Today's thoughts

Category: DIARY OF AN ADOPTEE (Page 1 of 14)

As an adopted child, my thoughts and research.

Diary of an Adoptee: Yellowstone #1519

SPOILER ALERT!!! Move over Game of Thrones, there’s now a new adoptee in the world of streaming. Jamie Dutton is surprised to find out he’s adopted, but we still don’t know how this will ultimately affect his life? Will he meet his birth father? It’s not as if he’ll take over the throne, plus he already lives like a King.  He’s not even a bastard child, like in most television scenarios, although his bio-father served prison time for killing his mother.  Bastards Unite! (See Post #745). Jamie has already killed sister Beth’s chances of having children. How will she react to this news?

My parents thankfully told me I was adopted at a very young age. They did not leave it for me to discover by surprise later in life. This was Jamie’s shocking news as went through the legal process of confirming his identity for the position of Montana Attorney General. It apparently never surfaced when he applied for Harvard or received his law degree.  It also never occurred to Kevin Costner’s character, John Dutton, that this information might be important to his “son.” It’s sad that he had to find out from a records clerk, then forced to confront his “father” about why the truth was hidden from him? As a fellow adoptee, I find this particularly disturbing!

I suppose everyone dreams they have a secret identity that they will someday discover. By the same token, there are justifiable reasons for adoption and even abortion. I’m grateful that my birth mother did not choose to end my life before it started. I’m thankful that my loving parents took me in as their own, and gave me everything that I could possibly want. However, I often naturally wonder what life would have been like if I hadn’t been adopted? How would the story of my life have changed? 

I’m sure that Jamie Dutton, born  James Michael Randall, eventually reflects on how his life might have been different if his mother would have lived. Instead, he lived a life of privilege on a massive Montana ranch with no knowledge of his past. Unlike Jamie, I never had to question the love of my adopted parents. They stood by me in good times and bad, so I could have never possibly received greater love. My birth mother apparently doesn’t even want to reacquaint with me. The birth father passed many years ago, but I at least have contact with his children. It also appears that Jamie has at least one sibling, adding a little more drama to the series.

I’m glad my life is not a television soap opera. Stay Tuned!


Diary of an Adoptee: Gingko #1491

Fourteen years ago, when my parents were both still alive, the family gathered at a neighborhood park and planted two small trees, including a red maple and a ginkgo. Appropriately, the ginkgo was one of my dad’s favorites, plus he grew up on Maple Street. My sister and I were both adopted by them and had families of our own when the ceremonial planting took place. Since that time the maple has been replaced several times, but the gingko continues to survive. It turns a golden color this time of year. At it’s base, we buried a time capsule that included this poem: 

The Family Tree

May it grow tall,
Roots big and strong.
Branches of love,
Sprout many years long.

Shade in the summer,
Color each fall.
New leaves come spring,
For enjoyment by all.

Where birds will nest,
And squirrels will play.
This truly is,
A magical day.

Only we know it’s special,
For you Mom and Dad.
For all you have given us,
For the good lives we’ve had.

We stand here together,
With the love we all share.
And planting this Ginkgo,
Is a family affair.

The root of our being,
Your marriage has sewn.
From your guidance and love,
Our families have grown.

October 28, 2006
Ginkgo Tree planted especially for Burt
And Cathy Johnston

Copyright 2006

I spoke with my sister yesterday and reminded her of the time capsule and the anniversary of the planting. Her kids were there when we added the contents, but neither of us can remember what was included. She doesn’t live too far from the park, so I’m hoping she can get her kids together and dig it up, maybe add more things before replacing it in its rightful spot. Our parents, Burt and Cathy, both died in 2014, eight years after the tree was planted. There’s a photo that I will dig out for next year’s anniversary. 

I’ve since discovered the identity of my birth parents, so I spend a lot of time with my Ancestry family tree, searching for clues about my existence and genetic ties. However, it’s not nearly as meaningful as this living monument to the people that loved and raised me. I honor them today with this memory of our lives together. Miss you, Mom and Dad!


