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Friday, January 18, 2013

Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in my DNA By Richard Hill (a book review and interview)



by Lynn Grubb



I first heard of Richard Hill when I stumbled upon him being interviewed by Donna Montalbano on her adoption-related radio program. listen here  As I listened to Richard speak, I became more and more fascinated with his adoption search journey and his groundbreaking use of DNA to find his family.

I read the book over the Christmas holiday and could not put it down. It reads like a mystery novel; however, knowing it is true makes it so much more fascinating. The first sentence of the book speaks a truth most adoptees know all too well:
"All families have secrets, some bigger than others . . . .”


Richard’s story begins in the state of Michigan when one day he was getting ready to leave for college, the adoption bomb was dropped into his life. Looking forward to his future, Richard didn’t spend much time examining the fallout. In time, though, Richard softens to the idea of finding answers as to why he was adopted, with a little push from some females in his life. Later, his adoptive father provides a few pieces to the mystery and urges him to find his family.

The bulk of his search takes place before the internet and all its valuable resources. I was just amazed at Richard’s ability to piece his story together from basically nothing but rumors. Interviewing family members of the deceased and even requesting their DNA was extremely brave of Richard but it paid off for him. 

At the close of his journey, Richard states:
“The experts talk about nature versus nurture, both are critically important in determining who we are. The inherent truth for adoptees, however, is that these two factors come from four different people. And many of us will never know peace, until we know all the pieces.”

Simply put, I loved this book. I felt myself identifying with Richard at every turn of his journey, as my own conception is as much of a mystery to me as Richard’s was to him. What sets Richard apart from most, is his ability to take action even in the face of common practical adoptee barriers: secrets that have died with deceased family members, fear, stories and mythologies, sealed records, and lack of time outside of family and career. It's no wonder that many could not muster the strength to accomplish what Richard was able to.

Richard does a wonderful job of describing the process of DNA in laymen’s terms. After reading this book, I feel more comfortable sending my DNA for analysis and some hope in finding answers one day. You can order a copy of Richard's book and get specific advice regarding DNA testing here.

Lynn: 

Richard, thank you for being willing to help our readers understand DNA better in their own searches. I see that you have dedicated your entire website, DNA Testing Advisor, to this very thing.

I noticed that you were meticulous in taking notes during every interview and documenting every scrap of information you found. What other techniques did you use when beginning your search that tipped the odds in your favor?


Richard:

I did many things: asking family and friends what they knew, requesting non-identifying information, finding adoption search groups and attending their meetings. And, yes, taking meticulous notes and saving every document, photo, or scrap of paper related to my search. You never know what might become critical in a later stage.