My Three Branch Tree

Being a person with a mother, a father, and a biological father makes a few things in my life a bit more complicated: my medical history, my personal relationships, and my family tree.

The family medical history I’ve given to doctors for my entire adult life is now 50% incorrect and unknown.  I don’t know what diseases and disorders I (nor my daughters) am susceptible in presenting.  I’m also forced to confess to medical personnel that I don’t really know my own father.

I’ve elected to live a truthful life, so difficult conversations with my family and friends is something I’ve had to endure many times over.

The family tree that I’ve worked on for the better part of 40 years is incorrect.  Sort of.

I say, “sort of,” because while I have no biological relationship with the only dad I’ve ever known, he and all of the relatives associated with that side of his family are indeed my family, too.  They’re still my people.  They’re part of my tribe.  To remove that branch from my tree would be removing part of who I am.  It would make my family tree just as fictional as if I didn’t choose to include my biological father’s branch.

In working with adoptees and people with misattributed paternity, there seems to be an underlying belief from people not familiar with genealogy practices that a person has to be recognized as a “valid” family member; one who is publicly acknowledged by a parent or members of a biological family to embrace their family tree.  This isn’t true.  While it’s lovely to be accepted by your own family, it’s not necessary.  There’s no public recognition or validation requirement to for anyone to be exactly who they are and to pursue their own family history.   Your family story is yours.  Your biological tree is valid.  I can’t think of a single genealogist that would disagree.  In fact, most seasoned genealogists understand that there’s likely adoptions and misattributed paternity on nearly everyone’s family tree.  All genealogists are in favor of and seek the biological truth.   If you feel you need additional permission, you have an entire community of genealogists not only at the ready to give that permission; they’re cheering you on.  The true family history you pursue and record could be the explanation why this person here DNA matches that person over there.  Genealogists study the past but we keep an eye on the future.  The work we do is not only for our own curiosity but to keep a record for future generations.

The online tree I keep on Ancestry includes the ancestry of all three of my parents and I field inquiries from anyone associated with any of them.  I’m happy to do so.  Permission was given to me at my birth: I am from this man; I was raised by that one.  These two men are my fathers.  And this is my truth.  No one can change the reality of any of it.  Not for me, or on behalf of anyone else.  And I’m totally good with that.

I hope you embrace all the branches of your tree as well.



23 responses to “My Three Branch Tree”

