Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Irish Mother finds her son ... 60 years later

When it came time for her to deliver, she was taken into a room and put to sleep. When she woke up, the large bump of her pregnancy was gone, and so was her child. For the past 60 years she has always wondered if it was a boy or a girl - they wouldn't tell her.

Now, 60 years later, thanks to DNA, she knows. It's a boy.

There are many people in Ireland searching for their birth family. Some are adoptees, some are foundlings, some are people who were raised in industrial schools, some of whom were boarded out. Over the past few years, many of these people have turned to DNA for help, and these numbers are increasing all the time as the success stories of people finding family through DNA are becoming more widespread.

But it's not just the children that are searching for their families, it's the parents too. I have been working with several birth mothers (in their 70s and 80s) who are trying to locate the child that was taken away from them many decades beforehand. Many tell a similar story, like the one at the top of this article. They had little control over what happened to them. Decisions were made for them. And they were left with little or no information about the child they gave birth to, not even what gender it was.

I am delighted to announce that one of my clients (the woman above) has finally reconnected with her son. She gave up her child 60 odd years ago, and it only took 12 months for DNA to find him. She tested with Ancestry and then uploaded her data to FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage & Gedmatch (the recommended approach).

Now comes the next step in their journey - getting to know each other, building bridges, putting the past in the past, and moving into the future. This is a slow process that will take a lot of work on both sides.

Any birth parent who wants to find and contact their child should first seek advice from the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI). They can help you sign up to the National Adoption Contact Preference Register (application form here, and Frequently Asked Questions here) and help you to contact the Agency who placed your child for adoption. You can email the AAI at tracing@aai.gov.ie. This should be your first port of call before turning to DNA.

If tracing using the first-line method above is unsuccessful, then you can consider DNA testing. The recommended approach is to test with Ancestry, and then upload a copy of the results to MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, LivingDNA and Gedmatch. If this is unsuccessful, you should also test with 23andMe. If this is still unsuccessful, then it becomes a waiting game. You are hoping that some time soon your child or one of their children will do a DNA test and pop up in one of the databases as your closest match.

When they do, the connection may be instantaneous and things may move very quickly indeed so be prepared - think about what you want to tell them, think about the sort of questions they may ask you, write it all down, and put it in a letter (or two) that you can post or email to your child.

For most people, reconnection is an emotional rollercoaster. It is best to have professional help on hand in case you need it. Take things slowly. You will need time to process your feelings. So will the other person and their family. Be kind to yourself and to others.

Further information can be found in an earlier blog post here. For ways of optimising your Privacy with DNA tests, read this post here.

My thanks go to Ancestry who provided free DNA kits to help with this research.

Maurice Gleeson
July 2019


  1. What a beautiful story, one of hope for all those that are looking whether you are a parent that gave up their child or an adoptee that needs that link to their own identity. I am on both sides of that coin, and with the help of DNA have not found my birth-parents (both have passed away, but have made contact with several cousins and have some of my history) and have found my son and have a close and caring relationship with him and his family. DO NOT ever give up, no matter what age you are. I was 75 when I finally found my birth-parents families. I am a firm believer in DNA and wish all children were DNA tested at birth, just think of all the missing children that could be reunited with their families. I hope laws will change in the near future to all birth records to be released and all of these hidden facts can finally be available to everyone to know their health history, their family history and their family traits.