DNA Traveler

Tim Curran

I feel a kinship with this man’s DNA Roots journey. In fact, my family just finished watching the original Roots series based on the book by Alex Haley. I had my own roots journey and like this man, Tim Curran, 23 and Me and Ancestry DNA did help me on my way only I didn’t leave the US in search of family – yet. I’d love to travel to Denmark – from where my paternal grandfather immigrated to the US.

Tim’s story comes to me by way of CNN Travel. LINK>I used DNA analysis to find my birth family and it sent me across three continents. California connects Tim’s story to mine and like me, he found the impenetrable walls of sealed records and tight-lipped officials in that state. Only he was born in 1961 and my dad was born there in 1935. From what I know of my own father’s story, this part of Tim’s story seems to be very similar – “On opposite sides of the world, they had both butted heads with difficult parents and left home at the first opportunity. They both wound up in one of the most free-thinking places on Earth: San Francisco.” On my paternal side, it was San Diego.

I don’t think my paternal grandfather actually butted heads in his family but opportunities in that country for siblings other than the first born were limited. My grandfather was the 5th of 10 children and several of his siblings had already migrated to the US – mostly into the Illinois and Wisconsin areas. My grandfather chose to take a train from NYC, where he landed, and on that train met a woman, much older than him and a private duty nurse, who agreed to marry him. It was mostly a marriage of convenience. When we don’t really know the accurate story, like Tim, I filled in the gaps. I suspect he may have eaten dinners, while his wife was on duty with some person, at the restaurant on the beach where my grandmother was employed by her aunt and uncle. She had a truly evil step-mother and so yes, she fled them and refused to return to Asheville North Carolina, after they traveled to visit her grandfather in California.

Like Tim, I have found my mother’s and father’s families welcoming me – even though they hardly, if even, knew I existed before I made contact. Some were vaguely aware that one or the other of my grandmothers had given a child up for adoption but really didn’t know any more than that. Sadly, it does not appear that my grandfather ever knew he had a son, being the married man having an affair with a much younger woman. But resourceful as she was, she simply handled it ending up employed by the Salvation Army after giving birth in one of their homes for unwed mothers.

Back to Tim’s story (which you can read in full at the LINK at the top of this blog) – his father worked as floor installer in the city’s North Beach neighborhood — where she was a cocktail waitress and dancer. I pictured them meeting while he installed floors in a nightclub where she was working. By all accounts, it must have been a very brief affair. My father was living with a girlfriend, and my mother’s sister says she never once heard my mother discuss my father in any way. Other than the sister and her mother, no one else in her family was told she was pregnant. (I was lucky enough that my grandmother had a photo album with a head shot and the name of my grandfather on the back.) My father’s family says they are 100% certain he was never told. (And my Danish relatives likewise, never knew my grandfather had a son.)

Tim has a large Moroccan family who own a set of neighboring summer homes just yards from the beach. The houses are built on property his grandfather bought nearly a century ago (when the land was thought to be worthless). It is a place where they go to escape the summer heat of Casablanca. In that family, he was able to recognize that many of their personality traits and quirks – how boisterous, curious and sly they are – just like he was as well. When I met a cousin on my paternal line, her appearance could have made her my youngest sister’s twin. That obvious physical appearance connection between our families seems to have mattered greatly to her.

Touring the country of Morocco, the sites he saw were beautiful and awe-inspiring, alien yet weirdly familiar. He experienced the country in a unique and very personal way thanks to his DNA journey: as a son just one generation removed from his father’s homeland. Though Alex Haley was further removed from his own African roots, it must have been deeply emotional to experience the native culture, which was so different from the modern life in the United States that he became a successful author in.

Like Tim, I bravely went looking. I was not content with the not knowing that my parents died with. I had the wherewithall to seek answers and with determination found success. Just as Tim and Alex both did. It is a journey well worth taking and many have written about similar adoptee root journeys that they have taken. Not every effort succeeds. Tim’s parents were both deceased and my grandparents were all deceased. For Alex, the stories lived on, passed down orally from one generation to the next.

Opt Out

Understanding that it is not always easy or uncomplicated, still from a reform point of view – this is the best thing you can do. At least, do your best to attempt to opt out of revising a child’s birth certificate (and you may get some serious push back from the powers that be).

