Posted by: perchancetodream | March 16, 2010

Family Tree

There are some things that have been stomping through my mind of late and Cali’s post at Creating Motherhood really brings it to a head.

I too have been watching parts of NBC’s new genealogy show. I’ve always been fascinated by genealogy even though I’m constantly frustrated with the impossibility of tracing my own Eastern European tree back through too many generations.

Thankfully a distant cousin has taken the reins of tracing my paternal grandmother’s tree back to her own grandparents (at last I looked).  But that leaves three sides of the family that I’m pretty much in the dark about.  And of course the line that’s always fascinated me the most is my paternal grandfather’s.  But since he never knew his birth date in Russia and chose July 4th when he moved here (“if it’s good enough for the country, it’s good enough for me!), my chances of finding out anything significant is pretty dim.

But what’s distressing me more about two different but similar issues.  (1) I’m the last of that line of the family.  My grandfather has a brother who had no biological children. My father has a brother who has no children.  I’m an only child. I’m infertile.

Throughout our struggle to get pregnant, I’ve felt frustrated but I was careful never to let my inability to bear children make me feel like a failure; certainly hubby never made me feel that way and I’m usually pretty good at focusing on the work at hand.

But when I think about the unnamed family members who came here from Russia to give their families a better life, even though, in the cases of my grandfather’s parents, it meant that they died quite young – I wonder if they would have done it knowing that they were only securing the futures of three generations.

I DO feel as though I’ve let those brave people down and I’m saddened by that in a way that I haven’t allowed myself to be sad for myself.

Which leads to me issue #2. As a prospective adoptive parent, where does that leave my child?

When I was ever-so-briefly pregnant in 2007, I bookmarked a beautiful family tree kit that I was going to buy. My miscarriage ended that.  And I find myself confused as to the appropriateness of buying one post-referral.  I’ve certainly seen adopted children on family trees so perhaps it’s just an adjustment in my own mind that needs to be made. I don’t think I’m going to feel like the child is any less ours than we would a biological child.  But what are the rules for a tree?

And what of our child?  Will she, coming from Bulgaria, feel a connection with my own Eastern European roots or hubby’s strong (and probably more traceable) Scottish ones?  Certainly, we’ll be sharing both sides of the family who have been wonderfully supportive throughout this entire process. But will she feel that the family trees are relevant to her? Would we need to try to trace her biological roots to avoid being posers in the world of genealogy?

If any of you have tackled this in one way or another, I’d love to hear about it.



  1. amazing post and I am so glad you wrote it because it IS something to think about.
    As far as rules and family trees- if it’s your tree you should be able to shape it however you want.

  2. Here from Lost and Found…
    I’m not an adoptive parent, but I came across this post recently which covers a lot of bases. Hope that helps!

  3. As Calliope said, it is something important to think about — and there really are no rules. A big plus of the modern era is that most genealogy programs one would use recognize that (personally, I use iFamily, because I have a Mac).

    I am the genealogist for my family, including my husband’s family. My husband’s grandfather was adopted as a toddler. I have his birth family and his adoptive family as his family in our tree — one gave him his genes, the other a shared set of experiences, traditions, and lives. But if I’d only included the family that raised him, I don’t think he or I would have been considered a genealogy poser in the least. In fact, this subject came up recently on a surname-based genealogy message board I’m a part of, and the general consensus was that a person’s genealogical family is the one of which they feel a part, however that connection is forged.

  4. My mother and I had a very interesting discussion about this very topic over the weekend. I don’t think it’s genes that are important, I think it’s family. The reason that I say that is because without genetic testing, how can we be absolutely sure of our genealogy. My father was really big into genealogy, only for us to find out later, after his death, that his mother lied and his biological father was not the father he knew. I believe that this and things like this happen more than we want to admit. Go back generations and it could be a part of most families, leaving us all with questionable family trees.

    I am an adoptive mother to a child, whose mother is also adopted. As it’s a semi-open adoption, she will have access to her birthmother and family, if and when she wants, but I have no intention of stressing family history as I think that it puts pressure on people to conform, even in biological families. I want my daughter to define herself without boundaries. It’s a little unconventional, I know, but I truly believe if you give your child total freedom to develop, history is only a story, not a definition of who you are or who one will become. Just a thought.

  5. I’m adopted and I’ve always been part of my (adoptive) family tree. I have no other tree to be a part of. Those ancestors ARE my ancestors. I’m tied to them by the family who raised me and the love that makes us a family. Genetics is such a minor detail, and, in the end, I believe we are all connected.

  6. Thanks for all of the great feedback both on this board and via e-mail.

    I think I just needed to hear you say what I was really feeling about family being the people you love who love you back; about us all being connected anyhow; and about having the space to create our own histories.

    It’s given me a lot to think about!

  7. I think we all need to think of the symbolism of a “family TREE”. A tree grows, and whole branches maybe broken off at times in a storm (difficult time), BUT a branch from a completely different type of tree can be grafted in. That single branch will produce seed after it’s own kind, but it is still supported by the orginial roots of the tree it is grafted in to.

    In a way we are all grafted into a different tree if we ever marry or have children. You don’t really leave your orginal tree; you can say you have a place in two or more trees.

    We are all human and the greatest tie that binds is love. It is the greatest power we have.


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