Genealogy for adoptees can be a difficult journey. A train ticket from 1856 and one of our most popular Genealogy Gems Book Club titles helped one woman solve an adoption family mystery. Here’s her story.
Ben Brooksbank [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Adoption Mystery: Solved
I recently read an article that I just had to share! Julia Park Tracey’s two-times great grandfather, William Lozier, was adopted. She wanted to trace his family history. Her only clue was the receipt for a train fare from New York’s Home for the Friendless to Oberlin, Ohio that William had. The ticket cost $7.50 and was dated 1856.
With a little bit of easy math, Julia realized that William would have been a three-year old at the time. Can you imagine? Julia was intrigued by the finding, but didn’t think much more about it until she read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. This piqued her curiosity about Williams’s story and she started researching. What she found was an astonishing story of family struggling to stay together during the hardships of 19th century life.
Along her research journey, Julia learned that William’s mother was widowed in upstate New York in 1848. Consequently, the woman lost the family farm and needed to give up her two oldest boys to an orphanage. She managed to hold on to her oldest daughter and baby William while she worked as a seamstress. Sadly, she still couldn’t make ends meet and ended up placing her last two children in an orphanage as well.
Julia explains in the article: “Martha was undaunted; she worked and saved, and eventually wrote to ask for her children back. The orphanage did not respond. In those days, a child’s moral and spiritual welfare were tantamount, and a single mother was seen as not fit to parent. Nevertheless, she found her way to her daughter, and at least one of her middle sons, if not both. Martha lived the rest of her life with her married daughter and her grandchildren. She died between 1900 and 1910, [but] she never saw nor heard of what had happened to Will.”
With these new pieces of information, Julia was able to trace the line back through time and generations. She even learned a little more about her unexpected DNA results! I am sure it was very satisfying to finally piece together the story of the old train ticket and William’s family story. Even the smallest clues like the old train ticket can lead to long-forgotten stories that add to our family history tapestry. Genealogy is all about persistence, and much like a detective, the smallest piece of evidence can make all the difference!
More on Genealogy for Adoptees
If you’ve been a Premium member for a while, you’ll recall Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. It was one of our first Genealogy Gems Book Club selections—and based on feedback from you, it’s been one of our most popular choices. If you haven’t listened to Premium episode 121 which includes our interview with Christina, I encourage you to go back and listen. In that conversation, you’ll learn about the history of the orphan train riders in the U.S. and Canada and how the author researched it.
Adoption and genealogy often cross paths. More and more genealogists are having to navigating between both birth family and an adopted family pedigrees. Our easy, step-by-step instructions will show you how to merge these two pedigree charts into one with FamilySearch Family Tree and Ancestry.com.
Creating a Birth and Adoption Line with FamilySearch Family Tree
Anyone can create a family tree at FamilySearch.org for free. You need to create your free account first. If you need more instruction on how to get started with a family tree on FamilySearch, click here.
For those of you who already have a FamilySearch family tree you work with, here is how to include both a birth line and adopted line.
In this example below, James Donald Woodard was raised by Robert Cole and Goldie Witt, but is the natural son of Elmer Woodard and Margaret Cole.
Step 1: From the pedigree view, click on the person you would like to have two pedigrees for. Then, choose “Person” to get to the individual’s person page.
Step 2: At James’ person page, scroll down to the “parents and siblings” section. Here, multiple sets of parents can be added by clicking on “Add Parent.” We can also indicate what type of relationship the parent has to the child (choices include: biological, adopted, guardianship, foster, and step) by clicking the little pencil icon at the right of James’ name under the parent couple. Lastly, whichever couple is marked “preferred” will be the parents that will show up in your pedigree view.
Step 3: Add a second set of parents for James by clicking on the “Add Parent” icon and follow the prompts to add the new parents by name.
Step 4: You will have James appearing as a child under each couple. Now, indicate the type of relationship James has with each couple.
Find James in the list of children under Robert and Goldie.
Click on the little pencil icon in his box. A new window will pop-up. You will click on “Add Relationship Type” and then choose the appropriate relationship from the pull-down menu. When you are finished, click “Save.” You will need to do this for both the father and the mother.
