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

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.

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!

Finding my mojo

I have been slack of late with updating my blog, I haven’t even bothered to review comments, which isn’t a bad thing, they’re usually spam anyway. I know for a blog to have success one has to keep publishing. Successful bloggers spend many hours a week tapping away at their keyboard bringing what could essentially be a dull boring topic to life. I feel like I’ve lost momentum and certainly the passion for some of the topics I’ve published in the past: being a nanni, adoption and depression to name a few.

I have a theory of why I haven’t been depressed of late and therefore not writing deep and meaningful blogs on my dark days. I haven’t had any dark days ever since I had a minor operation to fix a medical condition known as hyperparathyroidism, which depression is one of many side affects – and quiet frankly I’m not amused. I believe I produced my best work when I was depressed. I can only hope it’s a passing phase as I’m not terribly fond of feeling normal all the time, it’s terribly draining and not to mention boring as hell. I was quite use to the swings and roundabouts of my mental state.  The ups from downs felt pretty damn good as I’m sure most depressed people would agree.  My favourite depressed person of all time Stephen Fry admitted his depression may have helped him be successful. He said he was driven by the energy his depression gave him to be creative. Not that I’m comparing myself to the great Mr Fry but he certainly does have a point.

My passion for writing about adoption has also waned. I can’t help but think it’s directly related to my recovery from depression as it was on my down days I’d reflect on my search and subsequent failure. Or maybe I’ve just given up after 30+ years, maybe I’ve just thrown the towel in the ring!

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here, maybe I’m not cured of depression, maybe I might have reached a point of acceptance in my life, acceptance that this is it. Oh surely not, the thought of accepting that this is it, is, well it’s slightly depressing. But alas only slightly!

And there’s my gandkids who have given me so much blog material but with a month away in Italy and their subsequent holiday in Fiji (with their parents of course) has meant I’ve hardly seen them in almost two months.

That being said I now find myself in a quandary, how can I get back my writing mojo?

For starters, it may also be helpful to get my fat arse off the couch and stop watching the Real Housewives series, all of them:  Orange County, New York City, Atlanta, New Jersey and Beverly Hills.  Yes I admit it, I really do watch them religiously.  I try to analyse why I, a somewhat intelligent woman, gets engrossed in these unreal reality shows. I can only conclude it’s pleasing to see beautiful rich women fight like feral cats over the carcass of rats. I wish I had friends I could fight like that with, how liberating.  My friends are just way too polite to behave so unladylike and I’m just way too polite not to reciprocate the same level of politeness – how boring!  Our retaliation is defriending on Facebook.

Back to my quandary!

I’m obviously not suffering from writer’s block because after all I am writing this blog, so the issue isn’t that I can’t write but what to write. I saw an interview with Jerry Seinfeld who said he finds material for his stand-up routines in every aspect of his life and when he gets an idea he’ll work on it day and night until he’s happy that it’s perfect.  And since he’s a very successful comedian, his work philosophy is certainly one to emulate and I’m sure the same word ethic would apply to writing blogs. Do I have that dedication?  Now this is where I should come out with fighting words but all I can say is “I’ll give it my best shot” – how lame.

I may not have my depression to drive my writing but I still have my crazy friends and family, especially my Grandkids who I’ll be seeing more of since we all have our holidays behind us. Surely with all this subject matter and my sarcastic wit and bold opinions I’ll be writing up a storm from now on. Now to work on my bone idle laziness and addiction to the not-so-real housewives!

Find my feral family – uncut

You might be wondering why I’ve posted another version of FMFF, see previous blog Find my Feral Family. Any way, my daughter reviewed the version below and loved it but I was a bit worried that it maybe a little too offensive, because when I feel strongly about the subject matter (in the moment),  I don’t hold back – just ask my friends. So to be true to how I feel and think about certain things and with the encouragement of those close to me, I thought “what the hell” if it provokes a negative response, then so be it.  So here is the uncut version.

