Tuesday, July 7, 2009
There was a time many years ago that I was fascinated with my family's genealogy. I poured over Census documents and Ellis Island ship records, and each time I could take my family tree back one more generation, I would have a little jolt of excitement go through my body. With a maiden name of Flynn, I would imagine my Irish relatives and what their lives were like “back home”, and so it was fascinating to me to eventually weave my ancestry back to Germany and Bavaria as well, and never did I dream that my family tree would actually start with a love story in France in the 1600s. I would meet people online in my research who were part of the same family trees, and we would trade information and sign our letters to each other “your distant cousin.”
And then I was blessed beyond belief to adopt my two children from China. And the family tree became a whole lot more complicated for me emotionally. Of course my children are listed proudly under my branch as my much loved son and daughter. But now when I look at the complex chart that essentially traces parts of my DNA back hundreds of years, I have an empty feeling inside that there are essential people missing now on our tree. My children’s birthparents deserve to be on there. And I am uncomfortable now that I have the knowledge that my great, great grandmother was a seamstress or that my great, great grandparents on my dad’s side were married at just 18 in Ireland before getting on the ship to America. And yet I cannot even give my own children one piece of information about their parents who are most likely still living in China.
Last night I was googling “adoption and family trees” and I found an article on a blog called “Harlow’s Monkey” that really touched my heart. The author was adopted from Korea, and she talks about the issue of genealogy and how it really surfaced for her when she became pregnant with her first child and was given a baby book that had “two solid pages of family history waiting for my pen to fill in the blanks”. She used her adoptive family’s information, but then she wrote these lines about her birthparents’ history:
“However there are spiritual blanks where the Kim family’s names should be. I see the personal history and family I don’t know as the shadow of my family tree – not the big leafy one represented by my adoptive family and their history, but as the strong silent presence fluttering behind it.”
When I read her blog, I realized that is exactly how I feel now about our family tree. There is a shadow now, a very real emptiness that I wish I could fill for my children’s sakes. I wish I could tell my daughter with certainty that her dad was a student or her mom was a farmer. I wish I could meet them and learn the history of their family line as well. There are very real leaves missing on our family tree now, and I want to make sure their importance is part of our family history as well.
Has your family discussed the issue of family trees? What have you talked about and how have you adapted yours post adoption? Do you include all of the people in your children’s lives, such as foster parents and caregivers who were so much a part of their lives as well?