Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Family Ties that Bind – or Not

                              Families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts.
- Anonymous

Families are curious entities, organic and ever-changing. There are several meanings of family, one defining a family as all individuals connected by a common ancestor. With the help of websites like, relatives vanished or unknown can be located and connected – if desired.

And that is the dilemma. Some people do not want to have anything to do with their family, past or present.

A popular maxim states we can choose our friends but not our family. DNA unites people. Whether we embrace family is our choice.

This past weekend hub and I connected with recently discovered family.

My mother-in-law was one of three sisters. She had three children, her oldest sister had none, and sister #3 bore two children, as far as the family knew, both given up for adoption. Third sister disappeared from the family in her late teens, sporadically reappearing over the years. Little is known about her life. As a new family member, I did not know she existed until a phone call alerted us to her death in 1977.

Fast-forward thirty years. My sister-in-law receives an unusual phone call. A son of Sister #3 was trying to connect with his birth mother’s family. Might you be a member of this family?

Indeed she was.

And so the family met a third child of Sister #3, a relative no one knew existed.

New cousin wants to find his two siblings and his father’s family. Currently he has no information about his father and has hit a brick wall attempting to trace his brother and sister. He was hoping we could help, but unfortunately the family knew so little about Sister #3’s life that not much new data could be provided.

Meanwhile, as a new member of the family is embraced, another leaves the fold. Brother-in-law and his family relocated without leaving a forwarding address. He does not return phone calls or e-mails. Happy holiday greetings are ignored. Family members speculate about his decision to cut ties, but no one knows the reasons for sure. 

Back to this past weekend.

New cousin, whom we met only once, was passing through our area. We joined him and his wife, whom we had not met, for dinner, spending time getting to know each other.

His wife and I connected recently via Facebook. Modern methods of communication are truly amazing. She found my blog and contacted me, wondering if I was related to her husband’s biological family.

Previously unknown family connections are discovered, new family bonds established and broken links reconnected.

Research into these convoluted family connections continues…

Family is conflict and it’s something that we all relate to.
– Bill Cosby 


  1. This is the stuff of novels.

  2. I think it's great to connect with distant family members, see what you remember, what you have in common, etc., even if you don't go any further than that in terms of becoming friends ... but sometimes you do that as well!

  3. I can identify with this. A few years back, I linked up with a cousin who had been "illegitimate" back in the day. He was adopted by the brother of his mother, and did not know about his own parentage.

    My Mom and her sibs knew about his relationship. The Aunt who had him did not want to connect with him and treated him rather shabbily when he contacted her (she had married into a family that had a "name" in their small town).

    My Mom made me promise not to forget him (he was a blood relative) but we have lost contact.

    One of my cousins had an out-of-wedlock child she was forced to give up. Years later, the child, a girl, contacted her, and wanted to get to know her, but my cousin became a bit overbearing and the grown child broke off contact.

    With my sample of two, I conclude nothing good happens when we look for long-lost relatives.

  4. Fascinating! I know that feeling when you have somebody move out of your life without any contact. I'm hoping to make connections with everybody I care about, and Facebook makes it so much easier. You win some, you lose some. :-)