates, were sealed giving no future access or information to adoptees except for what is referred to as Non-Identifying Information.

I do not recall ever a time in my life where I did not know I was adopted.  Even with two loving parents I always felt alone and that I had been abandoned by my birth mother.  I have always known in my heart God's plan was carried out and I had the mom and dad God chose for me but it didn't take away the loss and pain. My childhood was spent trying to fit in to a family I didn’t belong and constantly trying to prove their love, driven out of the fear of being abandoned again.  


Melanie, 4th grade
At a very young age I realized that society expected me to be grateful and I became the compliant child who buried all the questions, confusion and pain. NO ONE ever stopped to think what it’s like for a child to go through life without their true identity, how that would limit their emotional growth resulting in damage to their true self. I’m not sure at what age I stopped asking questions but at some point I cut off all emotion since there were no answers to be had until the day I found my birth family. After many years of searching that day finally came through a DNA test.

MY SEARCH:

1998/1999 
 ·      Registered with Louisiana Voluntary Registry, ALMA, International Soundex Reunion Registry, any website I could find, also talked to a few private investigators.
 ·      For 14 years I consistently looked online and registered at any website I could.

Summer 2012        
·       Found G’s Search Registry and was matched to a LA Search Angel. 
·       Ordered updated Non-ID from Louisiana
·       Located one possible match on an online registry.  Made contact and interesting enough the mother chose my birthday to marry years later.  The Non-ID did not match but left many questions that couldn’t be answered since the mother had already passed away. (Turns out she is not a match, but I met a wonderful woman that I still communicate with)
·       Search Angel & I spent endless hours pouring through newspaper & obituaries on GenealogyBank.com looking for males who drowned in 1951. (Non-ID stated that maternal grandfather drowned in 1951.*)
·       Searched Classmates.com using the information about birth mother provided in my Non-ID
·       Searched New Orleans Library website to find any female within an age range that passed away in 1967, then went to Genealogy Bank for the obituary to match Non-ID information.
·       Determined that my birth family was most likely not from LA. Gut feeling was they were from MS.  I called LA Social Services but there was nothing in my file.
·       MS newspapers are not on Genealogy Bank so the search stopped once again
·       Decided to wait on DNA testing as a last resort

2013
·       December 2012 - started researching DNA testing; took 23andMe DNA test
·       January 2013 - Received 23andMe results. I was elated to have for the first time ever ancestry and medical information, but at the same time I had no clue where to even begin.
·       Uploaded 23andMe results to Gedmatch & Family Tree DNA – spent hours trying to find any correlation & had so many helpful distant relatives looking also.
·       February 2013 took Ancestry.com DNA test
·       March 8, 2013
o   2:56pm received Ancestry.com DNA test results with one match predicted to be a 2nd cousin (turns out to be a 1st cousin twice removed)
o   Immediately sent email to my match, Linda
o   Linda responded at 3:24pm that she could help me saying that my great grandmother was her dad’s sister along with some other information. Then all of a sudden she wrote STOP and gave me her phone number so we could talk. My maternal birth family is from Mississippi so it’s interesting that Linda only lives 30 minutes away from me in Texas.
o   Took a deep breath and called her.  At first she didn’t give me birth mom’s name but gave me the family background and history that corresponded to my Non-ID.  After about 30-45 minutes she just said “Oh heck, you deserve to know the truth. Your mom’s name is _______”.  We talked for over an hour and she said she would call one of the sisters.  The sister confirmed the connection and gave her my birth mom’s phone number.  Linda then called my birth mom who wanted to talk to me but would call later when she was in a private place to do so. Birth mom gave Linda my birth father’s name and some basic information which Linda passed on to me.
o   I had dinner plans that evening and, of course, my birth mom called at that time. She left the sweetest voicemail and asked me to call her back no matter what the time.
o   By 9pm I spoke to my birth mom for the first time ever. She gave me much more information and informed me she thought my birth father had passed away.
o   After we hung up I located my birth father’s family in TX through the internet at 1:00 am; it’s been an overwhelming long day!

