With growing certainty that my mother has been correctly identified I have spent some time building out my new family tree. It’s a secret tree, as recommended by Ancestry, and is meant to accommodate the DNA findings when they arrive. I called it “Discovery Tree.”

My maternal biological family is even more prodigious than my adoptive one, and most paths have been easy to follow. But this process feels different to me than it did when I was building the original tree. Now always in the back of my head is a wry, sad little voice: ‘Hello, Great Great Grandfather. I’m your bastard granddaughter that is unacknowledged, an embarrassment.’ I see my part in the tree as a kind of footnote, designating me not quite a true member, but noted anyway – at least on my secret tree that no one is allowed to see.

I think about driving out to Freeport to explore the town in which so many of my ancestors lived and died, and imagine myself wandering around looking at buildings and farms or poking through the graveyards, feeling like the intruder I am. Do I have the right to claim this family as my own, just by virtue of blood? Why does it matter so much to me?

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