My boyfriend has discovered Ancestry.com and has spent the last week tracing his family history back to the 1700’s. He tells me about William and Elsa, Squire and Kitty. Their progeny spreads out like wine soaking into a white tablecloth, staining the years until it reaches down to my boyfriend, his ex-wife and his children.
I am not on his family tree because we aren’t married. There isn’t a line that connects me to him, to his children, or to my own (because I don’t have any). On his family tree, I am a small bump which hasn’t grown into a branch.
‘Why don’t you do your own family tree?’ he says.
Who are my ancestors? The parents and grandparents of my adopted parents, or the family of the woman who gave birth to me almost fifty years ago? Do I follow the path of nature — my DNA, my blood and my genetic proclivities, or the path of nurture — a world of acquired uncles and aunties, grandparents and cousins.
The path of nurture is well-lit — I know the names, birthdays and relationships of my adopted parents’ relatives. The path of nature is almost a dead-end, I don’t know my birth mother’s date of birth and as for my birth father, I don’t even know his name.
In the end, I feel as though I don’t belong to anyone. My relationships are tethered by love rather than blood or a marriage contract. I float freely amongst the records of birth, deaths and marriages without a name or a lineage that connects me to any of it.
And so I get to choose my own history, my own lineage, my own ancestral tree. I choose the warriors, the witches, the priestesses, and the musicians. I choose the misfits, the seers, the visionaries and the healers. I choose the artists, the writers, the dreamers and the sages.
I feel their blood running through my veins, and hear them whisper that I belong to the soul of the world.
Have you traced your family tree? Were there any surprises?
Who would you choose to be your ancestors?
13 thoughts on “Nature vs Nurture • the Genealogy of Adoption”
YOU are my sister.. in all but blood…
The chosen are better than the given?
Cousins on either side of my family have researched our roots thoroughly.
The Family Tree holds pride of place on a bookshelf in each of my siblings home.. nearly 450 pages on my mothers family alone..
Obviously there is a perceived depth of belonging, unity.. kinship..
Means something to all of us..
My ancestry may have given me roots and shaped me but it is my confidants that share my life.. that know how my heart beats and for whom. None of the other would be strangers do.
They alone (not my family) know what makes me restless at night..
Makes my heart ache ..
So.. thank you for being my kith and kin in this place that we share..
What a lovely comment dearest Roma. Thank you for your love and your willingness to share your heart aches and joys with me.
I’m tethered genetically to siblings–but no love. I think I’d rather be linked by love. If I were honest. Which I am.
There is no guarantee you’ll like your relatives. Thanks for the reminder 😉
I worked on my ancestry tree for a lot of years and then got sick and gave it up for awhile. It still sits in my file cabinet with cob webs and the broken hearts of past relatives who was never given the chance to see the light of day. All it became where names on a piece of paper. I was no closer to knowing any of them or what their lives might have been like. It makes me sad to think that some people don’t have this option. My dad was also adopted but he had his parents death certificates and that helped me tremendously. Thank you for sharing this.
Rena, I was also struck by the fact that people’s entire lives were reduced to a birth, marriage and death record. Seems kinda sad…
I’m our family’s unofficial genealogist, and your words resonate with me: even knowing where most of our family comes from, there are mysteries that will probably remain unsolved. Both my parents had Native grandmothers, and in both families those women’s pasts were shrouded in secrecy–a sense of shame that they came from an “inferior” race. And yet, these are the grandmothers I identify with most, possibly because I’ve always felt a bit removed from the mainstream of our family.
Like you Karen, I would find Native ancestors a lineage to be proud of.
In our family unit no one is linked by blood – I, my husband, and each of our 2 daughters came from different bellies, we have different DNA. Isn’t a miracle when something completely unexpected happens? Our family is a miracle. I believe in that.
Thank you for reminding me, Patty, that all families are miracles. You are right ♥
My family tree is frustratingly difficult to track, for some reason. I’m starting to think one of my relatives did something naughty and changed their name and ran off into the night haha… I know names up to my great-great-grandparents on my grandmother’s side but so many of my older relatives stopped communicating and just faded away. Even if I did have a family tree, it wouldn’t mean a whole lot to me. Knowing that those of my blood walked this land before Canada was even a country is enough for me.
Ah my dear. For all of us there is the family of birth and the family of choice. Sometimes we need to know both well, and sometimes we do not. For many people, it appears to come down to health history as much as anything else. Then again, sometimes I think not knowing that would be a blessing as well.
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