Graftings

An adoptee finding family.

Happy Birthday To Us

It’s been a year since our reunion.

In that time, David and I have made a couple of trips to Buffalo, and my sister, Cathy, came here to Dayton to see me. We’ve texted, and spoken on the phone, and goofed off on Facebook.  Building long-lost relationships takes time, and effort, and patience, and a lot of hard work. All the books and blogs and stuff I read in the years I was thinking about finding my birthfamilies all said this was going to be hard work… and it is. I suspect it will be for a while yet.

Part of the hard work is building this “new” family into my consciousness; not that I ever forget that they exist, they are there, in my heart and mind, all the time. It’s more about inclusion: just picking up the phone, setting reminders about birthdays and anniversaries… that sort of thing. Intentional. It’s about being intentional, especially when we live 350 miles apart. I’ve never lived close to any sort of family after I married and moved away into the “wild, blue yonder”. So this isn’t exactly new to me. But in the last 12 years as the wild, blue yonder has settled into “home, sweet home” (imagine growing roots after 30 years?!?) with a nearby-Daughter and her family, I’ve let the daily of my life flow past me in complacency and comfort. And I’ve forgotten about weekly phone calls, anticipating mail times, and setting reminders.

But it’s also about embracing difference. Same-same, but different, we are. Does anyone remember The Patty Duke Show? Patty Duke played a dual role in this funny little sitcom from the ’60s.  Patricia “Patty” Lane (Patty Duke) is a normal, chatty, rambunctious teenager living in New York City. Her father, Martin Lane, is the managing editor of a fictitious New York newspaper. Patty has an identical cousin, Catherine “Cathy” Margaret Rowan Lane (also Patty Duke), who is sophisticated, brainy, and demure. Her father, Kenneth Lane, is Martin’s identical twin brother who works as the foreign correspondent for Martin’s newspaper. Cathy moves to the US from Scotland to live with Patty’s family and attend high school with Patty. While both girls are identical in physical appearance, their style, tastes, and attitudes are nearly opposite… which is why I am bringing up this blast from the past. The show centred around the differences between family who shared a lot of DNA, but were raised in different places and spaces; the old nature vs nuture thing (and I know, I dwell on that a lot; for one thing, it’s fascinating! but, for another, it has been the hardest thing for me to absorb). This old sitcom is a pretty good metaphor for many of the reunion stories I’ve read… as well as my own.

Recently, I’ve been struct by how fragile a good reunion can be. In the years before I did my DNA test, I spent a lot of time thinking…soul-searching, really…about what my end-goal was in “searching for my mother”. And I had originally decided not to. I had a Mother; a smart, beautiful, successful woman who loved me, who loved her family, and who did an incredible thing by taking in another woman’s child to nurture her and raise her as her own. So what was I wanting? Typically for me, I read books, asked questions of other folk; and when blogs began to be written, I read blogs and forums and websites all to try to prepare myself for the possibility of a birth family reunion. I learnt there are very bad ways to do this. And there are better ways. But a good reunion is what you make of it… long before it actually happens.

Here is a good place to start: An Adoption Reunion Roadmap   Scroll down and read the Do’s and Don’ts, especially. Nothing is more painful to watch than a bad reunion that didn’t have to be that way (and, no, I am not referring to mine).

So. Here we are, a year later. I love my “Buffalo Family”, as I refer to them. For me, it’s been baby steps as I’ve been riding the pendulum between obsession and withdrawal, trying to find a place to land. Yes, everyone told me it would be hard. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting it to be this hard.  Introverts of the world, withdraw! Lol!!!

Do I have regrets? Not on your life… Would I have done things differently? Probably not. The only thing I would have preferred, and still prefer, is more time spent together. I think our life-long reunion process could go smoother if it wasn’t done in fits-and-starts because of distance and trying to do this over phone calls and text messages. I also wish we could have been a little less careful? with one another.

Happy Birthday, McManus Clan. May God grant us many more years.

My Mom’s Kin

As I continue to research family, I am ever so grateful for two things: that my Mom told a lot of family stories (which I pretty much remember) and that other family members have spent considerable time doing due diligence before me. I’ve spent a good deal of time, this past winter, working on my adopted family tree. It’s been quite the adventure!

