Category Archives: adoption

My DNA Journey – The Paternal Side

Before getting too into my mother’s story, it’s only right that I talk about my father’s a bit.  It too provided some interesting discoveries and honestly some of the information I found on the internet was heartbreaking.

Growing up I always knew we were of Acadian descent. The beauty of being Acadian is that your history is so well documented. My DNA results made it easy for me to build my family tree on that side. So far I have been able to trace my roots to a direct ancestor who was born in 1570 at Pouilly-en-Auxois, Cote-d’Or, Burgandy France.

For those who may not know who the Nova Scotia Acadians were, they were French settlers primarily from Aunis, Saintonge and Poitou in France.  They first arrived in Nova Scotia around 1603, with the first permanent settlement being established in 1632. My first ancestors arrived around 1644. Two of their children were baptized at Port Royal.

Acadian

The Acadian people got along well and lived quite harmoniously with the local Mi’kmaq populations. The Acadians were skilled farmers, fishermen, and dike builders. They lived in relative peace for the times until 1755 when what has become known as the ‘Expulsion of the Acadians’ started. In a nutshell for several years, the British by any and all means possible, forcibly and inhumanely removed the Acadian people from their families, lands and homes in Nova Scotia. If you ever have the opportunity to read testimony or archive stories from this event you should. It is utterly devastating to read what these people endured and should serve to remind us that we cannot allow those sort of atrocities on our watch.

The Acadians in many cases were separated from family and ended up scattered throughout other coastal areas of the US and Canada. Some were helped by the Mi’kmaq and were able to safely hide in Nova Scotia. In 1763 the war ended and the survivors began to return, reunite with family and start life over. My people went to Cape Breton where many of them still live today.

Acadians are a very proud people and driving across the Maritimes you will see their flag and symbols proudly displayed. This is my fathers paternal history.

His maternal history turned out to be quite a surprise. His mother’s people were generally from the Sheet Harbour, NS and Murray River, PEI areas. For some reason that I don’t know they had always assumed she was solely of German descent.  She was not, her family was as much Scottish as it was German. With names like William Wallace Spears and Robert Bruce Spears in the tree it was pretty obvious her father’s family were Scottish.  They arrived in Nova Scotia in the mid to late 1700’s. Her mother’s family were German and they too settled in Sheet Harbour as well as Lunenburg in the mid-late 1700’s. When I told my aunt this, she had no idea. Like the rest of us she only ever heard details for the Acadian side of our family story.

So as it turns out my brothers and I are a whole lot more Scottish than we ever could have guessed. With my mother’s both maternal and paternal ethnicity being Scottish and my father being at least 1/4 Scottish, there is a lot to work with.  Trust me, I plan to.

As I was going through my DNA matches I was able to actually identify relatives that my mother and father have in common. Thankfully they are several generations removed but none the less it is interesting and something I plan to look into more.

I read somewhere that if you go back six generations we will all find that we have a relative in common somewhere, so far that has been true. In a small province like Nova Scotia where immigration was so heavily encouraged by the powers that be of that time period I don’t think it would be much of a surprise to find that many of us have relatives in common. For those families, like mine, who have been here for hundreds of years it is not uncommon to also find Mi’kmaq ancestors. We are all connected in some way.

Nova Scotia is a wonderful melting pot of different cultures and I hope we continue to be for years and years to come.

Next up, I delve into the journey that is DNA testing and adoption.

 

 

My DNA Journey – The Beginning

There are all kinds of journey’s we take during our time on this earth. Some take us to new places, some come from the pages of a book or they joy of watching a well made visual production.  Each is a unique and wonderful experience.

Over the last year or so though, I found myself on a personal journey so fulfilling it caught me totally off guard.

I have mentioned in a few posts that I did a DNA test through MyHeritage in 2018, but I haven’t gone into too much detail. Lately I have been reading a lot of stories from people who are going through similar searches. I thought I would share my journey and maybe give someone else hope that even when it seems impossible you can find answers, but be prepared to accept that some of those answers may not be what you want them to be.

