[APG Public List] Adopted children in genealogy

Kate Foote kate at comm1net.net
Sat Nov 13 16:47:01 MST 2010


Well, this is a subject near and dear to my heart! I have a paternal grandmother who, according to one source (and a lot of family whispering) was adopted. The source is secondary at best - the 1900 U.S. Census, where the relationship to head of household is listed as, "adopted daughter." No birth certificate has ever been located, and place of birth is listed only as "Kansas" on any records generated. I know from my personal interaction with my grandmother before her death that she went to extraordinary lengths to hide the fact that she was adopted, and yes, I am quite sure that she knew. Why is that important? Because it tells me that she considered, or wanted to consider, herself a descendant member of her adopted family (there are also photos, post cards, and letters which show a close, loving, relationship with the extended adopted family.) So.... I have continued to research her adoptive parents ancestors - though I have only gone one generation back for both adoptive parents before hitting brick walls (if that makes you question my skills then YOU find the right Michael and Mary O'Brien, in Illinois, in the middle of the 19th century!!) But there is more: I really think that my grandmother actually was a biological member of her adoptive father's family. I have a very possible birth mother (the adoptive father's sister), I have "circumstantial" evidence that shows both a pattern and opportunity for this woman as the birth mother, I have photos that show a strong family resemblance, and (most important clue so far) I have the existence of a rare, genetic birth defect that appears in the adoptive father's family - and also appears in the adopted child's descendants! BTW: she was born in 1887 - ask me how I feel about the loss of the 1890 census?!!!

I use Family Tree Maker (currently on version 2010) which has the option of listing alternative names (a.k.a.), and very satisfactory "notes" options as well. So, grandma is listed in her personal notes section as "adopted." I have also "noted" all related information in her "personal" and "research" notes. I will probably never prove who her birth parents were. But if I could establish their identity I would definitely list everything I could find in my database. My personal wishes (that she is, in fact, the biological child of her "adoptive" aunt) are irrelevant. Knowing and recording the birth family is essential for both medical purposes, and for the benefit of future researchers. In short, I record BOTH families wherever possible.

As it turns out I am also an adoptive parent! I have 2 birth children from my marriage, and 3 adopted children as a single parent after my divorce. All three of my adopted children were beyond infancy when they were adopted, so they all know they are adopted as well. Because they were considered "special needs" children at the time of their adoptions, I was given every record that the agency had on them. This differed from child to child and ranges from just a few records (original birth certificate, some medical records, information on birth parents, evaluations, and agency history) to extensive and detailed records that even include transcripts of interviews with living biological relatives, and the names of all ancestors where known!! 

Again, using FTM I have listed these children BOTH in my descendency with the adoption noted - AND I have listed them by their birth names, and with birth family information (as separate but relevant families.) They are my children, in my opinion (and theirs) they share my ancestry and heritage. But the alternative information is there and easily accessible. 

As a granddaughter - and a grandmother - I understand the necessity for meeting the needs of descendants, both factually and emotionally. I just can't consider any other way to handle it. If you have a client who was unaware of an adoption that you have discovered, I believe you should include all the information you have in your report. If the client decides to redact information about an adoption, so be it. But you, as a responsible genealogist, will know that you put it out there for the specific client, AND for future researchers (who may have a completely different attitude about adoption.) 

BTW, Christy, I like to think that if I were researching you and yours I would surely zero in on your birth and discover the adoption. ;-)

Blessings,
Kate


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Christy Fillerup 
  To: Jacqueline Wilson 
  Cc: apgpubliclist Posting 
  Sent: Saturday, November 13, 2010 4:11 PM
  Subject: Re: [APG Public List] Adopted children in genealogy


  Jacqueline, who says?

  I can tell you my personal experience with this. I am the issue of my mother's first marriage. They divorced when I was 1. Her second husband adopted me when I was 3. He is, and always will be, my father. He raised me and I trace his line as my own. That said, I will also eventually trace my biological father's line as well, primarily for health reasons. Unfortunately there is no quick answer to this question. Each adopted individual views their adoptive parents and their biological parents differently, and thus will have a different view on which lines take priority. In the end I would trace both--just more leads to follow! 

  For a client project I'm with Stephen--ask them what they want. For my own personal lines I would prioritize the parents they spent the most time with--were they old enough when they were adopted to have formed a bond w/the biological parents?

  Incidentally it would take an above average genealogist to discover I was adopted. If they went purely on my vital records they would never guess.. Both my birth and my marriage certificates indicate I am the daughter of my adopted father (Utah issues new birth certificates on adoption.) Only by tracing my mother, and discovering that she had a first marriage at the time I was born, would they ever think to look at adoption and/or court records. Of course they may also take one look at that first marriage, discover it was before my birth date, and decide that there must be two Barbara Oldhams. (No census records would cover that first marriage.) 

  I suspect there are more of these hidden relationships in our family lines than we think there are.

  Christy Fillerup

  <snip...>

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