We always thought my Grandfather, Robert Breese, was Welsh. But I’ve not found any evidence for that. Yet. So for now, I’m going with what I and my cousin Bob have researched: that the Breese clan seems to be from Norfolk, England, in and around Saxthorpe, Aylsham, and Brundall (also, Reepham and Coltishall). All these villages are within a few miles of each other and Norwich, England. The really frustrating part, for me, is that I lived but an hour’s drive away from these places when I lived in England 30 years ago. Had I only known…

I’ve been through Saxthorpe, Aylsham, and Coltishall on my way to other towns in the Norfolk countryside. In that strange facepalm moment that eventually overtakes everyone who does family research, you realise how close you’ve been to family before you knew who and what to look for. Those woulda, coulda, shoulda moments can be killers…and now cost an arm and a leg, even with the pound in our favour. Oh well. Trip to England added to the Bucket List!

My Mom’s Breese forebears are on her Father’s side. Her immigrant ancestor is Robert Bush Breese, who was born in Reepham in 1818 and came to America in 1837 by way of Canada. He was one of Chicago’s earliest settlers and was active in the city. My Mom’s Dad, my Grandfather, was named for him; my cousin, Bob, was named for our Grandfather, keeping the name in the family as a reminder of our history and the stories yet to be found and passed along. I have much more research to do.

On another twig, my Mom always told me I was named for her Great-Aunt Laura. I’ve been researching her as well. Laura E Breese was Robert Bush Breese’s Granddaughter. She was born in Chicago in 1871 and died in April 1957, just 2 weeks before my 2nd birthday. I’m still working through all the hints I have for her (13 more to go!), so I’ve only got the bare basics on her.

In some ways, my adopted tree has proven more difficult than my birth tree. I’m not sure if it’s because of the stories that are competing for attention (true? not true?) or because my adopted tree is just more complicated to start with. For one thing, my Mother’s Mother, Nonny, was first-generation American with parents that emigrated from Prussia. So, too, my Dad’s tree, his Grandfather being from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Some of Nonny’s siblings were born in Prussia and so the records are hard to find and difficult to translate; too many wars, too many border changes, regime changes, language changes. The documentation doesn’t always add up, either, as the transcriptions don’t always line up with the actual geography. For example, I have as a location for one family member, “Rheinau, Mannheim, Baden-Wurttenberg, Germany”.  The problem with this, is that there is a Rheinau that is a part of Mannheim, a city in Germany, and there is a Rheinau that is a town in Bad-Wurttemberg, Germany, and they are about 72 miles apart. The latter town was created in 1975 during a district reform. Whereas, the place in Mannheim was more-or-less founded in 1750 when a road was built. :sigh: I’m thinking this can’t possibly be a single location (which I already knew from having been to Germany), so picking the correct one was fairly easy given the ancestor was born there in 1879.

But I digress…

At the end of the day, my Mom’s kin have been fun to research. Norfolk kept excellent records, all things considered, and they aren’t that difficult to find online. Their stories have been interesting to track down, as what I think I know hasn’t necessarily been so. I’ve had to remind myself that ancestry is like playing telephone: the guy at the end (me) may have gotten a very garbled message, and that without proper documentation (even with, sometimes), you are at the mercy of your own wits and WAGS.

But when you find something good…

Presidents Day

Since today, 20 February, is neither Lincoln’s birthday (12 February 1809) nor Washington’s birthday (22 February 1732), I’ve purposed to leave off the apostrophe in the title of today’s post. Today doesn’t so much belong to either of those men as much as it’s an amalgam of remembrance, positioned to give some folk a three-day weekend. And retailers an excuse to lower their artificially inflated prices. :sigh: Yeah, I’m kinda in a mood…

Anyway. I’m sitting here in my chair, looking across at this beautiful old cherry corner cupboard we bought back in 2001. It’s from Pennsylvania and it was built in the 1830s. 1834, if I remember correctly. It still has it’s original glass, which is a bit wavy, so the collection of old chinaware I have stored inside looks a little distorted. But isn’t that how it would have looked when it was newly built, back in the day? Handblown glass isn’t the same as what we get today. It is hardly perfect, thank goodness! and has personality and style to it.  The corner cupboard is really a very simple piece; no extra frills or carvings, nothing extraneous about its construction; almost Shaker in its design, with a gently carved apron…and therein lies its innate elegance.

So why am I thinking about this? A lot has happened since this piece was built. Washington was long gone (although not forgotten, and the cherry wood reminds me of that cherry tree story) when my cupboard was built. Lincoln was in his 20s, living in New Salem, Illinois, having been and gone to New Orleans, sowing the seeds of his still-nascent political career. In the countries of my forebears, political upheaval was pretty much the norm. Victoria became Queen in 1837, and then workhouses become necessary given the British Poor Law of 1838. My 3rd Great-Grandparents, Thomas Gaffney and Honora Kelley of County Laois, Ireland, married in 1825 and were having children in the 1830s, my 2nd Great-Grandfather, Patrick being one of them. John McManus and Catherine McBride, my 3rd Great-Grandparents on my maternal tree, were both born in County Fermanagh in 1812.  They, too, were starting their family in the mid-1830s there in County Fermanagh, but my direct forebear wouldn’t arrive until the mid-1840s. So that’s four out of my 32 3rd-Greats, all whom I know by name, who were living at the same time my cherry corner cupboard was being built.

