Adoption’s ghosts – closer than we know

I grew up in country New South Wales as the only daughter of immigrants from the Netherlands. I can understand, read and speak some Dutch.  Every Christmas our family would celebrate in our variation of the Dutch tradition, going to the midnight church service and coming home and feasting on ham and bread rolls served on the crockery my parents had brought with them from Holland.  The Christmas tree was adorned with Dutch trinkets and the myrrh man ‘roked’ his characteristic smell that made every Christmas Dutch.  Most years we received a parcel from my family of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents with the hand-me-downs and gifts, and the lingering smell of pipe tobacco that was my link to family and my Dutch heritage.

When I was 43 I found out I was adopted and I lost this.

Like many adoptees I have searched for family in Ancestry and discovered that on my mother’s side I have ancestors who settled and died in the area I grew up in.  Peter O’Neill from Wicklow, Ireland was sent to the Penal Colony of NSW for being involved in the Irish Rebellion (he made a sword). After he was pardoned he settled at Homecraft, Rockley. His daughter Rosanna married Thomas aka John Brown, a convict who had been transported for stealing a fowl when he was 14. He also died at Rockley not far from where I grew up.

Closed adoption separates adoptees from their ancestral roots. It transplanted me into a location where my family ‘ghosts’ and connections resided outside of my awareness and possibility for connection.  How many grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins lived nearby?  Lost opportunities for connecting to a wider family that is important in developing a sense of who I am.  After many years of searching I have been re-grafted back onto my family trees: my mother’s British family and my father’s Greek family.