• Adoption and Genealogy: A Primer for Adoptees

    Growing up in a family with a very healthy and robust “Scotts” pride brought the significance of family history home to me at a young age. From my family I gained an awareness of ancestry. Additionally, I experienced the sense of connection that only comes from knowing your ancestral roots…from the unique perspective of an adopted child.

    As an adopted child, no matter how wonderful my family was at involving me in every aspect of their proud heritage, I was always aware that it did not really belong to me. I was equally aware that one day I wanted to trace my own lineage.

    Through countless conversations with other adoptees, I know that this is a common theme.  As a result, I have come to believe that there is an intrinsic yearning in all of us to seek out and understand our ancestral and cultural origins.

    Adoption is a Unique Genealogy Challenge

    Genealogy for adoptees presents unique challenges on both emotional and practical levels. Among them are restrictive laws, ethical considerations, rights to privacy and even a sense of taboo associated with an adoptee attempting to trace their family tree.

    Not least, among these concerns is the need to be sensitive to the feelings of an adoptive family, who may or may not support the wish to uncover a separate family history. Having said this, it also bears mentioning that an adoptees wish to uncover their genetic origins does not presume a desire to know their birth parents.

    Still, out of a sense of loyalty and sometimes a guilty feeling of betrayal, sadly many adoptees wait until their adoptive parents have passed on before beginning any research. Clearly, genealogy for adoptees is a complicated matter that requires a good deal of careful consideration, patience, understanding and support.

    If you are an adoptee, who wants to research your genetic family tree here are a few suggestions you may want to revue before beginning.


    Seek Support

  • Before you begin your genealogical journey, join an adoption support group. Meeting other adoptees with similar interests in family tree research can be a great source of support and advice.

    First Steps

    Before you can begin your research, you are going to need a little basic information; you can start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you know your place of birth? (Hospital, town/city, state, country)
  • Do you know if an attorney or agency handled your adoption?
  • Have you been told anything about your birthparents or the circumstances of your adoption?
  • Do you have a copy of your birth certificate or adoption decree?

    Prepare Yourself

  • Before you find a birth parent, you should fully understand the need for discretion. Their lives may have changed significantly from the time they gave you up. It is possible that not all members of the family are aware of the adoption. Even if they are, they may not be supportive of any new contact. Respect their right to privacy.

    Once you have accomplished all of the above steps, you will have gained some understanding of what you are taking on. You will also be far more prepared to begin your research in earnest.

    Genealogy Beginner supports the efforts of all adoptees in their quest to discover their roots. Join us on the Ask a Genealogist forum where your questions about genealogy and adoption are encouraged by our resident genealogist, who is also an adoptee.


    Image Credit: Nath_013 via Photobucket




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