Adoption—chance encounters with biological family members!

Somewhere in Time | Christopher Reeves“Innocuous chance encounters with biological family members fed my curiosity and strengthened my desire to know something about my genealogy. Over time, I became increasingly introspective about these incidents and wondered why our souls had collided somewhere along life’s trajectory like the actors Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour in the romantic science fiction film Somewhere in Time. A heartbeat away, I had sensed a chemistry, a beautiful and powerful emotion that connects people emotionally, intellectually and romantically. If you have ever had this feeling, you will know what I am talking about.” —Judith Land, author & adoptee

I wonder how many chance encounters the average adoptee has with biological relatives in their lifetime? Knowing that I was adopted increased my curiosity about my self-identity and triggered the life-long habit of staring at strangers to discern our similarities. I was constantly on the alert for the possibility of a chance encounter with a birth parent, an aunt, a cousin, a sibling or other relative. My focus greatly intensified whenever I was in the presence of a stranger who looked like me, and I naturally gravitated toward adults who were similar in appearance to the birth parents I had never known. If I was told that I looked like another person, I became effusive. “Does she play the violin?” I would ask impulsively, knowing that was the only bit of information I had ever been told about my birth mother. 

When we finally reunited later in life, my birth family and I identified at least four occasions when we had unknowingly crossed paths. Remarkably, my beautiful younger sister was the waitress who had served the wedding cake at my wedding reception at North Hills Country Club in Milwaukee. When I was fourteen I worked in a bakery. I wore a little black nylon dress with a white lacy hat and apron. My favorite customer was a friendly Italian lady (my aunt) with a big smile. She often remarked that I looked like her niece (my sister). Another aunt lived in our neighborhood and was friends with my adopted mother. My brother played in a band with my adopted cousin. My birth father owned an Italian restaurant. He was the pleasant gentleman with the big smile who sold my adopted mother and I a pizza one day. I said hello to a mysterious stranger (my birth sister) in the grocery store after my adopted mother remarked that we looked related.

Without knowing why, for a fleeting glance, the blink of an eye, whether by coincidence, destiny, fate or kismet, I had connected with my family in lucky, fortunate, fortuitous ways that produced positive serendipitous outcomes. Was I influenced by the halo effect based on a cognitive bias toward idealized visions of my ancestors that influenced my judgement because I found them attractive? I will never know if these events happened by coincidence, happenstance or significance. I wondered if chance encounters are like the radiant emission of particles guided along a magnetic line of force like the aurora borealis, or if these events were astrologic convergences where two bodies pass near each other in the same Zodiac. Or, did they simply occur purely by chance as remarkable occurrences of events without causal connection. Deeply religious individuals may have their own interpretations to share about the reasons and purpose of chance encounters.

Later in life, I wondered what the consequences were of an adoptee accidentally dating a sibling or cousin—a problem that was recently solved in Iceland with the release of the new smartphone app that allows individuals to compare DNA to determine if they are too closely related.

Adoption Detective Book | Judith Land | Adoption FAQ | First Lilac Club

Annahme Geschichte | მიღების ამბავი | elfogadása történet | poveste adoptare

cerita adopsi | sprejetje zgodba | Історія прийняття | гісторыя прыняцця

About Judith Land

Judith Land lives in Colorado and Arizona with husband and coauthor Martin Land. Judith is a former nurse, retail shop owner, college instructor and avid outdoor person. Her book "Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child" is a true story detailing the journey of Judith Romano, foster child and adoptee, as she discovers fragments of her background, and then sets out to solve the mystery as an adult. She has reached readers in 192 countries. "Mothers and fathers everywhere in the world need to understand that children are forever and always." --Judith Land
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15 Responses to Adoption—chance encounters with biological family members!

  1. Those chance encounters were amazing! I suppose if you’re adopted in the same city where your birth parents live this would undoubtedly happen.

  2. Judith Land says:

    This is especially true in small isolated countries with low mobility like Iceland where many individuals are related by birth. I was raised in the city of Milwaukee.

  3. Di Saunders says:

    Amazing story! Must research the DNA thingy.

  4. Amazing stories, loved the chance encounters.

  5. Lara/Trace says:

    It was a huge concern for me when I was a young musician. I’d look out in the crowd and wonder if any of them could have been my relative. I did open my adoption and found out a male cousin used to frequent the bars where I sang – so this could have spelled disaster if we had hooked up!

  6. Lara/Trace says:

    Reblogged this on LARA/TRACE (author) and commented:
    I did leave a comment that I had this concern when I was a young musician. Have you had chance encounters with birth relatives and didn’t know until later?

  7. twohorses54 says:

    I did once many years ago but really can’t remember it. My family member is the one who remembered it and I’m still troubled by it as that member is no longer here

  8. eagoodlife says:

    Not knowingly but I could have. New research shows our mothers and others may carry our cells within them so this happenstance thing may in fact go somewhat deeper than we yet fully understand.

