Adopted Children and Genealogy: Sharing and Caring for Past History

Adopted Children and Genealogy: Sharing and Caring for Past History

What can we offer our adopted children about their heritage? Why is it important to have this to share with them? Where do we start to get this information for them? Is it OK to let them know they have similarities with our families; is this true or wishful thinking? What does the future hold for them – and their ancestors?

My husband was doing extensive genealogy research for our family. As he had a breakthrough, he emerged out of his office with the news that he found a string of relatives from the 1200’s. My son looked down and seemed very sad. The day we located some additional news about our genealogy, it stirred thoughts he had himself. He asked more about his birth parents and their heritage. We shared what little information we had and then he said “well, I will just hang on to your genealogy mom, since I don’t have any of my own.” I shared that he did have his very own too and strained my brain to remember what I could from what his birth mother had said many years ago. I had foggy details of the few lone phone calls so very long ago, not much for this young man to get excited over. My heart fell to the ground for him. I fought back the tears; it was so hard to see him in this struggle that need not be. I feel getting as much information and writing down all you learn when you first adopt is priceless to our children and for their future.

I am now going over family photos from our great-grandparents, and working on framing them for our family wall. They are precious old images of my family and I handle them with the utmost care and reverence.

Since I was 30 when we adopted, our son doesn’t remember my grandparents, let alone my great-grandparents. At a recent funeral of my great uncle, I shared with my son the photos of my grandmother’s side of the family. We noticed how he looks so much like them, even though there was no biological tie. His blue eyes and milky white skin are very different than my Portuguese heritage of olive skin, dark hair and brown eyes.

Once when our son was only five, he found my “color in” shampoo in my shower and used it on his light hair, to look more like me. My blonde son now had red/auburn hair. Bless his heart. Adopted by a full Italian dad and Portuguese mother, he wanted to look like mommy and daddy.

Remember to gather and write down all you learn about your children’s biological family when possible from birth parents, adoption professionals, the agency, foster parents or any living relatives you meet. Consider taking photos of the hospital or orphanages or other notable locations to share with them in a genealogy book just for them. It you don’t have much, think about adding photos of the state or country they were born in and notable events that occurred the year they were born.

There are many books on helping your children understand more about their culture and heritage. For waiting adoptive parents, start reading and learning before your child arrives in your home. The more you have learned and the more you see the value in this genealogy information, the more prepared you will be for the future.

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Reprinted from with permission from Mardie Caldwell, Adoption expert and travel writer. All rights reserved.

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