It’s amazing to me to gaze at this piece of furniture, here in my house, and to put it into that sort of context…then to imagine Lincoln as a young adventurer in his 20s, poling  on a flatboat down the Sangamon River with some friends, also within this same timeframe. There is a lot going on in my thoughts: The juxtaposition of Illinois not being all that civilised, compared to Pennsylvania, having gained statehood just 16 years before this lovely piece of furniture was built. The cupboard itself built to a fairly high degree of design and sophistication, and with the structural integrity to last 183 years. My 32 3rd-Greats, marrying and childbearing, under such difficult conditions in Ireland and Scotland at a time of political and industrial and religious change, and the Great Hunger lurking around the corner, so to speak. This sort of day-dreaming, of imagining, makes history real and tangible for me. It’s a sort of “This was here, in the world when…” long before was here, in the world, when. Yet it serves to connect the dots, add up the pieces, focus out to show something of the whole, the big picture. It makes today’s news a little more bearable, a little less urgent.

I have other, older pieces of furniture that I like to think about; books, textiles, pieces of ceramic. I like things that transcend time and space which connect me to past people, forgotten times, and serve to put me within the larger context; help me to remember that this, too, passes on and nothing and no one lasts forever. Except, perhaps, my cherry corner cupboard.

Dinna fash, darlin’.

Jacobite Family

In an odd turn of events, I made a rather startling discovery in my adopted Dad’s tree: he is descended from a group of Scottish Jacobite Loyalists, some of whom were sold into an indentured, punitive slavery to work in, firstly, Barbados, and then, Maryland. Yes. Maryland…the colony that became the state. After researching some of this, it would seem that both Maryland and Virginia had “Scottish slaves”, as they were called, during the period of the English Civil Wars and the Highland Clearances. I’ve found books that give documented information about this, including lists of names of the folk sold and the folk who bought them; bills of sale; prices paid. It’s sobering. When you trace your family to the American South, you often come across slaves and slave-owners…but this was different. I wasn’t thinking about finding something like this.

Actually, it seems…and I am still working out the kinks in these convoluted relationships…that the ship’s captain? owner? fellow passenger? may have bought my Dad’s forebear, who’s progeny later married into this family.

Anyway, who I found is Pieter Ferdinandus, most likely from the Netherlands, who was a sailor for the Dutch East India Company, the first truly multi-national trading company, founded in 1602 and doing business until 1799. They plied the seas trading in exotic goods such as spice, porcelain, silks, and tea. They also supported the sugarcane industry and were, obviously, involved in shipbuilding. Pieter may have been a gunner. The details are sketchy and my Dutch is inferred rather than real. Eventually, he found himself in England, and then, in Barbados.

I found Pieter through my Dad’s Hunt relatives. His Mother, Bernice Hunt, traces her lineage back through Colonel John Tipton Hunt of Virginia and Kentucky. Colonel John was born in 1762, and had been in the militia in the War of 1812. His father, John Sr, had married Elizabeth Jane Tipton. Elizabeth Jane was from Baltimore, Maryland. Her father, Jonathan Tipton, had emigrated to Maryland colony from England by way of Jamaica. Historians are still researching this as he appears to have been born whilst Jamaica was still a Spanish colony. But the latest I found has Jonathan’s family leaving the Scottish Highlands during the early 1600s for Ireland. From there, they sailed to Kingston, Jamaica, where Jonathan was born…unless, he was born in Shropshire, England, where his family was connected to Jacobite Loyalists during the troubles resulting in the English Civil Wars; I have evidence for both narratives. In any case, as England fought out whether they were Catholic or Protestant, and how they desired to be governed, my Dad’s family appeared to be in the middle of this as Catholics, (loyal to the Stuart Kings who had a hereditary right to the throne of England, Ireland, and Scotland)…and who were the wrong religion at the wrong time.

So. Jonathan winds up in Maryland, either under his own steam or at the behest of Oliver Cromwell during the time England had no ruling King and the country was governed by their Parliament (lots of chaos, as you can imagine, which is reflected in the competing stories and documents I am finding). And it is in Maryland he meets and marries Sarah Pearce and they have a daughter, Elizabeth Jane.

