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The "politics" of found families, previous marriages, unknown half siblings

The "politics" of found families, previous marriages, unknown half siblings

Posted: 31 Dec 2012 6:59PM GMT
Classification: Query
Surnames: Near
Hi,

I'm wondering if anyone can give some advice on the politics associated with telling people they have a half brother they never knew. The situation is all very clinical to me as I don't know any of them personally but I can see where finding out (from a stranger) that your father was married briefly before he was married to your mother and that you have a half brother your father abandoned would be pretty shocking. The abandoned child is my father and I would like to connect with his 5 half siblings. I don't know the circumstances about why he was abandoned and both of his parents are now dead. I know there's no "right" way to do this but I would love to hear thoughts & input, especially from those who've been through similar experiences. I do have birth & marriage certificates for backup. Thanks much

Re: The "politics" of found families, previous marriages, unknown half siblings

Posted: 31 Dec 2012 7:40PM GMT
Classification: Query
This situation has actually occurred in my former husband's family while he and I were married. My husband grew up as 1 of the youngest of 7 boys. His father had a relationship with a lady before he married my mother-in-law which resulted in a daughter he never knew about. The adult daughter's family (a sister, I think) contacted 1 of my older brothers-in-law about her which, of course, was passed along to his parents and the rest of the family. Dad didn't want to talk about it but Mom was very open to meeting her. I think Mom's attitude about it helped Dad to overcome his misgivings about the situation. The family embraced her and her children. They became part of the family through several visits and extended stays over the years plus calls and letters in between.

I think maybe finding a "middleman" to approach with the information, first, would be a good idea. I would try to find someone who knows the family fairly well that you could talk to about the situation and get some idea of whether approaching the family (or a particular person in the family) would be okay or how the family might react to the news, etc.

Re: The "politics" of found families, previous marriages, unknown half siblings

Posted: 11 Jan 2013 11:30PM GMT
Classification: Query
I incline to agree with the other answer that a "middleman" is a good idea. However, if that is not possible, what about a polite letter, as neutral as possible, to one of them simply saying you have reason to believe you are related and would be interested in finding out if any of them are interested in meeting/investigating further but fully understand he/she might not be - or something along those lines. To my mind a letter is better than a full-face approach because the person has time to think things over and cope with any shock he/she may feel. Nothing to lose anyway. I think the thing to remember is that a) the person might genuinely have no interest, b) just might have nothing whatsoever in common with you. I have experience of two inatances. My late husband had an illegitimate sister - no secret, the Father kept one family at one end of the village, the other at the other. The non-married "wife" publicly described herself as "Mrs. H" and sent her child, under the father's name to the same school as her half-sister. However there was a big age gap and none of the elder lot had ever had anything to do with the illegitimate one until an elderly cousin confided in me that she had a conscience about the girl. After tracing her I did phone directly but put questions very carefully so she could back out if she wanted. "Are you the daughter of Dr. H? Did you know you have half brothers? etc. Unfortunately I later regretted my efforts because she hurt another member of the family very badly, driven I think by her neuroticisms about having been the family outcast - not that that was much comfort to the person she hurt. My second case was really rather hilarious. I had one cousin who had been orphaned at the age of 13 and rescued and brought up with us by my mother, but I had heard nothing of her for 50 years. I came across a notice seeking relatives and duly answered - only to be told they were very surprised because Granny had told she she had had a cousin with my name - but she had died young. Reports of my death grossly exaggerated! At the instigation of the son of my cousin we had a get together but it was obvious the two women had no interest and we had absolutely nothing in common, although he still sends a Christmas card. They brought a lot of "family" things when they visited and it became clear to me why she had lied about my being dead - most of the family history she had told them was a complete pack of porkies, including a claim that someone quite different had been her guardian after her mother died. Reasons were varied. Put shortly, give it a bash but as kindly and diplomatically as you can, do not expect to have anything in common or even to like them - if you do that is a bonus - and just accept that their family stories may well be far off the truth - or on the other hand it might be yours which are! Hope these ramblings help a bit - Best of luck anyway.
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