A lonely beginning

My granddaughter turns ten this week and I reflect on the first time I laid my eyes on her, such perfection, so much love.

I was in the room when my daughter gave birth to my granddaughter Matilda.  It’s not a pleasant experience for a parent to watch your child go through labour even though it’s the natural occurrence of life.  There’s nothing natural about giving birth, it’s painful, messy and fucking stressful even though there’s a reward at the end.   I was so stressed witnessing this event knowing that any minute something could go wrong. After I cut the cord and my daughter got a little cuddle of her daughter, the nurse took Matilda to the side to clean her up and get her breathing on her own.  Matilda didn’t start crying soon as she was born but she made noises so I wasn’t worried.

After a little while I couldn’t resist the urge to check out Matilda’s toes to see if they were webbed just like mine, her mothers and her Uncles, and they are.  The nurses were still fussing around Matilda but they let me check her toes.  I noticed the nurses were a little bothered and I noted Matilda still hadn’t had a big cry.  She was whimpering as if trying to cry but I didn’t think anything of it until the Nurse told us she needed to take Matilda to a high care unit for a short time.  She also assured us everything was OK.  She explained that Matilda was born so quickly she was a little distressed so she need some specialist care to clear out her lungs and get her breathing normally.

Matilda disappeared with the nurse and I was left in the labour room with my daughter and her husband.  The birth was so quick it also left my daughter in some terrible pain that continued after the birth and that wasn’t normal so she was being attended to by the Dr and her husband.

There was nothing I could do for my daughter, she was in good hands.  My thoughts were with Matilda, I should be there with her.  She was ten minutes into this world and not with her family.  She needed me!

I asked the nurse if I could be with my granddaughter and she showed me the way to the high care unit.   As I entered the unit alone, I noted how big the room was and how empty except for a tiny baby crib at the far end of the room.  As I approached my granddaughter’s crib the nurse assured me she was OK and not be alarmed by the wires connected to her.  It was routine and she was just fine and needed a little time and some extra oxygen to get over her quick entrance into the world.

It wasn’t the wires that alarmed me but the overwhelming mixed feelings that swept over me.  My granddaughter was just born and was left alone in her crib at the end of a big room.  To be fair the nurses had just finished wiring her up for oxygen and other things to monitor other vital organs, whatever they were.   I leaned down and kissed her on her head and caressed her cheeks softly with the back of my fingers.

I’m here now my baby, you’re not alone!

As I stared down at this perfect angel, the love that swept over me took my breath and I swear my heart’s temperature rose a few degrees. I will not leave this darling girl. I will not leave her alone for a second.  In that room and in that moment, I was all she had and I didn’t want her to be or feel alone.

As I sat silently next to her as she slept it dawned on me that Matilda and I had very different beginnings.  Although I was taken to a ward very soon, if not immediately after birth, I had not one family member there to have the same feelings that swept over me.  No doubt I would have been alone in a ward for weeks possibly more. No one to caress my cheek with a loving hand and no one to stare down at me with overwhelming love and joy.  The only touch would have come from the nurses who fed and changed me. My heart ached for that baby (me).   I’d not wish this beginning on anyone let alone my granddaughter. I can’t help but wonder…..

Was my lonely beginning in life the reason I’ve been alone in my heart since the day I was born?

Bloodlines

Now I’ve found my birth family a couple of questions that I’ve been bouncing around my head: should I go through the rigmarole to change my pre-adoption birth record to reflect the correct details of my birth family or do I go one step further and change my legal birth certificate and more importantly, can I?

I realise changing my legal birth record would be a controversial especially with my adopted family as many would say I’d be dishonouring them and to a degree I guess they’d be right but when I look at my pre-adoption birth certificate it’s predominately a falsified document. The surname of Watkins isn’t my birth mother’s surname, she wasn’t born in Portland Victoria although she was brought up there, and my father’s details are no where to be seen. The only piece of truthful information is her firstname, Anne.

What I think is astonishing is no one asked my birth mother for identification when she went through the adoption process and then subsequently deliver me. By today’s standards this it outrageous but it was acceptable back then but should yesterday’s low standard not be rectified today? I certainly think it should be rectified!

Through my online research there’s nothing that resembles the information I’m after. The only links Google searches return are to the NSW Births Deaths and Marriage website and on this site it only lists two reasons allowable for changing birth records, they are: “only the biological parents of a child may add a father’s details to a birth registered in NSW” but “both women in a same sex de factor relationship may now be recognised on their child’s birth certificate”. Well that’s a lot of help!

However, the website did have a section for adoptees to apply for unamended birth certificates and it included an email address so I sent the following email:

Hi,

I was adopted immediately after birth on 9 January 1961 and I have recently reunited with by birth family, however both birth parents are deceased.

On my original (unamended) birth certificate my birth mother gave a false surname and no name for my birth father.  I would like to know if it’s possible for me, with the permission of my birth parents closest relatives, to change my legal birth certificate to include my birth parents and also change my surname to include my birthfather’s surname?

Regards
Kitty Leigh

A quick response followed:

Thank you for your email.

Unfortunately, since your birth parents are deceased you cannot change your pre-adoptive birth certificate in any way.

