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The Roots Tracing Journey

Every person has a past and a history. Every person has an individual identity, a life story, and experiences that are unique. With the technology of today, searching the roots of a family tree to obtain an understanding of where we come from and who we are is widely available and reliable.

Many adoptees frequently wonder:

1)   What did my birthparents look like?
2)   Why do I have these strengths and talents?
3)   How am I similar and/or different from my birthparents?
4)   Why did my birthparents make an adoption plan for me?
5)   Where are my birthparents now?
These and other such questions are often the reasons that lead adoptees to think about roots tracing.

Why Trace My Roots? 

The reasons behind roots tracing are as vast as the number of people who are tracing roots. A person may feel motivated to proceed with roots tracing owing to the following:

1)   Medical reasons
2)   Genetic curiosity
3)   Genealogical reasons  
4)   The desire to discover a birth family history
5)   The need to understand a major life event
6)   Hope for healing of past wounds (of a birth family who made an adoption plan or an adoptee who wishes to understand why an adoption plan was made)
7)   Curiosity or yearning to learn more about birth history, family of origin, or to fill in “missing pieces”
8)   To collect birth information while the information is available
9)   For any other personal reasons

Embarking On A Roots Tracing Journey

There are many facets to roots tracing ranging from the compiling of family history though written documents all the way to genetic testing.  A life book is a great way to begin the progression of understanding a life story. While this may seem simple, an understanding of one’s country of origin and the world events happening during the early years of one’s life, it is often integral to understanding roots tracing in all it’s facets.

Part 1: Familiarizing Yourself With Your Heritage

If you are not familiar with the heritage of your country of birth and origin, you may do research to see what resources are available for understanding that culture. Contacting an orphanage, government authority, or adoption agency is often as simple as an email sent to a point of contact. Also, consider joining a heritage tour to better understand your culture of origin.

Part 2: Retrieving Your Life’s Puzzle Pieces

For adoptees, gather all information possible for you to take a thorough look at life from before birth to the date you were adopted

1) Where were the birth mother and birth father during the pregnancy?

2) What is the address of the hospital or clinic where the birth took place?

3) What is the address of the police station or agency where a child might have been taken for someone to find?

4) Where are the different orphanages, babies’ homes, or group homes where a child lived prior to adoption?

5) Who were the foster parents?

6) What government entity and/or adoption agency processed the adoption?

7) Where were the first days after adoption spent? In the country of origin? The first forever home?

Part 3: Finding Your Birth Parents And/Or Family Members

Find and identify birth family members who are alive as well as those deceased.

If birth family members are located, however, an adoption professional or facilitator should be involved to assess the suitability and readiness for everyone involved. Some birth family members may not be in the position for safe contact owing to personal circumstances (e.g. unstable living condition, prison, substance abuse, addiction, gang involvement, etc.).

Once safe contact is confirmed and permitted, it will be necessary to decide what form of contact is best for everyone. The types of contact may change as time progresses.

1) Letter correspondences

2) Email writing

3) Photo exchanges

4) Telephone calls

5) Face-to-face meetings

The assistance from a professional facilitator is highly recommended until all parties feel secure, and trust is established for continuous contact.

Adoptees' Readiness To Begin Roots Tracing

Questions To Ask Yourself Before you Begin

1) Why do I want to know more about my birth, my country of origin, or my birth family?
2) Is it important to involve my adoptive family’s approval and support in the roots tracing? Am I old enough to do the roots tracing without approval? (In Hong Kong, if you are under the age of 18, it is necessary to have your adoptive parents’ consent.)
3) Would I consider seeking professional assistance in roots tracing?
4) What am I expecting from my roots tracing search? Am I at a stage in my life where I am psychologically mature (able to be respectful and understanding) to handle any possible unknowns and/or unexpected outcomes?
5) Am I prepared for the physical, psychological and financial challenges and responsibilities, which may surface from this roots tracing journey

6) Do I have a strong, healthy support network (family, friends, and professionals with knowledge and experience) to walk with me on my roots tracing journey? l, psychological and financial challenges and responsibilities, which may surface from this roots tracing journey?

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