My father passed away in 2013. When he died I took all his personal papers to my home so I could go through them as I felt up to it. Some things I went through right away and others I set aside. In 2018 I decided to go through a folder he had on family history. Initially I didn’t see much that I didn’t already know but then on one page was a name that stopped me in my tracks. It was my mother’s birth mother. He had been doing research on finding information about her. I was shocked. I had no idea he was doing that, no one did.

I have always known that my mother was adopted, she was very open about it and of course as her children got older and into serious relationships she had done what checking she could to make sure there were no blood relations. You would think that would be easy to do but it’s not. In Nova Scotia adoptee’s are only provided with limited information and none of it can be identifying, unless the birth parent(s) ok’s it. It is very frustrating to say the least. Even trying to get detailed family medical history is impossible.

Anyway, after finding my father’s papers I decided I wanted to do a DNA test. I wanted to know who I am, what is my mother’s history and who were her people. The curiosity and need to know consumed me.

I researched the different companies and decided on MyHeritage. The results were surprising to be honest. I had no idea I was Scottish, and not just a little bit – on three sides. We grew up always focused on our Acadian heritage, but clearly we were so much more.

Initially I kept the fact that I did the test a secret, but then as people started messaging me wanting to know how we were related I thought maybe I should say something. So I told my mother and much to my surprise she wanted to do one as well.  I was all over that like a wet towel. I also had my adult children do one as well to improve the quality of the matches.

At that time she also gave me what information she had on her birth mother and then decided to call adoption services to see if there was anything knew. Much to her surprise, they told her they could now release everything to her. We had no idea why or what changed, but as it turns out once the birth parent(s) has died if you request it you can get it. I wish we had known that 10 years ago. The lady at adoption services told us it would be a few months to get everything together and they would be in touch.

While we waited for the DNA results I put my investigator hat on and went to work with the little bit I had. The internet is a wonderful tool for situations like this and sites like findagrave.com are so helpful. Nova Scotia Vital Statistics also has online genealogy search tools that were beyond helpful.

I found the graveyard where her birth mother, and several other family members, were buried. My husband and I took a drive up one day last summer to visit. It’s an odd thing, but it is the only way we can ever connect with her/them. It is the only way we will ever meet. I can’t really explain it, but I think other’s in this situation will understand.

After doing some research I was able to get a copy of her birth mother’s obituary.  From that I know who her husband was and her other children’s names. At the time my mother was born her birth mother already had a two year old daughter, this is something we’ve always known, and then after she married she had an additional five children. She also had a brother (died in late 2018) and sister, who is still living. Through the wonders of social media I was able to find pictures of some of these folks which opened up a whole other bunch of questions, most importantly – who does my mother look like?

Imagine for a second that your whole life you have never known who you look like or take after? Imagine for a second that you never may. It’s something that seems so small but really is quite significant.

We haven’t contacted any of her birth mother’s family, we don’t intend to. I will share the reasons for that in a future post. However, if they contact us we certainly are open to it.

Adoption is a wonderful thing, don’t get me wrong. My mother was raised in a loving family. My grandparents were incredible people, I have so much more respect for them after going through all of this. They really were amazing. My aunt and uncle are clearly products of their parents. She was very lucky to have such a wonderful family. However, adoption does rob the adoptee of their identity and in a lot of cases leads to a lifetime of insecurity – why wasn’t I wanted? Those of us who were secure in a loving environment have never had to deal with that. We can truly never understand those emotions.

My mother never outwardly wanted to meet her birth mother, just didn’t want to risk it I guess, but that didn’t mean she didn’t want to know and maybe someday have the option. I think that adoptee’s rights really need to be considered during the adoption process. Who speaks for the future interests of the child? Someone needs to.

I’ve learned a lot through this process and will continue to share my story in my next few posts.

I will finish this post by saying, if you are adopted do the DNA test and don’t give up searching.  One small door opening may lead to a flood of others.  It most certainly did for us.