  1. Thank you so much. This is beautiful, and the permission I need to not feel like I am intruding in someone else’s life by seeking answers. Thank you for giving us all permission to be okay with the “unusualness” of our situations. It was a breath of fresh air to read and ponder these thoughts.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I found out 10 months ago that I too have a three branch tree. Both my parents are gone so the only way I have to find out who my biological father was and who my ancestors were is through DNA matches. We’ve figured out who one set of great grandparents were thanks to the one 2nd cousin match I had but the other set of great grandparents and who my biological father was is still a great big mystery. For the first time last week I had a doctor ask me for the medical history from my father and I broke down in tears and had to admit I didn’t have a clue. That little question hit me so hard when I had thought I had come to terms with this big lie in my family. I just never expected to find out at age 69 that my world would fall apart like it has and I feel so alone with my feelings. So thank you for your blog. It seems to mirror my experience almost exactly. I calculate I was conceived around my parent’s first wedding anniversary. My dad had brought my California born and raised mom to Texas after he got out of the service. My mom didn’t have any friends or family in Texas and was extremely lonely because my dad was working nights for the railroad and sleeping days. I don’t know how my conception came about. Of course, I rationalize all the different things that could have occurred that would cause my precious mom to do what she did but I so wish she had been honest with me before she died. She knew she was dying for at least 6 months before dying of cancer. There isn’t a doubt in my mind now that my dad always knew I wasn’t his daughter, only my sisters were his. We’ve had my only remainly sister tested and it verified that she was his daughter and my half sister. It hurt all over again seeing all my cousins as matches that I expected to see on my matches last November but weren’t there. I’ve uploaded my raw data from Ancestry to all the sites available but to no avail. I just today sent off a DNA test to 23andMe praying I have a closer match there that will unblock the wall I’ve hit. You have said everything in your blog that I feel and am going through right now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have been in search of my Grandfathers lineage for some time now. He was mysterious and changed information on his place of birth and his birthdate and where his parents were born (often-on census records-marriage certs etc…). So I have been filling out collateral lines that give me clues (small clues and small bits of information to keep my tree filling out.) I know someday it will all come together. I have become so familiar with surnames in Gedmatch and FTDNA that I have these clusters of people that I can see are related through Gedcoms in Gedmatch. I have heard of Mirror trees. It sounds similiar to what I am trying to do. There is also a program called Genomate Pro, and of course Wiki Tree. And I have used some others to cross reference and research death records as this may even show you a name you recognize in a collateral line. It is with great joy when you make a small connection and it will eventually give you more clues. The more you follow the lines you know, the more likely it is to see the lines you don’t know. I don’t know a whole lot, but would be more than happy to change directions once in awhile to help. I have come to the conclusion that we aren’t even Smiths through the Y DNA, but possibly Fuller. I believe my Grandfather took his Mothers maiden name of Smith. But I finally have one Fuller from the Y in our family tree. Now only a matter of time connecting the dots. It is so addicting because the results of your hard work give you great accomplishment and discovery.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Nancy, It sounds like you’re taking a great, systematic approach to learning more about your grandfather’s family history. you have any cousins that share this grandfather with you? It could prove very helpful for you to DNA test them as well.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Cheri, I’m sorry that you’ve found yourself in this very difficult place. You’re most certainly not alone in it. It’s taken me years to come to terms with this and to be able to feel comfortable to speak freely about it. It’s a very traumatic experience and it does take time to wrap your brain around it all. I’m crossing my fingers that you get a great match at 23andMe!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Cheri, I’m sorry that you’ve found yourself in this very difficult place. You’re most certainly not alone in it. It’s taken me years to come to terms with this and to be able to feel comfortable to speak freely about it. It’s a very traumatic experience and it does take time to wrap your brain around it all. I’m crossing my fingers that you get a great match at 23andMe!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I found out last year that half of the medical history I had know about for 35 years was wrong. I was adopted and that was the year I found my birth mother, and her husband. (I thought he was my father but DNA proved that wrong). I’ve never been able to tell a doctor the whole truth about my health history because I didn’t know it. But I recently did 23and me for the health history, and promethease, and they hit the nail on the head for my known ailments. It was helpful to me to find that there were a lot of illnesses I probably will not get thanks to both those websites.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think I read your posts out of order, but this is a fascinating story and I am excited to see where it goes. Your mom sounds like a trip! (A good trip!)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My father died when I dwas very small. I always kneew him as my “real dad” and grew up with his family in my life. Mother remarried a short time later, he was my Daddy until I was 11. I knew his family and all the aunts, uncles and cousins. Mother divorced him and remarried when I was 12. This man spent the rest of his life being my Dad and a grandfather to my children. SoI guess I havea four branch family tree. All three of these men weremyy father and they and their families helped to shape who I am today. It makes for an extremely large tree, but they are all part of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am going to ask a question here which I hope that you will answer. I am helping a DNA cousin who was adopted at birth to find his biological families and I am fairly advanced at searching and building trees, and genealogy in general but I do not want to mess up things for this DNA cousin.
    My question is what so I do with the matches that come up on his DNA? I’m guessing that building a tree for each of them is the way to go and I can do this but how do I put him into their tree? That is where I am stumped.
    Thanks in advance,

    Liked by 1 person

  7. How do you do a three branch family on Ancestry? I don’t know that I will because no one other than my husband knows that I have recently discovered that my Dad isn’t my bio-father, and I don’t want to expose anyone else to all that hurt. I know who my bio-father is though. I think I have always known. I thought I did the test “just for fun”, but in reality I was hoping to disprove what I thought I knew. That’s not what happened. All three parents are gone, and I have no reason to believe any of my half-siblings (four I was raised with as siblings, three I was not), have any idea about this. This is all very new for me, and I’m dealing with lots of tough feelings, and questions that I don’t think I’ll ever have answers to. I am so grateful to have found this site.


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