You mentioned a change to your post adoptive birth certificate which is in fact your legal birth certificate. To amend this you would need to have your adoption discharged for which you would need to seek legal advice. Should you succeed at this, you will then have the unamended pre-adoptive birth certificate as your legal one.

I hope this is of assistance. Kind regards,
Duty Officer

So essentially I need to go through legal channels to apply for an adoption discharge and therefore my pre-adoption birth certificate would become my legal one. My pre-adoption birth certificate has me as “Unnamed” and my birth mother as “Anne Watkins”, this is the very certificate I want changed.

Many will say this is something I should let go and the question around disrespecting my adopted parents would be raised time and time again and maybe it’s early days and I’m still in the so called ‘honeymoon’ period of finding my family and connecting to them and luckily for me it’s been a positive experience. But the driving force behind my wanting to correct my birth records is not just around connecting to my birth family but the connection to my true bloodline.

When I submitted my DNA to ancestry, no one from my adopted family appeared as a DNA match and that was the first visual evidence separating me from my adopted family. The features I have aren’t from by adopted family nor is my inherited health conditions, weird web toes, eye colour, hair colour or skin colour. Only environmental factors can be ‘inherited’ from an adopted family and there are studies that suggest environmental features can be inherited through bloodlines for up to 7 or more generations.

When I create family trees I don’t include step or adopted children which you probably think is short-sighted especially coming from me but I asked a few of my genealogy friends and they do the same which means I wouldn’t appear on any ancestral tree and that puts me right back to where I was before I found my birth family.

With my false records not even my birth family would find me so I wouldn’t appear on of my blood descendant’s family tree and I’m not happy with this outcome. I want to be relevant long after I die because I don’t believe in life after death other than the life found in family stories. It’s the research I do on my ancestors that brings them to life and I want the same to be true for me. Therefore, it’s crucial that my records reflect my bloodline.

So for me it’s not about dishonouring my family, it’s about honouring my descendants.

Dear half-sibling

I know it must have been a surprise to learn you have a secret half-sibling and I realise you must have many questions that will go unanswered because our parent is not here to answer them.  “Why didn’t I know?”  “Why didn’t they tell me? ”  “Why didn’t someone tell me?”  would be going through your mind.  Your life was going along just fine until now where this stranger turns up and blows it apart. Everything you thought you knew, you didn’t.  Your parent had a whole secret life that you didn’t know about and you question whether you knew them at all.

I get it!

What I don’t get is why you won’t reach out to me.  I too am an unwilling character in this story.  I was a wee baby with no voice and not asked what I need or want.  To be blunt I was the one abandoned by our parent not you so why are you taking it out on me?  I’m not harbouring any animosity for being given up for adoption, I too had a wonderful family who brought me up and I miss them with all my heart but I was on loan to them because they wanted to love and nurture a baby and I just so happen to be available at that time.

You might ask from ignorance “why is she bothering with a family she doesn’t know?”  “why is she turning up now and causing all this turmoil?”, “Why doesn’t she go away and leave us alone?”

Why?

Most adoptees will tell you that they grow up either knowing they are adopted or like me they didn’t  know.  Finding out blew my world apart.  “Why didn’t I know?”  “Why didn’t they tell me?”  “Why didn’t someone tell me?”.  Same questions.  The difference being is as soon as I knew I began to search for my true roots.  “Who are the people that made me?”  “Why didn’t they keep me?”  “Where are they?”  and after 10, 20 and 30 years “Why haven’t they come looking for me?”.

I had a passion to find my birth family and a unrealistic notion that if they are anything like me, they’d accept me with open hearts and open arms even though I had read on almost a daily basis adoptees being shunned by birth family and I just don’t get it. I just don’t get it and I never will!

Before you close your heart and arms forever just give me a chance.  I’m a good person, a loving caring person, just ask my family and my friends.  I’m not a trouble maker, I’ve never hurt anyone intentionally and I’m kinda funny, at least my grandkids think so and my best friend Karen.  Although I think she is funnier, but don’t tell her I said that.

If you’re worried that I’m going to teleport myself into your life whether you want me or not, don’t be afraid as I’m a busy working women with 3 adult needy kids and 3 grandchildren that I need to see on a regular basis because I want them to grow up with wonderful memories of me like I do of my grandmothers.

So what do I want?

Acceptance, that’s all any adoptee wants. Someone to say “hello sister”, “I’m glad we finally get to meet”.  Then you can go about your life as is was,  albeit with the odd email or phone call to say “hello, how are you?”.

This has been a 32 year search and I know I should be happy that I found and I know I’ve had 32 years to dream about this moment but I never once questioned that my family wouldn’t accept me and I guess that was naive notion.  I just ask you to consider getting to know me because I really think you’d like me!

Your half-sister with a full heart

 

I was a wee baby with no ability to say
Don’t give me away Mummy, I want you to stay

Please watch me grow to be clever and strong
And I’ll look after you when life does you wrong

Please keep me Mummy, I want to know you
And not meet one day through a camera lens view

Seven days later

After the emotional events of the previous week that started on the Saturday with a 1st cousin match, to discovering who my birth father was on the Sunday to the rest of the week meeting the 1st of many first cousins, talking to many more on the phone, video calls, emailing and Facebook messaging, I was well and truly tired out and in much need of a day off,  so come the Sunday MOTH and I walked to our favourite harbour-side café for lunch and a few too many wines that rendered me useless in the afternoon.  After lunch we returned home to relaxed in front of the telly watching re-runs of Escape to the Sun – England or Spain.  Spain being my pick after our wonderful month-long holiday there the previous September.