Regarding the amending of birth certificates as part of adoption – many states have laws that say the birth certificate will be changed if requested by the adopter – California is one example. Of course, I would prefer that you don’t adopt a child at all. As an adoptive parent, you should not destroy another human beings legal kinship through you falsification of their birth certificate. In many states, it is a choice, not a mandate. If you are hell bent on adopting, despite the fact that guardianship is the more respectful way to provide care to another person’s child, the least you can do is specifically request the original birth certificate is not altered. Inform the judge that you will identify yourself and your authority over the child by showing a copy of your adoption decree and that the child will identify themselves with a copy of their unaltered birth certificate.

Please OPT OUT of birth certificate revision – if your state allows the option. If your state does not allow it – submit a request to the judge to opt out anyway, since you obviously have all the control as the adoptive parent anyway. Also OPT OUT of adoption and into guardianship. The only ethical choice is really guardianship. Adoption without birth certificate revision is just on way for you to cause less damage.

Here is one resource for you to check your state – LINK (click in title box at top) > State Codes Birth Certificate Revision.

Vital Record Fraud

One of the issues that disturbs adoptees the most is that their original birth certificates were changed to make it appear as though their adoptive parents actually gave birth to them and usually their names were changed as part of that. This happened to BOTH of my own adoptee parents.

Some one adoptee asks – If birth certificates are such a “vital” record – why are the vital records of adoptees sealed and fraudulent ones put in their place?

At the Adoptee Rights Law Center’s LINK> The United States of OBC anyone can search the status for their state. There you can find out about any restrictions that limit an adult adoptee’s right to obtain an original birth certificate. Only in eleven states (indicated by checkmark) do adult adopted people have the right to obtain their own original birth certificates upon request. Early in my own roots discovery journey, I bumped my head against both Virginia and California who said I would have to get a court to approve my request (thanks to my mom’s adoption being part of the Georgia Tann scandal in Tennessee, when I received her full adoption file records, her original birth certificate from Virginia was there). The birth parents, the adoptive parents and both of my parents were already deceased. As their descendant, under such circumstances which would reasonably mean no one who had reason to object was still alive, I was still denied.

I enjoyed the answer from one adoptee – Because it is vital to maintain the “as if born too” facade. It is much like entering a witness protection program.

Initially the original birth certificates were sealed only from the public. Eventually, the reasoning became to protect the adoptive family from interference by the birth family. According to a document in the University of Michigan Journal of Gender and Law titled LINK> Surrender and Subordination: Birth Mothers and Adoption Law Reform

For more than thirty years, adoption law reform advocates have been seeking to restore for adult adoptees the right to access their original birth certificates, a right that was lost in all but two states between the late 1930s and 1990. The advocates have faced strong opposition and have succeeded only in recent years and only in eight states. Among the most vigorous advocates for access are birth mothers who surrendered their children during a time it was believed that adoption would relieve unmarried women of shame and restore them to a respectable life. The birth mother advocates say that when they surrendered their children, their wishes were subordinated and their voices silenced. They say they want to be heard now as they raise their voices in support of adult adoptees’ rights to information in government records about their birth mothers’ original identities.

Opponents of restoring access, in “women-protective rhetoric” reminiscent of recent anti-abortion efforts, argue that access would harm birth mothers, violating their rights and bringing shame anew through unwanted exposure of out-of-wedlock births. Opponents say they must speak for birth mothers who cannot come forward to speak for themselves. Birth mother advocates respond that the impetus historically for closing records was to protect adoptive families from public scrutiny and from interference by birth parents, rather than to protect birth mothers from being identified in the future by their children. They maintain that birth mothers did not choose and were not legally guaranteed lifelong anonymity. They point out that when laws that have restored access have been challenged, courts have found neither statutory guarantees of nor constitutional rights to, anonymity. They also offer evidence that an overwhelming majority of birth mothers are open to contact with their now grown children.

One had some interesting contemplations – thinking all about adoptees and how we basically prove a large side of nature bs nurture. And I mean the nature part. Our world likes to think that nurture is most important and that we always have a choice. We are a puzzle piece that society and the world doesn’t want us to fit into the big picture, we challenge people’s beliefs that they think are naturally instilled in them, when really it’s all just a bunch of bullshit that has been shoved down everyone’s throats. Even with doctors – good luck getting into the genetics department. The whole thing is gate kept. Really makes me wonder if our existence proves something scientifically that we are aware of, that would change the way people see things.

