AIBU to be infuriated with my parent's stonewalling/non-cooperation as I research our family history??

(374 Posts)
belfastlass Wed 22-Sep-21 23:57:14

God where to start with this.

I come from a family where virtually nothing was ever discussed about our family background. All I know is a threadbare mishmash of bits and pieces I've scraped together from the very rare times they did mention something, old documents I've found in the house, and the odd chat with more open relatives.

As someone with a fascination with history and the past and I've always found it incredibly frustrating how little I know about my own family background. This is part and parcel of wider attitude my parents have of brushing any 'awkward' issue under the carpet and pretending it doesn't exist, which caused huge problems as me and my siblings were growing up. My mother in particular is a complete doormat and has spent her life being pushed around by all and sundry as she hates 'causing a fuss' or 'not being nice to people'. My father's attitude to any family drama or argument was to get angry and then sulk in his room until we just shut up about it and never mentioned it again.

My mother was adopted, which is something I didn't even know until I was 12 when I chanced across some old documents. When I asked her about this, she said she never pursued looking for the birth parents as she 'didn't want to upset her adoptive mother'. I recently discovered some further documents on this with more details, and via these (and Facebook) have managed to track down some of her biological relatives. However my mom seems completely uninterested and keeps mithering about 'not upsetting people' (even though these relatives seemed overjoyed to discover they had new relatives and were only upset they didn't know). My dad has not said anything, but his silence (usually he sends a check-in text every days) suggests that as usual he is sulking about the fact that I've dared to rock the boat on this issue.

As for him, there is a massive issue with his grandparents - something to do with them having their kids (i.e. his parents) taken out of their custody. The details of this I've never been able to work out, and of course he's never told me anything about it.

I could go on, but AIBU to want to carry on researching my family tree and know the truth? This massive gap in my knowledge has been gnawing away at me all my life, and even if my parents aren't interested I am, and it is as much my history as theirs surely? Ok, so there may be some upsetting revelations, however my attitude has always been that the truth is more important than 'not upsetting people', or protecting people's personal psychological hang-ups and avoidance strategies. Am I being selfish?

OP’s posts: |
gobbynorthernbird Thu 23-Sep-21 00:02:19

You searched out an adoptee's biological family without their knowledge or permission? Totally out of order.

Lockdownbear Thu 23-Sep-21 00:03:30

Research but don't discuss with them. They don't want to know for what ever reason, skeleton in the cupboard.

To you it's fascinating history, to them it family they loved.

BOOMshakeshakeshaketheroom Thu 23-Sep-21 00:04:01

I'm in a similar position. I struck lucky a couple of years ago and found a half-cousin who I didn't even know about, and she and one of her half-sisters have both unearthed some family tree stuff relevant to me.
I want to do one of those ancestry tests when I have more disposable income, to help identify my heritage. My mother was not born in the UK, something I only discovered when I was a teen and one of my siblings found her birth certificate.
Good luck in your endeavours.

BOOMshakeshakeshaketheroom Thu 23-Sep-21 00:04:38


You searched out an adoptee's biological family without their knowledge or permission? Totally out of order.

I disagree. It's OP's family too.

Ninkanink Thu 23-Sep-21 00:05:07

Yes, you’re being selfish.

621CustardCream438 Thu 23-Sep-21 00:09:53

Bluntly, yes you’re being selfish. Your mother’s feelings on her adoption trump yours. I’m staggered you thought your behaviour was appropriate. It’s absolutely not your place to research her biological family and contact them, unless she actually asks you to.

Research whatever you want from public records etc but leave your parents out of it.


mikulkin Thu 23-Sep-21 00:10:26

You have to respect your mother’s wish not to know her biological relatives. Million adopted people do make similar choice and have no interest in their biological parents. Her adoptive ones are the parents for her.
When it comes to your father’s parents it must have been traumatic experience for them - something neither them nor your father want to dig into.
I understand your curiosity but you have to respect their views - it is there parents. Just because you find it fascinating doesn’t mean they have to.

mikulkin Thu 23-Sep-21 00:11:32

It is their parents should read the last sentence (not there) - autocorrect failed me…

DoesHePlayTheFiddle Thu 23-Sep-21 00:12:44

Do the dna. You'll be linked with others having shared ancestors, and might be able to find out more that way. It's not unreasonable to want to know your history. You might have to leave your parents out of it, though, as they don't want to be involved.

Stompythedinosaur Thu 23-Sep-21 00:15:28

I think I'd feel the same as you op. Your family history belongs to you as much as to them. I don't think they have the right to keep it from you.

Muttly Thu 23-Sep-21 00:15:58

I think you have to respect that in all likelihood your parents have experienced trauma from the events you are casually describing (adoption can be enormously traumatic for some people and your father’s situation equally so) and your parent’s likely cope with that trauma by sweeping it under the rug. Your search for your history is absolutely something you should do for you but you do not need to involve your parents in it and retraumatise them in the process. There are many sources of historical documents available to you to try to work out your history.

Forcing your parents to engage in something that is traumatic would be a very insensitive thing to do in the context of what you describe.

PissedOffNeighbour22 Thu 23-Sep-21 00:23:17

You're probably going to have to leave your parents out of it.

We've been trying to research my DP's family tree and his mum is incredibly secretive. Turns out there's no birth record for her so she's lying about something. Seems we don't even know her real name.

My own family have been less than helpful. All I really knew was that my great gran was adopted. After tracing the records, no she wasn't!

PastMyBestBeforeDate Thu 23-Sep-21 00:23:24

Fair enough to do your research but don't involve your living relatives without their active consent.

EmeraldShamrock Thu 23-Sep-21 00:26:33

Do it privately if you must.
I personally wouldn't if it caused upset for my parents.