You can see that James’ name appears under Robert and Goldie with the relationship noted. (When the relationship is biological, no notation appears.)
James now has two pedigree options. We can easily switch between the pedigrees for James by clicking the preferred button on whichever couple we would like to view. You can change the preferred couple whenever and how-many-ever times you want!
Creating A Birth and Adoption Line at Ancestry.com
Step 1: First, add one set of parents for the individual. You can do this in the pedigree view. Click on “Add Father” or “Add Mother” and fill in the fields for name, date of birth, etc.
Step 2: Add a second set of parents for Jason by clicking on Jason’s name and choosing “Profile.” This takes you to a new screen that looks like this image below.
Step 3: This is Jason’s profile page. You can see his newly added parents, Mason Tennant and Megan Adams. Click the edit button at the top right of the screen and chose “Edit Relationships.”
Step 4: A pop-up window for relationships will appear. Here, you can mark the type of relationship between Jason and Mason. The choices are biological, adopted, step, related, guardian, private, and unknown. After you have chosen the appropriate relationship for the first father, click “Add Alternate Father.”
Step 5: Add the name of the second father and choose the appropriate relationship. You will then be able to choose which father you want to mark “preferred.” Do the same for the mothers.
If we want to see Jason’s birth or adopted family tree, we need only go to his profile page, click “Edit Relationships” at the top right, and mark one set of parents as “preferred.” Then, that couple will show up in the pedigree view.
Adoption genealogy certainly has it’s challenges, but creating a pedigree chart that includes both the birth and adoption lines, doesn’t have to be one of them! Let us know in the comments below how you have included both your birth and adoption lines into your family history. We love to hear from you.
A new documentary on Netflix tells the story of twins who were separated at birth–sent to different countries–who rediscovered each other through YouTube and Facebook. Become inspired and learn the remarkable story of how they were reunited by social media.
A new Netflix documentary on twins separated at birth is getting great reviews–and it’s a great story. We’ve all heard about twins being separated at birth before, but these were sent halfway across the world from each other. They only reconnected because a friend of one twin saw the other in a YouTube video.
I first read this story in the Irish Mirror. Anais, now a college student, grew up in France. She always knew she was adopted and that her biological mother was a single woman in Korea. One day, a friend sent her a YouTube comedy sketch performed by someone who looked just like her. She watched the video over and over. There was no contact information on it. Eventually, the same friend spotted the mystery girl again in a movie trailer. Suddenly, Anais was able to learn more about her from the IMBD database. Her name was Samantha and her birthday was the same as her own.
Anais reached out to Samantha on Facebook, saying she thought they were twins. Samantha replied with a copy of her adoption paperwork—from the same clinic. Three months later, they met in London where Anais lived. Each young woman took a DNA test and traveled to Korea to attend an adoptee conference together.
Throughout it all, Samantha had the video camera running. She’d already been on-screen in Memoirs of a Geisha and now she took a shot at directing herself and her sister as they were getting to know each other. The result is Twinsters and it’s on Netflix. The show is getting some awesome reviews from critics and audience members alike. If you’ve got Netflix, check it out!
This unlikely reunion started entirely on social media: YouTube, Facebook, and Skype. Just goes to show you the amazing power of these technologies to bring family members together!
More Stories Like This One: Reunited by Social Media
Genealogy is coming back to TV. TLC has renewed “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Long Lost Family” for additional seasons.
TLC announced on June 9th that the network will have additional seasons of both “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Long Lost Family.” Both series averaged over 1.8 million viewers.
The two-time Emmy-nominated WDYTYA follows celebrities as they take a personal journey of their family tree. Recent celebrities included Bryan Cranston, who uncovered an ancestor’s heroic dedication during the Civil War, and Molly Ringwald, who learned about the dangerous conditions of her coal-mining ancestors.
The “Long Lost Family” series features the emotional and touching stories of people who have had a separation from their family. The show reunites these individuals and shares their stories of adoption, mystery, and questions. This past season reunited several family members, including a mother and daughter who worked together and did not realize they were related. “Long Lost Family” is hosted by Chris Jacobs and Lisa Joyner, who also share their own stories of adoption.
