old photos

These are my people.

Copied photos a stranger was kind enough to send me five or six years ago, so that I would know something of my father’s side of the family.

When I was scrounging around in my file cabinets the other day, I finally found this packet of old photos, sent to me by a paternal relative I had no knowledge of. 

And she found me on Ancestry.com.

She wanted me to know my people. Especially my father’s side of the family. Who I knew absolutely nothing about.

I tipped the packet up and let the photos fall on my desk. Then I chose a few and put them on this small bulletin board.

Sometimes I study the faces. Trying to figure out if I look like the father I never met. The older step-brother I never knew about. 

And the others. My mother, my younger brother, my older sister and the two little sisters, strewn across the map many, many years ago. Never to be united.

And if I sit there very long, I start to cry. For all the relationships I never had with people who were supposed to love me. For all the aunts and uncles and grandparents I was never given the opportunity to meet. 

For a history I know nothing about. 

This is my mother and father, apparently on the day of their wedding. Probably the hardest photo for me to gaze at.

I’ve met my mother a few times. Not in the past 30 something years though. I never met my father. They are both an enigma.
These are my two little sisters, whose names rhyme with mine somehow, though I’m not quite sure exactly how because I don’t know their actual names. 

Both were left by my mother. And then I understand that they were taken from the home of family members I never met and adopted out probably soon after this photo was taken. 

There were paternal relatives who loved them and wanted to give them a home, but were not given the opportunity.

Apparently a social worker showed up at their door without warning, took the two little girls without reason, and whisked them away to be adopted elsewhere.

A crying shame. So I seriously doubt they even know that “their people”, like me, exist.

This is my older sister years ago, the oldest child of two reckless and impulsive people. She did not have an easy life I’m sure. 

She, like all the others, were adopted out because my mother could not take care of her children. And my father was off in prison for something or other. 

We have no history together. 

Still, she is my people.

This is an older brother, Charles, that my father had with his first wife. I have no idea how old he’d be now. I doubt he knows about me either. 

I didn’t know of his existence until I got the packet of photos I’m showing.

My father, on the far left. His sister in the middle, who, from what I’ve heard, was quite the pistol.

She was a pilot, back when women were supposed to stay home and bake cookies.

I imagine I would have loved knowing her.

And on the far right, my younger brother, whose whereabouts I’m not privy to either.

I know my father is dead. I don’t know about my mother.

I look into these faces, just a foot away from where I sit, and wonder what it would have been like to know them all.

The woman who found me on Ancestry.com told me that her grandmother sometimes talked to her about “the baby.” How they had sold “the baby” and taken off for parts unknown.

Of course that baby was me.

These are my people, though I don’t know the first thing about them. Will probably never meet any of them. I’m sure quite a few of them are already dead and gone.

I just know that I grew up with secrets filling all the dark corners. Invisible yet discernible. People whispering. They always stopped when I appeared.

No one was actually willing to tell me who I actually was or where I came from. 

I was a mystery to myself. And still am for the most part.

So I have something I’d like to tell those of you who have a big rift in your family. Members of the family who had a “falling out” and aren’t speaking to one another. 

I want you to realize that none of it matters. 

No matter what the problem is, nothing should break the bonds of the blood you share with your people

And that to further any sort of animosity, to prolong being estranged, is to punish the children that really need to know where they came from. 

Because you see, knowing where you came from is part of how one figures out who they are.

And for the adults to take this away because they can’t get along is basically stealing a piece of a child’s history. 

No one should grow up wondering who they are or where they came from.

Everyone should have the right to know their people. 

Just like I did.



Similar Posts


  1. It's so sad to think you never had any history with all these blood relatives. I wonder how you could find out more about your parents, and what their story was…do you ever watch that show on PBS "Finding Your Roots" – it's amazing to see how far back they can go in someone's family tree. Perhaps they'd take on your story if you emailed them this link?

