Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Important....or not


GEN-E-AL'O-GY, n. [L.genealogia; Eng. kind] 1. An account or history of the descent of a person or family from an ancestor; enumeration of ancestors and their children in the natural order of succession. 2. Pedigree; lineage; regular descent of a family from a progenitor. -Webster's American Dictionary, 2nd ed., Chicago: G.W.Ogilvie Co., 1890, p.497.

Genealogy has its roots in the earliest forms of society. Initially, genealogy was most likely used to avoid consanguinity, or marrying blood relatives. Early societies, as well as some surviving today, used genealogical methods to trace their ancestries back to gods, animal totems, or legendary heroes. Lineage was traditionally passed down orally, in the form of oral histories or narratives of a clan or tribe. These often were lists of names or stories of important events. Kings and heads of state in ancient Sumeria, Babylon, Egypt, India and China used genealogy to trace their rights to the throne, a practice that continues today. The Old Testament contains genealogies tracing lineage back to Adam, Abraham, and Noah, just as Muslim genealogies help to link descent to Mohammed, and the ancient Greeks and Romans endeavored to link their ancestry to gods.

During the Middle Ages, monks began to record regal pedigrees. As property became involved, genealogy became closely tied with rank and the inheritance of wealth and land, tax collection, and lawsuits. Also during this period, as serfdom gave way to villenage, it became important to record the descent of more of the common people. This practice increased in the 1500s, with the rise of mercantilism and the middle classes and the emphasis on individual religion generated by the Reformation.

The history of genealogy records a regrettable episode when family research became a State mandate. Under the leadership of Hitler and the Third Reich, German citizens were forced to prove their Aryan origins. Family heritage had to be traced back 4 to generations. Without this documentation, citizens could not receive working papers and they could be subject to imprisonment. The pedigree was called the

One website states: The study of genealogy can help people to better understand their heritage, can strengthen family ties, and may, in some cases, help to reduce racism by demonstrating common ancestry.

Many angry adoptees complain that they had their "heritage stolen from them". The importance of studying your past in this day and age is not to prove a royal lineage or prove you're origins to a dictator but it is to see where you have come from so you can know what your family did to get where they are.

So what has been stolen? Just the fact that a great grandmother may have come from Russia and your great great grandfather was a Polish Jew?
How does that change who you are? How does it affect who you are with your family? Will you now learn Russian or read the Talmud?

I found out I had some French in me... (i can't stand the French, so it was quite a shock and a shame actually... lol). It's interesting to know, however, and I'm not saying you shouldn't be curious....but why is it SUCH a major point with them? I would really like to know what they think they are missing out on....


homegirlblue said...

Well actualy i just found out One of my Bio parents is jewish, so yes I am looking into jewish culture and tradition and may incorporate some Jewish rituals into my life.

I have always felt rootles because I'm adopted and this gives me a way of conecting back to where I came from.

Also why shouldent I know what my bio family did to get where they are?

needing to know where you come from is a basic human drive I think.

Historicaly forcing people to give up the cultures they were born into is seen as a kind of cultural genocide so why is it ok when done on an individual basis?

petunia said...

that's the thing, I think people are unhappy with their life and are looking for a connection. I just don't understand why all of a sudden you want to learn Judaism because you learned you are part Jewish...do you think that you have been incomplete because you didn't have that in your life? I'm not trying to be mean, I'm trying to understand why people feel this need to connect to something which they have no real connection...

I can understand if this is an older child and everything they know is ripped away from them but for an infant adopted, they never knew anything different. And don't try to tell me they "remember". And we are talking domestic adoption...not international.

homegirlblue said...

Well for me it was an older child adoption, I was six when I went to live with my adoptive parents,and i was in care from when I was two before that but i do remeber some things about my birth family.

Its not that I've been incomplete because I didnt have the jewish thing in my life, its that I've been incomplete because I havent had any idea of my origins before now.

Saying I have "no real conection" with it is a matter of opinion sureley? I can just as easily say I have no "real" conection with my adoptive parents?

Anonymous said...

petunia, you continue to be a pain in the ass. it's either your way, or the highway. pompous. homegirlblue wants to incorporate jewish rituals....some people do not try to deny their DNA, which you repeatedly do !!! get over yourself !! heaven forbid your ADOPTED daughter want to incorporate any of her birth history into her life, the poor thing!!

HeatherUK said...

Perhaps you dont understand because you have never felt that special connection between a mother and child since you have not given birth. I think then you'd understand the bond between mother and child

petunia said...

You have memories of your life pre-adoption...I can understand you wanting to hold onto some of that. Psychologically you must have been affected by adoption, moving from place to place, etc. I can totally see your need to feel a part of both worlds.

petunia said...