Issues Change With The Times

Original birth certificates and name changes have been an issue for adult adoptees. Many adoptees still can not acquire their original birth certificates. My parents were adopted in the 1930s. In adulthood, both learned the names they were born as but nothing about their original families. I do have my mom’s original birth certificate which was very helpful as all she knew about her birth parents’ names was Mr and Mrs JC Moore (which reveals very little). I never could get my dad’s original birth certificate because California is one of those states that won’t release it without a court order. I did learn his birth mother’s name thanks to a handwritten note on a letter concerning the changed birth certificate in the state of Texas that his adoptive mother wrote down. Turns out she was unwed.

We still have new members come into my all things adoption group with questions pre-adoption about how to handle the birth certificate for pre-school children and name changes. In today’s modern society, most are over thinking what a more open and progressive society have made a moot point. While conservatives and evangelicals may not like these changes to marriage and family units, the changed nature of society is a positive development for adoptees.

Divorce, remarriage, blended families, single mothers and same sex partnerships, to name just a few of the complicating factors, have resulted in what once might have been a legal issue with schools and medical records, no longer matter regarding the child’s name. What does still matter is identity and true family origins. Keeping the original birth certificate intact still matters. Not sealing adoption records matters. Today, an adoption decree is all the legal documentation an adoptive parent needs to establish their responsibility to the child. A birth certificate and the child’s name no longer need to be changed. Some adoption agencies and social workers, perhaps even some legal authorities may still try to make changes a requirement but in reality, there is no longer a basis to do that.

There is one issue that did come up that could matter. That is where violence or some kind of public notoriety could follow a child throughout their life. One adoptive mother with just such an issue shared that she was able to get mentions of these events, where the child is also mentioned, removed from public access. She asked the kid’s attorney, the judge, assistant district attorney and the district attorney to send letters to the news outlets that covered the original story. They did that and it worked for this family. So, with some help, even news coverage can be buried. That said, as the child matures, they are still to be fully informed in an age appropriate way about these circumstances and if necessary, with the help of a trauma informed therapist. Never hide the truth from the child who it concerns.

One other adoptive parent of an older child mentioned that their child legally changed their name for reasons of their own. In their experience, the name change did not cause any problem with passport and Real ID, and even the change of gender did not cause a problem either. All that was needed was the proper documentation about these changes and they simply followed the rules related to those changes.

CODE PINK

I once read a book titled The Foundling. It is the true story of a man who discovered that he had been kidnapped as a baby. Yet, his quest to find out who he really is shook up the genealogy industry, his own family and set in motion the second longest cold case in US history. It started in 1964, when a woman pretending to be a nurse kidnapped an infant boy named Paul Fronczak from a Chicago hospital.

Two years later, police found a boy abandoned outside a variety store in New Jersey. The FBI tracked down Dora Fronczak, the kidnapped infant’s mother, and she identified the abandoned boy as her son. The family spent the next fifty years believing they were whole again. Paul had long suspected however that he was not that infant.

So, not too long ago, Paul took a DNA test after the birth of his first child, Emma Faith. The test revealed that he definitely was not Paul Fronczak. From that moment on, Paul wanted to find the man whose life he had been living, as well as discover who abandoned him and why.

Now in 2022, hospitals take the situation very seriously and have drills and procedures known as Code Pink.

Recently Jesenea Miron, who is 23 years old, walked into the Riverside University Health System – Medical Center in California. She was allegedly posing as a newly-hired nurse. Miron was able to gain access to a medical unit where newborn infants were present. She then entered a patient’s room and identified herself as a nurse. The Code Pink procedures worked and she is now in custody.

There was a case in 1998, when Gloria Williams walked into a Florida hospital dressed as a nurse. She walked out with a newborn named was Kamiyah Mobley. Williams raised Mobley for 18 years as her own daughter in South Carolina after renaming her Alexis Kelli Manigo.

In the event of a suspected or actual abduction, “Code Pink” is announced loudly over the hospital system if the infant is less than 12 months of age. As more information is developed, up-dated announcements are made. When an infant is suspected or confirmed to be missing, the employee who made the discovery notifies the hospital’s Security Control Center by calling 911.