    • Judith Land says:

      It is very mysterious, isn’t it. I have always wondered if early separation intensified my senses. I never professed to know anything about extrasensory perceptions, sixth senses, or paranormal communication but the idea was always lurking in the back of my consciousness. In the deepest recesses of my brain the spiritual essence of my birth mother seemed to be the life force that fueled the beacon of hope that lit my path and gave me the confidence to stay on course to find her. I was driven by an unknown deep and noble instinct much grander than a simple image of her. Despite the great distance between us, thoughts of her haunted me because I was naturally drawn to find her, like an insect to the light. I sensed that her brainwaves were unconsciously transmitting a signal like a lighthouse on a rocky shoal that may have resonated from her dreams when she was sleeping. After I met her, it seemed as if we shared the same intangible thoughts and possessed extraordinary, invisible forms of mental telepathy, generated by an unknown force that spiritually connected us. Whatever the mysterious forces were that compelled me to find her, the result left me with very powerful mind-set and positive thoughts of her. [Ref: Adoption Detective, p. 255]

  9. Since reuniting 7 years ago, my birth mother and I have identified several instances where our paths very nearly crossed! Her husband and I were both in the same profession and worked just miles apart from each other. Several of her friends had my adoptive mother as a teacher in high school. Perhaps the most profound was a wedding I attended as a guest of the bride and later discovered that the groom was a cousin to me! In fact, several aunts were in attendance but of course, I had no idea until much later. In any event, I have learned that the world does indeed get smaller and that 7 degrees of separation thing. . . . more like 2 degrees!

  10. Becky Martin says:

    After reunion, my lost daughter and I realized we had lived in the same town, just a few miles apart when she was 4 – 6 years old. Although unidentified, I’m sure there were times we were in the same mall, grocery store, or church. I always searched the faces of girls I thought were about her age.

    • Judith Land says:

      Becky, Thanks for sharing. I fully understand the motive behind your curiosity, the arousal of your senses, and the powerful emotions evoked by this type of serendipitous encounter. I wonder how many others are familiar with this type of experience and the intuitive feelings of a special connection when in the presence of individuals who look like us. The desire to connect with the lost is a primal unconscious urge. I wonder if we all born with a deep-rooted innate sense of cognition imprinted in our brains that encourages family members to remain together as a unit because their relationship has been proven over the millennia to be an important factor for safety and protection, nourishment, learning critical skills and, ultimately, for the survival of the species. Perhaps, when a parent and child are separated from each other their olfactory, tactile, auditory, and intuitive senses are greatly enhanced and intensified. It is natural for them to continue scanning the faces of strangers who seem intuitively familiar to discern if they are genetically related. Individuals who have never experienced the panicky feelings of separation accompanied by the pangs of lonesomeness when separated from a loved one, a child, or a parent, may never develop this intensified sensory skill, or even recognize this condition in others, that seems to characterize the personality of individuals associated with an adoption. Judith

  11. Jo Swanson says:

    When these siblings were reunited, two of them realized they had had an intimate affair in years past.

    • Judith Land says:

      Jo Swanson, Incest is one of the major risks of closed adoptions. Computer generated pedigrees and reliable family medical histories are becoming more accessible and affordable for the average person every year. Iceland has a tiny population and confusing surnames make knowing who you’re related to impossible. A new Icelandic dating app wants to prevent accidental instances of incest. The app allows users to bump their phones together and instantly find out whether or not they are related. “Bump in the app before you bump in bed,” is the tag line for the new product. Judith

  12. My parents (adoptive) lived 75 miles from where I was born so the chance of ever crossing paths with a member of my biological family was very slim. However, in my search a few years ago for my birth father, I discovered that I had in fact crossed paths with a member of my birth family. An aunt of my birth father’s had married a man who hailed from the same city I was raised in. Many years ago, after the parents of this man had passed away, the family conducted an estate sale. It was at this estate sale, that I encountered my great-aunt. When I walked through the door, at first glance, she said she thought I was her son. We laughed it off and I did share that I was adopted. She joked that she was pretty certain she would remember if she had given up a child. I went on about the sale, said our good-byes when I left and never gave much thought to the event for more than 15+ years later. While researching my birth father’s family, a surname from my hometown entered the picture and slowly the memory of those events came back to me. The great-aunt has no recollection of our chance encounter, as there were many people that attended the sale.

    About a dozen or so years ago, in the city I currently reside in, a couple stopped me on the street and immediately asked the names of my parents. I shared their first names and then asked why they were inquiring. This couple was from out of state and it seems I looked exactly like the son of their close friends. As we stood there and talked, they were even more convinced I was the son of their friends. I did share with them that I was adopted, so I suppose he could be a brother or half-brother. They didn’t think the son was adopted but then they both wondered. Unfortunately, I let the conversation go at that and we said our good byes. I’ve often wondered, was that son adopted and was he my half-brother? I still kick myself for not asking more questions of this couple. I suppose it is possible my birth father had another son who was given up for adoption. If so, he isn’t aware of it though. However, that still does not rule out the possibility – my birth father did not know about me until 40 years after I was born – when my letter arrived in his mailbox.

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