Diary of an Adoptee: y-DNA Matches #1461

As I continue to work on Ban(n)ister World, I gain a greater appreciation for those involved in the study of genealogy. makes it easy for anyone to build a family tree, utilizing the extensive research of others. There are very few people who still comb through public records or visit graveyards or libraries anymore. We rely on others to do the dirty work, while there’s little proof that their research is accurate. Over time, I’ve learned of those I can rely on when it comes to family heritage. I’m fortunate to have a few contacts that occasionally question or challenge my entries. 

My tree is probably out of hand, as I continue to search for DNA matches. It’s the most reliable way of tracking relatives, but becomes a slow and tedious process. There are currently over 46,000 matches that I have through Ancestry alone. I also have tested through 23andMe and Family Tree, adding to this total. I’m certainly not a scientist, but little by little I’m learning some of the intricacies of genetic data passed along from generation to generation. I think it’s fascinating to explore each match and attempt to find a common tree connection. Just yesterday, I reached the 500-mark in identifying these particular relatives. I’ve had to add nearly 30,000 people to my tree just to find them. One of every sixty names on the Jerry Banister Family Tree is labeled with a green DNA Match. Most are on the lower branches with testing services limited to the current, living generation. Only y-DNA can track paternal links through the ages. 

With regard to y-DNA, I’m technically connected through my birth father, Cecil Ralph Banister, to these Ban(n)ister relatives:

– Donald Ray Bannister to Edward Wesley Banister    1819-1912.

– Alan Banister to James Banister

– William Neill Bannister to William Lawrence                Bannister 1833-1898

– George Huntington Bannister to James Allen   Bannister 1848-1889

– Sandra Bannister-Knox to James C. Bannister born 1820

– Paul D. Banister to Burrel Banister born 1779

There are other y-DNA relatives that come into play, but at lower marker levels, including Ronald William Forbes, Douglas C. Koch, Jose Manuel Hoyos Vazquez, Pedro Collazo Ornes, Eric Gregory Forbes, Garfield Kevin Hood, Bruce Edward Banister, Barry C. Bannister, James A Sproul, John S Sproule, and Michael Patrick Bannister. Some of these I’ve been in touch with, identified on my tree, or have no idea of the connection yet. Laborn, Laban, Jarret, Burrel, Thomas, and Balaam are the principal Ban(n)ister forefathers that link us to each other, but family genealogists have not been able to clarify how they and we are all related. It’s a fascinating real-life mystery that may never be solved. Accurate records weren’t maintained back then and DNA technology did not exist. Notes were written on the cover pages of family Bibles that have long ago deteriorated. 

I will continue my quest for answers, made more difficult through my limited contact with Ban(n)ister family members through the years. As an adopted member of the clan, I’ve never had any association with my birth parents. The mother is still alive but unreceptive. I’ve always been on the outside looking in, with only a few cousins and half-siblings willing to accept my short-lived association with the Ban(n)ister name. I often wonder why I spend so much time searching for answers? 







Diary of an Adoptee: Separation #1443

Today is September 11th. I think we all know what that means. It was an unforgettable day of horror, as the Twin Towers, that many of us New York City tourists once stood upon, crashed to the ground. There were of course other atrocities committed in conjunction with this act of terrorism. It goes without saying that many lives were lost and most of our lives were changed.

I remember that day 19 years ago like it was just yesterday, but I recently discovered from adoption records that September 11th was also the day I was separated from my birth mother 69 years ago. Naturally, I don’t remember any of the circumstances, but it was a day that had a profound influence on my life. The decision was made to move in different directions. Probably with good reason, she could not raise me as her own, and it became the adoption agency’s responsibility to find me a home. It turned out to have a happy ending for me.

About a month later, I had found the two people I will forever call “Mom and Dad.” They raised me as their own and gave me all the tools of life to succeed. On September 17th, six years ago, I lost my Mom, and a month later my Dad died. My birth mother, on the other hand, had four more kids that she raised after our separation. Two of them apparently died in the prime of their lives to a deadly disease. The other two were from different fathers, while their mother and my “bio-mom” is now 87. There has been no acknowledgement from any of them regarding my existence. I’m surprised they aren’t responsive or curious, but I’m not angry. Separation is to be respected. 

