Thursday, August 4, 2016

Heading to National Conference of State Legislatures - Chicago 2016

NCSL-Minneapolis, MN - 2014

The Adoptee Rights Coalition is gearing up for another exciting opportunity to speak with state legislatures and their staff members about sponsoring bills in closed record states for equal rights for adoptee access to original birth certificates.

This year will be different in that we will be educating lawmakers on the boom in DNA/genetic genealogy testing and that through this testing, there is no longer any reasonable expectation that privacy or anonymity exists between a parent and their offspring (adopted or not).

For $99.00, anyone can purchase a DNA test and be matched up with cousins and sometimes, close family members, who also have tested.  Just a few years ago, it was only a lucky few who were getting close matches.  Nowadays, people are getting first cousin, grandparent and sibling matches on a regular basis.

I myself have a first cousin match at Ancestry which has allowed me to see which of my other matches are maternal versus paternal.  I am fortunate to be adopted in the state of Illinois which allows most of their adoptees access to their OBCs.  A majority of adoptees are still discriminated against in their home states of adoption.

Gaye Tannenbaum of the ARC has written about this phenomena in her blog titled DNA Game Changer - Part I: Thoughts on the "birthparent privacy" argument.  Please share this article far and wide.

If you will be at the NCSL, please visit BOOTH 824. We will have DNA tests as door prizes.

Hope to see you there!


Friday, July 15, 2016

How Can You Support an Adoptee?

I arrived at the idea for this post thinking about all the amazing people I have met, seen and heard through the Facebook room called DNA Detectives.  The group is managed by genetic genealogists who spend hours a day helping total strangers seek out and find their roots - many of these members are adopted.  When I feel myself losing hope in my own search, I log into DNA Detectives and read posts about people who have searched for decades without much to go on, due to sealed records and secrets, but were able to get a breakthrough thanks to autosomal DNA testing.

So, what can YOU do to help an adoptee, even if you are not part of the adoption constellation? You don't have to be a birth parent, an adoptive parent or an adoptee yourself to do a few very important things to help adoptees find their roots.

My ethnic breakdown

Normally, the test at Ancestry cost 99.00 but you can get it on sale for 79.00.  How does this help an adoptee?  Simple -- every new tester in the database is a potential relative of an adoptee who is waiting for answers.  Using your saliva and a simple process of shipping via mail, you can learn of your ethnic breakdown.

Ancestry will also match you with your genetic cousins and statistically, you will be related to an adoptee somewhere on your tree.  Be sure to log in regularly to check for new matches.  Also check your messages both at Ancestry and your Message Requests folder on Facebook. My closest match at Ancestry has not logged into Ancestry in a year and she does not have a tree.  There are other steps to take after you test at Ancestry and joining DNA Detectives can guide you.  An adoptee will thank you for your efforts.


When you have a well-documented tree on Ancestry, you are helping other members research their own genealogy and you are helping adopted people find their roots.  Your tree must be set to Public to help others.  Even when your tree is set to Public, your living relatives cannot be seen by other members -- only your deceased ones.


This seems so simple that you are probably wondering why it is even on a list of things to do, which is what makes it so powerful.  Validate in words of support when somebody does not know who their biological family is and is taking active steps to learn about them. My husband always asks people who don't understand an adoptee's plight this question,

"Do YOU know who your mother and father are?"  (usually a yes follows this question).

"So, do I". (if you have ever heard my husband's deep, booming voice, you can imagine the silence that follows.)


This could be as easy as writing a quick letter of support to your state representative or sending money to an adoptee rights organization. Go here to learn more about adoptee rights.

The Adoptee Rights Coalition, which I am a board member, is a group of volunteers (adoptees and friends of adoptees) who travel at their own cost to the National Conference of State Legislatures annually to educate that adoptees' birth certificates are treated differently than non-adoptees' birth certificates in a majority of states in the U.S.

Supporting an adoptee is as simple as words of validation, understanding and participation.

An adoptee in your life will thank you!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Tending to my Own Garden by Seeking My Roots

After spending a decade privately compiling information about my relinquishment, adoption and birth family, I created a search team to help me look at my search with new eyes.  This team has uncovered stacks of information from various sources.

However, I still do not know the man who fathered me.  I know quite a bit about him through my DNA, interviews and stories I have learned of over the years, and my Non-ID.  I just need that special clue that will set me in the right direction.  That is where you all come in!

It's hard for me to ask for help; however, I am no longer alone.  I have a whole adoption community out there that want to help me and for that, I am very grateful.