  2. Each time that you write about this part of your past, you go a bit deeper into your feelings, and share what little bit more that you've learned about your family. It seems to be healing for you, even if it hurts, and it helps people like me understand a bit more about my own family members who've experienced similar upheavals. Even if you could find out more through different ways of research, it won't change the way you grew up, except for your perception of it. Ultimately, perception is everything, isn't it? You can look at a situation and see it in a bad light, or a good one, depending on what you choose, and you can choose how you want to move on with your own life. You have chosen to try to be strong, and to share and try to help others, and that is a very positive way to cope with the past. Thank you.

  3. Wow, what a story!! Darlin' lady, it all comes down to how badly you want to find out more. I have done genealogy for over fifteen years and the technology that is available now is amazing. Since we can't choose who our relatives are, you can still find out a tremendous amount of information about them. I hope you will do this for yourself. I feel the hurt in your post but I have also felt the strength in many of your posts. Take care now and keep us updated.

  4. Hi Brenda, The pictures of "your People" and they are just that are so wonderful! May be you can get together with the sender of the pictures, she may have more info than she is saying. If you were going to try to contact anyone start with your younger brother. For all you know someone in those photos may be trying to find you. The internet offers great assistance. I bet if you nosy around in your hometown you may be able to dig some info up….if not you may be at peace just being able to have the great photos. You seem so happy and at peace with your life…Bless your heart [email protected] Sweet Tea N' Salty Air

  5. This post touched my heart and I feel so bad for what you missed out on. I DO HOPE you get in touch with Melodye's search angel and see what she can do for you. More than anything, I hope you can re-connect with your older sister. She probably remembers you more than anyone and more than likely would also like to find her younger sister! I have 3 sisters and they are so dear to me. I also hope you could find your two younger sisters and all of you reconnect. There would be so much to share and you could become "a family". My prayers are with you. I also think the DNA search through ancestry.com is a great idea.

  6. (((((HUGS))))) Brenda. My heart aches for you. My MIL has been searching for years for information on her father, who just left one day when she was 4 years old. Apparently it was too much for her mother to even speak of him, so she had nothing but his name to go on. We were able to find out that he became a drifter and died on the streets. She desperately wants to know about her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and even possible siblings. I have hit a dead end when researching genealogy sites. I so want to give her the answers that she has been seeking before it is too late.

    1. Hi Debbie – there is a good chance your MIL can find some family if she tests her DNA on Ancestry. As soon as the test results come in, DNA matches are provided, along with Ancestry's estimate on the relationship. You can build her family tree on Ancestry and have access to all kinds of documentation including census information, directories, birth and death records, even yearbooks – plus others' family trees. I know I sound like an ad for Ancestry, but I am adopted and never would have found my bio family without it!

    2. In some ways it doesn't matter if we find our lost families. Because no matter what happens now, we can't change the past and we can't really make up for lost time. Because we didn't grow up together there is a huge gap that may never be bridged. And all of that has to be processed and dealt with. Connecting to lost family is a long hard journey filled with hope, surprises and revelations, as well as sorrow and joy. Maybe it's also a leap of faith.

  7. Brenda, can you open your adoption records through the Court and find out any information from them? It should be able to be opened up now.

    1. Even if she were adopted, more often than not, records are permanently sealed. Even today. Even though family members are long gone. There is much work being done now to allow adoptees access to their original birth certificates, and a few states have allowed access, but there is still much work to be done. Besides adoption records, there are other documents that can be used to find family, especially in conjunction with Ancestry DNA testing. Ancestry has tested over 2 million people so far, so their database is huge and getting bigger all the time.

  8. This is so touching, and your writing is so heartfelt, Brenda. It was thoughtful of the stranger to send you the photos, and I hope it gave you some comfort…albeit bittersweet. Thank you for sharing…I am sure you have helped many readers want to mend fences today.

    1. I so hope you are right. That someone realizes that no matter what, that is their people. And they won't get a new set. So it's best to fix what's broken sooner rather than later. Because life is short and they might not get a chance to make things right. And then they will be left with regret.