Out of 325 cases of infant abduction over the past five decades, nearly all of the cases involve a female abductor. In analyzing those abductions, not only do many abductors use similar tactics to steal babies, like dressing as a nurse. Nearly all abductors fit a similar profile. Many women who steal babies do so in a desperate attempt to keep a boyfriend or husband they fear may leave them, if they don’t have a child to bind them together. They are usually of child-bearing age and some may already have children at home. They may pretend to be pregnant, they may have recently lost a baby due to a miscarriage or they suffer from infertility which prevents them from becoming pregnant themselves.

So Many Siblings

There is a difference between sperm and egg donations which are utilized in assisted reproduction to enable a couple to become parents. A man donating sperm can father a lot of genetically related children – which is now becoming apparent to many of the maturing individuals who owe their lives to that process. It is a lot more complicated and involved for the woman who donates her eggs. Generally, she is never going to be involved in the number of offspring that a man donating sperms can theoretically create.

Donor conceived persons do have some concerns in common with adoptees as it relates to their medical family history and cultural genetics and the unknowns that such conceptions entail. Therefore, my blog today is inspired by a story in The Guardian about Chrysta Bilton. Her father was a prolific sperm donor. In her 20s, she discovered that she had dozens, and most likely hundreds, of biological siblings growing up all over the US. That the man she knew only as her dad, the one who struggled with homelessness and drug addiction, was secretly one of the most prolific sperm donors at the California Cryobank.

Chrysta’s story is complex, worth the time to read it, if it interests you. I was a young adult in the 80s and settled down into the married life that is mine late in that decade but I have some sense of what it was like. My life does not resemble Chrysta’s in the least really but there were the unconventional choices that I made as well – to leave my daughter with her paternal grandmother (I was already divorced from her dad) while I tried out driving an 18-wheel truck, which I found I could do. That led to taking off to live without much of a safety net in the marijuana growing region of Humboldt county. We had some bags of dried beans and the guys (I was the only woman and did the cooking and cleaning up afterwards) shot critters for us to eat. We also got some Salmon from the local indigenous people. Those were my wild days.

I do have some understanding of the issues related to donor conception. With the advent of inexpensive DHA testing, something that seemed like it could be kept private within the closest family, is not something that can or should be kept private today. I’m grateful my husband and I have always been open, honest and transparent about our own choices regarding how we became the parents of our two sons.

Chrysta ends her story with this contemplation – What is family? What does it mean to be in someone’s family? What responsibilities do you have to those people? Meeting her 35 new siblings, she realized “something shared between all of us is that we all had a mother who desperately wanted us to exist.” That is a truth, children born by assisted reproduction are not accidents. They were intended. I believe that is an important factor.

In Britain today, donor children born since 2005 have the right to find out the identity of their biological parents when they reach 18. This “removal of anonymity” law came about after studies found that adopted and donor-conceived children benefited emotionally from knowing who their biological parents were, regardless of whether or not they had any contact with them.

As of late 2021, in the US, it is still technically possible to have anonymous donations. There is a Right to Know movement that is seeking to unseal closed adoption records but that has only been accomplished in about half of these 50 United States jurisdictions.

Chrysta’s book about her experiences is titled – A Normal Family. Her book is available in the US at all the usual booksellers.

The Archaic Shadow Of Secrecy

Parent Child Match

The closed, sealed adoption records of yesterday are much easier to pierce with today’s inexpensive DNA testing. Today’s story from Severance Magazine.

It begins this way – in 1967, I’d given birth to my first-born child in an unwed mothers maternity home in New Orleans, Louisiana. I had been a typical 17-year-old high school senior with plans for the future that evaporated overnight. In the sixties, it was considered close to criminal for a girl to become pregnant with no ring on her finger. The father of my child had joined the Army, preferring Vietnam to fatherhood. After my parents discovered my shameful secret, I was covertly hurried away and placed in an institution for five months. There, I was expected to relinquish my baby immediately after giving birth to closed adoption and I was repeatedly assured my child would have a better life without me. After his birth, I was allowed to hold my son three times. My heart was permanently damaged when I handed him over the final time. The home allowed one concession—I could give my baby a crib name. I named him Jamie.

In the Spring of 2016, this woman and her husband submitted DNA tests to Ancestry.com. By October 2016, a  ‘Parent/Child Match’ message popped up on her iPhone, causing me to stop me in my tracks, as my knees gave out from under me. After 49 long years, Jamie had found her. Who was he? Where was he? Would he hate me? How would this affect my life? My family? His family? She had always dreamed of finding Jamie but never thought past that point.