Elizabeth Jane is a well-born young woman from Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Her Father, Jonathan, is a real-estate mogul; buying and selling plantations where, today, archeologists are digging around, doing research. At the time of Jonathan’s death at, yes, 118 years old, he owned over 1300 acres of land. And when Jonathan Dad dies, Elizabeth Jane inherits it all. By that time, Elizabeth Jane had married John Hunt, from Prince William County, Virginia, who’s Mother, Winifred, was born in Barbados. She is the Daughter of…yes! finally!…Pieter Ferdinandus and Jane Suleven.

I have several documents related to Winnie, as she was apparently called, and her family that indicate she, her Sisters, Mary, Elizabeth, and Ann and their Father were sold and shipped off to Maryland from Barbados. Then, after arriving in Barbados, they were granted citizenship. Now, her Husband, Joseph Hunt was originally from Buckinghamshire, England.  He had emigrated to the Colonies with the Tipton Family; it looks like they may have sailed together from Bristol, England. It appears the Hunts may have been connected to some of the folk that signed death warrant of Charles I of England, specifically, Henry Marten. As an aside, in doing this research, I found another regicide, Sir Michael Livesay, I am researching. There are also Livesays on another branch. It just.never.ends.

Tangled? Indeed. These folk all seemed to know each other either through their business interests, political connections, and/or religious affiliations. They were all merchants; they all were invested in some way, shape, or form in shipping; they were all Jacobite Loyalists and Catholics. And they were all either rounded up and sold out of England, or they managed to escape from England, and the new Commonwealth under Cromwell, just in the nick of time.

Fascinating. And I thought my family never did anything…

Just Another Day

“What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times … and you were there.” ~ Walter Cronkite, “You Are There”  for CBS News, 1953-1957; 1971-1972.

13 February 2016 was a Sunday. We went to Church. We came home. David had a meeting that evening, and I stayed home to work on my family tree. I was hot on the trail of my birthFather, and his name had just dropped into place, the night before. Suddenly, all 3 of my DNA 3rd and 4th cousins fell into place. Pay dirt.

Whilst I was working on this branch, I was also trying to break through a couple of niggling details on my maternal tree. Specifically, I was trying to pin down my Grandfather’s deathdate as well as his first Wife, Margaret’s information. As I continually searched through Ancestry’s databases, I kept coming across a couple of trees “owned” by folk who later turned out to be cousins: one in Ireland, two in Scotland, one in Australia (I’ve since connected with more overseas family). So when the tree owned by “cgm1488” with no location information popped up, I’m thinking, another overseas cousin.

So I message him. He messages me. Very quickly, we’re in tricky water because, no, he isn’t overseas. He’s here. In the States. In my Stateside Family’s hometown, no less. And he’s a McManus…not something I would necessarily know since living folk are hidden on Ancestry to protect their privacy.

Well, by the end of the day, 13 February 2016, we had talked on the phone and we had figured out who we were to each other. On Valentines Day, the 14th, we’re passing family information back and forth, and by the end of the day, Michele, another cousin, and I are Facebook friends and chatting online. She talked to my Sister-in-Law, Sharon, who then spoke to my Brother and Sister.

By the end of that week, I had my first contact with Mike and Cathy… my siblings. This was the week that seemed as if it would be like any other week, filled with events that altered and illuminated my life and the lives of so many others.

It’s been a year since that week. And I won’t lie. For me, it’s been bumpy. It’s like the stereotypical blended family on steroids because of our ages (would this be easier if we were younger and less “set in our ways?”), because of the circumstances under which we’re blending (unknown sister??? unknown brothers and sister???), because of all the lived life we each bring with us (again, that age thing…). There was the immediate relief I felt that the decision of where and when and how to introduce myself was pretty much made for me when I stumbled into Colin. Then there was the euphoria that all that work: the time, the money, the poring over documents, the frustrating dead-ends, was done. This had been a successful search. What I never imagined doing, I had done. I had found my family, 60 years after the fact. Then there is the “honeymoon period” searches such as this always seem to bring with them. There is the shock and awe of looking into a stranger’s face and finding yourself there. Of family pictures and seeing your Mom or your Dad, Grandparents, for the very first time. There is the emotional wrench of putting together two realities:  your adopted history and your birth history, which is now up close and personal, and standing next to you.  For real.

It’s a wee bit overwhelming.

I have nephews and nieces who are adults. They have children and families of their own. I have a Brother, John, I’ll never know because he died the year before all this happened. These folk are a part of me. My folk are a part of them. Yet as with all great endeavours, the devil is in the details. There are myriad differences between us; differences borne by nurture, not necessarily nature, and it is in the assumed paradigm of family (you are one of us therefore you are like us) that ends up inevitably being exploded. Everywhere. On all sides.

There ain’t no good guys; there ain’t no bad guys. There’s only you and me and we just disagree.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me if I would do this again. What would I do differently? do I have any regrets? (No.) Do I feel like I’ve abandoned my adopted family? Ironically, these are not new questions for me. Anyone who has been widowed and remarried would find them familiar. So I think about, what next?

One year and counting. Doing a DNA test, analysing results, tracking down matches, building a forest of family trees is the easy part for an adoptee who is searching for answers. The hard part kinda reminds me of that joke about the dog chasing the car:

Now that you’ve got the car, what are you going to do with it?

Finding Catherine

So. After writing about Catherine Loughran, my 4th Great-Grandmother this past Monday, I decided to renew my search. She was on my mind, and spurred on by a comment my Cousin Mariellen made on Facebook, I’ve spent the last few days researching a couple of additional branches on the Family Tree. For once, things went pretty well.

I have two go-to websites that aren’t free, but are my sites of last internet resort:  RootsIreland and ScotlandsPeople. RootsIreland requires a subscription. But it allows you to tap into every online database they’ve got (so far): birth , baptism, death information; Griffith valuations; marriage banns; census reports and census substitutes; passenger lists. All is transcribed, more or less accurately, with any accompanying notes (illegitimacy, witness names, how much was given to the priest/minister baptising the child, and so on). Everything on paper can be found. You can search by county, or you can take a shot with minimal info and hope for the best by choosing the whole of Ireland. Of course, not everything is still extant. But if Ireland has it, they are putting it out there.

ScotlandsPeople has something similar, although, not having had so much war, famine, genocide, and what-have-you in the last couple of hundred years, their records are a bit more organised. Unfortunately, they don’t go as far back as Ireland’s, but they are easier to read since they are standardised across the board. ScotlandsPeople is pay-as-you-go, which can get a bit pricey if you’re randomly searching without much info to begin with (I recommend you use broad parameters), but when you hit it right, it’s all right there: names, dates, places, registrar’s names, maiden names, reporters (who are usually family members), addresses. A plethora of information awaits you!

Well, RootsIreland finally paid off this week as they’ve been adding data and I finally…finally…found more about Catherine. Actually, I found a couple of Catherines. This is where the time-honoured concept of WAG comes into play. A WAG is a wild-ass guess. And whilst not generally recommended in family research, sometimes, you have to use them. In Catherine’s case, I had two Catherines in the same county with similar birthdates but different parents. Except one had a witness to her baptism named…Catherine Loughran. Might this be a family member? Irish naming convention calls for naming children after family members. So I looked up the parish as well as the “address” of the parents (usually a village or farm) on Google maps and compared the two. Then I looked up all four of the parents in RootsIreland. I found marriage info and baptism info for the one of the Fathers, Andrew. His father was a Bernard Loughran. I found that he died 4 years later, age 26. I also found some more family members. By the time my 4th Great-Grandmother was born, 20-ish years later, the family had moved to another county. But, here again, according to Google maps, that was, quite literally, next door.  I’m wondering if Bernard and Andrew’s Mother remarried. OR since most of the farmland in Ireland was owned by absentee English or Anglo-Irish landlords, and the Irish farmers rented from them, families tended to move from one place to another to find a farm on which to settle. OR, in the case of skilled workers, like flax weavers, shoemakers, blacksmiths, and so on, they moved to where they could find work. So a move down the road wasn’t that unusual. Next on my list of people to research.

So what could I find out about Bernard? Well, I found his baptismal information and his death information. On his baptismal info was his Mother’s name, Ann. His father was also named Bernard (great!). So this second Catherine may be his Aunt or his Grandmother…hard to say, but, knowing something about how Roman Catholic families do things, I’ll bet it’s his Aunt (again, a WAG, although an informed one). Which brings me back to…

Catherine. My 4th Great-Grandmother. And the rest of the Family, whom I believe I’ve found. The name “Catherine” figures quite prominently in my family. Catherine’s mother’s name, given on her baptismal information, is Catherine. Catherine Conway. Catherine Loughran will later name her Daughter, Catherine. And so on down through the generations. Hopefully, one day, I will be able to fill out the rest of her story: how many children did she have? what were their names? what drove them to Scotland…although I suspect it was The Great Hunger? But, for the time being, I’ve added two generations to the Family.

It’s all good.

Catherine Loughran

Catherine is my 4th Great-Grandmother. I am a direct-line descendant, mother-to-daughter. She is also my “brickwall”, my family tree barrier. I found Catherine very early on in my research, but she has been confusing and confounding me ever since. Without more information, like a solid birthdate, I’m well and truly stuck.

