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Can adoption and genealogy mix?

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Feb 12 13 8:00 AM

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I read a great post yesterday on a blog called Climbing Greenwood. It was on the Monday Morning Mentions.

Leslie's question "Can adoption and genealogy mix?" seems pretty straightforward. Adopted children are not part of the blood line. Therefore, technically, they are not family.

However, my husband is adopted. On the 1960 census, he will show up as a son along with his two younger brothers who are the biological children of his adoptive parents. There is no record to show he was adopted other than a slight difference. In California, the adoptive birth records are kept in a different location. 

His parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents were part of his life. Their history is his history. Future generations will also understand that these people were his family. In Leslie's family, her adoptive children are from another country. It is more obvious but again, while the girls may want to know their bloodlines, it is more likely they will learn the adoptive family's stories  They will interact with their cousins. They will spend time at grandma's. Their birth certificates will also show them as the children of their parents.

Where do the Genealogist's stand on this issue? I have not seen much discussion. I have tracked my husband's family a very long way back. He is not related to anyone on his father's side and yet, he carries his name. My grandson, who we adopted, is not related to my husband but he is also a Hinds. The name carries down. I can see the look of horror on the faces of some Genealogists. Had we not spent the time to document all of this, the only way to know that the bloodline has changed would be with DNA.

I would be interested in hearing what other people think.

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#1 [url]

Feb 12 13 9:13 AM

If as a genealogist you are interested only in establishing pedigrees and bloodlines (as much has been) then adoption would not be included. But if you are interested in "family history" then adopted members of the family are that - family members. They become family members on adoption and share family history. In English law, at least, they also become equivalent to birth children for inheritance etc. I think I would note that they were adopted (if it is clear in the records) but that would be all. I would continue tracing their adoptive family. (Possibly also the birth family if known and appropriate). 

There may of course be adoptees in our heritage that we know nothing about - if we have not tracked down birth records and have only census records etc. we may never know that a child was adopted in an earlier generation. I have an instance the other way - a son who was born out of marriage but was acknowledged by his father within the family, who a few years later in a census after his parents had married is noted as his father's "adopted son". He was in fact his blood son - but clearly at that point the father had not wanted to acknowledge it officially when he had only been married to the boy's mother for a few months. Things are not always as they initially appear!

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#2 [url]

Feb 13 13 7:16 AM

I agree with Janet - "genealogy" may technically be about bloodlines. After all, the word suggests a study of one's genes. But family history is about so much more than that. Family does not have to be blood to be family and to me, family history encompasses everything that was involved in the lives and histories of my family members. I often get frustrated by the fact that there is no method of inserting known friends of my ancestors into my tree, LOL. I have occasionally considered starting separate trees for certain friends of my ancestors. 

My sister in law is adopted and I have been researching her (adopted) tree - she definitely takes an interest in it and enjoys hearing about what I find but she is not interested enough to do the research herself. I don't think that's because she's adopted though - plenty of people just don't want to spend the time and effort doing the searching but still enjoy hearing the results. I guess that's why professional genealogists exist!

Additionally, my cousin is adopted - she's from South Korea. She has shown interest in our shared family history but she mostly seems interested in hearing about the more recent generations - our grandparents and their parents.

I think it would be incredibly insulting and rude to assume they would not be interested just because there is no blood ties. To me, that would suggest that adopted children are somehow less their parent's children, which I do not believe at all. There is no reason why a family history would be meaningless to an adopted child.

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#3 [url]

Feb 13 13 9:41 AM

Wordstock16, Wow and thank you!  I am very flattered that you thought enough of my post to bring the conversation here.  I hope to see many more responses.

Janet, I like your distinction between genealogy and family history.  I have always assumed they were the same thing.  I am going to have to think about the ways in which I actually deal with them differently.  I also like your introduction of what family means in law.  I know when my (birth) daughter was born my husband's name was put on the birth certificate -- and it didn't matter to the state whether he shared DNA with her or not, they just wanted someone to hold accountable for her welfare.  (I should mention that this wasn't a pragmatic concern of ours, just something we found provocative at the time.)

Historychick, I know!  Where is the space for friends of the family!  My grandfather grew up with a family friend, Rocco Rocco, in the house for 2 decades -- surely he means something to our tree!

One other idea I would like to thow out into the mix.  I attended a talk where an avid genealogist was sharing the impact of DNA testing on his family tree.  He actually lost a cousin, another avid genealogist, because DNA testing showed they weren't as related as they thought they were.  There had been a "paternal incident" five generations back that no one had ever spoken about.  The cousin had never been a Godfrey.  I know the cousin went on to seek his new ancestors but I wish I had asked what he did with his Godfrey ancestors.  I am hoping that he now has one of those complicated trees that adoptees can have -- where the roots are just as numerous as the branches.

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#4 [url]

Feb 14 13 6:37 AM

Leslie, once again you have sidetracked me with the "paternal accident". My husband was a young teen when his parents told him he was adopted. Just before they told him, there had been a family gathering where they wanted a picture of all the "Hinds" men. One aunt said, "Not you Gary". He didn't understand but his mother turned into a banshee and he was included in the photo. That family had problems so you have to wonder while trying to get a picture of the men who were part of the blood line, how many of them were or had paternal accidents. With the newer DNA test, I bet there will be more discoveries that change the family tree. Another interesting thought to ponder.

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#5 [url]

Feb 14 13 6:42 AM

What a great conversation, life is certainly messy and I agree the neat little genealogy trees certainly don't accommodate all the variants. Great conversation. 

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#6 [url]

Feb 15 13 10:35 AM

I find the idea very offensive that my son and my grandchildren are not "really" part of our family genealogy and history because my son was adopted.   I will not join the DAR or other lineage societies because they do not recognize adopted persons as part of family lines.  Furthermore, this is unenforceable, as many adopted persons, like my son, have birth certificates that are indistinguishable from those of biological children.  By the best standards of genealogical proof, I can prove that my grandchildren are my grandchildren--my real grandchildren, with no reservations.  And they will be able to prove that all of my and my husband's ancestors are theirs.  At some point, future generations may not even know that there was an adoption in their family line--nor will it matter.  Our ancestors were much less concerned about "blood lines."  Brothers and sisters-in-law were considered brothers and sisters.  Step-parents were parents.  Family history is the story of a family, including all its members.  I could not tell my family's story without including a lot of people to whom I have no "blood-line" connection.  "Blood lines" are important in breeding dogs and horses.  We're not dogs or horses, we're people with families.

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