She relates – that night I heard my son’s voice for the first time. The wonder I felt when he said, “I know your voice” transformed me. In minutes, the secret of my son changed from fear of anyone knowing about him to wanting to shout out to the world, “My son has found me!” She also learned she had three new grandchildren.  Within four days, her son flew from Louisiana to California to meet her. She describes that first meeting as magical. She says, “My son was back in my life, and suddenly I was whole.”

Due to severe depression brought on by the COVID pandemic as a messy divorce, the loss of his job, and unhealthy isolation began to destroy him, she worried from a distance. In February 2021, they had what would be their last conversation. Before hanging up, her son said, “I love you, Mom. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.” Two days later, the son she had mourned for 50 years, the son who had found her, left her again. He took his own life. Now she had lost him twice and this time was forever. Even so, she cherishes that phone call.

She ends her story with this – “I wish I could speak to all the birth mothers out there, who continue to carry the shame and guilt that society placed on us. For those who refuse to allow their relinquished child back into their lives. I want to say I know your fear. I know your uncertainty. I lived it and still live it. It is deep-seated in us, regardless of the circumstances that resulted in us leaving our children. Please know if you are brave enough to welcome that lost child into your life again, you may create a peace and a bond worth all the fear and guilt. There is nothing quite like reuniting a mother and her child, and you may be giving a gift of connection to that child and yourself, as it should have been all along.”

My Adoption Files Interview

Adoptee Parents

Though the podcast has been live since Feb 6th, I was only able to finish listening to my interview yesterday. I had gotten through the first 41 mins previously. Life is busy and it is long and so I do forgive anyone who doesn’t want to listen to me talk about my experience of being the child of two adoptees for an hour and a half approx. Though my satellite quality of transmission is inconsistent, it seemed to me that somehow the audio zoom file was able not to lose words but after a disruption continued where it would have been anyway. I am happy to say I was not embarrassed when I listened to it. Though most listeners would not notice my only big blub – giving the wrong part of my dad’s birth name as it relates to his father’s actual name – I can accept that as mistakes go, it wasn’t significant to the quality of listening to my interview by Ande Stanley of The Adoption Files.

For those who don’t want to listen to such a long interview, I’ll try to hit on the key or more significant points.

Though both of my parents were mid-1930s adoptees, their individual responses to having been adopted could not have been different. My mom always felt like her adoption had been, in her effort to be polite, inappropriate. She knew a bit about Georgia Tann and from what she knew and from a weird quirk in what she did NOT know (having been born in Virginia but having been adopted still technically an infant in the first year of her life from Memphis TN, how did she get there ?) she had crafted a story to explain what she was never going to be allowed to know.

I say that because she did try to get her adoption file in the early 1990s from the state of Tennessee who rejected both her initial and subsequent appeal because they could not determine the status of alive or dead for her father (who had actually been dead for 30 years by that time). Basically for $180 dollars she had the privilege of being told the mother she sincerely wish to reassure as to her outcome as an adopted child had been dead for several years. It broke her heart.

No one ever informed her that just a few years later, by the end of the 1990s, she would have been given her adoption file as Tennessee changed the law of closed and sealed adoption records for the victims of Georgia Tann (who bought and sold babies for 30 years). That is why for less money ($150) I received over 100 pages of her adoption file (which thankfully was intact though minimally inaccurate – deliberately) plus 4 black and white negatives of photos taken the last time my maternal grandmother held her baby.

Had my mom been given her adoption file, it would have cleared up misunderstandings caused by a lack of information and given her a lot of peace. She would have seen how hard her original mother fought to keep her and the obstacles against her. She would have seen how over the moon her adoptive mother was to have received her (though in life they had a difficult relationship). Though not stolen, her mother had been exploited. More importantly, my mom could have reconnected with her genetic, biological family and learned a lot of first hand impressions and lived experience regarding both of her parents.

Closed, sealed adoption records continue to be an issue that turns adoptees into second class citizens in these United States. I encountered this in Virginia, Arizona and California. I believe the main impediment is money – who has it and who stands to gain from keeping adoptees from their own valuable personal information. These parties are the adoptive parents, the adoption agencies and the legal system including adoption attorneys. They are the ones with the money to hire lobbyists to impress upon legislators the need to keep secret adoptees records. It is a big money business.