Sometimes you have to be realistic and accept that even though certain secrets and lies are old --- really old --  family members many times die with their secrets.  DNA testing is helping so many people, but with my father being a recent immigrant to the country, I don't yet have a cousin match to identify my paternal family.  (Hint:  If you want to help an adoptee or others separated from family, spend the $79.00 to test at Ancestry).

There are people who are alive right now who know my story.  I have been advised by one of them to tend to my own garden and just be happy.  (I always find it humorous when a non-adopted person in one breath is bragging about her own genealogy, but then in the next breaths assumes that if I am looking for the truth about my ancestors, I must not be happy). 

Some refuse to reveal the story.  Others don’t know they have information that could be helpful.  That is where this graphic comes in.  This graphic was created by an adoptee who is part of my team who has walked this path before me.  Her support has been invaluable.

My hope is to reach a wider audience with these graphics and generate some leads.  

Thank you in advance for sharing this blog and/or the graphics!  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Adoptee Triggers and a Sense of Belonging at the World A'Fair

World A'Fair 2016 - Dayton Convention Center
I had an amazing experience this past weekend when I took DD to our local World A'Fair. Many communities put these on, or you may be familiar with the Epcot Center at Disney World, which is the same idea.  You will experience different countries, cultures, foods, dancing, and become educated on what products and ideas came from which country (Example:  Ethiopia's claim to fame is coffee).

This was DD's first trip to the World A'Fair and she was mesmorized from the moment we walked in. We were handed a passport to make our way around to the different countries where someone would stamp the passport and answer the trivia question that was posed in the passport.

First stop -- Colombia!  It is purported that my biological father was Colombian so we made our way over to try out the amazing beef empanadas and churros.  SO DELICIOUS!  I had a conversation with a man from Bogota, Colombia who gave me the lowdown on the cheapest and safest way to visit Colombia.
El Meson--beef empanadas from Colombia

We made our way around to the different countries, DD trying out different dances, foods and asking lots of questions.  Before DD even asked, I shared with her that she was German, Irish and a little bit Native American.  I felt compelled to share with her which cultures were part of her heritage as I did not want her to experience the emotional pain that I felt attending the World A'Fair many decades before with my own mother.

As I reflected back to that time many years ago, I remembered looking around at all the different countries, envying how each culture  of people running the booths, cooking together, dancing together, and laughing together, looked alike, knew their history and knew that they belonged in that group.  I was deeply sad that I didn't know which country and culture was part of my history and it left me reeling and apparently, brave.

I said out loud that I wished I could find my birth mother.

My mother's response to this wish was to share a story about a birth mother who had never shared with her husband that she had relinquished a child and when the adoptee showed up, the woman's life was devastated.   In my usual fashion, I retorted back, "Well, I guess that is what happens when you lie." which abruptly ended that conversation.

This memory has always stayed with me as it made clear where my mother stood on my wanting to know about myself.  It may have been the reason I have not regularly attended the World A'Fair as well.

On Sunday, sharing my first World A'Fair with DD, I looked around and caught a glimpse of Italy (the country I most identified with for all those years of not-knowing), and felt a sense of peace that since taking an autosomal DNA test, I now know the truth (I am not Italian!).  I can walk up to Mexico and know that some of these people are my people!! I can visit Germany, and although German food is not my favorite,  I can embrace that this culture is part of me.  I can eat Colombian food, and feel a sense of belonging, even without knowing for certain who my father is.
DD dancing with a Lebanese dancer

For the first time in my life, I walked among the diverse cultures and countries, and knew that I belonged somewhere!  It was also such an amazing bonding experience to be there doing all this with DD, who like me, is adopted; however, has all of the information about her background.

I hope, she too, felt a sense of happiness and belonging at her first World A'Fair.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Looking for your birth parents? Create a Facebook Search Party!

photo credit:
Today I am writing about a collaborative approach to finding one or both of your birth parents. This is especially helpful if you have already gone down the genetic genealogy/DNA testing route but you don't have close enough cousin matches to make a connection with one of your birth parents.

Keep in mind that statistically, you could get a close match any day, with the number of people testing; however, there are certain adoptees, like myself who have a parent who was a recent immigrant to the U.S. that may prevent you from getting close enough matches in a timely fashion.  For example, you will be looking in your DNA, and see all sorts of distant cousins from Italy, but you just can't pinpoint who that parent is, because you only have clues, and not cousin matches close enough to begin investigating their genealogy.

But looking at your ancestry breakdown, you realize that this parent is at least 1/4 Italian, maybe even 1/2 Italian and you notice that a big majority of your matches have ancestors living in Detroit, Michigan.  You may not have a close cousin match, but you have some valuable information to use when you create your search party.