HeddaGarbled Thu 23-Sep-21 00:27:30

Being adopted (and therefore given up by or taken away from her birth mother) and children removed from parents (abuse, maybe?), are much, much more than “awkward”. Traumatising, I’d say, and could go a long way to explain both your parents’ difficulties with dealing with conflict.

But, hey, wade in with your size sevens trampling all over their traumas because you’ve got “rights”, why don’t you?

belfastlass Thu 23-Sep-21 00:42:12

I should clarify:
. the possible custody issue was with my father's grandparents, not his own parents, so traumatic yes but not directly affecting him
. My mother's adoption records she ordered herself a few years ago. I'm not sure why she ordered them and then just let then just let them gather dust.
. I have been conducting this as a personal project. I only informed my parents as I thought they might wish to know some of the things I found out, however as they seemingly don't then I will carry on my research but just not inform them.

Also, I can see the point of people here calling me selfish. However by this logic, to research this further I will have to wait until my parents are dead, by which time any possible relatives will likely also be dead even if I can find them by that point, and I will be very old myself.

As stated, this is my family story too, and yes I do have a 'right' to know. I didn't ask to be born, and not into a family with such a messy background. The fact that my parents have spent their lives ignoring basic truths is their problem not mine, now that I'm an adult.

Frankly this is is a philosophy to life I've grown to absolutely loath - ignore difficult issues, pretend they don't exist, cover for people's psychological maladaptations rather than challenge and improve them, people's feelings trump everything including the truth. It ruined my childhood and teenage years and is a major reason why my family is not very close today, and why I've decided not to have kids myself. This is the basic idea behind psychotherapy - bringing uncomfortable truths into the light for better mental health. Sensitively yes, but knowing that not dealing with an issue will cause far more damage in the long-run than the pain of confronting it in the short-term.

OP’s posts: |
ElizabethTudor Thu 23-Sep-21 00:43:01


I think I'd feel the same as you op. Your family history belongs to you as much as to them. I don't think they have the right to keep it from you.

It’s her mother’s life experience we’re taking about here as an adoptee.
Op’s ‘rights’ don’t even come into it, if her Mother doesn’t want to go down that path. Many adoptees don’t. For obvious reasons.

Likewise her Father probably doesn’t want to reopen painful memories regarding his parents. His parents. One step further back for Op.

So yeah, I think Op, you are being selfish here not to step back yourself and think why your parents don’t want to engage with you in this.

jacks11 Thu 23-Sep-21 00:43:31

YABVU and coming across as unpleasant and self-centred.

If your mother does not wish to know more about her biological family- even if you do not understand or agree with her reasons- then you should respect HER decision. You have no right to trample over her wishes and dictate that she must find out more/have contact because you are interested. You have no right to demand this and should recognise that there are probably a myriad of reasons why your mum might not want to look into it further. Not every adopted person want to have contact with their biological family or even to know specific details. There is no right or wrong on this one- it’s a very personal decision for each adoptee and it is very wrong of you to have acted as you have. I can’t believe you genuinely cannot fathom why your mum might not want to know more- I feel sorry for your mum on this one. You criticise your dad for sulking until he gets what he wants- it appears, based on this at least, that you are just as determined to get your own way by riding roughshod over your mother’s feelings and wishes. Not to dissimilar, I think.

If you have found relatives and want to be in contact with them, you are free to do so but for goodness sake respect your mother’s expressed wishes and leave her out of it! You can have contact, get to know them and so on without including her in it all. That’s between you and them.

As for your father’s history- again, do you really have no idea why your dad might not wish to trawl over something that might be painful or uncomfortable for him? You don’t know why his grandparents lost custody of his parent and their siblings, nor what effect that had on your grandparent, or on your father and his childhood. Has it really not occurred to you that he may not want to talk about it because it is upsetting? Or because of the stigma that surrounded such things in those time, and even now- that he may be ashamed (however much he shouldn’t be)?

You don’t have a right to know everything about your parents and their lives just because you WANT to know- they are entitled to privacy. I understand you are interested in your family history, but you can’t expect people to just dig up the past and painful events at your command because YOU want to know more. If your parents don’t want to talk about something, then let it be- unless it is something truly vital that you know (and that is unlikely). By all means ask other relatives who may be willing to talk about the past and your family history, research using archives etc.

ElizabethTudor Thu 23-Sep-21 00:44:25

X-post there Op re your Father and his parents / grand-parents.
Rest of my post still stands.

whynotwhatknot Thu 23-Sep-21 00:44:58

Knawing away at you? its not your place to get in touch with your mothers birth family if she didnt want to

sorry i think yure out of order

Hamsteronrollerblades Thu 23-Sep-21 00:46:57

Why would you care that your new ‘relatives’ are happy while being so insensitive to your own mother? Oh she just a door mat but still has boundaries enough to make it clear she doesn’t want this? Did your mother say she didn’t want to upset her ‘adoptive mother’ very unusual for adult adoptees who are worried about causing upset to use that term when talking about their mother. Usually it would be respectful and sensitive to follow the lead of the adoptee who already hasn’t been able to have choice in their circumstances. Your choices are selfish and imply a real contempt for your mother.

whynotwhatknot Thu 23-Sep-21 00:47:56

You asked if you were being selfish some of us said yes

you dont think you are so carry on what do we know

Happyfeet1972 Thu 23-Sep-21 00:49:52

You sound extremely selfish. It sounds like it's a hobby to you. I imagine it's actually quite painful for your mum in particular.

DoesHePlayTheFiddle Thu 23-Sep-21 00:50:36

I think all families have some kind of 'messy background'. It's human. Dig around enough and most people can find something worth keeping quiet about.

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