Today's thoughts

Category: DIARY OF AN ADOPTEE (Page 1 of 15)

As an adopted child, my thoughts and research.

Diary of an Adoptee: Irish I was Irish #1630

On St. Patrick’s Day everyone wishes they were Irish and some say that on this day everyone is.

           An Irish wish from the heart of a friend:

 “May good fortune be yours, may your joys never end.”

There’s a little bit of Irish in everyone. According to my DNA, I’m 18% Irish, 10% Scottish, 20% Germanic, and 52% English, but 100% Hoosier. My birthfather’s father had red hair and was named Arlie, while my adoption records describe his son Cecil Banister to be of Irish descent. However, I question the accuracy of this information as reported by a scared teenager, my birthmother.

For years, all that I knew about my heritage was a few paragraphs that made up the Social and Medical Background Information that I was provided with by the agency. The father was listed as “alleged,” although we both had dark eyes and wavy hair, characteristic of the Irish. This document was the very first step in satisfying a curiosity about where I came from. For about thirty years, I thought I was Irish until a DNA test proved otherwise. It shows my Ban(n)ister roots to be in England, so I should probably be drinking green tea rather than green beer today. 

None of the Ban(n)ister family genealogical researchers can establish a documented link beyond Laborn Banister (1801-1885) of Indiana. However, I’m showing DNA connections through Col. John Bannister (1749-1815 of Virginia) and his wife Elizabeth Willis Banister (1754-1832) from Hampshire, England. John’s father William (1707-1779) was also from Hampshire. The earliest Ban(n)ister in this line is John (1650-1692) from Gloucestershire – less than 280 miles from Dublin. This is as close to my Irish wish as I get, as the Jerry Banister Family Tree has yet to span the Celtic Sea

Diary of an Adoptee: More DNA Finds #1611

I have submitted three DNA tests in my quest to find biological matches. In, I’ve 677 such matches (out of 48,267 total) that I’ve been able to make a DNA MATCH connection on the Jerry Ban(n)ister Family Tree. 23andMe has yielded another 43 tree connections out of 1500 possible matches. A couple of these are duplicates with Ancestry. Family Tree gives me nine more Ban(n)isters plus links to the Sproul(e), Forbes, Koch, Vazquez, Ornes, and Hood families. Only Paul, Bruce, and Michael Patrick (all Ban(n)isters) have so far been identified on my tree that now includes 34,252 ancestors. 

The strongest DNA connection I’ve found is half-sister, Julianna Proctor, at 1719 cM across 32 segments. Her niece, Ashley Wilson Fujawa, is next with 1,109 cM across 31 segments. Susan Smith, the daughter of my birthmother’s sister is third at 991/33 and Julianna’s son, Gabe Burkman, is fourth at 894/25. Unidentified Sue Ramsey 654/27 rounds out the last of the First Cousin category. These five matches were all from my Ancestry test. 

The closest matches on 23andMe are 22 segments with Joyce Gourley, Janine Marthai at 17, Marilyn Banister with 12, Deb Vaughn with 9, and Brandon Willard, Marilyn’s son, at 7. These are ranked by percentage related, also positioning them as First Cousins. Those next closest DNA cousins with higher segments on this site include Carolyn Erley (11), Elsa Schneider (10), Derrick Sibley (8) just found today, Martha Napier (8) unknown tree connection, Phillip Legg (8), and Melisa Fales (7) found today.

Ancestry shared segments included Kristina Sampson (20), Telessa Hadley (19), Ada Pershing (15), Terry Bannister (14), Jessy Bramley (13), Cathy Crews (13), Shanda Heubner (13),  Eva Alama (13), Gladys Eichenbary (13), Jenny Bramley (11), Donna Pearcy (11) unknown, and Krista Hale (10). These 23 people, in addition to the other five, would complete my list of nearest biological relatives. 

There’s a lot more evidence of my connections on the birth father’s side from this data, but it’s all a matter of who submits to testing. New results come in every day and I was fortunate to find two new Top 28 connections today. It had been months since a close relative was discovered in my research. There are also too many people that try to remain anonymous on these testing sites by simply submitting initials. Without a name, I can’t find their relationship to me. However, not everyone is as motivated as me to find these family links. I scour through Facebook, Linked-In, obituaries,  old newspapers, on-line reports. It often feels like stalking, but I continue my mission. 


Diary of an Adoptee: Genetic Tid-bits #1588

My “favorite sister,” as she prefers to be called, sent me a number of articles and photos published through the years by of the man we hold in common. Cecil Ralph Banister of Scipio, Indiana is her father and my birthfather that brought us together a few years ago from DNA samples through We’ve gotten together twice and text frequently about sports and common family. He passed many years ago presumably not ever knowing of my existence, so I naturally never got the opportunity to meet him. 

I do look like him in photos, a physical connection that adoptees like myself often never get to experience. I purposely subscribed and submitted to the Ancestry website to learn more about my past, while she was tested as a gift from her son, undoubtedly shocked at the results. Her son was skeptical for bringing me into her life, but I think we’re both glad that he tied us together. Cecil and his wife, Marilyn, who was also likely stunned when I materialized at the Creekside home they built, had four other daughters and a son. She knew my birthmother Edna Faye Banister from high school but never realized there was a relationship. Despite this awkwardness, she was more than warmly receptive to my wife and I during our visit. 

