“All the wonders you seek are within yourself”
There was a piece of my identity missing. A piece of my history, of who I am, that needed to be found. So, I decided to search, not knowing that the answer I was searching for had been with me all along.
But, let’s start at the beginning: at the moment when the search truly began. I was on a break from school and was staying up late, browsing through my AncestryDNA member list, looking for some hint, some clue as to what it all meant. How were the matches listed related to me, and could any of them be related to me through my mother’s paternal side? At the time, my knowledge of genealogy was limited, and I hadn’t pieced together just how close I was to finding the missing link to our family tree.
I didn’t know it then, but I was moments away from initiating the search that would lead my mom to discover her biological father. Mom was adopted as an infant, and with no name to search for, thought it was impossible to find him. But I wanted to find him. I didn’t know why, I just knew it was possible, and that was the only certainty I needed.
As I Googled and researched resources to help me make sense of how my ancestry matches were related to my mom and me, the truth suddenly hit me, now so obvious I wondered why it had taken me months to piece it together. The two members listed as second cousins to me, were under the category of first cousin to my mom. And the family relation could definitely be connected to her biological father.
My heart skipped a beat. Assuming these are actual first cousins, (the category is more like an umbrella term, but it was later confirmed that they are) then cousins are related through an Aunt or Uncle. Which means, my mom’s biological father would be their uncle.
“Hey Mom!” I yelled down the hallway before just getting up and walking to her room. She gave me an annoyed look which I probably deserved, but I was about to connect her with her biological father so she could get mad at me later.
“What?” she asked, clearly tired and ready for bed.
I knew she hadn’t looked much at her own ancestry matches because with no name for her biological father, the odds that we’d find him via the AncestryDNA database were pretty low. There was no reason to get her hopes up. Still, the reason I had taken the ancestry test to begin with is because I knew we might be able to find out.
We had joked about matching with a close relative, not realizing just how close to reality the joke had become. “I think we might be able to find your biological father,” I say, explaining to her the epiphany I’d just had.
She paused, looking at me with a mixture of apprehension and curiosity. All we had to do was send a message to these cousins, and see if they would respond and help with the search. It was a leap of faith. Not everyone would respond to an adoptee searching for her biological father, who is also a complete stranger and a really close DNA match, but Mom chose to message them through her account, and they did respond, happy to help in any way they could. Thus, began the journey that would forever change all of our lives, and would eventually lead us to discover the missing link to our family tree, and to a family reunion that was once thought impossible.
I remember when his identity was confirmed, and we suddenly had a connection to a piece of our heritage that never could have been found otherwise. There was a name, and with that name came a family history we could now trace.
All of my questions regarding family history and genetics were answered, but knowing a name and a little background didn’t answer the true question because none of these histories could tell me anything about myself. I realize now that I felt a little lost and wanted to be found, just as I was finding my mom’s biological father. It wasn’t just him I was searching for—it was me. I remember the moment we met this side of the biological family in person: how my heart raced, how at first, I didn’t know whether to shake hands or hug because they’re strangers but also close family. How I searched for familiarity among these complete strangers, and how I held onto every detail because I didn’t want to forget. They were all so kind and wanted to get to know us, sharing pictures and life stories just as we shared our pictures and stories with them.
I thought meeting people I was so closely related to would help me understand why I am the way I am. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited for Mom, beyond excited as I watched her meet a biological parent for the first time and saw how well she got along with everyone. This was more her story than it was mine. But, there was a part of me that felt like connecting with these people would fill the void I had in my own heart.
And it did fill the void, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. When we all reunited, I walked away from that family reunion with a missing piece of my heart filled. But, there was more to it. I wanted to feel like I belonged and I wanted to know if these perfect strangers had some factor or knowledge of who I was that I didn’t. I thought that finding the missing link to Mom’s family tree would help me understand myself.
Sure, I learned I had no chance to be tall, like none, and that my body type is genetic. I also learned that my quirky sense of humor isn’t just from my mom and that I’m related to people who think in a similar way I do, and that’s pretty validating when you spend your whole life feeling like you’re different. I found that my hair color isn’t just my hair color, and that my love of traveling might just have a genetic factor. In the end, I learned that we’re related to some pretty awesome people, and that made me feel better about myself, because how could I have gone wrong, when I’m related to people whose positivity is a light to everyone around them?
I was intrigued by the search for biological family. Caught up in the mystery and the excitement of learning more about genealogy and making new discoveries. To this day, anytime someone brings up the topic of DNA testing services, my adrenaline kicks in and I can’t shut up to save my life. I found a lifelong hobby through this search, and made connections that will last a lifetime, but in retrospect the search had been about more.
At the end of the day, DNA can only say so much. The truth is, I wanted to know the answer to a question so many people ask themselves: Who am I?
This is a question only I can find and answer for myself. The true search was about self-acceptance and understanding that while my DNA says one thing, I’m also my own unique person just waiting to be discovered, and this search is one that is lifelong.
The search was never only about finding family—It was about finding myself.
Hi! My name is Rachel. I love to write. Write about life, love, and reflect on how the past builds the future. Mostly, I love to tell stories because I believe there is something about stories that brings the world closer together. You can check out some of my writing reflections here at Rachel Writes.