FInding Family: my review

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

Richard Hill:

Maps show the route to where you are going on a trip, journey or just on vacation. Some include highways; roads, valleys, mountains and some include different ways to go to the same places. Some maps show just the physical attributes of countries while others show their waterways and some different views. But, what about a map that shows you whom you are, where you came from and what your lineage is? What about a map that when created you will learn just why you exist, who created you, who your family is comprised of and even more just who you really are. What happens when a young woman decides that she cannot care for her unborn child? What happens when she hides the fact that she is pregnant in order to protect her first-born son? What happens when this same young woman quietly puts her child up for adoption and the adoptive parents, their family and friends keep it a secret? How can so many know something so important and yet no one ever said a word? What happens when one young 18-year-old named Richard goes to the doctor for acid reflux, answers all of his questions and then finds himself the recipient of one that would forever change his life? Acid reflux is not fatal but can be increased as I learned today from watching the news from stress. Stress can make it worse but it is not caused by stress as the doctor explaining it did state. But, when this one physician asks our author: How do you feel about being adopted? It’s a wonder that he did not burst out in anger, run out of the office or call his parents on the spot and ask them that one major question: Is it true and of course the other one word Why? Like why didn’t you tell me?

Richard Hill learned that very day in a short moment that he was adopted and it was up to him to find a way to deal with the truth, understand his medical conditions and follow suit on what he thought he needed to do next. Secrets are deadly when they come out. Some require keeping in order to protect others. Some are kept when a surprise is being planned. But, what about a secret that is kept in order to protect a young man from finding out how others felt about an adopted child? What about a family, a community and two parents that never told him about his true parentage? The year 1964, the place the doctor’s office and reaction remarkable. Deciding on his course of action would take time but Richard Hill would begin a journey, create his own directions and map that would take him across many states, different places in search of who he really is and where he really came from. But, the map started out with just a few lines and several different places because he did most of his searching online, going to some places but not until January of 1978 did the truth come out when his father decided to bring up the subject of his adoption. Born in St. Lawrence Hospital in Lansing, his father worked on an Oldsmobile Forge Plant and his mom was a licensed cosmetologist. Returning to Ionia is where the story takes off even more. Learning that a young girl named Jackie wanted to put her child up for adoption set the wheels in motion. Jackie lived with his parents before he was born and he tells the story of who put them in touch with her and how they are all still connected. Added in Richard learns from his father that his mother and her sister died in a car crash and that he might have a brother. With a wife who is supportive our author began developing a journal, a plan and now his map or as you might refer to it family tree would start by drawing the foundation, placing the trunk firmly on the ground or in the center of the paper and then fill in the branches one at a time.

With his own family growing Richard would have to take a break from his search. But, then things changed and with the support of his wife Pat he knew he had to find his brother, learn more about his past in order to live in the present. A group called the Adoption Identity Movement would play a major part attending one of their meetings a great starting point. Dropping in on some of his family he learned that they were in on the secret and more than willing to help, yet he never told his mother what he learned. Talking to the doctor that told him about his adoption many years later would trigger more information but not a lot. Speculation about his birth father seemed to take him in many directions but never lead to his identity. Learning that his mother died in an accident and meeting a woman named Jeanette who ran an organization called Adoptees Search for Knowledge would take his quest in so many more areas, lead him to finding one girl that connected him with his past and then the situation snowballed like a beautiful storm. Carol Woods was her name back then and when she saw Richard she opened her up her heart and home to him. She knew about his adoption, he summarized what he had learned and then she informed him about her mother, Mickey, a man named Bill French, his wife Marie and the parts they play in this interesting plot. Imagine receiving a call from her Uncle Bill, Mickey was asked if she and her husband would adopt a young boy. But, she had already adopted Carol and that is where our story begins with just how he came to learn more about Jackie Harzell his birth mother, his aunt Marilyn, her sister, many other relatives, cousins, uncles and aunts and even more how he finds his brother, Mike.

Richard always wanted to know his ethnic background and the speculation into his father’s was quite interesting. Some thought he was Polish, others Italian and some thought Leonard, the man on his birth certificate was his real father. But, he was not as we learn. There are so many small branches on this tree this point, so many extended family relatives that he meets and then meets again years later but no one seems to be able to put the map and him in the right direction of finding his father. Jeanette was able to find his brother and the meeting was quite remarkable. Tense, reserved and hoping to bond with his brother, Richard was excited but Mike more cautious. Meeting Eleanor, his mother’s best friend would set up a chain of events that would take him to learn more about Jackie, her relationship with Leonard, Marion and Bill’s connection and about the fatal accident. Just where did she work at that time was in question? Who was the man that drove that worked at the Cavalcade Inn? What happened to him? Then in Chapter 12 we experience the actual meeting of the two brothers. But, what happens next will bring tears to your eyes as he writes a letter to his mother, explains what he has learned and hopes that she will then fill in the blanks. His mother’s story is remarkable as is the fact that she did tell him at one point about being adopted but due to the mores of the time and adopted children being shunned by some, everyone thought it better to keep silent.

Those that think these searches are not costly are wrong. Wanting to know who his is his ultimate goal. Descriptions varied, nationalities too, paper trails as long as some you might hike on and false documents backing up the many different stories told, and Richard Hill was relentless, diligent and would never give up. Told in his voice we hear and experience the joys, frustrations and disappointments first hand along with him. Imagine getting a picture of his mother after all of these years. JACKIE’S PHOTO IS ON PAGE 79 is amazing. She was beautiful. But, then he’s told about a man named Conrad, thinking he finally found his father imagine when the real truth comes out.

Miracles do not always happen and a chance conversation overheard would start the ball rolling in his direction. Learning about a new DNA test that helped people trace their family trees his friend Joe explained how this worked and sent him the link. Going to the Family Tree DNA website he followed the instructions and the end result, what he learned the family he met and who is father really is you won’t get from me. You have to read Chapters 31-42 for yourself. Meet his new family, hear their voices, find out whether they accepted him and just who is father was.

Read his story and meet his family. Go to his website called and learn more. Changing careers and becoming a genealogist. But meeting a man named Bennett Greenspan would change it all and bring his story to light for everyone read about. Find out the hidden secrets of his family. Learn what happens when families do not want certain things known. Find out about the mysteries of DNA testing, learning about your roots and just how many branches are on his family tree and where that new map filled in with so many places and sights takes Richard Hill. Just how does this all end and who is Richard’s real father? Mysteries come in different ways and are solved by the police or in this case by a DNA test that reveals it all. Read Chapter 46 and find out the answers, understand why and hopefully you too will create your own family tree. Lies, deceits, false documents and one man who would never give up in Finding his Family. Questions that might still be unanswered. Two parents who just wanted a child and one man who would never give up his quest. Let’s dedicate this to Harold and Thelma Hill and to his new family.

Fran Lewis: reviewer


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