Friday, August 28, 2015

Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA by Richard Hill

Release Date: August 17, 2012
Publisher: Createspace, Inc.
Author Website:

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

When Richard Hill discovered he'd been adopted, it was an accidental slip by an outsider that started his mind wondering about his roots and biological family. When he began his research, there was no internet to aid his search with the click of a button. Being adopted in Michigan also meant that his true identity and biological information was harder to obtain through the usual channels.

As he began to find bits and pieces to his life's puzzle, he also found people who helped him discover more than he could imagine about his roots. Richard discovered much of the truth about his biological parents, but also found more than one man in a particular family could be his father. With humor and dedication he continued to work through the puzzle until all the pieces fit. This book was his journey to the truth.

Scrolling through the Nonfiction section at NetGalley, I saw the title of this book and it grabbed my attention. I was curious about the author's journey in finding his truths because I too wondered about my own ancestors. While my own discoveries were interesting, the author's road was a lot bumpier and filled with many twists and turns. Finding one's roots was more difficult in decades prior than today. Sites like Ancestry and Familysearch didn't exist, leaving millions of people in the dark about their ancestors. Many state laws concerning adoption created more hurdles for researchers like the author.

Using a mixture of honesty and comedy, the author related the discovery of his own adoption before high school graduation. Though the admission created thousands of questions in his mind, he respected his adoptive parents' decision not to tell him and explained the reasons why within the memoir. Many family members, biological or not, appeared throughout the book and directed the author's search with their revelations. Sometimes he found out a name or a place. Not every tidbit of information brought the right answers, but they helped to shape the picture of his ancestry. Finding his mother's side of the family wasn't very difficult once he began to look. She stayed with his adopted parents while she was pregnant. Getting the answers to his father's identity was a longer, more difficult journey.

Before the onset of the internet, the only way to find out genealogical information was to contact the county clerks in the city or county and fill out petitions, in person or through the mail, for birth certificates, death certificates or other such public information. These petitions often required some proof of relationship in order to be approved. An adoptee looking for such information would have to go above and beyond for such petitions to be granted. Wait times could be anywhere from a few days to months before an answer came in the mail. The author struggled with rejections on several occasions along the way. Once more and more information became available online, the author was able to find more connections at a better pace. Through the DNA testing offered at Ancestry's website, he narrowed down the number of men who could be his father. Of course, that answer also proved to be tricky until advanced DNA testing came out years later.

Throughout the entire story and all its ups and downs, I felt as though I was walking alongside the author. Each discovery, no matter good or bad, brought hope that he would get the answers he longed to know from the moment he knew of his adoption. The author's writing style made it very easy to feel like I knew him for years, and all the people he had contact with became my friends as well. I really liked how he stayed positive and held onto the hope of answers during the darkest moments. It was an eye-opener to realize that not every adoptee's story could end so well. That made me sad, because I feel like everyone should know their roots. Not only was the memoir an enjoyable read, the author used his work to help others in the same situation by providing a section of links and agencies that will help people with their own searches. So, if you're a lover of nonfiction memoirs tinged with comedy or a fellow searcher of roots, this book will make you smile, laugh and sometimes cry, but definitely worth the read.

Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA by Richard Hill is now available online at various retailers in either digital (Kindle) or paperback formats. Below is the book's page at Amazon for your buying convenience.
Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA: by Richard Hill

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