Finding my brother’s birth mom & siblings

Our parents with my baby brother

When my family lived in southern California and I was six years old, we adopted a baby boy. My parents loved him to pieces, and he loved them. He is as much a part of our family as the rest of us with biological ties.

After our parents both passed away, he was feeling a little bit lost. I found out he had tried to find his birth family some years ago, with no success. I offered to get him a DNA kit. He agreed and we waited for results. In the meantime, I had my own results and my husband’s results. I started a crash course in DNA by reading all I could online and going to specialized DNA courses out of state – because that is where the genetic genealogy experts were speaking.

I found out that since my brother was born in California, I could access the California Birth Index with his birthdate and county of birth and have a chance to find his birth mom’s maiden name and possibly his birth father’s surname. Very often, babies who are to be placed for adoption are not named at birth, and so if you look for “Unnamed infant,” you have a good chance there is only one born that date in that county with that gender. If there is more than one, you have still narrowed it down, and can search for the new potential surnames in the searcher’s DNA match lists to see if you find a lot of one or the other. Finding the mother’s maiden name from the California Birth Index can help a lot. (A few other states have similar records. Texas has birth books you can access by joining website). Some adoptee search angels/volunteers who specialize in California also have access to a database with original birth information. The number of the original birth certificate matches the number on the amended birth certificate which is the one adoptive parents are given. This is how my brother’s wife and I knew we had the correct birth mother’s name, the numbers matched.

The birth father’s surname in the California Birth Index for my brother turned out to be incorrect. My brother’s birth mom listed a former husband as my brother’s father, although she had been divorced from him for over a year before my brother was born, so legally she did not have to list him. That man was known to be sterile and never had a child. It turned out she didn’t want to list my brother’s actual father, who wanted to keep my brother and bring him up. We believe she told his father that he was stillborn, and that was the story all his older siblings were told to tell the neighbors and anyone who asked.

Mckell’s brother’s birth mom 1933-1996

When we saw the photo of my brother’s birth mom as a high school student, we were pretty sure we had the right person! Photographs that look like someone else are not evidence (Genealogy Fact – memorize that one), but it is very fascinating when you can clearly see another person in someone else’s face.

Unfortunately, his birth mom passed away over 20 years ago, as did his only biological brother in 2013, who never forgave his mom for placing his brother for adoption. But with my brother’s permission, I reached out to his sisters, who had always wondered where he was in the world and what he was doing. They called him “The Lucky One who got away” as they did not have a good childhood, unfortunately.

Two of his birth sisters live in Arizona now where we moved when my brother was about four years old. Another sister was visiting last year for a concert, so my brother met up with three of his four birth sisters, symbolically on Mother’s Day 2016.

People ask, “Is it nature, or is it nurture?” for people’s personalities and mannerisms. I submit it is both. My brother and his sisters all have various levels of anxiety (as do I, a non-biological connection), but for their meeting they said it felt very natural. DNA is strong stuff. Often, close family meeting for the first time will wear the same unique color or style of clothes, have the same hairstyle, and/or have the same speaking voice or pattern of speech.

Lessons learned from viewing or hearing about various reunions mostly from afar:

  • It is best to go in to reunions with no expectations. Prepare for the worst, but be open to the best.
  • People process information in different ways and on different schedules. It is best to give everyone as much space as each person needs. You have a better chance of having a lasting relationship if you are casual and go in without expectations of any kind.
  • People can change their desires on reunion and relationship. Just because a door is closed or closes, doesn’t mean it won’t open again later on, if you are patient, mature and always send good vibes and positive messages. Never burn bridges.

But where’s the DNA in this story, you ask?! It’s coming. I had to use his DNA match list to find his birth dad’s identity. Plus, one of the first things my brother’s birth sisters told me was that their mom was adopted herself in Dallas, Texas, in 1933! Of course, I couldn’t let my brother’s new biological family tree stop with one person, his mom. I had to find out where her people came from and their stories.

To be continued tomorrow!

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