Review: Finding Sisters

Finding Sisters: How One Adoptee Used DNA Testing and Determination to Uncover Family Secrets and Find Her Birth Family

Synopsis:

Where does she come from?
Who are her genetic parents?
Who is she?
Does she even want to know?
With almost no information of her genetic heritage, adoptee Rebecca Daniels follows limited clues and uses DNA testing, genealogical research, thoughtful letter writing, and a willingness to make awkward phone calls with strangers to finally find her birth parents.
But along the way, she finds much more.
Two half-sisters.
A slew of cousins on both sides.
A family waiting to be discovered.
With the assistance of a distant cousin in Sweden and several other DNA angels on the internet, Daniels finally comes face to face with her birth mother just months before her passing. Join in on this author’s discovery of family and self in Finding Sisters: How One Adoptee Used DNA Testing and Determination to Uncover Family Secrets and Find her Birth Family

“Finding Sisters is an excellent example of what it takes to solve a family mystery. Yet it’s also a captivating story of human relationships in the age of secrecy-revealing DNA databases…. Refreshingly honest and personal. Like no other DNA success story, Finding Sisters uses footnotes and family tree diagrams to show exactly how the search unfolds. This makes the book a clever hybrid of a memoir and a case study” – Richard Hill, author of Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA 

Rating: 5-stars

Review:

Finding Sisters by Rebecca Daniels is a great book for anyone whose family has gone through the same rollercoaster. It was incredibly easy for me to relate to Rebecca Daniel’s story since I recently found out I had a long-lost sister who was given up for adoption when I was two. I also liked how Rebecca gives readers extra help to do their own ancestry search. She provided a lot of useful information making the searching simply. The book was well-done, organized, and a great nonfiction read. It shows me that there are more people who have this situation than we think. The emotional rollercoaster ride from this biography was epic. I enjoyed following the writer’s journey into her family’s hidden identity and past. Past and present come face-to-face in this beautiful book.

Read the Excerpt Here:

Excerpt from Chapter Three: But How Would I Know What To Say?

Before I had much more time to contemplate the complexities of finding my birth mother and then discovering that she, too, had been adopted, I got another email just a couple of days after making contact with Barbara and Tish. This one was from April L— in Omaha, who must have read my card to Glenna. She introduced herself by responding to my question in the note I sent, wondering whether she was the same Glenna G— who had married Arthur H— in Bremerton in June of 1949:
I’m Glenna’s daughter, and she was married to Arthur H— at one time. Mom has dementia, but I will talk to her and see if I can get any information. I do know that she had a child she put up for adoption, but I don’t know when, and I’m not sure if she will remember. Do you think you are her daughter? If this is so, I would love to have a connection with you, and I’m sure mom would also. We are the only two left in our family as my brother, sister, and father have all passed.

I had certainly been worried after hearing about Glenna’s stroke, and it seems that the effects of that stroke had been more serious and debilitating than perhaps Barbara and Tish had realized. Because my adoptive mom had also had some small strokes that accelerated her memory loss to Alzheimer’s disease, it was something I was very attuned to and worried about. But April seemed rather matter of fact about Glenna’s dementia, so I tried not to be too disheartened. I replied immediately, telling her that I was fairly sure I was Glenna’s daughter. I also told her about my contact with Barbara and Tish and the fact that they had seen a strong resemblance between Glenna and me. She wrote back within a few hours:

I hope you don’t mind, but I looked you up on Facebook and, in my heart, I know you are my half-sister. You’re right, the resemblances are striking. I’ve sent you a friend request in hopes that future contact will be easier. I don’t think that Arthur H— is your father, but I can’t be sure until I talk with mom. The stories I heard were that they met while he was in the service and were married within a few weeks of their first meeting.

As I was soon to learn, Glenna still had a few cogent moments during each day, despite her dementia, so April’s hope that Glenna would be able to remember things about my biological father was passed along to me. April and I also agreed to talk on the phone later that same evening.

I don’t remember all the details about that phone call, but I can definitely say that it was much easier than I had expected. April and I had no trouble at all sharing information, talking about ourselves and our experiences, and exploring our family connections for over two hours on the phone. Interestingly, we were both involved with the performing arts from a very young age, though I had focused on theatre, and she had focused on music, specifically opera performance. After years of being jealous of friends who had one, I now had a sister, too! Well, half-sister, but that distinction didn’t seem to mean much to either of us, and acceptance of each other was the order of the day. The reason April knew anything at all about the fact that Glenna had given away a child when she was a teenager was because April had also given away a child when she was younger. She had been engaged to be married, but just a few weeks before the scheduled wedding, her fiancé had jilted her, leaving her pregnant. In the aftermath of the sudden cancellation of the wedding, and as part of trying to move forward and help April decide what she should do about the pregnancy, Glenna had shared her own experience of unwed motherhood with her daughter. April confided that through an unusual set of coincidences, she had discovered exactly which local family had adopted her son, but she had never made herself known to him, even though he was now in his 20s; she was instead waiting for him to be ready to initiate contact with his birth mother. I suspect her experience on the other side of the adoption equation might have a lot to do with her willingness to accept me so easily as her half-sister. She had also lost her other half-sister Penny, to whom she had been very close, to an early death a decade before I came on the scene. This unqualified acceptance worried me a little bit because I had no sense of what her expectations of me might be, and despite the irony that I had dearly wanted to have a sister when I was younger, I wanted that sister to be someone I came to know well over time, not a stranger I’d just met who was tied to me by blood only and who might want more from me than I could easily give. That dilemma created a sense of diffidence about this new sister. April, on the other hand, showed no hesitations at all about me and was unfailingly welcoming and open, telling me she really hoped we truly were sisters. April told me that Glenna had followed in her adoptive mother’s footsteps, eventually becoming a teacher, though Flora taught Math and Glenna was a Special Ed teacher who also got involved as a volunteer with their local Visiting Nurses Association and a local foster care review board. We decided together that to have Glenna do a DNA test would be the best way to confirm what circumstantial and visual evidence was suggesting to us. April also sent me a more recent photo of her with Glenna, taken after Dorian’s death and before Glenna’s stroke.

While I was trying to figure out how these three new family members might fit into my life, they were all talking to each other as well. I heard from Barbara that Tish and April had talked, and Tish told Barbara that April was “thrilled with the prospect of a half-sister coming into her life.” I also told Barbara that April and I had agreed that a DNA test for Glenna would confirm the connection and possibly shed some light on Glenna’s genetic background as well. Barbara thought that was a great idea but had been convinced by my appearance that I was related to Glenna and wanted to meet in person without waiting for any DNA results. She suggested we meet for lunch at a restaurant halfway between our two towns, so we set a date to meet in early April. I was definitely starting to think about a visit to Omaha to meet Glenna before her health declined any further.

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