I am an adopted child.
I was born in May of 1972 and adopted by my parents six weeks after my birth. The people that had me for the first six weeks of my life called me “Marty,” which my mother always told me was a play on the last name of my birth mother. My mom, Sherri, was able to see the legal record of my birth when she was signing the final papers on my adoption. California’s records on adoption are sealed, and getting access to them are quite difficult. She thought the judge left the legal record in eye sight for her benefit should she choose to let me know that I was adopted.
I recall knowing that I was adopted from the earliest age. I once asked my father what being adopted meant and he replied, “you know in your cartoon when the stork brings the baby to the doorstep?” “Yes,” I replied.” “That’s kind of how we got you, only people brought you to us, not a bird.” “Were you adopted dad?” “No son.” “Was mom?” “No son, just you.” I knew that my mother had carried my baby brother in her belly and had given birth to him, so it was easy to understand that I wasn’t born the same way. Intellectually, being adopted was never an issue – it was just part of who I was. You can read posts in this journal to understand that I felt like adoption had left psychological scars on me, and there are certainly a lot of studies that show a correlation to certain types of feelings and behaviors that adoption plays in a child’s development. Whether my issues were adoption related, or not – I’ll never really know.
I searched looked for my biological mother in my 20’s. While I worked at the library, I would use down time to scour the internet and adoption search sites looking for a match. I was always looking for answers in California because that is where I was born. My mother shared the information that she could best recollect from judge’s desk: My name at birth was Leroy Duane Martin, my mother’s name (I’ll not share it to protect her privacy), age (29), occupation, father’s name (Duane Leroy Martin) and sibling information. I found promising leads in California, but never hit on any of them. By the time I had reached my 40’s I had given up searching for my biological family and doubted my mother’s memory regarding the information she claimed to have seen.
In the last couple of years, enormous changes were happening in my life: my wife and I were expecting our first child (the first for either of us). We were both quite wild in our younger years and waited until our late 30’s to settle down. So, the change beginning with pregnancy was quite drastic for both of us. I’m a sentimental man and started to feel a need to preserve some family history for my coming child. I sat down to map out my heritage but was stunned when my interest stopped at my grandparents. I didn’t feel connected to any of the ancestors that I did not know. I know I was raised in a culture that these people helped cultivate, but I couldn’t find any motivation to research their lines. I lacked the curiosity to continue.
Around that time I had been hearing commercials on SiriusXM about DNA testing on Ancestry.com and decided to give that a shot to see if I could learn anything about my genetic heritage. The only information I had, aside from some names, was that I owned British, German and Indian blood lines. I ordered the kit, spit in the lab tube, mailed it off and waited for six weeks.
I was at a Lions Club meeting when my results came in. I was notified via email and ran home to check my results! I was hoping for a second cousin match (a first cousin if I was really lucky!) so that I could paint a picture of the family I came from. I logged in and stared at my results for what seemed like hours: a direct match to my biological mother and her name was the same that my adoptive mother had told me 25 years earlier (my mother had misremembered my biological mother’s middle name, but the first and last were dead on). I started to cry. I rushed to judgement in thinking that my biological mother must be looking for me, as well! Why else would she post a public DNA profile on one of the best, if not the best DNA search sites? Without much thought, I quickly wrote a message on Ancestry and sent it to her. She never replied.
I did a lot of research on my biological mother. She is a life-long resident of Kansas (my California birth is a mystery). I found her siblings through findagrave.com and researched the surviving sisters on Facebook. I found pictures of another cousin who looks eerily similar to me (this was an amazing event, given I had been raised by a family of people whom I bear no resemblances). I have refrained from reaching out to any of them, as I would prefer to have the blessing of my mother before doing so. I was able to find multiple email accounts that my mother had used over the last 20 years and sent an email to her using all of them. All but one was rejected by domain servers, so I was fairly confident in the one address. I have since emailed her 3 or 4 more times, but have not received a reply.
I started looking for other DNA tests and uploaded my RAW DNA from Ancestry to FamilytreeDNA.com. It was an inexpensive alternative to sending in for another lab kit. I waited a couple of days and had the fortune of hitting another close match. I didn’t know if this person (Jill) was a half-sibling, aunt or 1st cousin, but we were a strong, close genetic match. At first glance, I didn’t recognize any of the surnames and thought she had to be a match on my biological father’s side. I fired off a quick email to her and in short time had a reply.
Jill was not from my paternal side, but the niece of my biological mother, my first cousin. She shared a little information about her with me, but not too much. We both agreed that my mother should have the privilege of allowing me to get to know her. She did share the family tree with me which was enlightening. To see, for the first time, pictures of ancestors who are of your own blood is ground-moving. I was overcome with emotion and gratefulness for my new-found cousin and her openness to me.
I have about 15 to 20 close matches on my biological father’s side. They are all second-cousin type matches. Unfortunately, he came from a long line of huge Mennonite families and a second cousin match puts me in the town but doesn’t really get me close to the ballpark of my search.
I am still holding out hope that my biological mother will choose to communicate with me. It has been almost a year since I first reached out. I think about her every day, and am terrified of the thought that we may never have a conversation. It is strange loving someone you’ve never met. My love for her has always been a force in my life. I hope that, despite the silence on her end, that there is a part of her who feels the same towards me.