I remember a few years ago being rather exited when I saw Jack Thompson advertising a new TV show called ‘Find my family’. I’ve been a fond fan of Jacks over the years so instantly I gave this show a creditable rating given that Jack, an Australian icon who also is an adoptee, was going to compare each episodes.

If you haven’t watched this show, it’s about people searching for family members lost to each other for various circumstances, mostly adoption.  Being an adoptee myself, I was immensely interested as I too started my own search for my birth mother about 30 years ago, without any luck.  So it goes without saying I was looking forward to the first episode.  I even jumped on the web site Jack mentioned in his monologue to register – now that was in 2008 – I’m still waiting for even an acknowledgement email.

The format of the show starts with the ‘story’.  The person searching tells the story of who they are searching for and the details they have so far.  In most cases it’s children looking for estranged parents or birth parents.  As the show progresses and we establish that the other party has been found, they tell the story from their point of view.

This is followed by each participant viewing a video of each other recanting their story – the searcher telling how they longed to find the other party and the found party telling the story from their point of view.  In between 100 adverts and the whole story being retold prior to the commencement of the show, we finally get to the finale.

The first episode was certainly a slight disappointment but I seem to recall that it touched a nerve and I was hopeful it would improve in the coming weeks – WRONG!

The class of people they help each week seemed to decline. I remember one episode when the birth mother met her daughter in what appeared to be a trailer park. The mother was sitting on a fold-up camping chair dressed in tracksuit pants. Her hair was probably brushed, not a good look for a women with curly hair.  We all know that you don’t brush curly hair; you scrunch it while applying styling moose and blow drying with a baffler.  Or how about this for an idea – go to a frikkin hair dresser – you’re going to be on national TV!

Other episodes have shown toothless, unemployed down and outs.  People that shouldn’t be seen on TV, especially around meal times.  It’s certainly enough to make you puke – especially if you’re an adoptee or adopter of somewhat better class. Having said that, there are a few normal people who appear on the show but it seems they are few and far between. On a whole this show has done nothing for the profile of adopted people, it suggests that adoptees and adopters are low class, trailer trash cretins.

And let me point out that on a whole, the research required to find these cretin families would take half a day.  So my conclusion is, if it’s an easy find send in your details, they’ll get one of their staff members to do a quick look up in the Whitepages during lunch and bingo, you’re in business.  After all the people they represent wouldn’t know a book if it hit them in their ugly heads.

On a lighter note, it did give me much comic relief each week when I recanted the show to my friends the following day.  We’d discuss possible outcomes of my situation unfolding on an episode given the flavour already set.

Picture this – my reunion:  ….a group of people gathered under a beautiful birch tree in a manicured Sydney park. The grass is lush and appears like is has recently rained giving the grass that rich and ful look and feel.  It’s a beautiful Sydney day with a bright blue sky void of clouds.  On arrival at the car park, which is some distance from the gathering, is me and my children. I won’t take the grandkids at this stage because I want this meet and greet to be about me, not cute little babies.

As we gather our composure after alighting from the car we start to make our way towards the gathering. At first I can’t focus on any one person but as we get closer there appears to be a main person, possible my biological mother, standing in front.  The closer we get the more I notice the ‘others’, possibly more biological family. The nearer we get I begin to realise that something is not quite what it should be – no one looks like they are dressed for the momentous occasion. Made even more momentous by the sheer fact there is a camera crew following our progress as well as capturing the reactions of the awaiting group, as these scripted meetings are the highlight of the show.

It’s at this point I begin to panic, surely these mutants aren’t related to me.  It would be at this point my kids would also be making very inappropriate comments not suitable for the camera, which would result in us fighting back the urge to burst out laughing – thankfully I have comedians for kids.

Now I have a decision to make, do we continue our way towards the group and see how the cards fall?  After all they might even be very nice people even though they do look like trailer trash.  Or do we turn around and run?  The answer to this is easy….

We run –  I’m not embarrassing myself of national TV for anyone!