I just finished reading Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro, a powerful story well told and artfully woven into the history of genealogy, DNA testing, and early fertility medicine, and the whole time I was reading it, I kept thinking of my own recent discoveries about my family history.
My Nana was adopted as an infant, and knew very little about where she came from. She passed away several years ago, but her story always felt like it was part of my own, and I wanted to know more. We had a last name, a place of birth, a story of two sisters both giving up their daughters for adoption. It didn't seem like a lot to go off of on its own, but then we added DNA testing.
A friend of mine was able to help me interpret the results we had on Ancestry.com, leading right to my Nana's biological mother, Margaret. I will always remember coming across a picture of Florence, Margaret's sister, and seeing a family resemblance so strong that I was moved to tears. It really was like discovering a missing piece of myself.
Not long after we made those initial discoveries, my aunt forwarded me a message she had received on Ancestry from my Nana's biological cousin.
"I see that you have a match with Margaret, my father's sister. I know the basic story about [your mom] and her adoption. Would love to connect with you for stories and pictures..."
We started corresponding through email and over the phone, and she sent me pictures and shared stories that I had to remind myself belonged in part to me as well.
"We all carry inside us, people who came before us." -Liam Callanan
There are still a lot of missing pieces to the puzzle. Nana's biological father remains a mystery as well as the motives that led to her adoption. I recently sent a letter to a woman who we suspect to be Nana's half-sister, and I am excited to see what will come of that as well. But it is still incredible how much more we know now than we did just a few short months ago.
I can't necessarily explain why it matters so much to me that I can look into the eyes of these people who came before me and learn more about my origins. I haven't felt any sense of change in my identity, and I'll never know the full story or be able to meet my ancestors in person, but it's still a part of who I am. And they are faces and stories that belong to my family and my history.