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I always knew I was adopted. I often wondered about things growing up. Then over 28 years ago, I was introduced to genealogy, and began researching my adopted family tree. During that time, I thought more about my adoption and my real
family tree. Then in 2002, I went to the emergency room for some kind of medical issue, and while there I was told my blood sugar was VERY high. A doctor visit after that revealed I had type 2 diabetes. So later, after I got home,
I was wondering what other medical issues might be in store. At that point, I decided to put my research skills to work. I sent to Boston for "non-identifying" information. Before they sent the packet of information, which told the
story of my birth family without revealing names, they called me and made sure I was sitting down first to give me the heads up. According to the records, my biological parents were brother and sister. As a matter of fact, the
brother was sent to prison for about a year for this crime. |
This didn't shake me up as much as it might other people because I realized right away that it wasn't like I could change it, nor was it my fault. After they told me on the phone, they said.... gee, you're taking this pretty well! I told them, I have been doing family history research for years, nothing surprises me anymore. I have uncovered skeletons in every family tree I have worked on. Both for myself and clients. Now, "I" was the big scandal! I actually found this somewhat amusing. They proceeded to send a pile of papers, including two baby pictures from the day I was born. I then reached out to contacts I had made over the years from Massachusetts to Illinois, who were experts in the genealogy field as well as adoption records. Between their skills and mine, we put the pieces together bit by bit, and within only a few months we had names and locations.
A couple months later I met my birth mother and siblings. After a second visit a few months later, I concluded the family has not changed much since they were known to child services long before I was born. Not getting into details, but can say with certainty it was good I was adopted. Only two siblings who left the group early on have made something of themselves. If the records were correct, My birth mother had at least six children, most by different fathers. My alleged father had three children, including me. This meant, I had a large number of half siblings.
Since 2002 I have managed to acquire many of my pre-adoption records. Birth certificates, medical records, foster home records, and many more that most adoptees only wish they could have. I know that after my birth at Tewksbury State Hospital & Infirmary in November of 1959, I stayed at the hospital until February 26, 1960. From there I was sent to a foster home where I stayed until December 1, 1960 when I was placed with my adoptive parents. I was officially adopted in March 1962 and my name was changed.
Ok, fast forward to late 2013. For several years now I had been told by several people within the birth family group that there was another story besides the one my birth mother told me. Apparently, others were told it was actually my biological grandfather, who was my father, and not my mother's brother. There were stories of eye witness accounts of events between father and daughter long after I was born as well as other stories about the man. So, I sat down and reviewed everything I knew. Upon closer inspection of earlier notes and information, and putting together the stories from four different people who don't really even talk to each other, I now came to the conclusion my biological grandfather was most likely my birth father. Although I had enough circumstantial evidence, what I really wanted to find was some kind of smoking gun type evidence. After talking with a fellow researcher, we decided DNA might help. Because I wanted this to be done as correctly as possible including translating the results later, I went looking for help in that area.
Enter Cece Moore, an independent professional genetic genealogist, and Dr. Jim Wilson PHD, Senior Lecturer in Population and Disease Genetics at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland in March of 2014. They graciously took on my project despite their already hectic professional lives. This was because I was one of the rare individuals who was not only willing to talk about my information but also willing to share the information later. Most people upon learning they were born in a situation like mine, do not want to talk about it. During the study, Dr Wilson told me that it appeared to him that it looked like this incestual practice had been going on for generations in my biological family tree to some degree. It should be noted that my birth family was from a tiny village in the Azores Islands for hundreds of years. This may have been a contributing factor. Eventually, after much hard work and discussion, the two were able to trudge through all the DNA data. This included DNA collected from a child of the man originally accused of being my father. In the end, we were able to conclude with a fair amount of certainty that the man we thought was my biological grandfather was in fact my father. The DNA study confirmed all my previous research work. So instead of a brother/sister situation, it was actually father/daughter. My only regret was that the man who took the fall for the family and went to prison for a year, died before I could tell him I knew he was innocent.
Looking back on all this, there are a few things I feel need to be said. First, I always knew I was adopted. My mother used to talk about it to me at an early age. She also used to read me a small book called "The Chosen Baby". This book can still be found today. First published in 1939, it is helpful to people who have decided to adopt. I hear many stories of people who find out later in life they were adopted. It causes so much confusion and anger because it is a shock to them. I feel this is a mistake by adoptive parents not to be upfront with adopted children from the start as soon as they are old enough to understand. Or get the book mentioned above and start them early. So much grief can be avoided later.
Second, DNA testing is becoming more popular by the day. People doing family history research are discovering that their ancestry is sometimes not what they thought it was. Sometimes it's a simple thing. Other times, it is something a bit more shocking such as my own story. Such is the reason I think there will be more stories like mine coming to light every year. Because of this, the profession of Genetic Counselor will be an ever growing field as more of these people will be needed.
This brings me to my third subject. I would say this to anyone who suddenly finds themselves in my situation. This is NOT your fault! You cannot control your own birth! Nobody can. Some people go into depression with this. Some go into hiding as they withdraw from society completely. They are afraid of what people will think of them, even close friends. I will say this. If your friends are true, they will support you no matter what. Why? Simple. It's because they know what I know. You are still the same person they knew before they found out your story. It changes nothing. I look at myself in the mirror and know my birth story changed nothing about me. I'm still the same person only with a new story to tell. Sure, you can't forget it, or change it, but you can deal with it. The important thing is to not let it control you or your life. If you do, it will both consume you, and destroy you mentally. Accept it as something you can't change, and keep moving forward. The more you do that, the more it will become nothing more than a memory tucked away in the back of your mind.
On a happier note, I am 59 years old as of this writing. Despite how things could have turned out for me in so many negative ways, I feel I've had a pretty good life. My birth family did the right thing to give me up for adoption, and I was raised in a very good environment. As for my health? Sure, I have diabetes. But so do millions of other people. I've had other health issues but nothing out of the ordinary for someone my age who doesn't exercise as much as I should. I'm currently a professional photographer and a professional genealogist. I was even a board member for two genealogical societies. I would say overall I have done alright for myself all things considered. There are reasons I wanted to tell this story. One reason, is that it gives me a feeling of closure, and to hopefully be of some small help to others. Another, is that it's proof that no matter what was in your ancestral past, at least in some cases, it doesn't always turn out badly. There are times that your destiny lies not in your ancestry, but in yourself. Always remember that.
Copyright © 2019 John Bedard all rights reserved.
Association of Professional Genealogists