Family Histories Are Important to an Adoptee – Don’t Lie About It

TAO posted an interesting post today for National Adoption Awareness Month:

Adoption Awareness Month – Family History

When I wrote my comment, I realized it needs to be a post on my own website. So here it is.

Family History is very important!

I have an extensive family tree from my adoptive family, and then from my natural family.

I made charts myself to map out how my natural mother’s family married into what would become my adoptive father’s father’s family. No, my adoptive father was not my blood relative, but his two older brothers were! It’s complicated.

From my blood line… my natural mother’s grandmother’s sister (my great grand aunt by blood) married a man in 1897. They had two sons (who were my 3rd cousins by blood, or 2nd cousins, or 1st cousins twice removed). Then the wife died and the husband married a second time. This wife was the mother of 8 children, the oldest became my adoptive father. So, my adoptive father is my half 3rd cousin, or half 2nd cousin, or half 1st cousin twice removed. One of his two older half brothers once told me that, when he was a young man, he took my natural mother to an amusement park when she was six years old – so, yes, the older cousin loved his younger cousin.

I’d have to check the charts again to count it out. There are 2 different methods to chart relationship charts.

THIS was the true, big, horrible family secret that both families determined I must never know. It wasn’t the fact that my mother died when I was three months old and that my father gave me up.

I was found my full blood siblings in 1974. Various blood relatives gave me my natural mother’s family tree. They were apprehensive, afraid to tell me. My adoptive father was quiet, but his sister confirmed it all. I have the marriage certificate, and Victorian photographs, to prove this connection.

In a very distant way, my adoption was an in-family adoption, which was held against me for the first 18 years of my life, and really, for a good number of years after reunion. Why? Because the ones holding this secret lied to me. This includes my adoptive parents and my adoptive father’s sisters and brothers, their spouses, and their children. They were allowed to have cousin-to-cousin relationships, but I was not allowed – because of the belief that an adoptee must never know the truth.

To be fair, a few adoptive aunts and uncles did not agree to the holding this secret. They warned my adoptive parents that they should tell me the truth. My adoptive mother told my aunt, “Oh no, she’s mine! I don’t ever want her to know she has sisters and a brother.” My adoptive father went along with the lie. He didn’t know how to tell me the truth.

Oh, yeah. That was the other big secret: my full blood siblings.

Lying is something no adoptive parent should do.

Tell the truth. Hold no secrets. Give your adoptee as full of a family tree of both adoptive and natural families because both families matter. Tell the truth in the most loving and respectful way. Adoptive parents owe this to the adopted children in their care.

3 thoughts on “Family Histories Are Important to an Adoptee – Don’t Lie About It

  1. Rachida Djebel

    It is incredible that the first thing any of you thought was about consanguineous relationships while I thought she is not allowed to know her cousins’ relationship to her and vice versa. Oops, I guess not so incredible as this is the US where sex is the main topic in most every conversation..
    Deception is neither ethical not helpful, only serving to cause great confusion and even greater harm the longer the deception carries on.
    I am so fortunate to have known about my early childhood, to know about my two siblings from whom I was separated, and to have known at a sentient age that no one had the right to take my identity or to squirrel away documents that pertained to me. I have the documents that were not purged and my OBC, and a fairly extensive family tree, branches of which extend to the 9th c bc. But what I don’t have is reconnection to my sister who is 2 3/4 younger than I and does not know she is an adoptee. Nor do I have my brother, who died before I could locate him. I am in multiple DNA databases to help locate my sister and her family. I have cousins who do not accept my cousinhood on both paternal and maternal branches. Family lore and simple cowardice has done more to target and adoptee’s truths than anything else. As sir Walter Scott wrote centuries ago: Oh what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to deceive.
    Deceit is not just from adopters; agencies keep secrets, schools keep secrets -often of often of what is neither accurate or even true. Records are too often replete with misinformation, as are census records. My mother was a master at hiding truths… I have all the OBCs of my sibs, myself and my mother’s., plus my maternal ancestors’ documents mapping from whence they came -which immigration really manage to foul up regally. Family histories are only as good (or bad) as the sources from which they are told.

  2. Mirah Riben Author

    “They were allowed to have cousin-to-cousin relationships” – you mean friendships? Knowin gone another. Not intimate relationship, right?

    1. No, not intimate relationships!

      Mirah, I think you are thinking about the words “Sexual relations”. That is not what I said! You have relationships with your adult children and your young grandchildren, but you do not have “relations” as in “sexual relations” with your family members!

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