My dad was never interested in knowing his origins. I tend to believe he was afraid of what he would find out as he didn’t much like my mom searching and warned her against opening a can of worms. For $100, the Salvation Army gave me one paragraph of information, which even so gave me something important – my dad’s full name at birth and that the Salvation Army had hired and transferred my paternal grandmother from Ocean Beach CA (near San Diego) to El Paso TX with my dad in tow. I do believe they coerced her into giving him up. They had legal custody at the time he was adopted. Also, my dad was adopted twice due to his adoptive mother’s divorce and remarriage. Therefore, he experienced a name change at the age of 8 (he also was originally adopted as a infant less than one year of age).

The aspect of my story that seemed to interest Ande the most was how being the child of adoptees had affected me personally. Adoption does not only affect the adoptee but their children as well and even more so when both of the parents are adoptees. There was only a black hole of familial and medical history information beyond my two parents. Just as my mom had made up a story of being stolen from the hospital in which she was born and transported to Memphis, I had made up a story that my dad was left in a basket on the doorstep of the Salvation Army in El Paso TX by an unwed Mexican national mother because her child was mixed race with a white American father.

I readily admit that I got lucky in my own attempt to learn the truth of my parents’ adoptions. Nothing we believed due to our lack of true information has proven to be true but the truth is definitely preferable. Not all efforts at learning an adoptee’s origins are as productive or end as happily as mine with acceptance by my genetic biological relations. Persistence and determination are important. And getting one’s DNA tested can make all the difference. I had mine tested at both Ancestry and 23 and Me. Also noted in the interview however, without actual names, just finding DNA matches does not yield very much useful information as my own story shows.

In case you missed the link at the beginning of this blog (and there is so much more there than I can reasonably write for today) here it is – https://anchor.fm/ande-stanley/episodes/Interview-with-Deborah-Hart-Yemm-e1djv8e.

From Nowhere To Nowhere

A woman writes that when she was 2 or 3 years old, another child about the same age simply appeared out of nowhere. The child was just there one day. When the older siblings came home from school and this woman and the new child were playing together in her room. She also mentions that her mother was an alcoholic and abusive in many ways.

The two girls were so close in age and so close in general people always asked if they were twins, and her mother decided at some point to tell people yes. So for most of this woman’s early life, she thought the other child was her twin sister. I know how this feels. My younger sister was born 13 months after I was and we went through that, even often dressed identically. However, my sister outgrew me and it pretty much stopped at that point. Throughout our childhood, we shared a room. My much younger sister always had a room of her own.

To add another layer of weirdness to it all, when she was 5, her mother actually did have twins, boy/girl. So it was always a funny thing that the family had two sets of twins. The original “one” and this woman shared a room her whole life. They were always in the same grade in school, and though this other one did have legal last name that was different from hers, back in the day schools allowed a “goes by” name, so her “twin” always used the same last name as this woman.

When she was around the age of 8, she realized her dad never picked her twin up for visits, when he came for her and her brother. Her mom simply told her that her “twin” a different dad but she did know that didn’t really make sense. Her older sisters never told her that this “twin” was adopted and neither did her mom. The next day her mom sat her down and told her that her “twin” was not her sister but actually her cousin. That her “twin” was her sister’s daughter and her sister decided she wanted her daughter back. Her mom said her “twin” was now living with her aunt in California but she had never met this aunt.

When she was 26, her mother died. Through Facebook her aunt contacted this woman. Her aunt had no idea about her “twin”. The aunt only has sons and they’re both quite a bit younger than this woman. The other aunts have been accounted for (and this woman did know those her whole life) but no idea about her “twin”. The aunt that contacted her had never lived in California and clueless couldn’t help uncover the mystery’s truth.

After her mother passed away, this woman went through every bit of paperwork her deceased mother had and never found anything about retaining guardianship of a child or relinquishing a child. She’s not certain how her mother pulled it all off. Where did her “twin” come from and where did she end up. How was her mother able to enroll this child in school or get her vaccinated, etc. It doesn’t seem possible. Yet, if she hadn’t lived it, she’d be skeptical of the whole story.