Ancestry will be teaming up with TLC again as a sponsor for both series. As part of the sponsorship, Ancestry provides the family history research to help make discoveries possible on both series.
Are you a fan of these genealogy-themed shows? We’d love to hear which stories have touched you the most. Please leave a comment below:
Use an “alternate family tree” to emphasize unique or interesting patterns in your family history, such as eye or hair color, birthplace, age at death, or adoption. Here’s how to do it–and WHY.
Alternate family trees are popping up all over social media and genealogy blogs. Have you seen them? Some trees emphasize the age at death, cause of death, or birthplace for each individual.
There can be tremendous value to creating trees like these. Recognizing patterns can help tear down brick walls. Imagine a pedigree chart with birth places instead of names. It’s a new way to see migration patterns. I also love the a-ha moments I have! For example, the time I realized my hair and eye coloring likely came from my maternal great-grandmother who I have a special connection with.
I can share these quick “did you know” revelations with my relatives on social media (totally shareable images!) or at family reunions. Images are often more powerful than words because they are easy to glance over. Your family won’t be able to resist taking a look, and most importantly, sharing your tree images with other family members. Shared images can generate new information when shared with the right relative. Hey, here’s an idea: you could even blow up your alternate family tree to poster size for the next family reunion!
Take a look at these examples of my own alternate family trees for age at death (left) and birthplace (right).
Other alternate family trees may focus on occupations, schooling, or color of eyes or hair.
I was inspired to create an alternate family tree that had significance to my own immediate family. We have a lot of adoption in our family tree. My three children are adopted, my husband is adopted, and several of my great-grandparents were raised by other family members. This is a unique perspective. Blood lines are important, but even more important are those people who influenced my family the most as caregivers.
I created a pedigree that indicates who, if anyone, the father and mother figures were. Take a look:
Did you notice that every set of my great-grandparents had one or more parent die or abandon them? I was shocked to see this significant ancestral dynamic. I had never considered the likely effect of such a family tree. It was fascinating!
How to Create an Alternate Family Tree
The easiest way to create an alternate family tree is to use a genealogy software program. I use RootsMagic. RootsMagic is a genealogy software program for PC and Mac computers. (Note: To use RootsMagic on your Mac computer, you will need to use the MacBridge add-on.) You can purchase the full version of RootsMagic for $29.95 or you can use the RootsMagic Essentials for free!
There are two ways to make an alternate family tree using RootsMagic. You can start from scratch or use the wall chart report.
Starting from Scratch
To start a new pedigree:
click the “blank sheet of paper” icon at the top left. Name your tree with a title that will indicate its purpose. (Example: Age-at-Death Tree)
Instead of using the names of your ancestors, use whatever alternate pieces of information you wish in the name fields.
Now, you simply click “Reports” across the top and choose “Pedigree.” You can generate the report and print out your new alternate tree.
Using an Existing Tree
If you already have your tree on RootsMagic, you can use the Wall Chart feature to create trees with unique data.
As an example, if I wanted to create an occupation family tree, I would first need to enter that data for each person by clicking on the individual and then “Add a Fact.” From the drop-down list, choose “occupation.” Type in the occupation in the description field at the right and click “Save.”
Add the occupation to each individual and when you are ready to print your alternate family tree, simply take the following steps in the image below.
After taking these six steps, it is time to “Generate Report.” You will be taken to a new screen where you will see your creation.
Once you have completed your alternate tree, it’s a great idea to print it and lay it out in front of you. You might ask yourself, “What does this information tell me?” The interpretation of the data will be unique for everyone. Maybe your “Cause of Death Tree” will make you think, “Oh no! I should really be watching my heart health!”
I hope that you will take the opportunity to create an alternate family tree or two today. Genealogy Gems Premium website members who like this idea will also want to listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast #136, due out later this month. In that episode, Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard goes in depth on the value of gathering family health history.
How does this view of your family tree make you feel?
We love to hear from you so leave your feelings or comments below,
and please feel free to share your alternate family tree on our Facebook page!