A Limb of Your
The Story of an Adopted Twin's
Search for Her Roots
by Doris D. Smith, Ph.D.
Exposition Press, 1984
Reviewed by Barbara
the fact that this book is more than 20 years old might cause some to bypass
reading it, that might be a loss. One of the advantages of the O.I. Lending
Library, of which this book is a part, is that it can allow one to read books
of historical value.
Smith tells the story of her and her twin brother,
David, who were adopted together in infancy (though not at birth) in 1934
by a loving and affirming couple. When David died of a kidney disease in
1970, Smith was prompted to search for her birth family to find medical
Smiths determination to find answers
in her own medical history was also fueled by her own sons sudden illness
in 1973, which was initially dismissed by their doctor as migraine headaches
attributable to Smiths husbands side of the family. Unsatisfied
with this simplistic diagnosis, Smith decided that she needed to know if
her brothers kidney condition was something genetic.
Smiths book is a product of its time,
employing now-outdated terminology, such as natural parents instead
of birth parents, so one must keep this in mind when reading
A Limb of Your Tree.
Initially, Smith had very little information.
Before she died, her adoptive mother had told her that she had been told
that Doris and Davids mother was a teacher, and that their father some
sort of a businessman. She also knew they were born in North Carolina, where
they grew up, and assumed they had been born close by and placed by the
Childrens Home Society.
Smith anticipated the search might not be too
difficult, but she did not expect the roadblocks and lack of cooperation
she encountered, or the length of time and amount of money it would take
to finally find her birth family, nor the personal stress she would
Smith tells her story in a pretty straightforward,
narrative fashion. She does express her particular religious views, which
were helpful to her as she searched for her family.
One striking aspect is that she talks about
how the stress of the search led to her compulsive overeating, to the extent
that, at one point, it even began to threaten her own health.
Starting out with no information in the 1970s,
at a time when search and reunion was not well organized, and the American
Adoption Congress (and Operation Identity) were only in the beginning stages
of their existence, Smith nevertheless became quite adept at networking and
ferreting out information.
Eventually, she found her birth mother, who
was by then in her 70s. They spoke by telephone and corresponded for some
time, but her birth mother was still afraid to tell her husband and other
children of Doris and Davids existence.
Smith was living in California at that time,
and her birth family (and adoptive father) were still in North Carolina.
Eventually, she made a trip back there, met her birth mother (posing as a
genealogist), and found her deceased birth fathers family, including
several siblings, who welcomed her right away. She talks of finally feeling
like a whole person.
At the conclusion, I wondered what has happened
to this woman since 1981, when she completed her search. Did she continue
to have a happy relationship with her birth mother and birth fathers
family? Did her birth mother ever tell her husband and other offspring? How
is Doris herself doing?
A self-published book (Exposition Press, a
now-defunct subsidy, or vanity, publisher, would bring a book
to market under its imprint at the sole cost of the author; a means of publishing
that, with the advent of electronic publishing and print-on-demand technology,
is even more prevalent now than then), A Limb of Your Tree did not
gain wide recognition, but the story is nevertheless compelling and
The most amazing thing is that, even after
nearly 30 years since Smith began her inquiry, people still have difficulty
searching; still expend enormous amounts of time, energy, and sometimes money
in trying to find their family members; and are still often lied to, or just
refused information about themselves and their lost family members.
Even with the Internet, many support groups
(but fewer than there was even only ten years ago), and open records in a
few states, search is still not easy for most people. Smiths persistence
is what finally paid off for her, and thats still necessary in most
This book is still relevant. If you havent
read it, remember that it is available in the O.I. lending library.
Editors Note: This book has appeared
twice since 1984: as A Daughters Return to Her Roots: An Adopted
Twins Search in 1997, and as Out of My Arms, But Never Out of
My Heart in 2002, the latter of which may still be purchased via
Excerpted from the October 2008
edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 2008 Operation Identity