23 September 2012

Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA

By Richard Hill

We never know what our path in life will be and what will shape it.  Yes, biology and our general environment play enormous roles in our lives, but so do major events.  Parents who lose a child tragically often focus on helping others in similar situations.  A person whose sibling or child has a handicap may become a teacher for children with special needs.  Clearly, major events often shape our direction more profoundly than all else. 

As a young adult, Dick Hill learned in a unique and shocking way that he was adopted.  Not only did this new knowledge resulted in Dick finding his birth parents, siblings, and other family members, but he became a genealogist, a genetic genealogy administrator, a blogger, an advisor to adoptees, and an author.  No doubt, this is a path he would not have anticipated prior to his search for his family.

Dick’s book Finding Family:  My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA details the maze he traveled to find his birth parents.  His story takes many turns with years of false leads and dead-ends. These, plus the secrecy surrounding his conception and the few clues extracted from relatives makes this story a wonderful mystery and gives tribute to Dick’s strong desire to learn about his ancestors and his tenacity to see the task to completion. This book takes us on a thirty-one year journey through the ups and downs of determining his biological parents and finding his family.  It shares with us the joys of finding his first blood relative, of traveling great distances to meet his family, of bonding with his siblings, and in acquiring family photos of his birth parents.

Every genealogist knows that a paper trail is valuable when tracing our ancestors, and that a DNA test must accompany that paper for accuracy.  When Dick began his search, DNA testing for genealogy did not exist.  Often, timing can be everything, and as Dick put aside his search in order to have a career and to raise a family, he began his search again after hearing about how DNA can help.  Dick was able to rule out one possible father, but then five other possibilities surfaced, all brothers and most of who had ample opportunity to know his birth mother. 

However, in the early days, DNA testing was not as robust as it is now. Although Dick used the latest tests at the time, some results were not specific enough to be certain about who his biological father was among the brothers. He continued testing family members as the tests became more selective, until eventually his biological father was determined.

Dick states: “I’m a lucky man…Most people are only blessed with two parents.  I had four. Two of them created me form the DNA of my biological ancestors.  And the other two molded me into the person I am today.” (p. 223)

This book is a must-read for any adoptee, and for anyone working on their genealogy.  The sheer joy of seeing someone’s hard work pay off so successfully brings a big smile. Dick’s book also shows the researcher how to carefully check family lore and to dig deep to find the correct answers.  

Everyone should know their family, should know their past.  It centers us and helps us understand who we are.  Dick’s book FindingFamily:  My Search for Roots and the Secretsin My DNA is an important story that will touch everyone.

Order the book through Amazon.com

Dick Hill’s blog DNA-Testing-Adviser covers information on DNA testing and helps adoptees find their birth parents.