Author Topic: Finding long-lost family members-a bad idea, isn't it?  (Read 1138 times)

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guihong

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Finding long-lost family members-a bad idea, isn't it?
« on: March 16, 2013, 12:55:38 PM »
Hi, all:

My oldest brother was married very young, at 18.  He and his wife had a daughter, "Leslie", who would only be a year or so younger than I am (my brothers were all quite a few years older than I am).   They split up when Leslie was about 4 or 5, and I believe the mother remarried and her new husband adopted Leslie.  I never saw her again; my brother apparently never did either.  Many years later, another brother asked where Leslie was, and OB replied he didn't know.  How you can't know where your child was for years and years, none of us could understand, but it wasn't our business.  He might have signed away his parental rights, I don't know.  OB passed away in 2006.

Every now and then, I get the idea of finding "Leslie", like on the Maury show with those family reunions.  With sites like Ancestry, it's tempting.  Still, probably a bad idea, even if I could do it-right?

Has anyone else ever found a "lost" family member?   



SamiHami

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Re: Finding long-lost family members-a bad idea, isn't it?
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2013, 01:05:09 PM »
That's such an impossible question to answer; so many factors go into it. She might be absolutely thrilled to be reunited with her fathers' family, or she could just as easily have been raised by her mother to despise all of you. The only way to find out for sure it to try contacting her.

If you do so, please be very gentle about it and if she is not interested then let it go. Hopefully she will have some natural curiosity about that part of her family and you'll be able to form some sort of relationship. If not, at least she'll know how to get in touch with you if she ever changes her mind.

Good luck to you and let us know what you ultimately decide to do.

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Winterlight

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Re: Finding long-lost family members-a bad idea, isn't it?
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2013, 01:12:42 PM »
I think it partly depends on what you're hoping to get out of it. The storybook reunion? Just finding out whether she's still alive? Seeing if she'd like to get in touch with your family?

It also depends on her feelings about it. If she hasn't been in touch with your family since she was 5, and was adopted by her SF (which suggests that your brother did give up his rights) then she may well consider SF's family hers and see your brother as a sperm donor only. She may not want to get involved with yours. On the other hand, she might be curious about her origins.

If I did go looking and found her, and wanted to get in contact, I'd probably write a letter or send an electronic communication. I would not call her or, worse yet, show up at her door. Sending something she doesn't have to respond to is much better IMO than a direct approach which puts her on the spot.

Just be sure to manage your expectations, or better yet, try not to have any. This isn't a referendum on your family, and it should be up to her to decide if she wants to talk to you.
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gramma dishes

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Re: Finding long-lost family members-a bad idea, isn't it?
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2013, 01:20:23 PM »
For the adoption to have taken place, your brother would certainly have had to give up all parental rights.   If the step father did in fact adopt Leslie, then he is her "real" (legal) father and she may not have any idea that there ever was another different one. 

If you're going to follow through with this, I'd certainly tread very carefully.  She may not have any desire to be "found" by a family she doesn't even know exists.  If you do somehow manage to find her, I wouldn't make any move at all until you are sure she knows there was another father in her life when she was very young.  For you to be the one to spring that information on her would likely ensure that neither her mother nor she would have much desire to be cooperative and in fact is more likely to be very resentful as you will have really shaken her world with that information.

Sheila Take a Bow

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Re: Finding long-lost family members-a bad idea, isn't it?
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2013, 01:40:34 PM »
I've been contacted by distant family members.  I don't want to get into detail, but my dad was estranged from his family, and I was estranged from my dad.

I've been contacted by a few of his family members since his death, and it was too soon.  But they all gave me space and eventually I started contacting them in return.

The way they handled it was ideal:  a short letter with their contact information, and all of them said they'd understand if I had no interest in being in their lives.  They just wanted to let me know they cared about me and thought of me often.

I knew from the start that there were no expectations, which made things very easy on me.  They also didn't attempt any sort of second contact until after they heard from me.  It was incredibly low-pressure.

Bijou

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Re: Finding long-lost family members-a bad idea, isn't it?
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2013, 02:51:55 PM »
The question for me is, "Would I want to bring a total stranger intimately into my life?"   
To tell the truth, for myself, I'm just too old to want to walk under a ladder, hoping that teetering can of paint doesn't fall on me.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2013, 02:55:26 PM by Bijou »
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JoW

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Re: Finding long-lost family members-a bad idea, isn't it?
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2013, 02:57:55 PM »
There are so many illness that have a genetic component it would be nice if you could send her the family medical history.  If she knows what ailments her father and his parents and siblings died from or suffered from she can watch for those illnesses and get treated early.

