Synopsis of Finding Family
My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA

A concise synopsis of the Finding Family book by Richard Hill.


The following synopsis is intended for busy media professionals who wish to write about the book or interview the author and don't have time to read the entire book.

By revealing major elements of the story, the following text removes much of the mystery and suspense...thereby lessening the impact of the book. Do not read on if you wish to fully enjoy the story.

“How do you feel about being adopted?” The doctor who asks me this question assumes I know about my adoption. But I do not. My parents had pretended for eighteen years that I was their natural child. I am shocked, of course, but I decide not to confront them or even let on that I have uncovered the family secret.

Fourteen years later—in a deathbed confession—my father reveals that my adoption was not anonymous. In fact, my birth mother had actually lived with my adoptive parents for five months before I was born. Furthermore, he tells me that the young woman had another son. Then he utters the words that ignite my search: “I think you should find your brother.”

My adoptive mother still does not know that I am aware of my adoption. So I discreetly interview older relatives and family friends. With the help of adoption support groups, I overcome false documents and misinformation to learn the identity of my birth mother. Sadly, I discover that she and her younger sister died in a Jeep accident a year after my birth.

A search angel helps me contact my half brother and he and I struggle to build a relationship. I confess to my mother that I know about my adoption and have found my brother. Our one conversation on the subject is full of tension. I decide to keep searching for my birth father. One by one, I research and eliminate suspects—including the man who caused my birth mother’s death.

By a remarkable coincidence, I find my birth mother’s surviving sister, who gives me photos of my mother and fills me in on my maternal family. As I learn more about my birth mother’s life, I come to love her as a real person…eventually experiencing grief over her death.

Years later, an intermediary reads my sealed file and learns who my birth mother named as my biological father. The man is still alive and we meet. Deciding to confirm our father-son relationship through a DNA paternity test, we are crushed to learn that we are not related.

After more years of dead ends and missed opportunities, I locate my birth mother’s best friend. Between us, we come up with additional suspects. But by now, all these men are deceased and no one name stands out. Since my conception occurred just days after V-J Day, I fear the truth may have been lost forever in a spontaneous, celebratory encounter.

My search stalls and my adoptive mother dies without us ever discussing my adoption a second time.

Years later, I happen to hear about a DNA test used by genealogists to confirm male ancestors in a family tree. I order this Y-DNA test and discover a perfect match with one man in the test company’s database. He and I must share a common paternal ancestor, which suggests we also share the same surname.

Reviewing my old notes, I see that one of the deceased suspects had the same last name as my DNA match. A married man, he owned the tavern where my birth mother worked weekends.

I locate a niece of his who sees a family resemblance and agrees to help me. Since the man had four brothers in the area at the time of my birth, I cannot be certain which of these five men was my father. Plus, the man’s eye color suggests that he is the least likely candidate.

All five brothers are deceased and cannot be tested for paternity. So I contact a son of each man—convincing all to take the only test available at the time: a DNA sibling test. Preliminary results point to one of the suspect’s brothers as my father. As I am getting comfortable with that outcome, I notice data missing from the lab report. Additional testing points back to my original suspect as my most likely father.

Like my maternal family, my paternal family welcomes me with open arms and I gain a new brother and sister and many cousins. Most of them are in Texas and I make the journey to meet them.

All goes well for nearly five years and I develop a web site to educate other adoptees and genealogists about DNA testing. Two new DNA tests become available, each far more powerful and accurate than the old style sibling test. I test myself on both of them.

Later, in an effort to expand our family tree, I ask my sister to take one of these tests and one of my cousins to take the other one. The unexpected results lead me to a startling new conclusion: my presumed birth father was only an uncle and one of his brothers was actually my birth father.

Now, the man and woman I thought were my siblings for nearly five years are suddenly only cousins and another pair assumes the role of siblings. As I help my newfound sister adjust to this startling development, I learn much more about my birth father and finally finish the Finding Family book I started writing two years earlier.

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