So, it's been a whirlwind of activity for me for the past few weeks, mostly because of my "paying" job ... you know, the one that keeps me afloat until I'm flooded with paying clients.
Anyway, this past week or so was the busiest, starting on Saturday, March 21, when I gave my "DNA 101" presentation.
It was a wonderful turnout, with 20 or so folks coming to the Jefferson County (Ind.) Historical Soceity on First Street in Madison to hear how they can use DNA testing to help with their genealogical research. I didn't seem to lose anyone during the 90-minute talk and I had tons of great questions from so many who attended. It was a lot of fun.
I would never have guessed that this would be something I would enjoy doing.
So, with that out of the way, I had to start preparing for my trip to Dallas, where I was enrolled in the Genetic Genealogy course at the Forensic Genealogy Institute from March 26-28. This event was hosted by the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy.
Forensic genealogists work with lawyers and the courts to help prove kinship in probate cases, mineral rights and other legal situations in which experts are needed. They use all of the tools at their disposal, and DNA testing is becoming more and more helpful in resolving these types of cases.
I thoroughly enjoyed the class and I feel like I came away with improved skills for helping people who are trying to find their biological families. These are adoptees and others of unknown parentage, such as "war babies" ... children born overseas to women who were involved with American GIs during World War II. There are thousands of these cases, and DNA is really stepping up to help these men and women, now in their 70s, connect with the unknown half of their family.
I feel that I've learned enough new stuff ... and also have gained confidence in what I have been doing ... to help with the one "war baby" case I'm working on and to help a newfound second cousin of my own figure out who her biological family is. She was adopted at birth in 1943 in a home for unwed mothers in Kansas City, Mo., and appears to be related to me on my maternal side.
What I find really unsettling is how adopting out children became big business in the mid-1900s. Seriously, most of the laws that close adoption records to adoptees were really meant to cover up transactions on the black market and – less frightening but still disturbing – to convince women who were unmarried or poor to give up their children to adoption agencies, who profited from finding these children homes. These women were horribly exploited, and it's just a shame.
According to genetic-genealogy expert CeCe Moore, most of those laws were established after New York Gov. Herbert H. Lehman (one of the founders of Lehman Brothers) got a state law passed there to seal adoption records. According to Moore, prior to this legislation, he had purchased two of his children from the notorious Georgia Tann, who often stole babies and sold them on the black market from the 1920s until 1950.
He claimed the intent of this law was to reduce the "stigma" for children who were adopted.
I'd be willing to bet (though I have no proof) that some of the backlash regarding the legalization of abortion came from private adoption agencies who would lose money if women stopped giving birth to unplanned or unwanted babies. It amazes me what is really behind some legislation that is touted to do something else.
So, keep this in mind. A lot of states are now moving toward opening adoption records, which is a good thing. I agree with Moore that everyone, including adoptees, deserves to know where they come from and who their families are, even if there never is a reunion.
I hope Missouri will change its laws. Missouri is one of those "Catch-22" states, in which adoptees like my new cousin much prove their birth parents are deceased before are allowed access their own birth records. Nice trick, if you can figure this out without those records.
If you live in one of those states where open adoption records laws are coming before voters during an election, I encourage you to vote in favor of changes that will allow closure for so many people.
Isn't she a beautiful bride?
This is my latest acquisition (which has nothing to do with this blog post): a glass-plate negative of this outstanding wedding dress. Look at this woman's waist!
I also got another lot of photos the other day, and many are identified. Woot!
And yes, I am, officially, an addict. Don't tell my hubby, but I have two more packages arriving sometime this week. I. Must. Stop.