Creating a search party is really simple on Facebook.  You create a new secret group (make sure it is secret because you will have sensitive documents and information posted in this Facebook room). Once you have created your secret group, you can begin to invite people to join your search group.

Here is how I did my own.  First, I thought about all the people who were currently helping me or following my journey in some way and invited them into the room, which is very easy to do on Facebook.

photo credit:
Some of the people I chose were related in different ways within the adoption community.  Here are some examples of the people I chose and why:

* my friend who is a genealogist and has been working on my tree since 2006
* my search angel who was already familiar with my case and has interviewed people in the past
* a group of writers that showed interest in my search and/or knew my story and wanted to help
* a few friends I met through this blog who felt compelled to help me.

*Note, sometimes the more obvious people you know will not be the ones to really dig in and help you.  Your best friend may not be a good choice for your search team or he/she may.  You decide.

I chose around 40 people, but I know other people who have less than that.

These are the special skills you want your search party to have:

* good genealogy skills -- very proficient in looking up information on,, etc. (obituaries, newspaper articles, city directories, etc).

* good legal skills -- knows where to find what legal information and where (i.e. marriage certificates, divorce decrees, etc.)

* Very persistent diggers, people with analytical minds and good intuition (can go from point A to B really quickly, can sniff out falsehoods, can find yearbook photos in a single bound and can create a "story" out of your information)

* Thinks outside of the box (not afraid to write to strangers for information, will purchase and send DNA tests to potential relatives, etc.)

* Genetic genealogy skills -- a thorough understanding of what the DNA results mean and how to interpret them properly

* Good people skills  and social media skills so as not to offend those people who will be providing leads or information and locating relatives on social media

* People with psychic gifts (if in doubt, read this book for further understanding on how a psychic helped adoptee Rhonda Noonan find her grandfather, Winston Churchill.)

Ok! So you have invited your friends who are smart and savvy, but you may be lacking some people with skills you need.  What I did, is I posted a general update on my main Facebook page asking if anyone wanted to join the search team.  I was very fortunate to find a new person with all of the above skills rolled into one person.  She is the rock star of search angels and was able to take my search to a whole new level.

If you still need people with skills, start asking friends for referrals. Think of people who are into genealogy, who enjoy investigating or love crime shows (raises hand!).  Think of your friends who are problem solvers and actively love following a trail to its conclusion.  Invite them! Leave no stone or person who can help unturned.

Important warning! Only invite people you trust to keep your information confidential or have the confidence of somebody you trust.  You may create your search party and become uneasy about one or two of the members, especially if you do not know them face to face.  If this happens, do not be afraid to remove them from the search party once you have gotten to the bottom of your unease.

Next:  Begin to upload documents with the "story" of your birth/adoption and your search.  I will give you examples of how I did this:

First I posted a document I received from my adoption agency (the Non-ID) so everybody could read it. I later posted my original birth certificate when one of my searchers asked what it said about my father on there.  Many adoptees do not have their original birth certificate due to closed record laws; however if you do, be sure to post it for your searchers to see.

Next, I posted a summary of the interviews with friends and relatives as well as conversations I had with key people so my searchers could read them and interpret them for themselves.

Next, I posted what my DNA was leading me to believe about my ethnicity, location of ancestors, etc.

You want to post these documents in your secret room but do not make them novels. Each of my posted documents were one page and summarized the information to the best of my ability.  Details are important but telling every detail is exhausting and possibly confusing to those who are new to your search.  Here is an example of how one aspect of my search party unfolded:

In my own search for my father, my non-ID from the adoption agency is contradictory to the interview with one of my relatives who remembered my father.  This is very common as adoption agencies were notorious in not getting proper information or documenting outright untruths during the closed era.  Let your searchers figure out what THEY believe is the correct scenario.  You have looked at this stuff until you are blue in the face.  You want a fresh perspective from your search team on what they believe your story is leading to.

From there, each of your searchers will take a lead and run with it or will "profile" your parent and the story of how you came to be (think of criminal profiling -- it's similar).  One might start looking up friends of one of your birth parents on Ancestry.  One might start combing through yearbooks for clues.  One may research at the library.  One may contact you individually and ask more questions about a particular angle of your search.

The hoped-for result will be many new documents posted in the room for all to see, many new leads, new people to talk to and fresh ideas on where to go next.  The best result, of course, is to find your birth parent.  It can happen! Just have faith!

Be sure to be available to answer any additional questions your searchers may have in a timely manner so you can keep this ball rolling.

When you create a search party, anything is possible and magic will unfold if you have the right chemistry in the room!!  Be prepared to find anything!

