It has been over 3 years since my last blog post, but today is New Year’s Eve, and it is a time for reflecting back on the year that was and looking ahead to the year to come. 2018 has been a year of exciting connections. 2019 promises to be a year of exciting adventures. I’d like to share what has been the most exciting part of the past year, and why I am looking forward to this coming year with such anticipation.
New Year’s Eve a year ago, I had sent my DNA in to Ancestry.com and was awaiting the results. As an adoptee, I had always wondered about my ethnicity and about my birth parents – what they looked like, what their personalities were, whether they were even still living. Shortly after the new year, I got notification that my ethnicity results were in. They have since been refined, but it turns out I am mostly French, with Ireland/Scotland being the next biggest part of my DNA.
Then I started getting notifications about blood relatives. It was mostly distant cousins, but without knowing any information about family names, it wasn’t clear how we were related. And I wasn’t entirely sure how accurate Ancestry could be about 3rd, 4th, or even 5th cousins, just from some saliva in a tube.
Each match provided an amount of shared DNA, expressed in “centiMorgans”- the higher the number, the closer the relationship. So, for example, someone who is listed as a 2nd cousin shares 640 cM with me. (I later figured out he is actually a first cousin, once removed – meaning he is first cousins with my birth mother. That would explain why the cM number is between 1st and 2nd cousin ranges.)
Imagine my reaction when, about 3 weeks later, I was notified that I had a match much closer than that! This one listed the relationship as Parent/Child, with extremely high confidence. The centimorgan number was 3,479!
Since I have never had a child, it appeared this must be my parent. There was not a full name, though – just a screen name, but it did indicate that it was a woman, so it seemed this was my birth mother. She had created a family tree on the website, and I was able to see that she was married and had 4 daughters – one of whom was not connected to her husband. That was me!
After several days of heart-racing excitement and a little anxiety, I reached out via direct message to ask for confirmation. It took her several days to write back, but I received the confirmation I was looking for – I had found my birth mother! I had done a little digging using her family tree to determine her name and location, found her on Facebook, and looked at photos she had posted of her family. I can definitely see a family resemblance, especially to her middle daughter. My dream of finding family that I looked like was coming true!
In writing back, she shared information about her journey – that she was 22 and a teacher when I was born, but not married and not in a position to care for me, so she put me up for adoption. She was from Prince Edward Island, had gone to live with a family in New Brunswick while pregnant, and then moved to the west coast of the States right after I was born. She did not have contact with my birth father after that.
She met and married another man after moving and went on to have 3 more girls. She had shared with her daughters that she had had a baby back in 1964 who was given up for adoption, and that she often wondered what had become of me and whether I was OK. One of her daughters gave her the DNA kit for Christmas, so it turns out we submitted our samples within weeks of each other! We communicated several times throughout the spring and summer. While the messages have gotten fewer and farther between since the initial flurry of information sharing, I still hear from her on special occasions such as my birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
To add to the excitement of that discovery, later in the spring, I had another close match show up. This time, the cM number indicated it was likely a half-sibling – another sister.
She also had created a family tree going back many generations. Because I could see the name of her father, I realized he had passed away (Ancestry.com does not publish names of living people). But from her tree, I gathered that I had 4 more half-sisters. Growing up, I had always wanted a younger sister. It turns out I have a total of 7!
She and I have since been in touch. She was not aware of my existence before this, but she has embraced the idea fully. It turns out that her mother knew – her husband had told her before they married that he had fathered a child a few years earlier, although he did not know if it was a boy or girl, and did not know where I ended up. He stayed on Prince Edward Island, raising his family there. My birth mother has also confirmed that my father was indeed that person.
This sister has shared photos of her dad as well as of herself and her sisters. Again, there is definitely a family resemblance. But beyond that, she shared that he had been a teacher and then a school counselor before passing away 20 years ago. I had learned many years ago that both of my birth parents were in the field of education. Imagine my amazement, though, when I found out that my birth father had, in fact, taught math for part of his career!
Having made connections with both sides of my birth family has given me a sense of completion. I have had a wonderful life – the parents who raised me provided lots of opportunities and love. But my life was a bit like a puzzle with pieces missing, and I am beginning to fill in the gaps. So many questions have been answered, but there is more to find out. My sister in Canada has invited me to visit and so I am planning a trip to meet her, her other sisters, and their mother. I hope to learn more about the extended family and work on piecing together the puzzle that is me. Perhaps, one day, I will also get to visit the other side of my birth family and be able to finish filling in the missing pieces. But for 2019, I will be content with the excitement of the adventure that awaits!