She would like to find her “twin” again and realizes that the girl’s memories of their childhood home and her mother are probably terrible. This woman can only imagine the trauma her “twin” endured. She has a good idea of her twin’s birthdate and what she knew the name to be then. She tried searching on Facebook for her “twin’s” name but it’s hopeless without at least a specific state to begin with. She knows her mom did have a social security card for her “twin” at some point because she remembers seeing it.

It all remains a monumental mystery for this woman. Twin stories fascinate me as a Gemini and as someone who experienced a sister close enough to seem like a twin. Just sharing an amazing story today without any real answers to the mystery itself.

It Really Is NOT Fair

Anne Rudig writes “I’d like to know who my parents are.” in The Guardian. My adoptee mom wanted to know as well but was thwarted by the state of Tennessee at the time she tried. After her death, I discovered that the state of Tennessee had changed its laws for the victims of Georgia Tann’s unscrupulous practices. I tried to get my mom’s original birth certificate from Virginia and my dad’s (also an adoptee) from California and in both cases – the answer was NO without a court order and that means an expensive attorney and no guarantee of success. Fortunately, I found other ways to get my own desire fulfilled.

Anne goes on to say, “Like countless other adoptees in the US, outdated laws mean I still don’t know my parent’s names, ethnicities and medical histories.” The medical information was part of my own mother’s concerns as she had a condition that the doctors were having a difficulty diagnosing. Until I learned something about my grandparents I always had to say, I don’t know because my parents were both adopted. I only knew what showed up in their lives. Now I know my paternal grandmother had surgery for breast cancer.

Anne has had similar experiences – The medical history on my side of the family is solid white space. Each time I encounter a new doctor, the conversation is pretty much the same. “I see you have no family history for major illnesses – cancer, heart disease, stroke. That’s great.” “No, I have no family history.” Then follows an awkward moment as confusion travels across the physician’s face. I break the silence between us. “I was adopted.”

I read Anne encountered the same difficulties with the state of California that I did – “In some private and all closed adoptions the original birth certificate is sealed by the state of California. The only way to see it is to hire a lawyer and petition the court with a ‘very good reason’ to unseal. When I asked a clerk in Marin County, California, he couldn’t give an example of what a good reason might be, but he did say that wanting to know my origins wasn’t one of them.”

She goes on to say – “At the age of 69, I am not allowed to see my original birth certificate or know the basic facts of my origin. The names of my original parents, their ethnicities, vocations, countries of origin, ages, places of residence, and attending physician – all remain hidden. I want the date of my birth confirmed. I want to know where I came from. I want to know my original mother’s name. My adoptive parents are long gone. My original ones have likely passed too. Who is this law protecting, and from what?

In fact, I tried to make the same argument without success. All of my adoptive grandparents were dead and both of my parents were dead and yes, it was likely my original grandparents were dead too. Eventually, I came to the conclusion it is about money – about the state having to hire extra people to vet and dig up the records and copy them, etc for the descendants and/or still living adoptees. It’s about tax money and where it gets spent.

Anne asks – So why are states still sealing adoptees’ birth certificates? Sealed birth certificates obliterate our identity and origins – the exact things most people take for granted. The goal of closed adoptions is to turn the adopted child into a blank slate, ready for fresh imprint. But no baby is a blank slate. We all come with history, ancestry, fathers and mothers. And many of us don’t want to search; we just want to know.

My first husband and I conceived in the early 70s and didn’t know the sex of our baby until it was born. Still, we seemed somehow convinced we would have a son and when the baby we had turned out to be a daughter, we were surprised. I remember the nurses had to tell me 3 times that this baby was my daughter.

Anne shares – an over-eager sonogram technician led us to believe I was carrying a boy. While my pregnancy progressed, we selected a handful of boys’ names. In the delivery room, my doctor announced, “You have a beautiful baby girl.” My husband looked confused. “You’d better check on that.” So, when our daughter arrived there was a white space on her birth certificate, where her name should have been. We spent a week trying out names for her. 

Anne ends her essay with this truth – Sealed birth certificates were meant to protect adoptive parents from the embarrassment of infertility, the original mother from the shame of unwed pregnancy, and the child from the label of illegitimacy. None of this is necessary anymore, nor does it justify hiding personal information from adoptees. Forty-one states still restrict access to birth certificates through laws that date back as far as the 1930s. (blogger’s note – my parents were mid-1930s adoptees.) It’s time to repeal them. If not for me, then for my children, and perhaps theirs – and for all the children who will be adopted in the future.