10 July 2020: Due to heat, humidity, and an out-of-control pandemic (at least it seems so in the US), this entry will be a bit shorter than usual. And I’ve got almost no illustrations to share at this point. Just my thoughts. Hopefully you will enjoy it anyway.
So, when you are deep in the throes of writing a book that has been your obsession for the past decade, still working full time, and you are starting to adjust to widowhood, living alone, and finally starting to feel quasi-normal, what might you do in your spare time when you find some? DNA testing is not the first activity that might come to mind, but it’s something a friend talked me into doing in early 2014 while I was deep in the research, transcription, and early writing for Keeping the Lights on for Ike. At first, not much happened once my DNA sample was in the database. Oh, there were lots of distant relatives, but when you don’t really know anything about family names or possible biological connections, it’s more confusing than helpful to see all those names as third, fourth, fifth, or even more distant cousins. And since I had almost no real clues about my genetic parentage, there was nothing there that got me excited, at least not yet. Another year passed. Research and transcription work on the WWII book was nearing completion, and the book itself was getting closer to having a real shape and focus, which definitely gave me something to write about regularly. But then in early 2015, a distant cousin contacted me, and my serious genealogical searching kicked into high gear, at the same time as the other book started to take off in my mind.
I suppose all writers have this problem at some level or another: one book/essay/play/poem/story/whatever is in active process and taking most of one’s creative focus, and another is just at the germination stage in one’s mind, though it’s alive and cooking and starting to become “something,” whatever that might be. This dual consciousness is an interesting place to be, that’s for sure. The correspondence between me and my “cousin” (the exact relationship wasn’t yet clear, since I knew so little about my own beginnings, but he already had some theories) was active and exciting, but the only thing I could do, given my goals for the WWII book, was to respond to all the new info coming in via email and to start a file of all this unexpected information that was coming in fast and furious, thanks to the genealogical expertise of this new cousin.
I don’t know about other writers, but I have both electronic and paper files for LOTS of different experiences and ideas, some of which have become published or performed work, and some of which have never seen the light on day since first being written down and saved. In fact, in spite of paring down considerably when I retired from full time teaching, I still have more paper files in my house than many folks I know. In response to this fascinating new info, I started keeping genealogy files in my filing cabinet and on my computer, though at this point, I was mostly the recipient of information, not the generator of it. But things were about to change dramatically, and that’s exactly what my new book, Finding Sisters, is all about.
Next month, I’ll share a bit more about how my genealogy journey unfolded and what it was like to start writing, not about my adoptive parents, but about the search for my genetic ones.