I appreciate any information on my bio-parents that reveal some of the secrets about them. Edna is still alive but has ignored my claims, so I will probably never learn if there was a courtship or simply a brief affair between these two distant cousins. Letters to Edna’s remaining son and daughter have gone unanswered, although I regularly check their Facebook pages, even if it might be considered stalking. There is a strong curiosity about all ten of my step siblings, but a friendly relationship with only one. I’ve briefly met Cecil’s three other daughters, while his son tragically died as a teenager. By the same token, Edna has sadly mourned the loss of two children. 

The first article I received was from May of 1945 recognizing 13-year old Cecil’s perfect attendance in grammar (oddly misspelled with an e) school. He was four years older than Edna while Marilyn is two years younger, so none of them probably shared any classes together although attending mostly the same schools. Next was a story from December of 1952 when Marine Sergeant Banister of North Vernon returned to the states from Korea aboard the transport General William Weigel in time for Christmas. Thank you for your brave service, Cecil! He and Marilyn had been married since October of 1951, just after my arrival in August of that year.

Marilyn and Cecil gave birth to their first daughter according to a newspaper account in January of 1954. Their son was announced in a clipping from 1955. At the end of the year, the paper reported that Cecil’s 1952 Chevrolet was damaged in the rear section to the tune of $100 shortly after 5 p.m. Maybe commuting from work? A second vehicle received $200 front end damage in the accident, leading me to believe that Cecil was not at fault.  Three months later a headline in 1956 showed a second daughter was born. By January of 1957  the couple listed their “6-room house with aluminum storm windows and windows, gas furnace, chicken house, and garden. All well fenced on 1 1/2 acres in Scipio.” This was to accommodate their growing family that soon included “favorite sister” in 1958.

An obituary for Marilyn’s father, Harold Foist, made the 1961 press. He was only 49 but had worked for Cummins Engine in Columbus since 1950, the same year that Cecil started his 35-year career as a machine operator. Cecil and Marilyn’s last daughter was born in 1962 according to a Tribune headline.  A 1963 Republic article recognized Cecil as president of the Scipio slow-pitch softball league. Bill Foist, a cousin, was also one of the organizers, according to the account.  

Cecil was apparently quite the athlete, appearing in numerous stories starting in 1965 with two hits for Building 55 in a 22-18 victory over Drafting as part of the Cummins softball league, and followed that up with three more hits in an 12-2 victory over Personnel. There was also a team photo showing his 6’2″ physique while holding a trophy for winning the Cummins league title. As I look for any genetic  comparison, I played softball for many years in the Media Leagues, although I was two inches shorter. Both of us also played basketball, but he could actually score. The next article mentioned that he had 11-points  for the Gusslers in a 35-32 victory over the Demons. My team would have probably more likely been named the “Guzzlers.” Another report recorded him with 10-points in a 33-31 win over Hatchets. The following year, 1966, he had two hits for Mahan Ford in their win over the Seymour Eagles. In 1967, he made euchre news as a runner-up in the Ceraland Championship. The 1988 Republic reported a hole-in-one on a Par-3 with a pitching wedge, as he proved his skills in golf, a sport where I still don’t excel – so much for genes. 1990 and 1993 kudos include winning Senior honors in both miniature and par-3 golf.

Cecil’s mother, Daisy Branham Banister, died in 1992 as acknowledged in The Columbus Republican, while The Seymour Tribune posted the 2005 obituary of Marilyn’s brother, Ronald Wayne Foist, another long-time Cummins employee. Other Banister-related family news included military honors, marriages, and graduations. The last clipping I was sent was of Cecil’s death in 2001 at age 79. He left behind “six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.” Edna is now approaching 88, so I at least have longevity on my side. I was certainly grateful to get these little Banister tid-bits, as I continue the search surrounding my roots.  



Diary of an Adoptee: One Hundred Years #1587

My parents, who both passed seven years ago, were born one day apart one hundred years ago. Although they are no longer physically here to celebrate, they will always be in my heart and part of my life. If there is a heaven, they would certainly both be there now, given their compassion for and generosity to others. To me, they are saints who made my success in life possible. They could not have children of their own, so they adopted both me and my younger sister to share their lives.

I was brought into their family in October of 1951, two months after I was born. They both lived to be 93, dying just months apart in 2014. They were my caretakers for nearly 63 years, but my dad sadly couldn’t recognize me the last few while my mom was overburdened during this difficult time with his needs. Dementia took its toll on both of them, although only his mind was affected. He went into assisted living while she remained at home. I was too far away to be of much help, so my sister took on the responsibilities for their care. I should have been there for them, as they were always there for me. 

There were a lot of “should-haves” that I managed to ignore, consumed in my remarriage and career. Distance was always my excuse, but they raised me to be independent. I caused a lot of anguish in their lives, especially in my college years. I have my share of regrets, as I think back to living under their roof and the difficult transition into adulthood. They did not deserve the grief that I put them through, but as I’ve learned, this is part of being a loving and forgiving parent. 

I can’t imagine being part of a better family or be given greater opportunities. I drew life’s winning lottery ticket, when the alternatives could have been abortion, foster care, or mismatched adoption. Here I am now leading a comfortable retirement life with grandchildren of my own thanks primarily to them. Happy 100 Mom and Dad with all my love – let them eat angel cake!

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!


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