Ancestry

Julie Sue Dittmer Hart
born as Frances Irene Moore

My mom had her DNA tested at Ancestry.  I know what she was trying to do, she was hoping to uncover someone she was actually genetically related to.  I had mine tested too and over the last year plus it has paid off for me in my search for genetic relatives.

My mom diligently tried to create family trees based on my adoptive grandparents.  She admitted to me before she died that she just had to stop.  It wasn’t “real” to her.  I understand.

A little over a year ago, a writer’s guild friend quizzed me.  If the adoptive family is a good one (and both of my parents were thus blessed), why does it matter ?  And I explained to her the loss of heritage and knowing who and from where one’s roots are sourced.  She understood and continues to encourage me to get my book finished (and yes, I am working on one).

So it happened in the last week or so, my mom turned up on a family tree at Ancestry that made absolutely no sense to me.  So I reached out to the person responsible for it.  Just last night she cleared up the mystery and the connection for me – the “relationship” is with my dad’s adoptive mom.

Yet, what she wrote to me in conclusion (“Therefore I would be related to you. Unless you are adopted.”) had me opening up to her in reply.  “BOTH of my parents were adopted.  So in truth, you are NOT related to my dad either nor would I be” related to you.

It DOES matter.  I now know I have more than a bit of Scottish and Irish in me, quite a bit of Danish, a smidgen of Neanderthal and Ashkenazi Jew and though it is true that DNA testing (including at 23 and Me) has informed me about all of that, the VALUE goes beyond all that.  It is that when I match a genetic relative who would not know me from Adam, I have credibility now.

 

Economic Pressures

“When a mother is forced to choose between the child and the culture,
there is something abhorrently cruel and unconsidered about that culture.
A culture that requires harm to one’s soul in order to follow the culture’s
proscriptions is a very sick culture indeed.”
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Young, unmarried mothers are often at the mercy of their parents and society.  Jobless – they have no income.  The general view in the past was that economic pressures were only secondary factors to the moral sin of becoming pregnant out of wedlock.

If financial resources were more generous for single mothers, fewer babies would be given up to adoption.  There will always be some children who’s mothers simply are not prepared – physically, mentally and emotionally – to be good parents but I believe they are the rare exception.

Books

 

Growing up adoption seemed like the most natural thing in the world. I thought my parents were orphans. Neither of these was true of course. The first bump came when my school friends bragged about being French or German. When I asked my mom what we were, she said American. I said but what else? We don’t know, she said, because your dad and I were adopted. We didn’t have the identity so many people take for granted.

As I began to learn about my grandparents, I began to suspect that being adopted and my grandmothers losing their own mothers at young ages (3 mos for my paternal, 11 yrs for my maternal) played a role in the fact that my sisters and I were not able to raise our own children. I began to suspect this strange detachment my parents had about parenting might have also been affected by our circumstances.

The impacts of being motherless daughters and being adopted did have effects. Then I learned about inherited family trauma. Our circumstances began to fall into place, began to make a bit of sense that I had not previously considered. My sisters and I were not purely failures at living, we were carrying wounds passed down to us.

Anyway, without giving too much of my story away, here’s a list of books that proved informative to me on my journey. The more universal are at the top of the list, the more personally specific nearer the bottom but all of them have proven useful to my own understanding.

[1]  The Primal Wound – Understanding the Adopted Child by Nancy Newton Verrier

While written with a focus on adoption, this book offers a lot of insight into the effects of mother/child separations in general. Adoption is common in our family – Gale Patrick Hart, Julie Sue Hart, Susan Ostrowski and Thomas Patrick Parker – were each given up by their mothers for adoption.

[2]  Motherless Daughters – The Legacy of Loss by Hope Edelman

While focused on mothers who died young and left behind daughters, a topic that appealed to me because both of my grandmothers, Lizzie Lou Stark and Dolores Abigail Hempstead – lost their own mothers at a young age; however, this book offers very deep insights into all mother/daughter relationships

[3]  It Didn’t Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn

Explores the possibility of inherited family trauma. I had suspected this was a factor in our own family dynamics even before I knew about or read this book.

[4] The Baby Scoop Era by Karen Wilson-Buterbaugh

Details about adoption practices from the 1940’s up through the 1970s and more.

[5] Hole In My Heart: A Memoir and Report from the Fault Lines of Adoption by Lorraine Dusky

The memoir of a woman who gave her daughter up for adoption and then later has a reunion with her.

[6] Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Although fiction, she did her research on the Georgia Tann/Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal as the foundation of her engaging book.

[7]  Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America by Jim Webb

Very good historical background of the clan in Scotland and their participation in the settlement and wars of the United States.

[8] The Diary of Joshua Hempstead of New London, Connecticut by Joshua Hempstead

Covering A Period of Forty-Seven Years From September 1711, to November, 1758

A glimpse into everyday colonial life by a direct ancestor through that family line.

[9] Memphis and the Super Flood of 1937 – High Water Blues by Patrick O’Daniel

Thorough account of that event.

[10]  Images of America – Ocean Beach by The Ocean Beach Historical Society

Picture of The Door of Hope, a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers, is where Gale Patrick Hart was born. Image on page 116.

Even before I began uncovering my roots, I read The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption by Barbara Bisantz Raymond – just after my father died. It made me very grateful for the couple that adopted my mother. It could have been much worse. There are other books as well but these were the most significant for my own self.