Families keep secrets, but with DNA and genealogical searches, children are uncovering the mysteries their ancestors hid.
A Munroe Falls resident, Barb Baltrinic, 67, was an English teacher for 35 years at Ellet High School and worked seven years at the University of Akron in the College of Education. She has worked three years as an education consultant and written three books.
Baltrinic always wondered why her mother, Dorothy Clark, couldn’t love her. She had given her up for adoption and then reclaimed her, but not for maternal affection. It would take her years to find answers and in her third book, “Maternal Failure,” she shares the journey of her mother’s upbringing, her own horrific childhood, the resulting dysfunctional relationship and the search that unearthed the skeletons buried for so long.
“My mother made choices which would become the secrets she carried to her grave,” Baltrinic said. “I had been born illegitimately, put up for adoption, but at 9 months old I was taken out of the process when my mother married the man who eventually adopted me.”
Even though her mother took her back, she didn’t bond with her, