I'm an adoptee. At 60 years old, I discovered my birth families.

Processing, processing…

I got together with my family for a few hours on Sunday before we left Buffalo for Home.  Part of me was ready to hibernate someplace familiar; by then, I was in emotional overwhelm. Part of me just didn’t want to leave. I kept watching my family; observing, searching, looking at them in awe and wonder, seeking out parts of myself. It was…odd, for me. Different. Mike and I had many of the same mannerisms (later, Cathy told me I sit “like the McManus Girls”, one leg curled up underneath me). At one point, David was sitting at the dining room table observing me and Mike. We were sitting across from each other, exact mirror images of one another, with the exact same posture. Then we caught ourselves, and changed positions…to the exact same position. So we laughed, and changed positions a third time to the exact same position…again!!! Lol!!! Unreal.

Anyway, we had a bit of a drive back, and the weather wasn’t looking too good.  So…tears, hugs, and off we went with promises to see each other again. Soon. I left with pictures, stories, and a real sense of family connection. From my POV, this was a good reunion. A great reunion. Successful, as the adoptee groups measure success.

But there was a lot to process, to think about, to think through. We were in the “honeymoon” phase of these new relationships. We were new to each other, and the changes our reuniting was bringing to each of us, individually, as well as all of us, collectively, would take time to settle in. Yet, for now, it was all sunshine and roses. I like sunshine and roses… but I also knew too much sunshine could burn your skin and roses have thorns.

With the confirmation I had received about my birth Father, I continued building that side of my tree. It wasn’t long before I put both trees together, added my DNA, and watched the hints roll in. I now had 2000+ people in my tree. I had started with…two. Myself and Charlotte. And here I was, 7 months later, with a small village. In addition to all those documents, I had pictures, too, and there was no doubting the family resemblance. I was thrilled; but I was having difficulty finding that sweet spot between nature and nurture. And those pesky existential questions still came to me each night as I tried to fall asleep.

David and I (and the rest of our Family) had been invited to a Family Party:  my Brother’s 60th Birthday and my Nephew’s 40th Birthday, a 60/40 Party, in a few months. Charlotte’s Husband, Bob would be there. He wanted to meet me, to talk to me, to share some things with me. David and I were planning to go, so this would be the icing on the cake for me. He knew Charlotte differently than Mike, Sharon, and Cathy and their (now adult) Children. So I was definitely looking forward to that. But I was nervous.

What would he say? What did he have to pass on to me? He had known all about me from the time Charlotte had found out she was pregnant with me, whilst he was in Korea.

What would I learn from Bob…and was this something I really wanted, or needed to know?

Reunion, Part Deux

On the first day of Reunion, we pretty much kept it to just me, David (my Husband), my siblings (Mike and Cathy), Mike’s Wife Sharon, and two of my nephews, Jay and Mike (aka Fudge). It was pretty laid-back as we talked, laughed, cried, and broke bread together.  Well…more like pizza and wings (after all, I was in Buffalo!). It was more than I could have ever hope for.

On Saturday, 2 April, I met more family: two more nephews, Chris and Chris’s family, and Eric and his girlfriend, Mary. I also have three nieces, Theresa, Sarah, and Meara. Then there is Chrissy; Gavin, Joshua, Hayley; Mason…I know I am forgetting some of the other children!!!  Please, forgive me!!!

Later that evening, the McManus Family that included my cousin Colin came over for a meet and greet:  Shelley and her Husband, Dave; her sister, Kathy; Desi and Mary; Colin; Duncan and Paula. This branch of the Family are descended from my Grandfather’s youngest brother, Duncan McManus. Putting faces to the names I searched for and researched about was so amazing! so fulfilling! We talked about our history and shared stories. We shared tidbits of info, like how we are descended from Border Rievers in Scotland through our one Scottish Great-Grandmother and, if we go back far enough, we have a castle and serious royalty. We shared about ourselves. But the most amazing thing was listening to them talk about how I looked, how I acted, how I this-that-and-the-othered like other McManuses.

I had waited 60 years. I was overwhelmed with the immediate sense of love and welcome and belonging…

Words fail me. And, still, there is so much more to tell.


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April Fools’

In an interesting juxtaposition of timing and availability, the most available date on everyone’s calendars was…wait for it…April 1st. Indeed. April Fools’ Day. How funny is that??? It would be six  l o n g  weeks before we would manage to meet up with each other, face-to-face. So David arranged the day off from work, we made reservations at the closest hotel, and off we went to Buffalo, New York.

And how funny was that??? In years past, when I still had children at home, I had driven several time through Buffalo, New York, for quick family weekends in Toronto (and, once, for a longer family vacation through Ontario and Quebec), meeting Rick-the-pilot on his longer layovers. It was ironic that I had driven right past my family and didn’t know they were there.

It was only the beginning of the ironies we would come to discover.

So. Driving to Buffalo. A relatively short drive, for folk who are used to this sort of thing. Only six hours. But I was kinda nervous. Anxious to get there. Wondering what would happen…

And then we were there.

David and I pulled up to the house.

We got out of the car.

And there, on the sidewalk, in front of my Brother’s house, we truly met for the first time: me, my Brother Mike, and my Sister Cathy. Lots of hugs, lots of tears, lots of speechlessness and feelings of “can’t believe this is happening”.

I was in overwhelm.


David took this picture at that first meeting. I’m the runt in the middle.

We had decided, previously, to be “just us” at this first, very emotional, meeting. Sharon, Mike’s Wife, who has a wondrous gift for hospitality, was there, of course. Later in the evening, I would meet my nephews and nieces: Chris, Jay, Mike, Sarah, and Meara. It was a lot to take in, although I had been carrying around the family tree in my head for nine months now. I had names and dates and places.

Now I had people. My people. Family.

It was amazing. Unbelievable. Almost, too much.

We only had the weekend, so I had this urge to cram as much in as possible (which I will write more about…). But then, I stopped myself; time is fleeting. I just wanted to rest in this. To absorb this.

So I tried.

One of the funnier things was the “Welcome Baby Girl” balloon they had gotten for my “arrival”! Hilarious!!!

Because, indeed, 60 years later, we were welcoming me…welcoming us…

It’s never too late.

Found Him.

At the same time Mike and Cathy and I were friending each other and exchanging FB messages, I was still working on my family tree, still working out my DNA matches on my father’s side. One evening, as I was getting ready to quit, I tried I plugged him into my speculative tree and attached my DNA. What has been described, rather poetically, by one particular DNA Genealogist happened quite unexpectedly: “the skies opened; the angels sang”…because, suddenly, everything made sense. Third and fourth cousins assumed their proper relational positions. Names fell into place. My 98% Irish/Scottish/OrkneyIsland heritage worked. Even the >2% Scandinavian was represented.

The next day, during the very first conversation I had with my Sister, Cathy (!!!) on the phone, she actually gave me this man’s name!!! Believe me when I tell you, my gasp at this emptied the room of all breathable air. How did she know?!? Cathy, when hearing the news that she had an older and previously unknown sister (Me!!!), went to see her Dad, Bob, to ask him a few probing questions. Well, let’s call it what it was. Cathy went to confront her Dad. Remember, Cathy and Mike hadn’t heard a word, really, about me ever. This was a shock. They needed some first-hand eye-witness testimony. And Bob, God love him, remembered enough at this point to give her what answers he had. Which was pretty good, considering Bob is 85 years old and hadn’t talked about this for a very long time. I got to meet Bob and talk with him later on…but that’s another blog for another time. (I know…don’t you just HATE that?!?)

So. With Bob’s confirmation, the DNA evidence, and the ever-growing paper trail, I was pretty confident I had found my birthFather, Joe. Joe Gaffney. Since then, I’ve continued to build out this tree, adding more folk, and tracing more ancestors. One of the more telling documents I found was Joe Gaffney in the Buffalo City Directory for the 1950s. He is in there…listed with his wife during the key years. Seems Joe may have been something of a rogue. It was months after this initial confirmation that I heard a couple of different stories about him. I may never really know how I came to be. But, at the end of the day, and after 61 years, does it really matter? I’m here. Seven wonderful people are also here because I was born; and more people, God willing, will be born from some of those seven…

We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game ~

Joni Mitchell “Circle Game”

Well, I had pretty much found the information I was looking for.  But what did I know? How was this changing me?  You know: those pesky existential questions: who am I? who do I look like? why was I given up? who are my family? On one hand, my adopted family made me very much who and what I am. Nurture over nature. But, on the other hand, my genetic family gave me large chunks that have been passed down to my Daughters and Grandsons (for weal or for woe) and the only way I could puzzle out some of these more obscure nuances was for a meet and greet. Face-to-face.

Time for a real re-union. Time to go and see these folk and look in those faces and see myself and my family. We were all ready for this…or as ready as we’d ever be…whilst, at the same time, trying to be sensitive to the heightened emotions, aware of the probability of unexpected consequences.

Time for a deep breath and to make the arrangements. So, after much deliberation, we set the date.

First Contact

Hello Laura, our names are Mike Rogalewski and Cathy McConnachie and we are the brother and sister you have been searching for. We can imagine you have so many things to ask, as we do as well. All we ask is you be patient with us, as you have had a bit more time to process this situation and deal with emotions, we only realized the truth in this two days ago….my email address is _____________ and Cathy’s email is _______________ ….I have also included a friend request here on Facebook. We look forward to hearing from you and of course, meeting you and your family in the near future…until then, in the spirit of love, Mike and Cathy

I first heard from Mike and Cathy, my Brother and Sister (through our Mom, Charlotte McManus) on 16 February 2016.  It had been a nerve-wracking couple of days between when I had first contacted Colin McManus, our mutual cousin, who contacted another cousin, Shelley, who then contacted Mike’s wife Sharon.

And the green grass grows all around, all around…😀

But that’s Mike’s story…and I know he’ll be sharing it at some point. I only know of it through him, and at later date.

So, here we are, making our first contact with each other; me, after months and months of research. Mike and Cathy, out of what, to them, must have been a clear blue sky.

Hi Mike! Hi Cathy! It’s wonderful hearing from you! Believe me, I am stunned over the idea of a Brother and a Sister. I’ve always known that there was some family “out there”, somewhere…but I never thought this would really happen. One of the overarching desires I have had through this process, is that I want to be careful and sensitive to all of you. What we may have known in theory has become real and that can be hard. Take all the time you need. My email is ________ My phone is 555 555  5555 Feel free to connect whenever and however you like. No question is too hard; I am happy to answer what I can with what I know. My husband David and I would like to come up to Buffalo for some of the St Patrick’s Day stuff. I hope we can meet each other then, if not before (we aren’t that far away…) but I want to move at a pace that is good for all of us. Just let me know. Again, thank you for this. I cannot tell you how much this means. Laura.

The planning for our “re-union” began. To say we had a LOT of catching up to do is an understatement. Mike and I are “Irish Twins”:  siblings born less than a year apart; in our case, 360 days, exactly. So we had about 60 years to catch up on. Cathy and I, a bit less. They verified for me, in the continuation of this conversation, that our younger brother, John, whom I had felt as if there was something amiss, had died in February, 2015. I was saddened by this; sorry we would not meet. I had already lost so much family I DID know. Somehow, it’s harder to lose family I DIDN’T know, but, yet, were a part of me and mine.

What more would I learn? when would we actually meet? I was working overtime to be patient. My Buffalo Family needed time to process. But, first…they had to tell their kids. And that wasn’t happening until the next weekend…

And I, of course, needed to talk to mine.

Oh boy.

The Pregnant Pause

Have you ever heard of the term “pregnant pause”? Wiktionary defines it as:

  1. pause that gives the impression that it will be followed by something significant.

Indeed. I was to become very familiar with the pregnant pause in the next day or two. So, Colin rang me up and in a few short sentences, accompanied by me being very nervous, very anxious…as in anxiety anxious; yet ready with an answer for pretty much any question he had for me; ready to “prove my case”, as it were…I simply explained where I lay in the McManus Family Tree (deep breath):

“I’m Charlotte’s daughter. She released me for adoption back in 1955.”

Pregnant Pause.

Oh shit moment.

As that bit of life-changing, family-altering information set in, I listened to our Grandfather clock tick-tock in the background.  Loudly.  Colin is my cousin. My 2nd cousin, actually; his Grandfather being my Grandfather’s younger brother.

I could hear him breath.

Colin asked a few questions, then asked if he could share this info with Shelley, another cousin we have. She was good friends with my brother and his wife and my sister. He promised she would be discrete; that she was “trustworthy” and would be most helpful. At this point, we had progressed to, “How do I approach my siblings?” to “how do we introduce me and mine and figure out some sort of reunion? Would they be open to that? How do we go about doing that?” Then Colin made this all worthwhile…the hours of research, the achey neck bent over my computer screen, the tired eyes strained over crabbed Latin writing, the frustration, the reversals, the deleting and starting all over again…as he was the first person to welcome me; to be excited about me (in his very low-key way😉 ) and to assure me, it would work out and he’d be in touch.

And the tears began to flow. I had done it. I found my family.

Then, on Valentine’s Day (2016), Colin and I are messaging like crazy. I’m getting friend requests from Shelley on FB and answering HER questions, sending her documentation through email, and, suddenly…it’s all moving very, very quickly. Colin came through with lots of family story for me, so I’m filling in the “-“. Shelley now has become the person who “introduces” me to Mike, Sharon, and Cathy.

Pregnant Pause.

Oh shit moment.

And, again, I am waiting for the phone to ring? an email? a Facebook message?

I’m just waiting. More. Still. That’s when I fill up my time, distracting myself by working on my paternal tree. And I find my Dad. It’s too much.

Now there are Pregnant Pauses and Oh shit moments all over the place. Shelley is great at keeping me in the loop, lest I go absolutely crazy, when I get my first communication from…Mike and Cathy.

Pregnant Pause. Oh shit moment…


Pay Dirt

As I continued to work with my DNA matches, building trees and tracking ancestors, I would often hit what’s called “brick walls”: seemingly insurmountable halts in the process; dead-ends; ancestors that had names, and, maybe, a date or two, but not a lot else. You knew they had been there, because…well…here YOU are! But what had happened to them?!?

Catherine Loughran is one of my current brick walls. She is a direct-line descendent in my female line; born in Ireland, married to Felix McMurray, and mother to Catherine McMurray Duffy (for whom I have LOTS of info).  I’m convinced, however, that Catherine, was hatched from under a rock. I have absolutely nothing on her except her name on her daughter’s death certificate. :sigh:

These things bug me to no end. I hate loose ends. I understand, completely, that Irish records from the 18th century could well and truly be lost, given the Troubles and The Great Hunger and all of that. But then there is my maternal Grandfather, John McManus, born in 1900. That’s not that long ago. He died in 1952. And he lived here, in the States. But getting just those two dates, and then confirming them, took me from July until February. You’d think that finding someone from the 20th century would be easy-peasy. Not.

Why was this so important to me? I wanted to understand John and my Grandmother, Ellen’s story. John was a widower. Ellen was a divorcee. How did they meet? when did they marry? I like to learn what I can about life in the “dash”; the life that occurs between birthdate and deathdate, you know, the “-“. And I wanted a picture. Just one. I had John’s immigration information. Ship manifest. First wife’s name. Children’s names. Birthdates, sort of. One child’s spouse had two children I knew of. While I discovered that very, very early dates are fairly easy to discover…if anything is discoverable…much later dates are much harder. Privacy laws and all that.

In February I started to contact people who had John McManus in their family tree. There weren’t too many of those folk. Some of them I was already in contact with; cousins in Ireland, Scotland, Australia. I assumed pretty much anyone I contacted would be someone pretty far removed from the family I was still Facebook stalking. So I scattered my messages abroad. But I only received one reply. From Colin:


My name is Laura Short, and I am searching for information about my Grandfather, John McManus and his family. He was born in Scotland around 1900 and emigrated to the States in 1926. His first wife’s name was Margaret, by whom he had two children, a boy and a girl; his second wife, my Grandmother was Ellen Cassidy. Together, they had Charlotte.

In any case, as I continue to search for my McManus relatives, I keep running into your tree. If you would be so kind as to help me in my search, I would appreciate it. Feel free to contact me at my email: blahblahblah (nb: I would like a LITTLE privacy).

I look forward to hearing from you!

Kindest regards,

I waited with bated breath until the next day, when I received this in reply:

Ok Laura I hope I can help. We have a number of John and Ellen’s descendants living here locally that we see from time to time. It is a little confusing though, because we have to piece a family tree together from a number of different people.

From what Ive gathered John was married to Margaret. I believe their kids names were Ellen and WIlliam. One relative mentioned there was also a Madonna, but that is unconfirmed.

John and Ellen then had Charlotte and WIlliam. Charlotte married Bob ________, and they had Mike, Cathy, and John. It is this branch, the _________, that we keep in touch with.  (all emphasis mine)

It is more likely that they would know more about John than I do. I could try to get a contact for one of them if you like?

Im curious where you lay in this family tree. I might be able to piece it together easier if I know.

I hope this helps, I’ll keep digging.


Ok.  Emphasis mine because he’s talking about my brother and sister. Colin knows these folk.  Here, I thought I was corresponding with another overseas relative…and I’m not. I’m talking with a relative who a) I can’t place on the McManus tree because living people are all marked “Private” and unsearchable on Ancestry and 2) I haven’t researched outside my immediate family, yet. Colin is offering to help. To get in touch with them for me.

And he wants to know where I lay in this family tree…

Um, yeah. That’s a little complicated. So I message Colin back:

Wow! Colin! This is awesome! Thank you so very, very much.

Sounds like the family is a little complicated. LOL!!! Aren’t we all? It might be easier/more efficient to talk over the phone. Are you okay with that? Feel free to call me at (private number) or I am happy to call you! I look forward to hearing from you. Don’t you just love family?!?🙂


Best regards,

Almost as soon as I sent this, my phone started ringing…


Most Recent Common Ancestors are the key to finding family, when you have nothing except a handful of DNA matches to go on. Fortunately, I had one (which I’ve mentioned beforenot too long ago). I mentioned that, in the beginning I thought for a long time that Catherine Wright was my 3rd Great Grandmother. But she wasn’t. She was my 3rd Great Aunt. That meant I had the correct family, but the wrong relationship. One of Catherine’s siblings was the Great (etc) Grandparent I was looking for.

So why is this important???

The methodology for adoptees using DNA to find family utilises a number of different tools. One of them, is building mirror trees (where you copy or “mirror” an existing tree for the person who is your MRCA) or speculative trees (where you begin to build a tree based on the supposed relationship between you and your MRCA).  These are, more or less, the same thing. You begin…or, at least, I did…by taking your top, closest DNA matches and matching the family trees to each other, looking for the same names in each of the trees you are looking at. In the beginning, it’s all speculative because you don’t actually know if these folk are in your tree or not and what your actual relationship to them is.  It’s an assumption; an educated guess based on the DNA being absolutely correct and the matches’ trees being more or less accurate.  In my case, I found Catherine in two separate trees: married to the same men, having the same children, who were also married to the same spouses, having the same children. Ancestry’s databases, being very large and very comprehensive, were very helpful at this point. I was able to verify, to the best of my limited ability that this person was the same person in both trees. Again, it’s speculative; you have to take a bit of a risk here and just go for it. Where the trees diverged from each other, was further down the tree…closer to our time…and in who Catherine was connected to and how she was connected (Grandmother or Aunt or Cousin). At one point, with about 500 people in this speculative tree, I found a huge mistake. So I deleted it. All of it. And started over from the beginning. Such is the nature of this sort of research.