I’ve recently been reunited and in regular contact with a half-sister on my birth father’s side. This came about through DNA testing. It’s slowly becoming a close relationship, and makes me wonder if I should try harder to connect with my birth mother’s kids? In all, I’ve had ten half-siblings through my birth parents, but three have sadly died. I’ve met four of my bio-father’s offspring and will probably meet the fifth once we move to Florida. The one I stay in touch with, including a recent lunch, has become the clear “favorite.” However, I also have an adopted sister that I grew up with that might be offended if I start to determine any favorites. 

On a card I received for my recent birthday, it notes, “Here’s to Your Awesome Existence.” It is indeed awesome to consider how far I’ve come in these past 70 years of life. I’ve lost family and I’ve found new ones. Separation gave me opportunity, and I hope to continue to take advantage of the circumstances. I’d just like to say, “thanks for giving me life in the first place.”

Retirement is not without Hassles: Coast-to-Coast Day 13 Post #1432

The Coast-to-Coast adventure is gradually coming to an end. We’ve entered the third time zone and finally in  the home stretch with only ten state licence plates yet to find. There have been limited issues, as we settle into Mother Marriott’s arms tonight. We’ve now covered the gambit of Marriott properties from Ritz-Carlton to Fairfield Inn & Suites. We did have a near-casualty, trying to dodge a semi’s shredded tire that left only a few removable black rubber marks on the newly restored Lexus sports-car body. Also, some disturbing news from both my son and my wife’s daughter ended the day. 

A bottle of wine soothed my nerves. We started with an 18-pack, while most went along as gifts. Two Oregon wines went to my half/bio/from another mother-sister. I’m not sure which is the preferred term? Nonetheless, we shared some “throwed rolls” yesterday and talked about the man we have in common. I will never meet him, while she grew up with him. Apparently, he was a pretty tough father that raised five girls and a boy. His favorite saying was, “you can’t win with kids.” He was selfish, competitive, and ultimately took his own life. I would now describe him as the polar opposite of the man I got to call “dad” – the man who adopted me. They both did have explosive tempers, but I would choose the life I’ve led over what could have been.

My half-sister was raised in a small Indiana town, not too far from John Cougar Mellencamp’s Seymour. She remembered picking beans & blackberries in the family’s massive garden, playing croquet in the yard, billiards in the basement, and sitting down to meals for eight. Her dad was quite the games-man; good at just about any sport, including semi-pro shuffleboard in retirement. He built a nine-sided cabin next door to their home that eventually served as their residence and loved to hunt. 

If he had married my birth mother instead of his wife of 60-years, this half-sister would not exist, and I would have lived a rural life of sports, hunting, and manly trades, instead of my country club upbringing. My father didn’t own any tools, couldn’t teach me sports because he was left-handed, and despised the outdoors, especially after living in a tent during the war. He did encourage me to enjoy sports, get an education, and work with my mind, not my hands. If circumstances had been different, I would be a completely different person. 

I’m appreciative of the life I do live, especially now that I’m comfortably retired. I owe it all to my adopted parents, who raised me as their own and provided the resources for success. I’m also grateful for this man I never met who gave me life and for his family that is beginning to accept me as their brother. My half-sisters lost their only brother at an early age in a motorcycle accident. Although, I will never come close to replacing him, I was struck by a comment a friend made as we were eating our Lambert’s lunch yesterday: “I wish I could find a brother that I never knew I had.”

Retirement is not without Hassles: Coast-to-Coast Day 12 #1431

We’re having lunch today at popular Lambert’s Cafe in Foley, Alabama – “home of the throwed rolls.” It was a favorite for both my wife’s and my parents when they wintered at Orange Beach. As it turns out, it was also a special place for my birth father. It seemed only appropriate that me meet with one of his daughters for lunch there, although we’re not sure in these chaotic times if they can throw anything or serve family style as is the custom. It doesn’t matter, I’m looking forward to simply talking face-to-face with my half-sibling for only the second time. 

She works for the University of Alabama and of course a huge football fan. I’m grateful she was willing to make the drive down from Tuscaloosa to join us. The first and last time we met was almost two years ago when we were both back in Indiana. I met her mother and four of the five daughters. They lost a son many years ago. I, of course, was an unknown to all of them until an DNA test proved us to be closely related. My birth mother was apparently a small high school acquaintance, while her husband probably never knew that I existed. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt, although this too doesn’t matter. The fact is that he gave me life 70-years ago. 

