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Tracing an Adoption: My Sister’s Story

This blog post is about helping my younger sister to find her biological father.  I have her permission to write this blog but she asked that I don’t use her name.

I come from a family of 6 children; 3 biological and 3 adopted.  My mother tells me that even before she married my father, she told him that she wanted to adopt children.

When I was around 7 years old, my parents adopted my younger sister from Temple Hill, Infant Dietetic Hospital in Blackrock, Dublin.  She was 6 weeks old. Although she had a great adoption with my parents and our blended family, like a lot of adopted people, she always wondered where she came from.  She clearly did not look anything like the rest of us.  For example, I am typically Irish looking; red hair, freckles and blue eyes.  On the other hand, she had dark hair and the most beautiful big dark brown eyes.  She often wondered who she looked like when she looked at herself in the mirror.

She was in her 20s when she decided to trace her birth mother.  As she had been adopted legally, she was able to find her mother through her adoption records.  Despite been happy with our family, she often thought if she found her birth mother, she would be like an angel, whisk her off to do stuff together like holidays, shopping for nice stuff but meeting her mother was a bitter disappointment.  Although they communicate from time to time, they do not have a great relationship.  Like some of the experiences of people on programmes like ‘Long Lost Family’ these type of reunions are not always positive experiences.

Over the years she thought of tracing her father but she didn’t progress it out of fear of further disappointment.  It wasn’t until she was in her mid 40s that she started discussing it with me.  She had heard me speak about helping a family friend find her birth mother (….. work in progress but nearly there) and she then brought up the subject of searching for her father.  Her mother had given her a name and location years before so I started working on this. But after a preliminary search in the GRO records in Werburgh Street, I came up with nothing.  It wasn’t an extensive search as I had very little to go on but I decided to dip my toe in the water to see if anything came up.  She checked again with her biological mother but she gave the same name and location.  We came to the conclusion that neither us believed ‘a word that came out of her mother’s mouth’ so we chose to ignore anything she had said.

I felt the only option for me was to get her to do a DNA test in the hope that some close relative of hers had also done a test. When I did my own DNA test, I could only find 2nd cousins and a load of 3rd / 4th cousins so I wasn’t overly hopefully that we would get someone close enough.  The problem is if you match with 3rd or 4th cousins, it can be very difficult to trace where the connection is as 3rd cousins imply that you share a great great grandparent.  You could have a 100 or more 3rd cousins so not impossible to trace the connection but a bit tricky and very time consuming.  Saying that, I am told I am like a ‘rottweiler with a bone’ when it comes to this stuff.

When I got her DNA results back, I realised that we hit the DNA jackpot.  The top of the pile of matches stated ‘Possible range: Close family – 1st cousins.  Confidence: Extremely High’

I couldn’t believe our luck.  The only burning question about this match was to figure out if it was a match on her mother’s side or father’s side.  So I contacted this ‘match’, let’s call her Mary, and we ended up figuring out that Mary was my sister’s aunt… her biological father’s sister. What are chances of that… we really were so lucky.

So, I scheduled a phone call with Mary and my sister and she was able to fill us in about the family background and about her father.  The name and location given by my sister’s biological mother, as suspected, was completely different from his actual details.  I had sent Mary a photo of my sister when she was young and a recent one.  Mary couldn’t believe the similarity with her brother.  Although she acknowledged DNA doesn’t lie, all she needed to see was the photo of my sister and a photo of her brother to know they were father and daughter.  They really are the spitting image of each other.

So, roll forward about 3 weeks.  My forty something year old sister goes to London to meet her father, now aged 66 for the first time.  He is completely blown away – they are so alike; not just looking but in personality.  My sister and her dad walked into his local shop, and the shopkeeper said this is clearly your daughter (even though he knew nothing about their story).  Her father knew nothing of her mother’s pregnancy, her birth, nada.  So the pair of them spent about 2.5 weeks in London getting to know each other and got on brilliantly.

I am fully aware that not all adoption stories end so happily.  However, I will say one thing.  My sister looks 10 years younger. A put this down to the fact that, although she may not have been always consciously aware of it, there was a big hole in her life because of the ‘not knowing’.  She has been dogged by ill health since her teenage years and visibly looks healthier, feels healthier and has a completely different attitude towards life.  She is smiling again and so positive about the future !

Happy hunting 🙂

Sandra

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