I was feeling rather content with my world as it was, happy that I had broken the 35 year drought of not knowing my birth family. To finish off my relaxing day, I decided to spend the night building ‘my’ family tree, at least half of it.  I was eager to find the Watkins-Williams connection the family told me about.  Of course it wasn’t lost on me or my cousins or my Aunt, that Watkins was most certainly in reference to the Watkins-Williams family connection.  I was also keen to find connections to distant cousins that I had communicated with over the last 2 years.

I began my new Kitty tree with me, then I added my father Donald then his father Herbert and his wife, my  grand mother, Doris Catherine.  Once I included Doris I noticed more Ancestry Hint leaves.

Hints are suggested records that are likely to contain information about the people to whom they’re assigned. Hints are signified by the green leaves that appear on people in family trees.

Using these hints I added Doris’s parent’s James and Caroline, then James’s parents William and Eliza, my paternal 2nd great-grandparents.  More and more leaves appeared with hints to the next ancestral generation.  From the list of hints I saw something that blew me away, my 4th cousin Kerry from New Zealand’s tree popped up as a family connection hint.

Bingo, another mystery solved!

I had been chatting with Kerry almost immediately after doing the Ancestry DNA test and uploading it to other sites such as FamiltyTreeDNA where I met Kerry.  Although she is a 4th cousin, she was the closest in location as most of my other 4th cousin were in the US.   Kerry roped in several of her cousins to do the DNA test to help narrow the search coverage. After several cousin tested and proved not to be related to me, the ancestral lines of my search narrowed then her uncle  tested and he was my 4th cousin as well further narrowing the search to one of four possibilities.

After messaging Kerry with my findings she figured out quickly the 3rd great-grandparents we shared. Our 3rd great-grandmother’s maiden name that was also the middle name of my father.

It’s all coming together – then!

Feeling very happy with myself I set about building my Grandmother’s maternal line when I got a message through Ancestry from Stephen.

Who is Stephen?

Stephen is the son of a 4th cousin Brian whom I’ve been in contact with just recently. Stephen is the administrator of Brian’s DNA kit. Brian popped up as my closest 4th cousin on the 17 February 2017 and I immediately sent my usual 1st message:

I noticed you popped up in my dna list today. You’re one of my closest matches. With the amount of DNA we share we probably share great great grandparents.

Just wondering if you’re interested in helping find how we’re related?

Regards

Kitty Leigh

A few emails back and forth with Stephen who was talking things over with his Dad Brian, I discovered they were from Ballarat.  At last, I finally found a connection in Victoria Australia, I feel the mystery could be unfolding but I don’t get too excited as a 4th cousin match still is a long shot chance of turning up anything concrete.

Another email from me identified a common cousin Sheryl.

Hi Kitty,

Dad and I have been discussing this tonight and he thinks that Sheryl  shares his paternal paternal great grandparents, Edmund K* and Johanna F*. They had quite a number of children in the late 1800’s. Edmund was definitely born in Australia but his father John came out from Ireland in the mid 1850’s. I’m fairly sure Johanna was born here as well but need to double check.

Stephen

More emails exchanged uncovered that Sheryl and Brian shared more DNA than I do so our common ancestor was one generation back but who will I go with, the maternal or paternal line?  I can’t remember why I picked the maternal line but I did and a large family tree emerged……..

Back to Stephen’s latest message

Hi Kitty, Stephen here. That is extraordinary after all these years, that finally you know who your father was.

I have been doing some sleuthing, and I have a possibility to offer you as to who ‘Anne’ was, assuming that it was her correct name. There is an Anne B*, who married a Michael H*, who appears on our family tree. She was born on September 1936, which would have made her 24 at the time of your birth. From what I can tell, she was also a nurse. She was not however born at Portland, however, her father was a railway employee who died in 1952 in Portland Hospital and is buried at Portland. His widow, Bridget lived in Portland at the time of her death in 1976. However, she has 6 siblings, not 2 and I also can’t find a record suggesting she has lived in Sydney. I actually can’t find any record of her at all. But I will keep digging.

In terms of the connection between Anne and Brian, Anne’s mother Bridget  was the daughter of David F* who was the son of Patrick F* and Johanna G*. Patrick and Johanna  also had a daughter called Johanna, who married Edmund K*. They had a son, Daniel who then had a son, John, who is Brian’s father, my grandfather. Sounds rather convoluted but when you draw it out it makes more sense.

Stephen

As I read through Stephen’s message several points sprung out:  Anne’s birth year, Portland, she was a nurse, her father had died before I was born and he worked on the railway – all these details Anne provided the social worker when she was going through the motion of filling out the adoption paperwork. What didn’t fit was the number of siblings she had but everything else screamed at me.

The lump in my throat and the squishiness in my stomach told me there were too many co-incidences here and this could be the end of my search.  But this was all to much, I was still reveling in the aftermath of finding my father.

Was it possible I’ve found my mother too?