He died nine years ago, while the birth mother is now 86. Her side of the family, including a son and daughter, will not acknowledge my existence, so I’m also exceptionally grateful that his daughters have accepted my outreach. I will learn more today as we talk over throwed rolls. With the passing of my adopted mother and the unwelcoming nature of my bio-mom, I guess that Mother Marriott is all I have left. She took care of us last night at the Towneplace Suites, with less glamorous Fairfield Inns for the rest of the trip. It’s sure to be eventful on Day 12 of our Coast-to-Coast adventure from Oregon to Florida. Roll On!


Diary of an Adoptee: More DNA #1411

I received my Y-DNA report from Family Tree this morning, resuming the quest for direct ancestry links. It showed six Ban(n)ister matches including Paul D., Sandra Knox, Donald Ray, Alan, William Neill, and George Huntington. I’ve been in regular contact with Paul Banister, who initially encouraged me to take this test. Working together, hopefully we can identify the missing links in the Ban(n)ister family. It will be interesting to see where this leads. 

This is my third DNA test. I first went to 23andMe that uncovered two second cousins. This got me really fascinated, so I sent an additional saliva sample to Ancestry. I got an even closer match with a half-sister! As a result, The Jerry Banister Family Tree began to have significant meaning. In most cases, it’s filled with ancestors that I’ve never met or never will, but there about a dozen relatives that I’ve connected and communicated with regularly. It’s like finding a whole new family – not that I needed one. 

In fact, I feel guilty that I’ve spent more time with this new family than with my adopted relatives. Several are in Indiana, while one lives in Thailand. I do stay in touch with my sister every week, but haven’t seen her or her kids in two years. Facebook has kept me in the lives of those cousins that were a key part of my youth. Only weddings and funerals have brought us together, but not in the last ten years. Distance back home from Austin and Portland have limited family get-together opportunities. Trips to Indianapolis to visit my wife’s family have had me focused on DNA matches in that area, without time to drive a hundred miles north. I’ll meet with my top DNA match, my birth father’s daughter, on the soon to be drive to Florida.

I’m waiting for a response from Paul Banister on this last test. Interestingly, he was not a match on Ancestry but is on Family Tree. He’s probably the most knowledgeable of my Banister connections about family history. We recently lost what many considered to be the guru of family research. She worked closely with Paul on how forefathers like Laban or Laborn and Burrell were connected. There are confusing records that have led to discrepancies on various Ban(n)ister Family trees. As with any mystery, more DNA evidence like mine could help ultimately solve the case. 

Diary of an Adoptee: y-DNA #1382

In these pandemic times, I realize that I haven’t written much about my quest for DNA relatives. I have in fact submitted a third swab test through Family Tree that should provide more details on the paternal side of my family. Without getting too technical, there are three main types of DNA tests on the market: y-chromosome (or y-DNA male), mitochondrial (or mtDNA female), and autosomal (non-sex). Males have one Y chromosome and one X chromosome, while females have two X chromosomes. Y is the paternal connection and therefore my y-DNA test will follow the male Banister lineage. 

Genetic scientists have found that the specific quality of y-DNA that makes it so attractive is its faithfulness in passing down its record generation after generation, without fail, without changing, from one man to the next. That means that any living male today has the same (or very similar) y-DNA as every male in his direct paternal line, back 8, 10, 12+ generations.” In other words, my y-DNA will be the same as my father, grandfather, and great grandfathers. 

According to these same experts, “One of the best applications of y-DNA testing comes when trying to disentangle the relationships of various men living in close proximity with other men of the same or similar surname. Having descendants of these men test their y-DNA is like traveling back in time and conducting personal interviews of each of these men.” In my case, I’ve never met any of these Banisters, so it will be my first “conversation” with the dead. The line includes Cecil Ralph Banister (1931-2011), Arlie Adam Banister (1904-1992), Charles B. Banister (1875-1940), David Banister, Sr. (1837-1918), and Laborn Banister (1801-1885). This is as far back as we can accurately trace my ancestry, since beyond that are a confusing line of William Banisters.

