Find Your Roots Through DNA
Print this page


I have always known I was adopted.  I remember someone asking me where I got my blond hair from.  I was maybe 3 years old.  I stated “I’m Adopted”.  That was the answer to any question pertaining to genetic traits.   I love my family the one that raised me.  However as young as 1st grade probably even sooner I was worried about my “real” mom.  I always called her that.  I am sure it must have caused my adopted mom pain to hear that.  For that I am sorry and grateful that she handled it well with understanding.  I had separation anxiety as a small child.  By 1st grade I experienced an incident that I recall so vividly.  Due to separation anxiety I went home for lunch every day.  It was like I had to check to make sure my mom would be there.  One day she had an appointment.  I had to eat lunch at school.  I literally got sick.  I went to tell my teacher and she said “Your mom is just out for the afternoon, you should be thankful she isn’t dead.  Some little girls don’t have mom’s because they have died. “   Well is that what happened to my “real” mom.  I ran home that afternoon and asked.  I was given an honest answer.  “I don’t know”.  In a child’s mind that meant it could be a possibility.  I was 6.  I remember mourning.  I remember being sad.  I remember wishing I could have helped her.  It was a lot for a child, but no one understood.  They thought it was silly.  They told me “you have a mom”.  I knew that.  But there was this other mom, my “real mom” that might have died and the grief just hit me like a tidal wave.  Again no one understood. 

Fast forward.  My search probably started at that point.  I was always looking around the house for clues.  As I got older my adopted mom LaVon tried to be supportive.  She told me that she saw the name Phipps on a document in the attorney’s office.  She found out about the Soundex Registry and I think she mailed the form for me.  In 1993 my young son was sick.  I went in to Mercy Hospital to request my medical records.  I had my sick baby with me, I paid the money and had the name baby girl Phipps, with my birthdate.  I was denied.  I pointed to my baby and yelled at the clerk that I had a right to my own information and denying it could harm my child.  Someone listened a few weeks later I got an envelope in the mail with copies of my records in it.  I was born with an underdeveloped lung and had to stay in an incubator for a short time.  When I was a little girl I had asthma and had to stay in the hospital a lot.  Yet the issues at birth were never revealed to my adopted parents.

So in my search I have taken the following routes with no success.  I have registered with the Soundex Registry.  I think this was probably in the 1970’s. 

I obtained my hospital records in 1993.  This confirmed the hospital, birthdate and the last name Phipps.

In the 10 years that followed I used the Internet and posted my information on every registry I could find.  I was a member of a internet group for Colorado Adoptees.  I found support from all members of the triad. 

In 2005/2006 I against my better judgment but out of desperation sent a money order for $675.00 to pay for a Confidential Intermediary who would have access to my records and would attempt to find my birth mother.  This was a two year emotional roller coaster.  The name on my birth certificate was false.  It was an alias.  So I paid close to or over a thousand dollars for one goose chase after another.  The searcher finally said that she would close the case.  I begged for that not to happen as once it was closed it could never be opened again. She closed it.  That was it.  At least I thought it was.

Less than a year after that I received an email link from Adoptees in Search a group in Colorado.  An appellate ruling had opened up adoption records for certain years.  1961 was one of those years.  I didn’t wait for them to figure out how this would work.  I used the wording in the ruling as a reference and motioned the court in Adams County Colorado to release my records.  I got them.  All of them.  All of the search records, my original birth certificate, case notes, all of it.  Within 10 minutes of receiving this package I had found a clue that the paid CI searcher missed.  The address on my birth certificate was linked to a home owned by the owner of a Maternity Home.  The Fairhaven Maternity Home.  The searcher had looked at the daughters of this family as a possible birth mother.  She never put two and two together and tied into that home.  I contacted the owner and she listened and talked to me and said she would go look at the records.  She would never return my calls or talk to me again.  She never released any records to the state.  Even though I had my records, the deceptive practices of the era still prevented me from what I sought, my identity.  I even motioned the court and was granted an order to give me the identity of my parents.  They couldn’t.  They didn’t know.  I was heartbroken, outraged and frustrated. 

