finding your roots

Searching for family of origin, found myself

Thomas McGee April 3, 2012

I was adopted in NYC in 1946 and raised at the Jersey shore. At the age of 5 or 6 I was told by a neighbor kid that I was adopted. Upon hearing this, and not quite knowing what it meant, I ran home to my mother and asked her if this were true.
My mom sat me down and told me the “chosen baby” story that she had been coached to tell me if I were to ever ask. This satisfied the little boy till adolescence and my need to know more became intense to the point of distraction. During this period my grades declined as I was preoccupied with this nagging question of who was I and where did I come from? I did a lot of day dreaming about my beginnings…was I the product of a romance before my father went off to war never to return or some other strange circumstance.
Over my lifetime my parents would not speak of adoption and I felt it was a topic we would not talk about. Being the compliant adoptee I didn’t want to seem ungrateful so I kept my thoughts to myself.
After my parents had both passed away by 1995, I began my quest to answer the questions that haunted me all my life. After much work, reading, adoption support group and the assistance of a professional searcher I loocated my family of origin in 2001 in Minnesota. I have been in reunion with both sides of my family and visited MN at oncee a year since 2001.
I had been raised the youngest of 3 and became the eldest of 10. For my maternal grandparents I was their 1st born grand child. (Sadly I was only able to visit their graves) My mother had 9 siblings providing me with 35 1st cousins and quite an extended family. On my father’s side he had 4 children after me. Unfortunately he had passed away in the late 80′s and was only able to know him through his 89 year old sister and his children.
In the past 10 years I have been active in NJ with the adoption reform movement actively lobbying the state to pass the Adoptee Birthright Bill which would give adult adoptees access to their original unaltered birth certificate. This had been worked on since 1980 without success and in 2011 a compromise bill passed in the Senate and the Assembly in the same legislative cycle and only needed the governor’s signature to become law. Governor Christie conditionally vetoed the bill replacing it with one crafted by the opponents to our bill without our input. It was a devastating blow to all who had worked so hard to get so close only to be denied.
We continue the work with hope that with shows like Finding Your Roots will shed light on the importance and civil right for all Americans to know who they are and where they come from.
Thank you for airing such an important program. It gives me hope.

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  • Lis

    April 26, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Thank you, Thomas, for working on the Adoptee Birthright Bill. Hopefully, people in this country will realize that closed adoption records deny a birth right and do not protect those that should be the focus of concern, the adoptees. Everyone deserves to know their own background. This program could help open closed frightened minds.

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About the Series

The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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