I immediately entered the details Stephen gave me into the Ancestry search fields.  This Anne’s surname wasn’t Watkins but that wasn’t a surprise to me as I suspected as such for the past 20 years. There was one record that appeared, a death record of an Anne H*,  her married name. This Anne was born in Victoria in 1936 and died in the USA.  I wasn’t sure if this was the right Anne but finding out she was dead up front would be better than finding out later so I didn’t let that deter my search.

I engaged my daughter on the search.  As much as I’d like to tell you how we went from that information to our next steps but all I can say is my daughter is a great sleuth. In no time we tracked down possible links in Queensland and I was ready to make a phone call.

Many phone calls later it was confirmed that this Anne had a baby in 1961. It was also confirmed that Anne was seeing a man named Donald W* who was much older than her, in fact Anne’s sister met him on a visit to Sydney in 1959.  This meant that Donald and Anne were seeing each other one year before I was conceived.   The cream on the cake of this news was a picture sent to me of a poetry book with an inscription written by my father Donald to Anne.  Anne gave the book to her sister before she died and her sister is giving it to me and besides me, this book will be the only memento of my parents love for each other and I will treasure it forever and a day.

The circle was complete, I now know both my parents, Donald and Anne.  The 35 year search was over.

Dedicated to Stephen, a young man who took it upon himself to help me uncover my story – Forever grateful!

To Anne And Donald, my parents!

I may not have met you but you’ve always been
You live inside my head and my heart
I’ll try not scorn you for abandoning me
Scorn will only destroy and nothing achieved

I have a 1st cousin

I have a 1st cousin match on AncestryDNA….no tree attached and no more details. I’ve sent a message but it’s common for people not to respond if they aren’t regular users of Ancestry but let me reiterate – I HAVE A FIRST COUSIN MATCH…we share grandparents! I’m gonna die!

This is a Facebook status update I never thought in a million years I’d get to post but on Sunday 5th March 2017 I did.

Timeline of events….

Saturday  March 4 at approximately 4.35pm (or thereabouts)  

Driving home with MOTH after visiting his Mum I was chatting on and on about Ancestry and my DNA cousins knowing full well the only audience in the car was me.  What I did say to him that will be etched in my mind  forever, “if a close cousin match ever appears in my DNA list, I will scream the house down“, emotionally not literally as I’m not a screamer #innuendomuch.

Almost immediately of arriving home, I made my way to my study to check if I had new cousins and MOTH left to walk the 3.5 minutes to the nearby grocery store to get some food for dinner along with my life blood, wine.

My Chrome startup page

I sat at my desk, turned on my computer and waited for the obligatory start-up routine. Once ready to go I selected the Ancestry icon from the Google startup page which consists of Ancestry,  Hotmail, Gedmatch, FamilyTreeDNA, FindingAnneWatkins and the last search page that is generally on the topic of genealogy or the likes.

As Ancestry.com emerged ready for action, I selected the Ancestry icon, hit the DNA menu then “Your DNA Results Summary” from the drop list.  When I looked that morning I had 61 4th cousins or closer, it now showed 62. I paused and thought, please please let this be a close cousin. I selected the link waited for the list to emerge. As my eyes focused on the emerging list, I thought they were playing tricks on me, was that a 1st cousin I saw.  I blinked several times, am I tired and my mind playing tricks?  Is this my list or one of my other cousins who have shared their results with me?

My eyes darted from the list to the heading where it says “AncestryDNA Results for Kitty Leigh” and yes it certainly was my list. The realisation set in:

I have a first cousin

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Me, the one who decided I’d be the only one in the world that would never see this result. I noticed they didn’t have a family tree attached. Well of course they didn’t, I wouldn’t be so lucky!  I selected the VIEW MATCHES button.  This opens the next page that provides more details about the match.

The next page told me that the DNA kit was administered by someone with a very common name but the kit I was related to was was called J.B. A quick google search on the administrator’s name was pointless, try googling common anglo names and you’ll get the picture.  From this same page I could select a SHARED MATCHES link to see if we had any shared cousin matches, we had four:

  • my son Josh
  • my 3rd cousin Fred.  Fred was on my list as a result of his sister Mary coming up as a 2nd-3rd cousin on another site called FamilyTreeDNA. Mary has been a wonderful help trying to identify the ancestry line we share.  When she asked me what company to get her brother Fred to test at, I recommended Ancestry #unpaidadvertising
  • 2 x 4th cousins that appeared in the last 2 weeks. Both of which I’ve sent messages to through the Ancestry messaging system, and to date no reply.

I didn’t appear to be related to the administrator or they may not have taken the test. There was no indication of the country of origin, only that he was Male, 60+, had a degree and was retired.

I was in shock. I paced the room, looking at the information on the screen before me.  What should I do next?

The only option was to send a message.

I realised this message could be one of the most important I will ever send, at least up until that point in my life.  In true form I started to catastrophize:

  • they won’t reply and I’ll see them every-time I open Ancestry teasing me with the holy grail – my family identify, at least one-half of the family.
  • they’ll remove their account realising they may have opened a huge can of worms.

I knew I had to word this message carefully, without giving anything away and without scaring them.

Saturday  March 4 at approximately 5.45pm (or thereabouts)  I sent the message.  The only thing to do now was wait!

Hi,

You administer a DNA kit that has just popped up as a 1st cousin match. I’d be very interested in finding how I’m related to J.B. My name is Kitty and I live in Sydney.

