My Disability Matters Club

Finding my father’s biological family

 

My blog is intended to share my journey in my life as a Deaf woman, to share my challenges I endured growing up and continue to do so, as well as my accomplishments in spite of my deafness.

I had set up a blog account two years ago prior to setting this one up and have been stuck ever since on how do I start my story? Do I start in chronical order? Or events as I remember them when they are recalled? My best friend suggested that I start my story on my discovery of my father’s biological family. So, that’s where I will start.

Growing up, my younger sister and I have always known that my father was adopted as an infant. This information came to my father by accident through a family friend who asked my father how old he was when he found out he was adopted. He apparently didn’t understand the question at the time but my mother caught on and started investigating. My great aunt confirmed the adoption and gave this background story on why my father was given up for adoption. His parents with a large family immigrated to USA from Germany to escape the World War II and since they were too poor for another child, they had to give up my father for adoption. Once my father realized he was adopted, he broke down in tears but was grateful for the good life he was given by his adoptive parents. The topic was never brought up with his adoptive parents and they took this to their graves. My parents attempted to locate his biological family but resources were very limited at the time so they gave up.

But we have always known that he was born in Chicago, IL. After his adoption, his adoptive family moved to Northwest Indiana when he was 2 years old, and he has lived in the same house he grew up in until his passing.

My father was blessed that he was adopted by his adoptive parents with an older brother who he was very close, and we are very close to his family.

However, it never ended the yearning that my father and in us, his children, in wanting to find his biological family and to know our backgrounds.

After enduring the devastating loss of my father to pancreatic cancer on January 3, 2015, the desire to find his biological family continued to increase. It was not until July of 2018 I was gifted a DNA kit with Ancestry so I could begin the process of hopefully discovering his biological family. I embarked on an intense emotional roller coaster: Despair and fear of hitting dead ends, hopeful for some answers, impatience and anticipation of finally getting some answers. My results arrived at end of July and I joined some DNA Facebook group for people looking to find their biological families. I connected with an amazing search angel, Kristine, who offered to assist me in building my family tree based on DNA matches. We started our journey together. She immediately started building my family tree based on DNA matches.

I then discovered that the laws in Illinois had changed that allowed people to obtain their or their parents’ original birth certificates prior to adoption. I immediately started the process of obtaining my father’s original birth certificate. The wait was agony.

On September 8, 2018, I finally received my father’s original birth certificate that listed his biological parents, Robert and Jennie, and the address they lived in: Hammond, Indiana. A mere 40 minutes drive from where my father lived and grew up in. A town that my younger sister and I have hung out in with friends during our teenager and college years. All this time, they were close. Unfortunately, my biological grandfather, Robert, passed away in 1987, and my biological grandmother, Jennie, passed away in 1999. It was too late to find them and meet them.
My amazing search angel, Kristine, immediately started building my father’s biological family tree with his birth parents’ names. Suddenly, the world got bigger. Names started showing up on the family tree. I started sending messages to family members with DNA matches on Ancestry. I started searching for them on Facebook and reached out to them.

One person, Laura, who is my cousin, was set in my family tree and I discovered her on Facebook on September 8, 2018. One information that stood out about Laura was that she is Deaf. You see, my father was profoundly Deaf too. So is my mother. My younger sister and I have had hearing losses as well. Laura and I have a lot of mutual friends between the two of us, and in a weird twist of fate, she had once contacted me on Facebook in 2010 with a suggestion about my animal rescue I founded and run. I thought, wouldn’t it be so wild that we are related considering she is Deaf and, so are we? I sent her a message asking if she was related to her parents, her dad being my father’s cousin. She confirmed on September 9, 2018 that they were her parents. She had lived in Illinois until she moved to Seattle in 2008. I then had to awkwardly explain who I was and the reason why I was contacting her, stating that we may be related based on my finding and my father’s story of adoption. When I didn’t hear back from her immediately, I was afraid that I had upset her or put her off. But she replied that she had tears of joy.

That’s when the story emerged.