Our ancestors weren’t very creative when it came to names. It was not uncommon to have multiple Williams in the same family. Nicknames like Senior, Junior, Bill, Billy, Will, Willie, and initials were used to distinguish them in life, but their records and tombstones all used the formal surname William. What was originally an endearing tribute to the father have modern day genealogists scratching their heads in confusion. To add to the uncertainty, there was an extra “n” in the spelling of some of their last names. This y-DNA test will be my contribution to help solve this mystery, along with the data of ten other Ban(n)ister relatives. y-Not?


Diary of an Adoptee: Burt Day #1360

Over the course of the past three years, through  studying genealogy, I’ve learned that my life is a symphony of relationships. Although there are thousands of people that made me who I am today, I’ve really only known six of them. To be more specific, there’s my parents and their parents that have impacted my life. However, as an adoptee, there are also the genetic influences of my birth parents, whom I’ve never met. This divides my family tree into two distinct branches. 

When I really think about it, my life was created in a short-term relationship, maybe one night, and stabilized by a 68-year marriage. Adoption was the fortunate course for me. Thankfully, Burt and his wife Cathy entered the picture. They could not have children of their own and I was available. This made me fortunate in many ways:

– I could have been aborted

– I could have been illegally sold

– I could have been born with a disability and         unwanted.

– I could have been placed in the wrong home

– I could have never found a family

It couldn’t have turned out better, as if I was actually involved in the decision. They raised me as their own, and I eventually became a father myself. My wife at the time and I never had to make the  difficult decision of adoption. It takes special people to raise what might be considered another couple’s mistake. The bastard stigma! I’d like to say that we found each other, but they did all the work and I simply claimed the benefits. 

They gave me a church upbringing, good neighborhoods to grown up in, family stability, and a college education. It made me who I am today. It also makes me grateful that I got the chance to live with loving, caring parents. This is why I want to celebrate Burt on Father’s Day. He’s the only man in the world I can call “Dad.” However, there’s his dad, and his dad’s dad, and generations of dads before that somehow shaped my life. Then, there’s the DNA of my birth father and his family that comes into play. I recognize his contribution to my appearance, health, and behavior. It’s all part of that symphony of life that makes me unique. Much Love, Burt!



Diary of an Adoptee: Many Mothers #1317

Mother’s Day is a time of reflection for me, as I think about the strong women that shaped my life. I’ll start with my one and only “Mom,” that took me into her arms at two-months old and raised me to be a man. Fond memories include her microwave cooking skills, birthday parties, bridge club, stamp collecting, photography, puzzles, miniatures, sunsets, and cheesy chicken. Her mother, Grace, was also a big factor in my upbringing, from Elwood to Corey Lake to Englewood, Florida. She gave my mom a great sense of humor that reflected in my personality, as well.

We just recently put to rest one of my mother’s last living relatives at age 92, and a fellow member of “Mom’s Club.” She was also the connection to my dad’s mother with ties to Simonton Lake, Cook’s Ranch, and Ox Bow Park annual family reunions. Facebook sadly now seems to be the only glue holding all of us cousins together. as they raise families of their own. These second and third generation mothers are spread all over the country, including Florida, New York, California, Wisconsin, Indiana, Washington, Oregon, California, and the Carolinas. Many of them I haven’t seen in years and would probably not recognize. 

Considering divorce, re-marriage, and other child-bearing relationships, within the Johnston family hodge podge of motherhood are my 45-year old son’s mother; plus, the now-married mother of his oldest son, who also has a daughter; and his wife of 10-years, the mother of his other two children. In addition, my current wife of 19-years is the mother of two daughters. This may appear complicated, but nonetheless some of the many mothers that I honor today, from a distance.  

My adopted sister is the mother of a daughter with two kids from different husbands. She also has a son with three children and two step-kids. I mention all this because most modern families are mixed, so the responsibilities of being a mother are even more challenging. We’re all one big happy family, regardless of the circumstances!

Everyone has a mom, and some have step-moms, while I have a bio-mom. It sounds very cold and impersonal, but we’ve never had a relationship beyond the womb. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t be writing this without her. She gave me life then passed the baton to “mom,” who gave me the rest. The woman who brought me into the world had four more children, two of which have sadly since passed. She’s now 87 years old and we’ll probably never meet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t wish her a “Happy Mother’s Day,” along with all the other mothers that have been part of my thankful, happy life. 

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