And please drop me a line if you are successful in this endeavor.  Would love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

My Adopted Self Spinning Out of Control by Emma Macgent

My car spun out of control quickly as metal on metal made a horrible noise.  I was on the Interstate in my small yellow Datsun hatchback. As others in crisis describe, many thoughts went through my mind.  It wasn’t individual thoughts, but a general sense of lack of accomplishment and things yet to do and experience.  

I thought I was going to die that day as I screamed an expletive. (You can imagine what you might scream if you thought this was the last minutes of your life).  I was in my mid-twenties, single, had completed college and had good professional career path. I lived in an apartment, had a roommate and had some family in the area.  

One minute I was at the gas pump, and the next I was on the interstate and the car was spinning out of control. Then I heard a loud metal noise.   I awoke in a hospital bed with the bright lights and people bustling around me.  I felt pain, but I couldn’t put it quite together with what had happened. 

The paramedics stopped by to check on me and told me on the scene I kept asking the question “Was it my fault?”  It wasn’t my fault, but thankfully there wasn’t an ambulance chaser who overheard my silly question. I had no memory of the previous day, let alone hours. I had IVs and tubes and gauze everywhere. I overheard their concern as I went to have my body scanned. Then the nurse questioned me about my family medical history. I felt some of the spinning of the room returning, the same as I had felt in the car.  

I realized how I had not resolved the huge questions of who am I?   I answered the nurse, “No, I don’t have a family history”. My head was throbbing and my shoulder was in pain. I was realizing what had just happened and how I may never really know my family history.    I whispered to the nurse out of sadness, not shame, “I was A D O P T E D”, as tears streamed down my face. 

I felt so alone. I just spoke out loud the secret that had continued to haunt me.  I wanted my parents there, my adoptive parents.  They were the only parents I knew.  I was lying in a hospital bed and searching for the meaning of my life and not knowing if I was going to live or die.  Not only did I want my adoptive parents, thoughts of my first mother came pouring in.  

I wanted her to hold me.  I just wanted to know who she was.  I wanted to be loved by her. I couldn’t and didn’t share those thoughts with anyone else and explained the tears away as pain.  The pain was just as much emotional pain as physical pain. I just wanted my mom, the one that birthed me; the one who gave me away.  I wanted to hear her words, her voice, see her face and feel her touch.  Might that be the last thought before I die? 

I survived the car wreck, but I knew that I had to again restart my search for answers about my adoption. The secrecy surrounding adoption and feeling less than whole came back with vigor after my car wreck and also on holidays, birthdays or even with the lyrics of a song.  

The details of my adoption were a secret although I was told in generalities about adoption when I was very young.  I was told of the fairy tale story and how I was chosen and saved.  (Both ‘chosen’ and ‘saved’ are not words I would use in describing adoption).   I had no idea at that time what adoption really meant, but I had a sense that it wasn’t the fairy tale story that I was being told. I felt confused with a sense of emptiness for this first family.  

I remember having a need to know who I was.  This had haunted me since I figured out what adoption meant.  As a child, when I tried discussing my adoption with family, it was obvious it wasn’t a discussion anyone was comfortable having.  The secret just continued to grow into this big dark cloud of little information and no clarity.  

Eventually I just stopped asking questions of my adoptive parents when it seemed the questions were painful to them.  They had difficulties speaking to me about my adoption and therefore I assumed that searching would also not be something they would approve of.  As much as I felt different or out of place in this family, I still never wanted to hurt them. I didn’t share with them my great need to know the answers.  

I knew they loved me, but I also had an irrational fear as a child that they could send me back.  I wanted them by my side on this search, but I didn’t believe they would have the desire or the emotional strength to embark on this journey with me.  

Not having resolution about my birth/ first parents continued to be an issue throughout my life. I tried searching throughout the years with no luck and no clear plan. During those years the script that played in my head was;  ‘ If your mother didn’t want you then why would anyone else really want you?’  

This script has been an ongoing issue for me in other relationships too.  Secrets of little information and poor assumptions just continued to rule my life at that time.  After all, I didn’t really know who I was!  After the car wreck, I started searching again. I had tried various ways to find, but nothing really worked.   

After every big life event I would jump back into my research. I would fill note books with information, tracking everything I found and every scrap of information.  I had copies of city directories that I had secured over 10 years before from the 1960’s. They were sitting in my file with my mother’s surname scattered through the directory.  

Years later, I found, my mother’s name was staring at me the whole time in that directory. I just didn’t know it was her!  Can you imagine how I felt when I realized her name was right there in front of me?  The kicker was, when I first had the city historian send me the directories, my mother was alive!  I had her name in my hands and she had been alive, but I had no way of knowing it was her!  

The secrets surrounding adoption kept the information to find my mother out of my reach.  By the time I was able to find her in 2010 and with help from the internet and search angels, I found a grave instead.  I was three years too late.  

After 30+ years of searching and at 49 years old I found my mother had passed away three years before I found her.  I was feeling so blessed to find her, yet grieving her loss in a whole different way.  There would be no reunion, no stories, no hugs, just a grave.  How do you begin to grieve someone you never knew? 

I started a journey of discovery of the woman who gave birth to me, my first mother.  I was thirsty to know all about her and sought out other family members to fill in the pieces of this giant puzzle.  Also trapped in the puzzle was information about my father.  I didn’t have a name for my father and very few clues about him.  Without my mother, there was no way of finding his name.  

The person that deserves the most credit for identifying my father was Caroline, a 4th cousin I matched on  She had genealogy experience and we met through her own DNA family search.  Unfortunately, my father had also passed and again I had to grieve the loss of my father the day I found him.  Two graves was not the outcome I hoped for, but it was still better than not knowing.  

I owe Caroline a great deal for her help and her friendship.  I am convinced that with the information I had at hand, I would not have been able to pull the puzzle pieces together without her expertise in family trees and genealogy.  My birth records, birth certificate and anything that was mine before my adoption is no longer legally mine.  Once the pen of adoption is signed and sealed in New York State where my adoption took place, it cannot be opened.  I can never legally have a copy of my Original Birth Certificate, no matter how old I am.  

This made searching a challenge, but I knew I would never give up.  I knew I would break down the secrets that stood in my way of feeling whole.  I did not want to go through life or be faced by death again without full knowledge of who I was.  Then again, it is not who I was… but who I am!  

I still am meeting cousins and other family members and I am still filling in the pieces of the puzzle.  Although I know now who he is, my father is still a bit elusive.   I continue to learn about him as I piece together his information by caring members of my paternal family. I hope to continue to learn about this intriguing man that is MY father.  

I feel blessed that I know now my parents of origin and my family lineage.  Oh yes, and I am 100% European and a good percentage Irish!  I finally know my ethnicity as well, thanks to my DNA.
I continue to feel almost whole with my family surnames and relatives.  I am thankful and feeling blessed for finding the answers to the question of ‘who am I?’

Peace to all those who search…..

You can visit Emma Macgent (the author of this blog) here

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

I have every right . .. . . .

Dear DEMETER2010:

Thank you for the kind comment at my blog today.  I was looking for some new material to write about and you gladly provided that to me.

"Hey Lynn, 
YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO INSERT YOUR SELF IN ANYONE'S LIFE. She gave you up, and decided to keep you as a secret, get over it. Her children are not YOUR SISTERS OR BROTHERS. Your parents, you know the ones adopted you and worked hard to bring you up and their family is YOUR FAMILY. Jesus, the selfishness of you adoptees is incredible. Just because someone popped you out of their vagina doesn't mean it gives you some god awaful right to become a parasite and suck the happiness out of the woman's life by trying to befriend HER family. This is why mothers need to adopt filths like you."


I'm so glad you brought this to my attention, because I honestly thought I had the right to drop into anyone's life uninvited. . . . oh, wait!  You obviously didn't read the other parts of my blog where I discuss paying my adoption agency $500.00 for the "chance" to know who my birth mother was.  She had every right to decline my invitation to know me.  She chose to meet me more than one time.  As did my sister. Let me guess.  You had an adoptee drop into your life after somebody lied to you for most of your life and it rubbed you the wrong way?  Maybe you should take out your hostility on the person who kept the secret, rather than the adoptee.


Last time I checked, siblings could be by adoption and blood.  Adoptees have both. I'm sorry you can't wrap your brain around that simple concept, but that is just the way it is.  I share DNA with several siblings and I have a brother by adoption.  Each of them has a right to know me or to ignore me.  Their choice and my choice as to whether I want them in my life.


Nobody has the right to keep anyone else a secret.  A person is not a secret (thank you, Rayne Wolfe).  If somebody has a secret, then it's not the responsibility of the rest of the universe to bow down to it.  IF an adopted person is a secret, that is not their responsibility to stay that way unless they choose to for their own peace of mind.


Family is what you make it.  My adoptive family and my biological family and my friends are who I consider family.  Other people make other choices, but you have no right to tell me or anyone else who their family is.


This comment is a perfect example of what adoptees deal with on a regular basis.  Ignorance, slander and outright hostility for doing what regular-born people do:  exploring their roots.