Because I am a direct descendant, it was Catherine that initially motivated me to do a mitochondrial DNA test. I foolishly hoped I might get a clue. Little did I know that she is too close to me for that to have any real efficacy. Still, I’m glad to have done the test because it’s been interesting reading about haplogroups and hunter-gatherer migration patterns. I may be the Viking in the Irish living room. Ha!

Back to Catherine. How I found her in the first place was a mention in a death record. Death records can be gold mines of information. Besides the name of the deceased, a birthdate and place, and a spouse (many with maiden names), these records also list the cause (many families tend to have genetically-based patterns of disease), a child as a reporter, and parents’ names and places of birth. This will often help you reach back another generation. All good. Which is how I found Catherine. She was listed as the Mother of my 3rd Great-Grandmother, Catherine McMurray Duffy, on this Catherine’s death record out of Scotland.

Only one hiccup, though. And that’s her married name.  Is it McMurray, or McIlmurray? In any case, I’ve run across two people also researching Catherine Loughran, both in Scotland, and who also have her as their kin through a different line than mine. Seems that since one of Catherine’s Granddaughters emigrated to America, the knowledge of that line in Scotland basically ends. I have the rest of the story, since I’ve been able to connect the dots back to Scotland, but haven’t been able to get further back than Catherine having been born in Ireland. She married a man named Felix, this we all have, and I have a Griffith’s Valuation that lists him in Leitrim, Ireland, in 1857. So there’s that. But it isn’t much, really.

Ancestry has since added many more documents from Ireland to their database, so I am beginning to plow through those, trying to determine which one of almost 5000 “Catherine Loughran”s is my Grandmother. Not quite as daunting as the half-million hits one gets for “John McManus”… but, still. Without a birthdate, a deathdate, or her parents’ names, I really am guessing. Although putting her in Leitrim in 1857 is something.

So, for the three of us, her Grandchildren, who are looking for her, I hope she smiles and sends an angel to guide us in our work. For here we are, 100+ years after she’s died, thinking about her, wondering about her, and wanting to know something about her.

Her blood still flows in our veins…

Walking in Their Footsteps

One of the more fascinating aspects of tracing my family trees…although your milage may vary…has been tracing the migration patterns of my ancestors. Birthplaces, ships’ records, census records, all have something to add to the mental map I’ve created as I’ve “watched” my families move from one place to another. It’s taught me that my naive assumption that ancient peoples lived and died in a single place just wasn’t always true. Some folk seem to be as mobile as we are; moving from place-to-place for all sorts of reasons:  work, family, a more reasonable climate, religious persecution. Those things which have caused me to have lived in 24 different houses since I was born, also motivated my 5th Great-Grandparents to do pert ne’er the same.

In my adoptedFather’s family, his stepfather, Leo, was born in Vienna, Austria at the time of the Austro-Hungaian Empire. The year was 1900, and by the time he was a teenager, Europe would be embroiled in the first of two devastating World Wars. Leo’s parents, Josef and Anna were from a different part of the Empire, Bohemia, which is now a part of the Czech Republic. Josef was a tailor. So was it work that caused him to move from his part of the Empire to the capital, Vienna? Hard to say. But they were only there for about four or five years, because in 1906, Leo’s sister, Anna, was born in Zurich, Switzerland. I’ve been unable to find a record for her birthdate or place;  I only surmise it to be Zurich because Leo sailed from Hamburg, Germany to New York in 1907 and gives his prior address as Zurich.  About a year later, Anna and her children, Leo and Anna, sail from Rotterdam to New York and have the same prior address. So… from Bohemia, to Vienna, to Zurich through Germany to New York, eventually to Chicago. I know from census records and other documents and Family History the rest of the story; how Leo met my Father’s Mother, and raised my Dad and his Sisters.

In my birth Family, I have my own trek across the sea. My 2nd Great-Grandfather, James McManus, was born in Fermanagh, Ireland in 1844. This was the year before that usually given by historians for The Great Hunger (The Irish Potato Famine). But we know, as these things usually go, it hardly happened on a unique date in a specific year. So, judging by the date of James’ birth as well as that of his younger sister, Mary (1846), we know they were there in Ireland until, at least, 1846. By 1851, according to census records, they are in Renfrewshire, Scotland. The Great Hunger is generally thought to have “ended” by 1852. Many Irish, those who were able, migrated to Scotland for survival. James was six at the time of his family’s move to Scotland; his father, John, was an agricultural labourer (according to the census). James is listed as a scholar…so he was getting some schooling. His older siblings, ages 16 and 14, were working at the local textile mill. A family member, relationship undetermined but whom I suspect is his Father, Edward, yet listed as a visitor, has his occupation given as a tailor. His two other sisters are also scholars. It would seem they have settled into the local area.

