Book review: ‘Finding Sisters’

  • “Finding Sisters,” by Rebecca Daniels of Turners Falls. Contributed photo

For the Recorder
Published: 11/15/2021 7:08:27 AM

My nephew Michael, who was adopted at birth, always knew that when he was old enough he could get in touch with his birth mother. He recently did so. She and her other children seem like a lively clan, and the whole process has been fairly easy.

Getting in touch with birth parents isn’t always easy for people who were born before records were opened up to adoptees … or whose adoptions weren’t conventional. For such individuals, DNA testing and genealogy can help.

For most of her life, Rebecca Daniels of Turners Falls, author of “Finding Sisters,” didn’t really care about investigating her genetic family. She was adopted in the late 1940s by parents who gave her lots of love. Her 2019 book, “Keeping the Lights on for Ike,” used archival materials to tell the story of their early marriage with care and affection.

She didn’t know much about her birth mother although she knew when, where, and through what doctor she had been adopted. There was no agency involved.

When a friend decided to get DNA testing and look into her own roots, Daniels decided to go along for the ride. She figured it wouldn’t hurt to know about possible diseases in the family.

In January 2014, she submitted a DNA test and registered with a service that would try to match her with relatives. One of the first relatives she found was one to whom she would become very close, a cousin named Thomas in Sweden.

Thomas was a lucky connection because he was familiar with the ins and outs of both DNA testing and genealogy sites. He became Daniels’ cheerleader, guide and friend.

Over the course of the next few years, a combination of skill, science and just plain luck led Daniels to identify several cousins, two half-sisters, and her birth mother. The search for her father, whom she and her paternal half-sister dubbed “Mr. X,” took quite a bit of time.

Daniels’ birth mother, who was alive but elderly at the time of the search, either couldn’t or wouldn’t give her birth daughter a name for the man with whom she had a brief fling in the summer of 1948. It took more extensive testing and more than one genealogy site for Daniels to unravel the mystery of Mr. X.

Daniels leads the reader through all the twists and turns of her search. Not every possible genetic connection wanted to talk to her or take a DNA test, but in general she appears to have been pleasantly surprised with the openness of her newfound relatives.

She ends the book with a list of references for people wanting to conduct their own research into their roots. She cautions readers that most people in search of relatives don’t end up with the kind of luck and information she found. She makes the search itself sound fascinating, however.

“I’m among the lucky ones who do get to know more about their heritage,” she writes, “though I have to admit that I still don’t feel any sense of biological imperative in my research process; I just love the challenge of solving the puzzle, though it sometimes feels a bit like one of those solid color jigsaw puzzles that has to be solved with no images or color variations to help along the way.”

If you have ever wanted to learn more about family you don’t know … or if you’re just interested in a good jigsaw puzzle/detective story, “Finding Sisters” will inform and entertain you.

Tinky Weisblat is the award-winning author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website,


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