Thursday, May 17, 2012

How should adopted kids be included in family history?

That's the question for advice columnist Amy:
Dear Amy: My sister and I are the family historians.

While getting all of my other siblings' information about their children, I was asked if I would put the adopted children down as children born to the family. I said I would add them, but not as born to the couple. This has caused a real problem.

Am I right (I would add them as adopted and the year in which they entered the family unit)? I'll stand by your answer.— Family Historian

Dear Historian: I solicited opinions from several different family historians and received opinions across a wide spectrum.

You don't say exactly what sort of family history you are pulling together.

My own view is that you should include all children in your family as children in your family, no matter the circumstances of their birth.

For you to do otherwise, and to note the date of their entry into the family but not their actual birth date makes it seem that on the one hand you are denoting them as not quite "real" and on the other hand you are implying that their lives started not on the dates of their birth but on the date they entered the family.

Include all children of the family in your family tree. If you are compiling a "key" or narrative to accompany the family tree you can note adoption dates, etc.

You want to tell as complete a story as possible, but adopted children are "real" family members and your history should acknowledge this reality.
Hmm, what do you think about the advice? I'd give Amy big points for acknowledging that adopted children actually have lives before they joined their adoptive families, something that not even all adoptive parents seem to get. . . .

11 comments:

Linda said...

Truthfully. My a family members are not genetically related to me. I am part of their history, as they are mine, but I am not in their bloodline. If someone were to put me in my a family's tree, I would hope they would mark me as adopted- that is the truth, and it is not something to be ashamed of, or something to lie about.

Unknown said...

I listed my children's birth and adoption dates. They are everybit as much a part of my family tree as everyone else.

Elly said...

Any serious family historian is going to be using computer software these days. Software is quite sophisticated. You list the children "as if born to" the adoptive parents (just like the kids' birth certificates do), and then you link them to a second set of parents, the first parents (or vice versa). You can set the child setting to indicate the nature of relationships if desired as well. You can even add kids to a third set of parents, for instance if there was a divorce in the family and a step relationship also needs to be added. Adoption would be added as an event for both the children and parents...

American Mamacita said...

Just dealt with this in our family, since we're taking our kids on the East-Coast-tour vacation, including Ellis Island and Plymouth, where their adopted ancestors immigrated.

Yes, they're in our family tree - as "Born: x..." and "Adopted: Y..." - because they are welcome to take as much part in our biological heritage as they want, but they also have a picture of their birth mom sitting on their dresser. So they can also dis-associate when emotionally appropriate, too.

Family Bits said...

Actually, she never said she was giving props to the children's first families. I got the feeling more that she was simply wondering if she should exclude them partially on grounds that they are not blood related, and therefore, might not belong in the genealogy.

I used to ponder the question, simply because I did not know the answer. But, a true definition of family (for me) is who you see yourself related to, based on closeness and love and strength of overcoming obstacles together. My daughter is a part of that. She is a part of our family. She belongs in the family tree. And when she has children *I WILL BE THEIR GRANDMOTHER*. Someday, 100 years from now, if someone is tracing their family tree and find her in OUR family tree, that too is a part of that descendants family history, just as much as any other family member. He/she might not have German stock from my daughter, but they will definitely know my daughter was from China and raised by white parents. How can that history be denied to her or her descendants??

Molly W. said...

Was she wanting to exclude them? Or just include them with some sort of notation indicating they came to the family through adoption?

I'm fine with the latter. I get that it might seem like it makes an unhappy distinction between bio & adopted kids, but I really don't like birth certificates that rewrite reality to suggest a child was born to an adoptive parent. To me, it suggests that being adopted is something shameful, something to be hidden.

jen said...

Malinda, first of all I wanted to thank you for this blog. I found it several weeks ago and have proceeded to read every post (including comments!) from the beginning. Yes, I'm a little bit obsessive-compulsive, but I'm also in the middle of an adoption & desperate to learn more. Going into this, I truly did not know what I did not know. I am so thankful for the discussion here.

Now that I'm finally caught up, I feel like I can comment. My aunt is our "family historian." Recently we talked about how I'd like her to record the child we are hoping to adopt, should the adoption go through. Like many of the other commenters, I think her birthdate (though it's an estimate) and her adoption date should be included.

Cassi said...

Okay, I'm coming at this as a First Mom who gave her first born child up for adoption and is part of an Irish family that is very proud of their heritage and has a book that continues to get updated that tracks our family back to Ireland before the potato famine to Canada when they opened up their borders for the Irish during that famine to the migration to the states (for my family Iowa) and the continued separation of the different ethnic cultures (Irish communities with Irish schools, German communities with German schools . . . etc.)

When the latest update to our family history took place to include the children myself and my cousins had, my oldest son - who I gave up for adoption - was included without question. He is, and always will be . . . us! Our blood, our family, our heritage. He is Irish. He is our family. He is, and always will be, a part of our history. He is a Grady. He is the son, grandson, great grandson, great-great grandson of all of us. Adoption did not change that.

BUT . . . my son is also a part of his adoptive family. That is his reality, his life. He might not share the blood-related history with them, but he is, because of adoption, family with them. He is a part of their history as well. He is, too, a son, grandson, great grandson and great-great grandson with his adoptive family just as he is with his natural family.

But what he isn't is a descendant from England (as his adoptive mother used to tell him.) He will not ever carry the biological traits of his adoptive family. Will never be connected to them in that way.

My son is Irish and Italian and German. And in our family histories, his place will always be known as a descendant of those heritages.

But in his adoptive family history - - yes, I do believe he should always be acknowledged as an important part of their family, but the distinction should ALWAYS be made that he came to that family by way of adoption and his heritage, his biological history is not theirs and should never be presented as if it is.

He is Irish, Italian, German because that is his history, his life. He is also part of a family that has descendants from England but he should always be respected enough to be an important part of his adoptive family without having to pretend their heritage is his or be expected to ignore the history that is truly his.

leahilleana said...

Absolutely perfect answer, Cassi!

Kris said...

Someone on my husband's side of the family is really into the genealogy stuff and he included our adopted daughter in the family history with her birth date and adopted date. It is a true representation of her as part of the family but not part of the bloodline. To leave her out is not true, since she is part of the family. However, to include her as part of the genetic family is not true either. Just as on this same tree I am listed as a spouse and therefore not part of the bloodline, she is listed as adopted and therefore not part of the bloodline. This makes sense to me. It is not a personal thing, it is just how it is.

Robert Kinney said...

I have to say it to them honestly. Knowing at an early age seems like a good idea.

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