The key to all of this is working down or forward in time until you get to where you would naturally fall in your own tree. Since Catherine had had two Husbands, it was pretty simple to separate the two trees between Husband A, and their progeny, and Husband 2 and their progeny. That’s when I started doing the other thing suggested for DNA genealogists:  connecting one’s DNA to someone (anyone, really, but one must be thoughtful about this…) in the tree. I played with this for months, connecting my DNA to everybody and their brother, literally!, male or female, dead or alive, until I finally got a huge breakthrough:

Johanna Wright.

I actually have three women with this name in my tree. One is a 1st cousin 3x removed; one is a 2nd great-aunt and they were born within five years of each other. They also were both born in Ballingarry, Ireland, emigrated to Pennsylvania, and died there. In the same town.

But the third Johanna Wright later proved to be my paternal Grandmother.  She was born in the same town where the other two Johannas had died.

I don’t believe in coincidences.

When I attached my DNA to her, I got green shaky leaf hints all over the place.

After six months of research, I had found my Father’s family; I still didn’t have a name.  Now it was time to fill in the blanks. Which, this being genealogy, turned out to be harder than I thought it would be.

Why do the Irish name everyone by the same. damn. names?

The Winter of My Discontent

I had found and began to converse online with several cousins. There was Bridget in Ireland, Eddie in Scotland, Joanna in Australia, Maureen and Coleen in Chicago, Eileen in Maryland, Doris in Pennsylvania, Don in Utah, Bill in Florida. Keeping everyone straight and sorted was becoming a full-time job. But I was learning, quickly, that these folk were family, regardless of how remote they may have been, and they had valuable information that helped me connect my familial dots. It helped, as well, that with a Daughter in China, I was used to navigating world time zones that included the International Date Line (back…to the future!).

It didn’t take long for Eddie-from-Scotland to start sending me documents, newspaper clippings, and photos of McManuses (my Mother’s Father’s family). He lived in Glasgow, almost around the corner from where my Grandfather John had lived, and was willing and able to fetch anything I needed for the family tree. He had some interesting stories, indeed! and wasn’t shy about sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Joanna and her Mum are related to me through my maternal family as well. Their family connected through my Great-Grandfather’s Scottish wife, Charlotte. Through them, I discovered my “royal connections” and the castle in our family; the one we now joke about getting back. Yes! We have a castle! Joanna lives in Australia by way of New Zealand. We’ve become far-flung from our beginnings in Ireland just 200 years ago.

Maureen and Coleen are related through my maternal Grandmother, as is Bridget…who has been my biggest help and my greatest cheerleader. The Cassidys emigrated to Chicago less than 100 years ago. Maureen and Coleen have also sent documents, stories, and pictures from the American Cassidys whilst Bridget, being a professional archeologist/genealogist, has been invaluable in her help, her research, and her diligence. She has given me not just family stories, documents, and pictures, but advice and connection. Bridget and I are related through my Grandmother, Ellen Cassidy McManus.  So is Don who has graciously shared his pictures with me as well as family anecdotes.

But it is Eileen, Doris, and Bill that are the connections I have with my Father’s side. My initial conversations with Eileen and Doris were difficult and rather frustrating, at best, since there seemed to be an assumption that I must have grown-up within “The Family” and knew more than I did and I understood better than I was able at the time. Then, suddenly, Eileen completely hosed the tree with which I matched on Ancestry; removing names, realigning family connections, and completely reworking pert ne’er everything. I thought I had this figured out, when, suddenly, I didn’t.

I could have cried. When I asked her about it, she casually told me I was actually connected to another tree she had in her profile. But my DNA didn’t connect to that tree (still doesn’t).  So I’m, like, seriously??? really??? How does THIS work???