Regards
Kitty

Sunday March 5 at approximately 3.30am (or thereabouts) I see I have an Ancestry message from J.B’s administrator.

I can’t breath!

Hi Kitty,

I have no idea how we are connected! I have family in Australia but they are all Williams, does that help you?

Janie

Names do help but I really wanted to see a family tree as this may help me identify familiar names after all I’ve been working with hundreds of ancestry trees over the years and I have a list of re-occurring names that seem to appear over and over again but almost none I could connect to my story.  I needed to get more information so a series of messages followed.

Hi Janie

Can I ask where you are located? I do know that the relation ship is probably through the Irish family from Limerick. This is through another cousin (Fred) who you will see on their list.

Regards
Kitty

Hi Kitty

 I don’t have any Irish relatives. Williams is welsh, I also had a grandmother with Lindsay as a surname, originally from Scotland. My mother’s family were from Vienna, Austria.  I live in Canada. My uncle in Australia was Donald Williams.

Regards
Janie

Hi Janie

I don’t know where to begin but the DNA count we share indicates we are 1st cousins. That means we share grandparents.
I’m adopted, I was born in Sydney. My birth mother said her name was Watkins from Victoria Australia and that my birth father was English nationality – no name given. It’s my guess this is the connection.

I’ve been searching for over 35 years for birth family and you are the closest family to date, besides my kids and grandkids. To say this is overwhelming for me is an understatement. I do hope you’re open to helping me unlock this mystery.

Regards
Kitty

Hi Kitty,

I can only imagine how overwhelming this is for you. My uncle Donald Williams emigrated to Australia in the late 1950’s and settled in Sydney with his wife. He is the best possibility!!  He has a daughter by his first wife who lives in Brisbane and a son by his second who now lives in England. Our ancestors Were Watkins-Williams from Wales , that’s going back at least 6 generations. Another possibility is your mothers side?
I hope that might help a little,
keep me posted

Regards
Janie

Janie’s last message rang bells.  My father was 40 when I was born so I always suspected I was a result of an affair. I plugged his name into Ancestry search and 2 Census records appeared show a Donald Williams living in Double Bay 1968 and again 1972. I have full Ancestry membership so I can open the scanned version of the actual Census list.  I scrolled to the bottom of the page to the Wi’s and there it was “Donald Williams Company Director” AND he lived one street away from the boarding house where my birth mother was living.

OMG OMG OMG, I think it’s him!

Since about 1991 I knew my birth father was a Company Director, at least that’s what my birth mother Anne told the Social Worker when she was doing the paperwork to put me up for adoption.  The second Census record showed him as a Film Producer.  Now this second record really confirmed to me this was the man and I was just about to break this case wide open.  My heart was racing, my head was going over every detail I had memorised since I read the information provided me in the 90s. What Anne told the Social Worker was starting now to ring true.  I had always hoped that although giving a false name, she’d have the consideration to give me some clue as to the type of people they were.  She said my Grand Father was a Film Producer and his brother an actor.  Once I plugged Donald Williams details into google +Film Director, I was facing the IMDb (Internet Movie Database) of Donald, his father and his brother.

Hi Janie

OMG…OMG…I think it’s Donald.

Here is a link to a blog I started years ago. On this page is all the info I have on my birthmother and the info she gave me about my birth father. https://findingannewatkins.com/about-anne/

I see that Donald was a film director in Sydney and lived in the same suburb my birth mother did. 

Your forever grateful cousin.
Kitty

With the many messages that followed, Janie filled me in on the complicated family I was born into.  Three sons of a Silent Film Star who by all accounts had a rough upbringing by neglectful parents who seemed to be more interested in film and fame. There was so much more to learn and in the coming days so many more people to talk to over the phone and on the following Tuesday I meet my first cousin Andrew who is Janie’s half-brother.  Within 2 weeks I’d have a flight booked to Melbourne to meet some of Janie’s other half-siblings and their Mum who I had spoken to the day I found out, I fell in love with her immediately.  I learnt I had a half-brother and half-sister but the Aussie cousins haven’t kept in touch with them so contact was going to prove difficult.

Over the coming week or so, more confirmation of the family connection submerged wiping away any doubt.  This was a 35 year search I thought would never end and I wasn’t taking any chances that this find was going to be taken away from me.

What followed the following weekend,  not me or anyone would have guessed.

Imagine if I had given up
Imagine if I lost the will to find
No, I couldn’t imagine giving up
and I couldn’t imagine not finding.
I imagined and now it’s true
Imagine!

Time’s a tickin

I can’t believe my terrible luck in my quest to find my birth family.  Every day I see via Adoption-related Facebook groups, adoptees finding their family and I can’t help but think why not me?

I don’t know the percentage of adoptees who have successfully found their birth parents but from my perspective that percentage is pretty damn high and therefore I belong to a small group who may never find their birth family and that thought just breaks my heart.

Over the years the many searches that have ended no further in front have left me more rejected, deflated and beaten and I resolve to end my search and I manage to stay away from any form of searching for varying periods of time but one thing or another always draws me back and each time with a new surge of positivity.

Maybe I’ll hit the jackpot this time around!