By the time James’ Dad dies, he’s back in Ireland, though. James stays in Scotland, moving to Glasgow, marries, and has a family. His Son, William Graham McManus, marries a local Scottish girl with family roots 1000 years old. It is his Son, John, who is my Grandfather…and emigrates from Scotland to America in 1926. So, in eighty years, my McManus forebears have moved from Ireland to Scotland to America. Driven by famine and centuries of war and genocide and terrible political decisions, with the very real necessity to feed and care for themselves and their own, they travel across land and sea to find a place of refuge; a place of hope; a place where they are free to be who they are, to work hard, to educate their children, to make for them and theirs a better life.

So, too, as my Dad’s family, who were driven by political upheaval, discrimination and, I suspect, religious persecution in the face of the coming conflagration that would be WWI. We, as a people, are the result of many things: part business venture, part religious zeal, part wonder and excitement at discovering what’s past the known horizon. We have no more right to deny others that same experience than anyone had to deny it to us, whose DNA is made up as such as these…

When did we stop thinking we could welcome folk in, especially those who have no where else to go?

We Are All Immigrants

All of us, every last one of us, have migrated from point A to point XYZ/Whatever to become who we are. In the most recent past, my Grandparents on my birthMother’s side, John McManus and Ellen Cassidy, emigrated from Scotland to America in the first quarter of the 20th century. My Mother, Charlotte, was a first-generation American. In my birthFather’s family, my Grandparents had been here a little longer. My 2nd Great-Grandfather, Patrick, arrived from Ireland in 1857; his wife, Bridget, my 2nd Great-Grandmother arrived a little later in 1861.

My adopted family are a combination of recent immigrants and colonists. My Dad’s step-father, Leopold, arrived from Europe in 1908. His maternal Grandfather’s family has been here since the 1600s. His maternal Grandmother’s family was from Ireland and arrived in the 1800s. My Mom’s family was also a mixture: her Mother, Frieda, was born here; Frieda’s parents and many of her older siblings were born in Prussia. They emigrated in either 1888 or 1891 (I have sources that indicate both dates). My Mom’s Father was born here as were his parents. But Grandpa’s forebears were born in Norfolk, England and Ireland. They emigrated to the States in the early 1800s.

In trying to connect with my very deep DNA roots, I did a mitochondrial DNA test last year.  Mitochondrial DNA is passed down from your Mom to you. mtDNA traces where our ancestral Moms migrated over the course of human history. It goes way deep into our genetic makeup, creating a picture, if you will, of migration patterns. So whilst mtDNA might not help you find your 4th Great-Grandmother, exactly, it can help you find your roots in a more general way. For me, my haplogroup, or the “genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor on the patrilineal or matrilineal line” (ISOGG Wiki (http://www.isogg.org/wiki), “Haplogroup,” rev. 5 July 2014), is K1c1b. We migrated out of Africa through Northern Italy, to central Europe, emerging about 16,000 years ago, perhaps taking part in the pre-Neolithic expansion following the Last Glacial Maximum  or what I learnt in school was the Ice Age (when sheets of ice covered portions of the earth’s land mass). We were, apparently, farmers and our particular group can be found, mostly, in Europe…including our cousin, Ötzi, the frozen 5000-year old man they found in the Tyrollean Alps between Austria and Italy a few years ago.

Even indigenous peoples aren’t so much indigenous as the blog and this map helps to explain. Geneticists who research about these different haplogroups write about the mitochondrial “Eves” who are the “mothers”, or the genetic beginnings of these groups, based on genetic mutations arising out of a selective need that developed within us and was then passed on. We become the inheritors of these mutations, become identified by them, and then members of these groups, with mitochondrial Eve, the Mother of us all.

So, what is my point in going into all of this? Immigration is necessary. These women, these Eves (Ursula, Xenia, Helena, Velda, Tara, Katrine, Jasmine…and there are others) as well as their male genetic counterparts, their “Adams”, who carry the Y-chromosome passed down from Father-to-Son and identifiable through other genetic tests, survived because they were able to follow weather patterns, animal migration, crops and food sources, and so on. As the ice receded, they were able to inhabit less hostile lands. As the bison migrated, they were able to follow the herds and avail themselves of a  good and important source of food and by-product. When famine hit a particular region, or a blight destroyed food crops, people were given an opportunity to begin again in another place to feed, clothe, and house their families. Every.single.one. of us has a story such as this lurking in our history. No one is exempt. And it behooves us to rediscover these stories and honour them; to keep our doors open and our histories intact…

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” ~ Emma Lazarus, 1883.

