Nature / Nurture
I used to try to explain that being adopted feels a little like coming out of a void–from nowhere at all. These shows resonate so much for me, especially the Ruth Simmons/Condoleeza Rice/Samuel L. episode, as they discuss the impact of “not knowing” where you came from–or when aspects of your ancestral history are things that shouldn’t be–yet otherwise you wouldn’t be here and who you are! I’m glad for some that adoption was 100% wonderful–but it isn’t for everyone, and nobody wants to hear adoptees talk about that! Working on my birth parents’ genealogy not only lets me learn more about them, but it literally begins filling that void, regardless of how you come to understand those you descended from and Their challenges.
Growing up, I always knew I was adopted–and always knew I was quite different than my family. I was music, science and fix-it oriented; my mom longed for me to love history & english so I always knew I would ‘look’.
The summer I was 28, out of the blue came that “Go, now” feeling, so I started with the paper I’d finagled out of the County when I was 18. By fall I had my full birth name, by Thanksgiving I had my mother’s name, and 4 days after Christmas I drove 150 miles to see what I could learn. I ended up calling her–then visiting for I think 8 hours, all of which was both bizarrely funny and such a brain wrap that I couldn’t remember my birthday when she very cautiously asked! I couldn’t have wished for a better reception, meeting, and intro into my birth mom’s side of the family. It was amazing to see myself especially in the child I was pregnant with then I found her but even more in my mother, aunt, half-sister and even one of my cousins. I could make quite a case for “nature” once we met. My sister and I and our mom not only sound the same but we talk and gesture the same, and everyone seems to have the same mouth. My personality is so similar to both my mom’s and my aunt’s–it’s easy being around my mother, and the music, the science….and the music…all made sense to me! And I was content to leave it that way! From the research I’d done after I had my father’s name I knew he had likely died 3 years before, and I hadn’t found anything saying he’d married.
Fast forward 24 years…I had a tentative name on my paternal grandfather and tried to get some confirmation for that through Ancestry.com when I mixed up something and up pops a marriage–and 3 kids–for my birth father. I’ve met some, not all, and can now make an even greater case for nature…and nurture!! I’ve come to the 50/50 conclusion that while temperament may be a huge factor in both personality, interest and aptitudes, the environment we grow up in and people we’re around are at least equal to whatever we ‘bring’ with us. On this side my half-siblings knew about me, but none of the older family did! I see much of myself in me in my siblings, cousins and remaining aunt, especially the style of humor, but I also see how EVERYTHING in my first 20 years had a tremendous impact–I would be a very very different person if I’d known either side of my birth family–some better, but maybe some definitely more troubled!
Working on both sides of my genealogy is a mind-wrap! I have ancestry I never dreamed–and I may never find a name for my probably-Cherokee great-grandmother or get to go to Wales to find more of my musical relatives, but it’s soothingly addictive all the same … maybe someday I’ll be able to put books together for my mom, my father’s sister, cousins and my siblings someday!