The last time I got that surge of positivity is when I submitted my DNA through AncestryDNA.com which happened around October 2015.  Through this DNA test I did uncovered my heritage and many 4th cousins including more distant ones.  At least with my results I am fairly confident some of my forebears came from County Clare and County Kerry in Ireland and Midlothian in Scotland and that’s good knowledge for an adoptee.  What I didn’t expect when I started down the DNA path is the hours I’d spend over the months to follow trawling through distant cousin’s ancestry trees, sending tonnes of emails, making lists, making trees with possible great-great-great grandparent leads.  It’s literally sucking the time out of my life. I’ve spent a good 3 months off work in 2015 as well in 2016 trying to find that one lead that could break the case. I check my ancestry DNA match results at least 6 times a day in the hope that a close cousin will activate their DNA test. And as another Monday morning rolls by where I’ve spent the first couple of hours searching through Ancestry DNA matches trying another tactic I thought about through the night I can’t help but wonder what I would be doing if I wasn’t adopted or if I just didn’t want to know.

The adoption system has denied me so much and I try not to think about it, being adopted is who I am, it’s my lot in life and maybe, just maybe, I’d be lost for a cause if I wasn’t adopted.  I try not dwell on the possibility that I’ve spent so much time and energy on this quest that I haven’t allowed myself to uncover and nurture other talents or passions but I have to let those thoughts pass by as I have to let many dark thoughts pass.  I’m lucky in a way that I can let go of those dark thoughts because so many of those affected by adoption haven’t been able to and the consequences have been dire.

The thought of never looking into the face of my birth mother drives this quest and I realise as each day and year passes the face I may eventually see will be through a picture because as each year ticks by the likelihood of finding her alive diminishes.  So many questions run through my mind when I think about her.  I long to uncover her story because her story is mine and it’s the reason I’m here now writing a blog about a quest that may never end as long as I live.

I know this post sounds bleak but please know that I’m one strong cookie and at the end of the day I have a couple of weapons I use to get me through this adoption cesspool – my humour and my family and when combined these two weapons keep me sane. Yes we as a family can glean a joke and a laugh out of any situation and I’m thankful for that because these weapons are my coping mechanism.

It’s the Law

You’d think I’d be all over any changes to Adoption Laws and Regulations but apparently not, so it was a surprise to me when a fellow adoptee told me that an adoption law has been updated and now allows adoptees access to birth father details IF they were recorded at the time of the adoption.  I assumed all along that my birth father’s name wasn’t recorded as it wasn’t included on my  birth certificate or any other information I’ve applied for over the years.

It’s like a bloody onion peel, little by little over many years a bit more information is allowed to be drip fed to us.  I feel like a spoon fed baby.

The new Adoption Regulation 2015 which came into effect 1 September 2015 is as follows:

The new regulation requires an adopted person to sign an undertaking that the adopted person will not contact a person who an information source reasonably believes to be the birth father of the adopted person (the putative birth father) or a relative of the putative birth father if the information source supplies information relating to the putative birth father to the adopted person.

Through ignorance I didn’t know there was still a restriction on providing a birth father’s name in the first place.  And let me be clear, his name- my birth father’s name MAY NOT BE RECORDED ANYWHERE and I’m assuming this to be the case because nothing has gone my way since my journey began for over 33  years ago and I’m not expecting it to change now.

Anyway, immediately after hearing this news (like IMMEDIATELY) I was onto the Department of Family and Community Services who explained what forms I need to complete, including a form I need to sign away my right to contact the ‘putative birth father‘ if his name is recorded. She explained to me if there is a name provided it doesn’t mean he is my birth father (I did know what putative means).  I explained to her that through the many DNA related Facebook groups I belong to, not a month goes by where someone who’s not adopted finds out their father isn’t really their birth father – so I was fully aware IF any name is provided it may not be my birth father.

So here I go again another long wait,  12-14 weeks apparently.  Each time I do this I do so with much less enthusiasm but with much more patience which is a trait I certainly wasn’t born with. I’ve been beaten too many times on this journey but I find the resolve to dust myself off, pick myself up and just go forward albeit with a heavy heart.

I can’t help but ask myself, if I wasn’t on this journey how would  I fill my time?  Answer:  I try not to think about it!

Here is a link to the full Adoption Regulation 2015 under the Adoption Act 2000.

Nothing to do with luck

I’m a member of a few closed Facebook groups that provide a forum for adoptees to ask questions or tell their stories but more importantly where they can vent.  It’s forums like these where adoptees feel safe in knowing they won’t be judged or patronized and it is a place where it’s very unlikely you’ll hear the same old bullshit comments we all hear from non-adoptees.  And this week’s post is no exception when the topic of conversation was around being told one is lucky for being adopted, usually in reference to the adopting family.

Firstly, it’s not luck that brought me together with my family, more than likely they had their name on a waiting list for some time since 7 years previously they adopted my brother.  On the other hand a young women found she had an unwanted pregnancy and put her name on a list so as to adopt her baby to another family. At some point throughout this process someone from the adoption agency went through the waiting list to see which family was next to receive a baby – and the match was done.

I wouldn’t call that luck, I’d call it paperwork!

I could say I’m lucky that my family didn’t turn out to be arseholes. I had a loving caring and close family and was never told I was different or didn’t belong, it just was’t mentioned.  I do know this wasn’t the case for many other adoptees and that is sad.