Doris’ Family has a website, which I found quite by accident.  When I contacted their webmaster/historian, I was referred back to Doris…whose tree has some iffy names, redundant profiles, and repeated connections…like male Y is married to female A, twice, and she’s the same exact person with the same exact children. :sigh:  Not very accurate, at all. But it’s all I had, at the time, so I worked slowly and diligently, checking and double-checking everything, trying to make sense of the typically Irish families who seem intent on naming everyone by the same names.

Eventually, I discovered the Irish naming conventions. That helped. When searching through a sea of Catherines, Jameses, Johns, and Michaels, it was good to find the one family that had generational Charlottes, Duncans, and Grahams.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to decide if and when and how I contact my siblings. One day, I got the funny feeling that something was amiss. That there may be an issue with my younger brother, John.

But you can’t research current, living people.

What had been fairly smooth, fairly simple research…regardless of all the hours I was putting in…seemed to suddenly grind to a halt.

Now what?!? I found myself frustrated. Tired. Depressed. Becoming sick of the search and tired of the researching. I needed a break. I needed a vacation. I needed a Spa Day or some Shopping Therapy…

I needed a clue.

Stalking Facebook

As Summer gave way to Autumn, and the research continued, unabated, I finally gave in and searched on Facebook for some of the names I had found. This was not an easy decision for me. I value privacy and, even though the stated purpose, the intent of Facebook is to connect, well, everyone…literally!…I felt as if I was playing the Peeping Tom. Of course, in my more pragmatic moments, I reckoned that anyone who didn’t want any unwanted visitors could change their Facebook parameters to reflect that. I had my profile set up to do just that as far as I was able given the constantly changing Facebook “security” updates. But at the end of the day, my curiosity got the better of me and, following the constant admonition from my DNA Yahoo groups to “search on Facebook”, I did just that.

And there they were. My family.

I readily found my half-sister and my half-brothers. Now the issue became, how to go beyond Facebook stalking to actual conversation; real connection. I composed dozens of messages, trying to ease into the whole, “Hi! I’m your adopted-out Sister!” and never could get it down. I deleted every  one of them, my heart-pounding and my palms sweating.

I walked away from trying. I wrestled with the overwhelming desire to make myself known to them, and a competing overwhelming fear of rejection; of opening the proverbial can of worms. I had promised to not do this; to not bother anyone. I was so concerned with hurting them, I had put myself into the untenable position of hurting myself. I swung between elation that this was real, this was true, and deep sadness that we would never find each other. Whilst I had lived my life “knowing” I had people out there, somewhere, with whom I had this visceral connection, I also recognised that they probably knew absolutely nothing about me and would be shaken at the prospect…and might, possibly, take that information and those attendant emotions out on me. Not all “reunions” go well. In fact, many don’t.

What to do, what to do?

So I buried myself into looking for my birthFather as Autumn deepened into Winter. By this time, I had three trees going: my maternal tree, and two paternal trees as I tried to make sense of the DNA matches I had (not to mention my adopted family’s tree!), when Ancestry pulled a mickey and changed their algorithms.

Suddenly, a bunch of my matches disappeared; and I really didn’t have that many.  Now what?!? I had previously loaded my raw DNA file to Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), but hadn’t gotten anywhere with them. My closest match, at that time, was 4 generations out. I was also on Gedmatch with similar non-results. Ancestry was and still, today, remains my best option. So I decided to send out bolder and more pertinent messages to the folk whose trees I was most often seeing in my pursuit of family members. But I had learned to NOT use the “a-word”. “Adoption” seemed to scare people off. Understandable, I suppose…although we were talking about a 60-year old “scandal”.

I started hearing back from other, more remote family members. I started to make some connections, although not quite as close as I had hoped. I was getting some family stories and folk were sharing dates and histories and…pictures!!!

Six months had passed since I had received my results. I learnt the outlines. Now, I was learning the details.

Still, I couldn’t help but stalk Facebook and read about my family there, even as I continued to fear what “friending” them could mean…

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