Anonymous, take a chill pill. DNA is just that...cells. We cannot deny our DNA...it's what gives us our hair color, eyes, skin etc. That's not what I'm talking about. No one is saying that. If you'd try to look at this from other points of view you may see another side. I am trying to understand it all...I'm studying about memory, psychology, asking other adoptees, birthmoms, etc. What are you doing but hanging out with a bunch of other people that are adoption haters and wallowing in self pity? and calling yourself anonymous...?

petunia said...

I have always felt very bonded and close with my parents...my mother did not give birth to me but I cannot see any connection we could have that would be closer....same with my daughter...I am so connected with her, I can't imagine being any closer.
And, I guess you don't read but just jump in when you think you have something to say... if my daughter wants to meet her bios she will (okay, what... is that 100 times I've said that now?)

It's funny to me how people that have had bad experiences think everyone is in the same boat... that's the reason there's a handful of you out there who are so gung-ho anti. It's unfortunate that there are people that have had to go through bad times but fortunately, there's enough of us who have had a great life being adopted that people can/will still choose adoption as a way to build a family.

Heather said...

Petunia I have had no bad experience with my adoption except for the sealed records. I love my adoptive parents beyond words - there was no bad experience.

All I am saying is that somebody who has never experienced the bonding with a child in utero and during and directly after birth has nothing to compare it to since they have never had the experience.

I have had no bad experience in my upbringing or with my adoptive family I love them to bits and we are very close indeed - how does that make me 'anti'

I apologize if I offended you but I think the lashing was uncalled for - perhaps you misunderstood me. I know you are all for open records and assisting your daughter reconnect with her mother, and I think that's an admirable thing

petunia said...

I know that for the biomom that living without a child they have given birth to must be horrendous. The closeness they feel to a child they have had with them for nine months is bonding to them. However, unless you have had a biochild and an adopted child you cannot know that there is no difference in the bond you feel for those children. Too many moms that have had both bios and adopted kids have said as much. In fact, I have a much closer bond with my mother than her biokids.

Do I remember my child in my womb? of course not, but there is the bond a mother feels for a child - no doubt.

We are on the same page about sealed records - I think a child should be able to have some information about their bithparents -even if it's just for medical reasons.... the courts need to see that reason alone.

Tishslp said...

"Perhaps you dont understand because you have never felt that special connection between a mother and child since you have not given birth. I think then you'd understand the bond between mother and child"

Heather, I think you're right that there is a very, very special bond between mothers and their children. And that bond can often exceed what is physically possible (i.e. have an "extrasensory" bond). It would seem to make sense then, that an adoptive mother (read: not a "real" mother) couldn't have the same bond. But I'm not sure that the bond is completely dependent on biology. When an adopted infant bonds with his/her adoptive mother, as in P's case, that woman IS that child's mother. It's a fact that the same hormones present in both mother and infant in a biological relationship are also present in both mother and infant in an adoptive relationship. The bonding is the same. There is no qualitative difference. An adopted infant, given the opportunity, can bond as well with amom as with bmom. So, I'm not so sure Petunia or any adoptive mom "can't understand" the special connection that exists between mother and child.

The idea that there is some kind of biological imperative to search for your roots just doesn't take with me. If that were the case, then ALL adoptees would feel the NEED to search for their biological parents and that is certainly not the case. Further, those people who are adopted but don't know that they are adopted (not so common now, thankfully) would ALL feel dreadfully out of place. And that's not the case, either.

Does this mean I think all searches by adoptees are manufactured or imagined? No, I don't think so. There is SO MUCH HYPE in the media and in society about adoption and the need to search that I think there is a fair amount of suggestion going on. Even so, I think some people are just more sensitive to certain things; in this case to searching for the unknown parent. It's an itch that just has to be scratched and you're not happy until it's done. We all respond differently to even the same stimuli. But a personality trait is not the same as a universal need. Beyond that, it will be a need for some, a desire for others and irrelevant for others. Such is the way of it when you are talking about human traits.

"petunia, you continue to be a pain in the ass"


The reason you can make that statement is because you keep coming back to read her blog. Why?
Why would you deliberately keep reading something that is a "pain in the ass"? It's fruitless. Stop reading the blog. You will no longer feel the need to leave nasty comments, trying to one-up Petunia on what you perceive as a slew of insults. End of problem. You'll be happier; those of us interested in a mature discussion will be happeir. Win/win for everybody.

Reid said...

Back to the original post...here's my opinion, fwiw:

I was not adopted.

There are things I know about my family heritage based on country of origin, religious heritage, what happened when crazy gr. gr. gr. uncle Bob offed his wife and kids (no royalty there)over baptizing them Catholic, what members of the family have suffered cancer and mental illness, the fact that a picture of my great aunt Olivia as a young woman looks EXACTLY like me at the same age, etc., etc., etc.