In my experience when someone says that I was lucky to have such wonderful parents in the context around adoption, they are usually trying to be sympathetic to my plight – that being my search may never have an end.  I would rather they give me encouragement or at least say the whole damn business sucks, because it does.  I don’t want to hear how lucky I am or how lucky my parents were to have me because in order to have me they lost three babies – that’s not lucky, that’s tragic.

I’ve thrown the “I’m lucky to have had a fabulous family” line out many times and in the context of the topic of my adoption so I guess I’m hypercritical when I call others out for the same thing so I guess my hypocrisy highlights the mixed emotions that comes with adoption and those mixed emotions can dance around simple words such as ‘lucky’.

Lucky is a great word, and it’s free for everyone to say and I like to think I am lucky and my family are lucky but not because of my adoption for every other reason – we live a good life surrounded by good people – family and friends, we love, we laugh and we cry together as one.  But when we talk about adoption everyone needs to be mindful that adoption is blanketed in raw emotions so using a relatively simple term such as ‘lucky’ can be harmless for some but poison for others.

My awesome family

It’s that time of year when it’s my official duty as a grandmother to attend end of year dance concerts.  This year was the first concert for  Mr 5yo Charlie and for Miss Tildy (aka Matilda) this was her 6th concert – not bad for a 7 1/2 yo.

Calling it an ‘official duty’ may imply my attendance at these events is under sufferance and now that I’m years into attending these events it’s safe to say on the most part it is under sufferance because to see my grandchildren perform, and don’t get me wrong I love to see them on the stage, one must sit through endless dances of the other children.

This year I had the pleasure of suffering through 2 dance concerts. First up was Mr Charlie.  Charlie, although very much a little macho man, enjoyed dancing in the background at his sister’s dance lessons since he was old enough to sway his little hips. He even joined her dance company as soon as he was old enough – around 3.  However, it wasn’t long before he decided dancing was for girls and refused to go.  We suspect he was teased at day care and was shamed out of it – at least this is the most likely reason we could think of because this was the only interaction Charlie had with other children other than his mothers friends’ children and his seven girl cousins. And although Charlie’s dad Rhys is very much a beer and sport’s man, he could see the benefits of Charlie learning ballet – balance and coordination would certainly help Charlie’s future soccer career.  So Charlie’s sudden refusal to go wasn’t from his Dad.

Fast forward to the beginning of this year (2015)

My daughter Kristy heard of a boys only dance class at another dance academy near their home. In actual fact it’s a 5 minute walk between Tildy’s dance academy and Charlies such is the popularity of dancing in the area.  So Charlie joined the all-boy class and hasn’t looked back.

I love the idea of my grandson dancing and to see him on stage performing was a hoot. He truly took on the character of his two dance routines. He made damn sure he was front and centre on stage and he also make sure his face reflected the character he was performing.

Maybe there’s an element of truth that my birth uncle was an actor!

Tildy on the other hand performed in 6 dance routines reflecting the 6 different styles of dance she learns. Next year she wants to do another dance style to bring her grand total to 7 different  classes. We were trying to encourage her to take on a team sport such as soccer and for a time she was rather keen but she’s had a change of heart and is insistent on doing another dance which incorporated gymnastic routines.

Given my and her mother’s inability to do a simple floor tumble with it being an accident, I dare say the genetics are against my little Tildy but I”m confident her determination will break through that genetic disability.

Which brings me to the point of my story

It’s always at events like these that I really miss my Mum and wish she was enjoying the moment with me. I reminisce back to Kristy’s first dance concert when she was 3yo and Mum proudly watched her granddaughter performing two dances, one in a little monkey outfit and the other dressed in an old fashion swimming costume.  From those thoughts I imagine my birthmother watching her great grandchildren – surely she’d be proud of her heritage as I am.

I don’t think she’ll ever meet me let alone her grandchildren or great-grandchildren and that’s sad because she’s missed out on meeting some pretty amazing people. And that goes for my sons Josh and Ty and Josh’s soon-to-be new addition to the family – a daughter due in March 2016.  And Josh’s partner Lauren, who comes from a talented dance background, will ensure in years to come I’ll be sitting in the audience suffering through endless dance routines of other children to see my little granddaughter dance into my heart.

I might not find my birth mother alive but I certainly hope that one day I’ll find half-siblings or close cousins and possibly aunties and uncles.  Regardless of who I meet, I want them to see how wonderful my family is – their blood. How pretty OK I’ve turned out and how lucky they would have been to have had us in their lives.

Adoption isn’t just about finding a birthmother or birthfather, son or daughter, it’s much bigger than that. It’s family traits, gifts and talents. It’s heritage, it’s genes, it’s bloodline. It’s a blossoming branch on the ancestral tree.  It’s a story of a families evolution.

I can only hope that one day I’ll find my little family’s place on our rightful ancestral tree, know our heritage, our genes and our bloodline and I also hope that one day I can share my awesome family with the family I wasn’t given the chance to know.

 

Swimming in DNA

Ethnicity estimate1It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog – a very long while.  A few years ago I was well into this blogging thing, then the findingannewatkins.com website was born and not long after died a decommissioning death.  Around the time I decommissioned the website, I decided enough-was-enough with the topic of my adoption BUT then I decided to send my DNA to Ancestry.com and here I am, drowning in my, and other people’s DNA.