The Case for Adoption

I’m going to write flat-out political in this post, so if you want to skip it now, here’s your chance.  Don’t say you weren’t warned…

Okay.

January is Right to Life Month. This Sunday, at least in my church, it’s Sanctity of Life Sunday. On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court handed down their decision on Roe v. Wade, simultaneously with a companion case, Doe v. Bolton, that a right to privacy under a due process clause under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. But I contend that abortion isn’t always the only option or even the best option.  And, yes, it’s because I’m adopted; it’s also because I have an up-close and personal perspective on these issues.

In 1954, my Mother, Charlotte, was raped. I’ve checked and double-checked and triple-checked this, and feel confident that this is true. So. There it is. In 1954, had the United States had legal abortions, it would be doubtful that I would be here. Remember, one of the rallying cries of the Pro-Choice movement is that women who have been victims of sexual assault “must abort” because raising the product (the child, i.e me) of such a heinous crime would further traumatise the victims and trigger all sorts of psychological, emotional, and spiritual issues. While I don’t doubt for a nanosecond my Mother suffered, dearly and terribly, I also don’t think rape is always, only, a reason for an abortion. I have to admit, in Charlotte’s case, she seems on paper to be a prime candidate. Her Mother died when she was eleven years old; her Father died when she was seventeen. She was living with her Sister, who was dating a married man. I don’t know if her Sister knew she was dating a married man; but this is the man who is my Father, nonetheless. What the rest of the story is, no one seems to know…or they haven’t said. At the end of the day, Charlotte decided to go stay with her Grandmother in Chicago, away from curious people and prying eyes, I would imagine, even though her boyfriend (later, her Husband), who was in Korea at the time, assured me that after he married her, he would have wanted me and treated me as his own. He also reiterated to me, several times, that Charlotte loved me; loved me dearly, and didn’t want to give me up. In my experience, a Mother’s Love pretty much overcomes everything, even rape.

In any case, Charlotte had me in Chicago, and I was adopted by a great, wonderful, loving family. I had a wonderful life. I still have a wonderful life. And I have to think: had this happened to Charlotte in another time, another place, or had we had different laws, would I be here? And if I weren’t, neither would my Daughters. That’s two women who have brilliant lives and important careers. And nether would my Grandsons. That’s four more young men: six people in all, across two generations, so far. Do the math. If each of my Grandsons has two children, that’s eight more people; if they each have two children, that’s sixteen. Add it up. My loss could equal the loss of 31 people. Doesn’t sound like much, until you multiply it by the 58,586,256 who have been aborted since 1973. Just to be coldly, cynically, practical: if we hadn’t aborted 58+ million people, who would have added about 100 million people to the population, would Social Security be bankrupt? Would the election, somehow, look different…each year until 1998 (when those children would have been born would have voted this past election)?

So. Why not adoption? When I worked at a Crisis Pregnancy Center, the reasons I heard ran the gamut from:

“My child would be adopted by abusers!”
“I don’t want strangers raising my baby.”
“What if traffickers sell my baby?”
“If I can’t raise my child, I don’t want anyone to raise my child!”
“He’ll end up being an addict/abuser/gansta just like his Dad.”
“No! No! My Dad (a Pastor/Priest) would lose his job if anyone found out!”

Seriously. And my favourite: “My prom dress won’t fit.” Absolutely. Better to kill the fetus than any of these things happen.

It may be that I’m not giving Charlotte enough credit. I’ve heard mixed opinions on this; that she would/would not have carried me to term. At the end of the day, it’s hard to say. Having a baby is definitely hard work, and you’re never the same, whether you keep the child or not. But, at the end of the day, abortion is never the right answer either. Regardless of whether someone will admit it or not, abortion leaves its own physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual scars. Ridding yourself of a potential nuisance, and dealing with the procedural pain, hormonal upheavals of an ended pregnancy, anniversary syndrome, of wondering, “what if…”, and possible PTSD; OR adoption with the same wondering “what if…”, anniversary syndrome, post-partum stuff, and all of that…yet you can know your child is safe and healthy… Indeed there are no easy answers, whatsoever. But dead is dead. And if endangered animals have a right to life as eggs or what have you, why aren’t human children treated with the same respect, if for no other reason, than the potentiality of what they could bring all of us at some future date?

Yes, my feelings run high about this.

Anyway, I believe in life. I believe that it is a gift. I believe in adoption, if one is unable, unwilling, or uncaring enough to raise the child given them, then, please, let someone else do it for you. So many people have so much love to give. Let them give it when you cannot.

%d bloggers like this: