Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Review: Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA

The last genetic genealogy book on the list!  Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA, by Richard Hill isn't really a how-to book.  Instead, it's a narrative about one adoptee's search for his family.

The good: This is a story with a couple of happy "endings," as Hill was able to identify both biological parents and develop good relationships with family.  The search starts in the days of phone calls and letters and ends with internet searches and DNA, and demonstrates the wide net an adoptee must cast for any possible clue.

The bad: Not to diminish Hill's work, but his case seems relatively easy -- it appears that he was just about the only person who didn't know, the adoption was handled through family connections as opposed to an agency, and only the government seems to have been trying to hide it.  A huge percentage of the challenge came from logistical issues caused by the passage of time, such as tracking down people who had moved or died, rather than outright secrecy or lost records.   And, it appears that a bunch of the work was done by other people, largely a volunteer with an adoptee support group.

My takeaways:  This is a huge emotional minefield, not to be entered lightly.  Adoptee support groups are really important.  And we really need to change the laws around adoption and official records; I find the idea of certifying a falsified birth certificate repugnant as both a genealogist and a citizen.

I would suggest reading this book as a way to prepare for the mental and emotional components of an adoptee search, but not as a handbook for learning techniques for conducting such a search.

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