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This is how my life changed when I found my biological family

To: Anyone who wants to know where they came from

From: Dennis Franczak (As told to Lauren Brill)

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To Those Who Want To Know Where They Came From,

Never in my life did I long for a family. I have always had a loving and wonderful family. But I did have this sense that this one thing made me slightly different and I wanted to find out. It was a hole inside of me that needed to be filled. 

At a very young age, about two or three years old, my parents told me that I was adopted. They gave me a coloring book that explained adoption through pictures. It even gave me a space to share my feelings. My parents told me that my birth parents cared about me and put me up for adoption because they wanted the best for me. 

Dennis (top right) with the family that raised him.

At first, I didn’t think much of it. While we didn’t have a lot of money, I had a very nice childhood. We lived in a small town, Holland, New York, outside of Buffalo. My dad was a school teacher and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. While they spent seven years trying to conceive, after they adopted me, they ended up having four children back-to-back. I joke that I scared my mother into fertility. All of us received a lot of love and support. 

As I got older, I got a scholarship to go to college and eventually, I got married and had kids of my own. My desire to know more about my genetics came when I had my children. For myself and my kids, I wanted to make sure medically there were no ticking time bombs. I wanted to make sure there were no genetic diseases that would come upon my children or me. But also, a part of me just simply wanted to know. 

For many years the legal system got in my way. Adopted children have two birth certificates. They have the pre-adoption birth certificate and then they’re issued a post-adoption birth certificate, which has the name and information of the adoption family. In New York, for many years, legally, I could not get access to my pre-adoption birth certificate. But in 2019, they changed the law, and after more than a decade of feeling this strong desire to know, I finally had an avenue to find more information. 

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At first, my family kept asking why I needed to find my biological family. But over time, they started to understand and they even helped me in the process. It became a mystery we were all going to solve together. 

Once the law passed, my sister told me to send a letter to New York State requesting my pre-adoption birth certificate. Two months later, I received my pre-adoption birth certificate in the mail with my original name, Andrew Martin. It also had my mother’s information. As it turned out, my sister knew who I believed was my birth mother’s nephew. So, I reached out to him, showed him the birth certificate and soon after, he told me that his father wanted to talk to me. His father was my uncle – my birth mother’s brother.  

While my birth uncle knew his sister got pregnant in nursing school, he was in Vietnam at the time and he never knew what happened to me, the baby. He told me they grew up in a very strict Irish-Catholic family. After I was born, they never spoke of the pregnancy. My birth mom got married, had two sons and became a beloved and well-respected nurse in Auburn, New York. Ironically, she remarried and her stepson was a friend of mine in college. We could have crossed paths in my dorm without realizing it. I will never know for sure. Unfortunately, my birth mother caught a disease while working as a nurse and passed away in 2000. Although, I did connect with my two half brothers. It was amazing. They were so glad to find somebody they didn’t even know existed. 

Dennis with his half brothers on his mother’s side.

However, no one knew anything about my birth father. Back then, Catholic Charities would not put the father’s name on the birth certificate if the couple was unwed. My wife suggested trying ancestry.com. 

Ancestry.com matched me to a woman they said could be a close relative, such as a sister. I reached out to her, but I didn’t get a response. So, I found her, along with her sibling, on Facebook. Her brother posted a video about their father. When my wife played the video, we couldn’t believe it. He was the spitting image of me. The email of the man who I thought might be my birth father was posted on his son’s Facebook page. So, I wrote him a letter, explaining who my birth mother was and telling him that I believed he and I might be connected. 

Two weeks later, he wrote me back saying, “Dennis, it’s so great to hear from you. I would love to talk to you.”

The next day we spoke for an hour and it turns out it was him. That was my biological father. He told me he and my birth mother were both college students. They dated for a year and then she got pregnant. Knowing they weren’t ready to be parents, they decided to put me up for adoption. After they left the hospital, my birth parents never spoke to each other again. The emotional weight of putting me up for adoption was just too much for them. But my birth father told me he thought about me every day, wondering how I was doing and what happened to me. 

My birth father told me he thought about me every day, wondering how I was doing and what happened to me.

A year after I was born, my birth father married an amazing woman he is still with today. Together, they had two children. While I was excited at the thought of meeting everyone, he asked me to give him some time because his children did not know about me. 

I waited two months and then started to think that this might not happen. Then, over the holidays, my birth father sat his kids down and he told them. The next day, I got a call from my half-brother. He was so excited. My half-sister took a little time to process the situation, but when we finally spoke, we realized that we had a lot in common. 

Also, genetically I have been able to get some answers. They’re a very healthy family and I even have a 99-year-old grandmother. A few weeks ago, at 52 years old, I met my birth father and half-siblings. We met for breakfast in Albany, and it was amazing. We spoke for two hours. 

Finding my biological family has been a long journey that turned out quite well for me. Regularly, I talk to my birth father and my half siblings on both sides. However, merely knowing where I came from has given me a feeling of being whole. 

Your story might turn out very different from mine. However, if you have a strong desire to know where you came from, my advice is always to remember, no matter what you find, family isn’t about the blood in your genes. It’s about the love in your life. 

And I am just grateful and blessed to now have even more of it. 

Dennis Franczak
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