Anthony’s Story: An Adoptee’s Journey to Discover His Past

Posted on April 28, 2021

Anthony Onesto, Chief People Officer at Suzy, was adopted as an infant and shares our belief that every child deserves a permanent home and a loving family. Now on a journey to discover his past, Anthony is telling his story to help raise awareness about adoption and the unique experiences that adoptees face.

I realize not everyone wakes up and asks the question, “who are my parents?” Well, I know who my parents are; it’s my birth parents who are the mystery. You see, I’m adopted. Yep, it took me 48 years to get comfortable saying that I care about being adopted in actuality. I never really gave it much thought. I come from a loving home and have a sister who is also adopted. When I got married and had kids, I still had no thoughts about being adopted. It never really defined me, or at least, I never paid much attention to the fact.

The Onesto family (from left): Frankie, Nicolette, Debbie, Ella and Anthony

When we get older, mortality starts to leak inside our minds. We see friends and family members our age or younger passing away. In some cases, our mortality thrusts into our minds. A friend of mine suddenly died of a heart attack, I began to wonder about my own genetics. He was in good shape, had a wife and three kids, and was a bit over 50 years old. Is it possible that I am prone to heart attacks and should take better care of myself? I didn’t have any data to answer my questions, so I decided I needed to research and find out.

I tried to reach out to my birth mother’s doctor, but he had passed away years ago. Even if he were alive, they would seal birth certificate records for adoptees in New York. It was almost impossible to obtain these records, and my parents had very little information about my family of origin.

On November 14, 2019, everything changed when the state passed legislation allowing adoptees to receive a certified copy of their birth certificate when they turn 18-years-old. This law opened up new, exciting and sometimes daunting paths that they could take.

I requested my birth certificate in early 2020. You can likely guess what happened next. COVID-19. My request to obtain my records was delayed, of course. The world was dealing with graver issues.

While my request to obtain my records was delayed throughout the pandemic, I decided to explore another avenue: an at-home genetic testing kit.

My adoptive father is Italian, and my adoptive mother is Irish/Italian, so growing up, I always identified as Italian and Irish. With a name like Anthony Onesto, it all made sense. But what would I find out when my results came back? What is my ethnic background? Am I Italian, or is that a facade? What would it say about my genetics? Am I prone to any diseases or other health issues? To be honest, I was more nervous about reading those results than the words on my birth certificate.

I spit into the tube, mixed it around, put on the cap and sent it off to the lab. Just a few weeks later, my report was ready. I clicked on the email, downloaded the app and started to explore. It turns out, I am 55.6% Italian and 36.4% Hungarian (Budapest specifically). Hmmm, I think I recall one of the Marvel movie’s characters talking about Budapest, but I didn’t have a clue where it was on a map. There were also smaller percentages of other ethnicities, too. It was fascinating. I’m not Irish after all, but I am happy to continue to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Then, I clicked on “DNA Relatives” reluctantly. At the top of the page was the name of someone I have never met, and underneath his name was the word “brother” with a 50.0% DNA match. Wow. Shocking. A brother that I had no idea existed. I then did what I can only imagine other folks or adoptees have done after getting this information. I searched his name on Facebook. He lives in Long Island. Another piece to the ancestry puzzle coming forward. Looking at the pictures, I can see a resemblance to the man in the mirror. But I’m not ready to connect with him yet.

I wondered, what if he has no idea? Maybe his father is my birth father, but what if he is married? Did he have an affair? Do I want to be the person that disrupts a family dynamic? Too many nuances. I look almost daily to see if he has logged in. Will he reach out to me now that I am likely on his page? What will happen? Who are these folks?

Perfect strangers carry my personal DNA. It’s mind-blowing, period.

The New York State Department of Health recently sent me an email saying that my birth certificate request was approved, and I should receive it within 15 days. That was about a week ago, and I feel like a high school student waiting at the mailbox for his report card, intercepting the data to get a first look.

My next post will be about what happens when I open this letter from the state. Answers to questions about my past and my health can be good, but the insights could be terrifying or lead to more questions.

To be continued.

Anthony was adopted into a loving home as an infant, but thousands of children are waiting to be adopted from foster care in the United States right now. If you are interested in opening your heart as a foster or adoptive parent, download our free step-by-step guide to get started on your journey.

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