Would I necessarily die without all that information? Probably not. I don't generally even seek out that kind of info actively, its just part of my story. BUT, that's just the point. It's part of MY story, even though I wasn't there to witness it, or know those people. Its MINE, even if I choose never to travel to Germany or eat sauerbraten. Its MINE and does have much to say about who I am today. And because I am not someone who was adopted, I am somehow deemed an appropriate person to hold this precious and important information.

My son, however, despite the fact that he's handsome and terribly smart (even at the age of 17 mos), even if he grows up to be a Judge on the Supreme Court, will not be allowed access to his records or family history or heritage just because he wants to, even though those things are HIS.

I thank God every day that I have the ability to reclaim that history for him by embarking on a relationship with his first family and being able to at least get an oral and picture history of his family, even if I'll never get a written one. Its important to him because its HIS. My history and heritage is not his.

I'll encourage you to keep researching, Petunia, and with a variety of resources that don't necessarily mirror your own thinking, and keep an open mind about how other adoptees' experiences may differ from yours.

Thanks for a thought provoking post that helped me to know more solidly that I have to keep an active role in preserving my son's heritage.

BB Church's V-Blog Funhouse! said...

"I would really like to know what they think they are missing out on...."

Every year genealogical research makes it to the top three uses of the internet, along with email and porn. Our society valorizes genealogical narratives, our society promotes genealogy as something important, as something that says important things about individuals. Obviously, some people , like you (and my wife) don't find this type of research or personal narrative very interesting or compelling.
Adoptees are just like everyone else, curious about their origins and histories. Some are more curious than others, just like everyone else. The difference is that many adoptees are thwarted in their interests by the legal wall of sealed records, which does act to "steal" their histories.
Personally, I've done genealogical research into both my first and my adoptive families. It's something I will pass on to my children, it's their's as much as mine.

petunia said...

Reid and BB, I'm glad you both can be civil and share your thoughts on this topic. I AM curious what people thought they were missing out on. I know there are people who are SO interested in looking back years and years to learn about their ancestors. I don't get that...but I don't get stamp collecting or scrapbooking either. I think it IS somewhat the need/want to do a clear genealogical history but many times I also think it's searching for something when they have been unhappy or just the fact they do not have the information that drives them - that's actually why I wanted to know - because they told me I couldn't. I am very FOR open records when a child hits adulthood purely for this reason - if they want to look they should have the info. I just still don't get what they think they are missing out on.
I looked up the genealogy of my parents...I felt more a connection with them and the ancestors who got us to where we are now....they mean more to me and I know all the relatives. My biofamily are all strangers.

BB Church's V-Blog Funhouse! said...

I didn't feel interested in investigating the genealogies of my families until well after my emotions about my adoption had pretty much run their course. I wasn't unhappy, I wanted to find out what had happened, how did I get to the nexus of these two similar yet distinctly different families. I'm the only link between them, and my kids continue that link. My oldest daughter was extremely interested, my other two could care less.
My wife thinks genealogy is obsessive and is content with the family myths she grew up with. I didn't trust my own family mythology, especially after I discovered I was adopted, and decided to look for myself. There were a lot of gaps, for instance I will probably never know with certainty who my biological father is. My adoptive grandfather on my father's side disappeared when he was a kid, I can't find anything about him or his ancestors.
There is a part of genealogical research that can feed into and be fed by obsessiveness, but as you note, that sort of personality can collect stamps or shop obsessively as easily as do genealogy.
At the moment I'm happy with what I've pieced together. I could, if I felt driven, do DNA analysis and parse out where my genome came from, or I could haunt bulletin boards and other places combing for info on lost branches of my family tree(s), but I don't have the urge. I can understand that some people do, though.

Julie said...

I think that knowing our genetic history can make us feel more connected to the Family of Man. Without it, many feel they are missing that link and, therefore, do not feel very connected to Humanity.

We do this as a species, Humans do. Anthropology and Archeology are long-lived fields of study that continue to be pursued because we humans, as a species, have a unrelenting desire to know where we came from in order to understand where and why we are where we are now and where we may be going in the future.

Why should this not apply to individuals as well?

Paragraphein said...

You know, here's a funny thing...

My roots are very important to me, and I am NOT adopted. So I don't think this is a matter of adoptees being discontent and searching for something to make them HAPPY... I think it is just enriching to anyone's life, period, to know their geneaology and family history.

That's it, you know? It enriches my life. I feel sad for people that miss out on that piece of richness... not because it is NECESSARY to have a peaceful, content, joyous life... but just because it's an awesome experience and enriches an already good life.