Beyond that, the other posters are right.  Be very careful. She may not want to know about you.  And her mother may not be happy about the contact.

jpcher

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Re: Finding long-lost family members-a bad idea, isn't it?
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2013, 03:12:42 PM »
I've been contacted by distant family members.  I don't want to get into detail, but my dad was estranged from his family, and I was estranged from my dad.

I've been contacted by a few of his family members since his death, and it was too soon.  But they all gave me space and eventually I started contacting them in return.

The way they handled it was ideal:  a short letter with their contact information, and all of them said they'd understand if I had no interest in being in their lives.  They just wanted to let me know they cared about me and thought of me often.

I knew from the start that there were no expectations, which made things very easy on me.  They also didn't attempt any sort of second contact until after they heard from me.  It was incredibly low-pressure.

guihong -- If you're going to do it, I think that what Sheila has described would be the way to go.

Keep it very low-pressure and let your niece respond back to you.

I wouldn't go through Maury or any TV show, I think that this should be a private thing without grand-standing.

How old is Leslie now? If she's younger than 18, I think that you should approach her parents first, just to feel out the situation. Like other posters mentioned, you have no clue as to what her Mom and adoptive-father's situation is.

squeakers

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Re: Finding long-lost family members-a bad idea, isn't it?
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2013, 03:21:25 PM »
It can work out as long as you go into the search with the expectation she'll want nothing to do with you.  Why? So if she does want to get to know you it will be a pleasant surprise.

I "met" a cousin through ancenstry.com .. my parents divorced when I was like 3 or 4 and then my father passed away when I was 7.  We lived in a different state than his FoO so I never really got to meet them.  While putting up my family tree I was contacted by the cousin (actually the DiL of my uncle).  We exchanged info but beyond that no contact.

http://www.kcrg.com/news/local/Facebook-Friends-Discover-Theyre-Family-197876721.html shows how small the world can be.
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blue2000

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Re: Finding long-lost family members-a bad idea, isn't it?
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2013, 03:28:25 PM »
It can be a bad idea. As others have mentioned, it is best to not put any pressure on her to respond. Even if she is curious, she may need time to process this.

A cousin of my mother ran away when she was about 16. I am very curious as to what happened to her. Sadly, she ran for a reason, so it is not likely that she would ever want to have contact with the family again. If there is a great deal of pain involved, you can't ask someone to rip open that old wound just for you. :(
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Snooks

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Re: Finding long-lost family members-a bad idea, isn't it?
« Reply #10 on: March 16, 2013, 04:55:51 PM »
I think maybe the time to reach out was when your brother died.  It's been seven years since then and she might wonder why you didn't contact her then but you are now.

Minmom3

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Re: Finding long-lost family members-a bad idea, isn't it?
« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2013, 08:03:51 PM »
A few years ago, I found a cousin from the other side that I hadn't seen or spoken to since I was in early high school (I'm going to be 58 in a few weeks).  The other side see and speak to her all the time, it's just my side that doesn't.  We wrote back and forth, it was fun for about 2 weeks, and then it sputtered out again.  It was boring.  Nothing awful happened, nobody got hurt, we just got bored with each other, so there's no reason for us to keep up the contact.

Now, if it had been her grandmother speaking to my mother, where both ladies can't stand each other, both get up on their high horses about each others transgressions; THAT reunion might have been ugly.  But for our generation, it just fizzled out. 
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guihong

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Re: Finding long-lost family members-a bad idea, isn't it?
« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2013, 03:36:13 PM »
You  have all brought up good arguments for not doing it, most of which I thought of before.   Even if I thought it was a good idea, I'd have no idea what her SD's name was, or if she married, or where she went after Ohio.  I certainly wouldn't want to rock her world now, only to say "Your biological dad is dead".   He died very suddenly, so there was no chance to find her then.  Even though I was very young at the time, I now get the idea that the breakup was nasty.  It could open up a lot of pain.

I saw personally what happens when family assumptions are proven wrong.  The same brother remarried and all of us thought that he and Wife #2 had two daughters.  When my oldest niece from this marriage was about 10 or so, she found her birth certificate, which listed another man as her birth father  :o.  She had no idea.  Apparently she was just a baby when her mother married my brother, and they never told her.   My brother also never adopted her, which meant later that she was not entitled to any inheritance (I believe/hope he left something).