·       March 9, 2013
o   I found my half sister on Facebook and spoke with her that afternoon
o   I phoned my Aunt (adoptive) since she is the family genealogist and gave her what information I had on my birth father.

·       March 10, 2013
o   My Aunt found my paternal grandfather’s obituary that included the names of his wife and children.

·       March 11, 2013
o   I located my birth father’s date of death on Ancestry.com (1977), as well as my paternal grandmother’s obituary.
o   Using the names in my paternal grandfather’s obituary I was able to find one of my paternal aunts on Facebook and send her a message.

·       March 13, 2013
o   I get a response from the paternal aunt asking for more details.  Fear sets in that I will be denied my paternal ancestry.

·       March 14, 2013
o   Receive email from other paternal aunt welcoming me into the family. None of the siblings knew anything about me; only one of the sibling wives had ever heard mention of an adopted child. They are over the moon to have found me. I look a lot like him and he had no other children so I’m a little piece of him remaining in this world after they lost him so young. 

·       March 15, 2013
o   Birth father’s best friend who also didn’t know I existed sends me lots of childhood stories.  It was amazing the commonalities I share with my birth father as well as those he shared with my dad (adoptive).

·       Easter Weekend 2013 - Reunion
o   On my drive to my mom’s (adoptive) I stopped to meet my paternal uncle and his wife. They live in a Texas town I have driven through many times over the last 9 years where my birth father was raised. My uncle’s wife was very close to my paternal grandmother, spending a lot of time in the kitchen over the years after my birth father’s death. My grandmother would make comments every now and then to her that she fantasized about finding his daughter.
o   My mom (adoptive) and I met my birth mom and half sister the day before Easter in Mississippi. This particular town I’ve probably been through over 100 times in my life not knowing I have birth family there. We spent about five hours together sharing stories, pictures and gifts.  Looking back on that day it feels like as if I was on the outside looking in. It was so surreal to actually lay eyes on and know the person that brought me into this world!

Melanie with her adoptive mother and cousin Linda

Even though it has only been a couple of months into the reunion I have a peace unlike I have ever known before.  My friends and family even say I am a completely different person now. I no longer live in a world where I constantly wonder and question everyone and everything around me. I recently read a book that stated..."We tend to prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty". I believe that this is such truth since no one can process the unknown. Knowing the truth gives me the ability to work through the hurt and a lifetime of feeling abandoned. Things are not always 100% rosy and perfect in reunion; working through all the relationships will take time, but I am blessed that so many in my birth family have accepted me and taken me into their lives without question. DNA testing and a cousin named Linda gave me the ultimate gift! 

The best answer for adoptees is for laws to be changed giving adoptees access to their original birth certificates. It is a blatant denial of civil rights. But in the meantime DNA testing has given hope to adoptees and circumvents outdated legislation. 



[*Note on Non-ID: Had Melanie's maternal grandfather lived in Louisiana there would have been a chance to locate him via newspapers & obituaries. However, because Mississippi doesn't have their records online, the paper trail search ended when every Louisiana source was exhausted. Melanie also searched for her maternal grandmother in the same way since, according to her non-ID, she was killed in an auto accident in 1967. It turned out that this was all true and, because of these tragic events, Linda knew to which family Melanie belonged.]

9 comments:

  1. nice! :) sounds like they're 1st cousins once removed though not 3rd unless I'm missing something...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes it does KatieR. I am checking with Melanie for clarification. I guess my tired eyes missed that last night!
      Thank you,
      CeCe

      Delete
  2. How Fantastic. Happy for all of them. Wish them many years together, and making new memories.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yeah, Melanie!!! Cheryl in Louisiana

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is a great story that gives me so much hope! My story is identical but I am adopted in 1966 and just found a 2nd cousin on Ancestry.com last week. I haven't contacted her yet.

    Thank you so much!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Terrific, TessyK! I hope the 2nd cousin match leads you to your biological family. Please let me know what happens.
      Best wishes!

      Delete
  5. I am Melanie's "new" Aunt Katy. I am so blessed to have received the gift of my beloved brother Jim's precious daughter. Thank you, Melanie, for not giving up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How wonderful, Katy. Thank you so much for commenting. I wish you both well with your "new" family.

      Delete