  9. Thank you, Brenda, for sharing this touching story about your people. I was fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by family who always made me feel loved, and still do, but I do understand. My heart goes out to you and I certainly admire how far you've come and how willing you are to share your story.

    1. I share in the hopes that someone will take the message and apply it, to do away with petty differences so that the children will not be affected for life for actions they had nothing to do with.

  10. Oh Brenda, this makes me sad.
    I couldn't read all your words like Mary said before me.
    I think you look like your brother.
    I think it is great someone reached out to you with the pictures. I can't decide if it would make me in your shoes happy or not. I think I would feel a loss for all the relationships you were robbed from.
    Do you suppose that your family were ashamed of your father being in prison. Back then it was probably taboo to even talk about. In the world today it isn't .
    My adopted son connected some of his family on FB. This sister he cried for daily for years was told he died. Her parents promised that he would always see he on the day we went with the adoption worker to her new family . The next day the door was slammed in our face. They even were able to bi pass huge agency's rules. His sister wants nothing to do with her birth mother and when I last heard her adopted mother. She called her birth mom and told her off. She couldn't believe she was normal but her birth mom wasn't. She has cut all ties with my son.
    My son met his mother and birth brother. It wasn't good. He doesn't want anything to do with them.
    So, I don't know what is best . Heartbreaking anyway you look at it.
    So sorry Brenda. I am glad that you have a relationship with your daughter and Andrew.
    I still think back to the cashier that asked if you were related to a person she knew with your last name.
    Hugs my friend. Sorry this is long and probably doesn't make sense. My words aren't coming out right.

  11. I know the pain of my children, of being abandoned. I think almost anything would be better – well, not bad abuse, no not that, but anything else perhaps. I'm sorry this happened to you, too, though I'm glad you had two grandmothers who took care of you. Not ideal, but something. Re the pics, to me you resemble your brother and your older sister for sure. A mixture, somehow. I'm glad you have these pictures because at least you now know all of where you came from. But like my children who have pictures of their birth mothers, it's like salt in a wound at the same time. Sending a hug today.

    1. I know, through the children that you love, that you fully understand where I'm coming from. It's hard to explain to people. Thanks for knowing just what to say.

  12. Oh Brenda, what a heart wrenching story. You are a strong person and have taken good care of yourself. Maybe by posting some of this, some of your people will read it and find you. Keep taking good care of yourself!

    1. Brenda – your siblings CAN find you through DNA. Do a DNA test on Ancestry and see how many relatives show up! Even if your siblings don't test, it is still possible to find them – I promise! I am adopted and found my bio mother (she had passed away 5 years earlier), two half-brothers and a sister through Ancestry DNA (no DNA tests from any of them) and some help from Search Angels and a cousin's really good family tree. Anyway, my point is that it can be and is done all the time! Join the Search Squad group on Facebook!

  13. Hi Brenda,
    I had trouble reading your words as the ads on the right hand side of my iPad were too wide and blocked the right side of your writing. Do you know how I can fix this? I love your writing and wish to read this blog post in its entirety.
    Thank you in advance,
    Mary Johnson

    1. I apologize for the ad. An ad network handles all my ads. I will email them immediately and ask them to deal with the ad. Thanks for letting me know.

    2. I, too have the same problem, I can't see all the words in a sentence….the right side of blog cuts off part of it….
      I see you're trying to get that fixed…
      Also, I used to be able to read your blog in Bloglovin without having to click to your original blog page….I can't do that anymore..
      I love your blog…but get frustrated that I can't view all of it…

  14. Brenda, I don't know how to get in touch with you by email, but I know someone who can help you connect with your people and their stories….I might've mentioned her to you previously. She is gifted, this "search angel" I know, and she does genealogical searches for free.

  15. Brenda, this touched me at my core. I grew up not knowing my biological father. I was lucky to meet him before he died and found I had two half brothers. It did help complete a piece of the puzzle that is me. Bless you, what a hard life you have had.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.