Laura explained that my biological grandmother was her great aunt, and shortly before she passed of a heart attack while battling cancer, she confessed to her nephew, Don, and grandniece, Laura that she once had a child with Robert who she married on July 11, 1940. They both wanted my father so badly, but because they both were Deaf, and society had believed at the time that Deaf people cannot have children and cannot raise children. Because of this twisted belief, they were forced by their families to give up my father for adoption. They had to go away somewhere to give birth, and give him up. My father was born in 1945, and the trauma of being forced to give up my father caused my biological grandparents to divorce. The family has since lost touch with my biological grandfather. My father was the only child in this union. It was when I discovered I was Polish.
It was at the moment I could feel the echo of agony and grief that my grandparents carried all those years. To realize after years of hearing such stories like this that occurred to other Deaf people, suddenly, this was also my father and my story. It was because of this twisted wrongful belief that a family was irrevocably torn apart through generations.

Upon finding out about my father, his cousin Don, and his family, including my cousin Laura, immediately tried to find information on my father. They hit every dead end. Every family member had refused to discuss my father. “It’s in the past now, we don’t talk about it”. They were redirected in different directions. They were informed that my grandparents went to NY to give birth to my father there. But they were lied to. My father was so close this entire time. My father was born in Chicago instead. My father was adopted into a family and lived in Northwest Indiana this entire time. My father went on to marry and had a family of his own this entire time. So close this entire time.

I sat down and cried. And cried. I cried for the pain that my grandparents carried all these years. I cried for the missed opportunities that my grandparents and my dad could have known each other. I cried for the miss opportunities to know his biological family and the opportunities we could have had growing up together. I cried for the incredibly wrong belief that Deaf people couldn’t have or raise children, causing families to be torn apart, and the enduring traumas they all carried.

And I was angry. You see, the joke was on them. The joke was on every person out there with this belief. My father was Deaf. My mother is Deaf. I’m also Deaf, as well as my younger sister. My father had larger than life personality. He was the life of any party. He had an amazing sense of humor. He was the king of great jokes, and bad jokes. He was an incredible hard-working man who always made sure his family was provided for. He was extremely intelligent. He started out as a draftsman, having completed trade school training in less than of the time the program was set up. When the field changed to engineering, he self-taught himself everything he needed to know. He was a very well-respected employee. The casino in downtown Aurora, IL that had a special ramp for their gambling boat, he was involved in that project of designing the ramps. He was a huge animal lover, a trait he passed on to his children, with me having found an animal rescue I run. I have gone on to achieve many different things in life despite being Deaf. It broke my heart that none of his biological family members would have had a chance to meet and get to know my father because he is gone.

My father’s biological parents went on to have relationships and both eventually remarried. Neither one of them had children since then. This possess a possibility of them undergoing forced sterilization, a practice that existed and do exist in some places. I will never know for sure.

My father’s cousin, Don, and his other daughter Lisa had submitted their DNA kit to 23AndMe in an attempt to locate my father. By coincidence, due to a nagging feeling I had that I should take this route as well, I had submitted my DNA to 23AndMe. On September 21, 2018, it was confirmed my DNA matched Don and Lisa.

Over the last year, I have built amazing relationships with my father’s biological mother’s family, especially with my cousin Laura. I was able to meet her in person on March 2, 2019 and we talk as often as we can.

 

Alice (Author’s mother), Amber (author), Laura (biological cousin), and Tiffany (Author’s sister)

 

With my father’s biological father’s side of the family, there were turns and twists. After locating family members on my biological grandfather’s side of the family through building his family tree, and a cousin of my father on my grandfather’s side submitted her DNA test with Ancestry. We weren’t a match. She matched other family members on his family tree. That is when I realized that my biological grandfather was also adopted and I’m still going through this journey of trying to locate my biological grandfather’s biological family. But I have created relationships with a few members of my grandfather’s adoptive family members. I hope one day I can find out my biological grandfather’s story and his background. This discovery was not a complete surprise considering that my grandfather’s (adoptive parents) lived in Chicago, and both of his sisters were born in Chicago, my grandfather was born in OK which made my search angel and I to suspect that my grandfather may also have been adopted. Now it is confirmed.

I don’t know what will happen on this journey in finding out more about my biological grandfather, but I remain hopeful that in time, I will find the answers I seek.

I’ve been blessed that my world has expanded to include a new family, and that my father’s adoptive brother and his family has been very supportive. My family has grown bigger.

So this seems like a good place to start off my blog. It’s a fine line to walk on in sharing my story and my experiences to avoid the tone of “woe is me” which is not my intention, but to help others understand the challenges Deaf people face, and to be a part of making society a better place if we can better understand each other. To have empathy and compassion. To respect each one of us as a fellow human being.

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