Several years passed and the technology behind DNA as it applies to genealogical research advanced.  With the testing of Autosomal DNA it was possible for individuals of both sexes to test and compare chromosomes with other testers. Matches exchanged family trees and could see what chromosomes were matched upon.  An ethnic profile was provided.  I saved my money and tested with Family Tree DNA.  I waited nearly 2 months.  When I was notified of my results being ready there was a computer glitch.  I had no matches.  I was devastated.  By morning it was fixed and I had 270 cousins.  These cousins were 3rd to 4th and beyond, there were no close relatives, but they were cousins.  It was an incredible feeling.  It was “my information” and no one not the State of Colorado, nor could anyone else take that away.   I got an email from one of those cousins who is a certified Genealogist.  She holds the title of my 1st Cousin (she is the first person I have ever corresponded with other than my kids who I am related to).  She has helped and even put a post on her blog about me. 

Now that I had this information the next step was what do I do with it all?  That is where I was sent Angels and a group of people with a combined knowledge of genealogy, DNA Information Technology, and experience with Adoption Searches.  This combination was the magic ingredient.  I tested with two additional companies 23 and Me and finally Ancestry.  I uploaded my raw data into a tool called Gedmatch which allows for a deeper data analysis to compare matches, shared chromosomes from all three companies.  Then with the help of my wonderful search angels, very understanding and empathetic cousin matches, we started building family trees. As the branches to these trees grew we were able to see common ancestors and further map out possibilities.  There were clues from my birth records.  Some of those clues like the last name on my records were deceptive.  One of those clues pointed to Washington State as the state of birth and a birth year.  The entire Washington State birth index was looked over and all of the baby girls born on the suspected birth date were noted for further investigation.  This was hundreds of entries that were scanned and not searchable.  They had to be manually viewed and noted. 

 I took a break while nursing my adopted mom through the end stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  She lived in my home and my family and I provided 24x7 care for her.  Several months after her passing I decided to start my search again.  The data was there waiting, after all it was my information and no longer being held for ransom. 

We had two family trees to concentrate on that were very close with ties to Colorado.  On February 14, 2014 I got a 2nd cousin match in the Ancestry database.  My coffee cup literally hit the floor as I clicked on the link to this match’s family tree.  As I scanned over the last names I saw one that looked very familiar.  It was a name from one of the two trees we had been working on.  I quickly sent a message to my search angels.  They  immediately responded and started looking at the match with me.  I sent a message through ancestry to my match whose name is Kayla, explaining my situation (some people do not reveal the adoption factor initially, I put it out there right away), I asked if she had any ties to Colorado.  She responded quickly that her grandmother was raised there and her grandmother had 3 sisters.  All of this was sent to my searchers.  I did a search on who would be Kayla’s great grandmother.  In looking at her obituary I was able to find the name of the daughters.  As I got to the 3rd name in the list, I found an obituary and a social security death index entry.  The latter contained the birth date of 11-4-44.  That was the date of my birth mother’s birth in my records.  At about the same time my search angel sent me an email highlighting the birth date match.  I sent my suspicions to Kayla who was going to talk with her grandmother.  She messaged me the following day with confirmation.  Her grandmother’s sister was forced to give up a baby for adoption.  The secret that had been withheld from me for so long over 50 years had been revealed.  Revealed though too late for me to tell my “real mom” that I loved her and I understood, and thank you and all of the things that I wanted to say.  She had passed away the previous March.

Through the magic of social media I was able to find 3 siblings.  I sent them a letter and they responded.  They had no idea that I existed.  Once the initial shock wore off they have all welcomed me and expressed the desire to know more about me and my family.  They have also been asking family members who knew my mom about my birth father.  The oldest of the siblings has ordered a DNA kit in order to confirm what we believe.  Looking at pictures, talking to them, hearing how I sound or act like my mother has been a very surreal experience.  I love my adopted family.  I have an older brother still living.  He is the first person I called after my kids.  He was very supportive and happy for me.  For many years I have been denied my roots, my own information.  The search for the other half of that information is ongoing and getting closer.  In the meantime I have been blessed with the support of both my birth family and my adopted brother.  Only with the advances in the methodology used in analysis, and interpretation of my DNA results was this possible.