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Recording Adoptions

Genealogy Essays:

Recording Adoptions
How do you draw adopted children in a family tree? (2011)

Those Elusive Edes
9 lessons learned about finding people in the census. (2009)

The Joys of Inveterate Button Pushing (2004)

Who's Your Daddy?
Genealogy versus family history. (2004)

Suspicion Meters
Your program doesn't have one, but you do. (2004)

Estimating Dates (2002)

A cautionary tale (2002)

Count Your Blessings
1988 and now (2002)

The Grand Chase
How my individuals connect (2002)

What makes a family? (2001)

A genalogical detective story (2000)

Eben J. Cady
Musing about a tombstone (2000)

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Biography questions

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(I answer "How do you draw adopted children on a family tree?" on Yahoo! Answers every once in a while. This essay touches on drawing a family tree, and recording adopted children.)

Adoption is the steel cage death match of Genealogy. It causes more arguments than any other subject in our little hobby. The second time they replaced the mirror behind the bar in the tap room at our genealogy society's clubhouse, the rules committee banned all discussion of adoption.

First, we don't draw family trees on paper very much any more. You can download PAF, a genealogy program, from the Mormons for free, at www.familysearch.org

If you can afford $30 or so for a fine tool that will last you years, you can buy a better program. Two of the most popular are:
Roots Magic (My choice) and
Family Tree Maker.

We don't draw things any more than people write novels with quills and parchment, these days. Genealogy programs are to family trees what "Word" is to novels.

We use two charts. The first is the pedigree chart. It has one person, his/her biological parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. There are notes on the first person on the chart and the last people, saying they are also person number "X" on pedigree chart number "Y". Genealogy programs print pedigree charts off with the click of a mouse, once you enter the data.

The second is the Family Group Sheet. For every couple who has had children it lists the biological father, biological mother, biological children. Genealogy programs print FG Sheets off at the click of a mouse too. If someone had children by two wives and a chorus girl, you'd have three FGSs for him. If his second wife was a widow who had children by her first husband, you'd have two for her. You'd have two (or more) if she was divorced, too, or had had a fling. Birth is the deciding event in genealogy, not marriage.

Purists will tell you adoptive parents do not belong in a family tree. Neither do mentors, coaches, pastors, scout leaders, teachers, best friends, or favorite dog. Put as much as you want in the notes, but if they are not biological they don't go in, say the purists.

Others will say adoptive parents are more important than some egg or sperm donor, and it is simple respect to put them in.

There are counter-arguments to both arguments.

If your individual had been lost in the wilderness and raised by wolves, would you put "Grey Fang" in as the mother?

Consider the adoptive parents: 20 years of sacrifice of time, money, sleep; 20 years of love and devotion; 20 years of saying "no", you cannot date a boy 8 years older than you, whose nickname is "Snake", but you do have to eat your vegetables, do your homework, practice the piano - knowing the tantrums those will cause, and doing it anyway because that is what a parent does - should not be dismissed. It doesn't matter if they were the biological or adoptive parents - they did the work, they get the credit.

You'll have to decide for yourself how to record them. You can put them on a separate chart with their biological parents, even if the mother and father are "Unknown - probably white". You can record them as if they were biological offspring of their current parents. It is your choice. All I can do is say that whichever you decide, 50% of us will say you took the wrong path, and 50% will cheer you on.

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This page updated: June 21, 2014