I’ve been a member of Ancestry.com for some years now, I’ve completed my adoptive family’s family tree as far back as the records allow.  I’m also an avid viewer of ‘Who do you think you are’ and was enticed by the DNA related adverts, so I checked it out. As luck would have it there was a sale on the test and being the cheap-scape, I completed the form, paid the reduced rate and waited for my DNA kit to come in the mail.

After about two weeks I received the kit.  I spat in the tube, carefully packed my precious DNA and sent it off.  The information provided with the kit said the results would be ready in 6-8 weeks.  I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email two weeks later informing me that my results were ready.  This meant I could login to Ancestry and activate my DNA test results.

The first information I saw was my ethnicity estimate.  I was expecting to see predominately British with a splash of Western Europe. But low and behold I’m 59% Irish.  I was of two minds about this information:

  • Firstly, this would likely indicate I originated from poor Irish stock either brought to Australia in chains or through the free settlement deals of the mid to late 1800s as the new colony needed men to work.  I’d always dreamt I was the bastard child of a British aristocrat.
  • Secondly, wow Irish – I love their accents and I certainly approve of their dry and mostly cutting sense of humour and of course I too love a drink or more – many more, I digress!

Ethnicity estimate-matchesThe other information, and the most important, was the DNA relationship matches of which I had 37 4th cousins (figure raising steadily).

Wow, I have blood cousins! I would never have thought I’d ever find another person who share my DNA besides my kids and grandkids- how exiting!

My first task was to find out what a 4th cousin looks like, not in the physical sense but how am I related to a 4th cousin?

It’s important to note that DNA doesn’t know the concept of cousins, a cousin match is just a way of describing the amount of DNA shared between people. A 4th cousin could mean we share a great-great-great-grandparent (3rd GG), more or less. To put this into context – everyone has  32 x 3rd GG (ie. sixteen sets – refer to figure below).

Tracing a family tree and uncovering great grandparents is moderately simple if you know where to begin which is usually with yourself, your parents and/or grandparents.  To go beyond grandparents gets a little tricky but still doable. It’s not until you reach your 2nd GG that the information starts drying up so researching 3rd GG is getting into the late 1700s/ early 1800s and the records are well and truly scarce.  To add salt to the wound, the Irish records are mostly none existent as many records were lost in fires or through the English occupancy – just my dumb luck!

To understand my dilemma, my starting point is to find  a common set of 3rd GG I share with any one of my 37 4th cousins.  Of course this task made all the more difficult since I don’t have a starting point as in a name as it’s most likely that the name of Watkins given by my birth mother is false.   So needless to say when I stare at a cousin’s family tree it’s anyone’s guess as to which set of 3rd GG we share.  To top off my dilemma, very few of these cousins have a family tree in the first instance and those that do don’t go beyond 2nd GG.

In order to find a common relative, I need to find several 4th cousins who share the same 3rd GG, meaning their 2nd GG would be a siblings to each other and so would mine – confusing isn’t it?

Ancestry.com didn’t provide tools for finding matching cousins until now, however, it’s still not a useful tool.  In the meantime I’d sent a few emails to various cousins and one or two of them suggested I upload my DNA results to a free service called GEDmatch.com. GEDmatch.com – is a service that allows you to match with people who have had the DNA tested from other ancestry sites such as 23andme and FtDNA (Family Tree DNA).  GEDmatch is for the more serious DNA researcher and it appears that’s what I need to become.

After I uploaded my DNA to GEDmatch and waited the obligatory 24 hours, I received my unique ‘Kit’ number, this helps in the various searches you can perform on the website.  You can also find people who match your kit as well as other cousin kits.  I can even run a test that predicts eye colour, which was spot on in my case – bloodshot – at least that’s the colour they have been every since I received my DNA results.

Since uploading my DNA to these sites, I can’t count the time that has been consumed running diagnostic tests, contacting cousins, scouring ancestry trees and running test after test.  I’ve had help along the way from cousins. One cousin who understands DNA suggested I check out a possible 3rd GG by the name of Hayman. The Haymans immigrated from England to New Zealand and some moved to Australia in the 1800s.  His suggestion was based on a shared cousin relationship between three people, me being one. He knew this other cousin shared the Hayman’s as 3rd GGs so the likely conclusion was I too shared the Haymans.  This means I need to identify which of the Hayman’s children are my 2nd GG and down the line I go.

How hard could that be?

My joy was short lived once I knew Mr and Mrs Hayman had 20 children – 20!  OMG, kill me now!  One of these 20 children MAY BE my 2nd GG and if I knew which one I’d have to find out which of their kids was my 1st GG and there are 72 to choose from – YES THAT’S RIGHT, 72!

Needless to say my job is definitely set out for me and this research is only based on someone’s calculated guess which in all likelihood is wrong.  Regardless, I press ahead with endless hours of searching trying to find some glimmer of hope, some correlation between the search results and the information provided by my birth mother, any information that seems to make sense.  I go to sleep thinking about the search. I wake up at 3am thinking about the search and I wake up in the morning thinking about the search.

I really am swimming in my own DNA.  However, it seems on most days that I’m drowning in it.  And today is no exception!