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rojo's avatar

Question about family and family ties. (Details inside)

Asked by rojo (24159points) August 8th, 2016

Working with my cousin for several years on genealogy, including DNA testing.

She got a message through Ancestry from a woman in her late forties who also tested and as it turns out matches my cousin enough to be considered a second cousin (the child of a cousin).
The woman is very excited to have found someone she is closely related to because she was adopted and knows absolutely nothing about her birth parents or family.
Given the dates and upon reflection, my cousin has an idea who her birth mother might be. If she is correct, the mother is still alive, in her mid sixties, but no longer lives in the country where the child was born and given up for adoption.

This is something that occurred almost 50 years ago but I am sure the scars are still there. The child was probably conceived illegitimately and the young mother to be shipped overseas to hide it from family and friends. There has, as far as is known, never been an attempt to find the daughter and no mention of it within the family. If best to let sleeping dogs lie, how best to do so with the least pain for all? If she is interested, knowing my cousin, she (the lady who contacted my cousin) could trace my cousins family tree and make/draw her own conclusions so that kind of complicates things.

Where should my cousin go from here? Should she contact the person she thinks is the mother or lie to the lady that messaged her and say she has no idea? Is there a way she can give out broad medical and historical information without compromising the birth mother?

Any suggestions?

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18 Answers

canidmajor's avatar

Wow. This is a seriously tough one. Is your cousin close enough to the possible mother to talk to her about this? You’re right in that this is a very touchy situation. A friend of mine was “found” by a son she had given up 30 years before. He arrived on her doorstep, wanting a relationship, and closely resembling the brutal monster who had raped, beaten, and left her for dead three decades before.
I know that is not the case for all, but I feel that respecting the wishes of the mother is important. Maybe your cousin could at least tell this story to the woman, and follow her lead as to how she wants to deal with this. I recommend that your cousin not even respond to the stranger until she has talked to the possible mother.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I think the safest thing to do would be to gently and discreetly ask the person who might be the mother. It’s unlikely that your cousin is the only person to have been contacted on this woman’s search, and there’s no guarantee that she will stop where she has. It’s probably quite easy from this point for her to find her own mother. Maybe it would be best if the mother was approached by a known family member than by the stranger who might be her child.

BellaB's avatar

My experience is that adults who are looking for family don’t give up easily. We’ve had several cases of something like this in my immediate circle – once there’s a clue, it seems to gets figured out.

Someone needs to talk to the relative who might be the mother before the searcher tracks her down independently.

rojo's avatar

@canidmajor too late to not respond. She did so and told her how excited she was before she realized the possible ramifications. The lady is sending her dna info to us. The family tree is on public so if she has the wherewithall she can do her own digging now that she has a lead.

rojo's avatar

@dappled_leaves we are looking to see who else she may be a match to. There is a good chance no one else had dug far enough into our family history to put two and two together but you never know n

rojo's avatar

@BellaB that is one of the things that is of concern. She doesn’t want to bring up the past but doesn’t want to see this sprung unexpectedly, particularly since it will certainly come back to her. And, as I said, she now has a starting point and the resources if she is so inclined.

canidmajor's avatar

Well, I think then that at least giving a heads up to the possibles would be prudent. Who knows, this may have a happy ending after all!

janbb's avatar

I feel like your cousin should contact the birth mother and tell her what is going on. Birth mothers must always know this is a possibility but it should be up to her (the birth mother) if she wants the contact. In addition, your cousin could tell the new cousin what she is doing and that she is leaving the decision to her.

meanwhile, I don’t see why the new cousins can’t enjoy some contact.

Coloma's avatar

I agree, the possible mother should be notified ASAP and, depending on her reaction, that information can be passed onto the potential child/cousin. I think everyone has a birthright to, at least, know who their biological parents were/are, and to have an opportunity to, again, at the very least, have some nagging questions answered. If the bio mother wants nothing to do with this person she could/should, at least, be willing to answer some questions via another family member.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I agree with @janbb and @Coloma on this. The cat is out of the bag. Contact with the birth mother is Fair Warning. How she deals with this is up to her, but I firmly believe that the child has a birthright to answers. My little sister was adopted at my mother’s insistence. As an adult, she tracked her birth mother down—one of my father’s former secretaries from the 1950’s. It was a difficult meeting for both, but healing as well. Like @janbb said, birth mothers must expect this as a possibility throughout their lives. It is the right of the child to have answers to their questions, in my opinion.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Wow. Just wow. My mind is just reeling and I’m not even a relative! I am very interested in knowing the outcome.

funkdaddy's avatar

I think this might help, from another perspective.

One public records battle I wish I could stick around to fight

If the new family member is determined, she’ll find her mother. At this point she’s taken a DNA test, written emails to strangers, and probably followed up well before this. She’s going to figure it out, she probably already suspects.

I try not to share other people’s “news”, so if I were in your shoes, I’d let the probable mother know what’s going on in a way that doesn’t put her on the spot and gives her an out if needed. A letter or email with something along the lines of, “If she’s our second cousin, we thought she might contact you and wanted you to know in advance.”. You’re not demanding anything or trying to create drama in someone’s life, just caring.

Then I’d just share anything that wasn’t speculative with the new family member. So, I don’t think sharing medical history or a family tree is going to trip anyone up. But I wouldn’t share private contact information without an ok.

I would guess they’ll need to figure it out between themselves and no one needs to be the go between on those conversations to complicate things further.

canidmajor's avatar

I don’t agree that the offspring has a “right” to know. I understand the desire to know, and I certainly think that they have a “right” to pursue the information, and in a perfect world the two could reconnect pleasantly, but I don’t think they have a “right” to know, anymore than I think a child from a foreign adoption who was left at a convent or the child of an anonymous egg or sperm donor has a “right” to know. The parents of such children should have equal “rights” to remain anonymous should they so choose.

funkdaddy's avatar

@canidmajor What’s the difference between the right to pursue a fact and the right to have a fact? It’s not really an unknown, there are public records with the information, anyone with a right to pursue the information, can have it in this case.

JLeslie's avatar

I would definitely contact the suspected birth mother.

No question in my mind.

You can do that first, see the reaction, and then decide what to tell the person who found you. For now you can tell her you will think about it, and get back to her, and maybe throw in that it’s pretty cool that she found you.

canidmajor's avatar

@funkdaddy, I wasn’t speaking generally, I was being specific. Sometimes offspring can find stuff out, sure, but I don’t believe they have a “right” (read: intrinsic entitlement) to know something that another person, who will be equally affected by the disclosure, wishes to be kept unknown.

funkdaddy's avatar

@canidmajor – We may just disagree, but I want to try and understand. Definitely not saying your view is any less valid, I just don’t grasp how anyone could be equally affected by the details of someone’s birth when compared to the person who those details are about. The offspring is the most affected person by that whole chain of events, and there is a public record of it. Why wouldn’t they have access to that as a self-sufficient adult? Why would someone not be able to request their own birth certificate?

The parent has the details if they want them, they’re allowed to make a choice. The offspring never got to make a choice and then would be told that the information is not theirs to have.

If we switch the roles a bit, and said a young women was forced to give her child up for adoption and later decided she wanted to locate her adult offspring. She goes to the state to request the information appropriately but finds out her father has blocked the request. Would that be appropriate? A parent making the choice for an adult seeking details of their own life?

canidmajor's avatar

@funkdaddy, I don’t want to derail this thread any more, but there’s a good discussion here that covers this discussion pretty well.

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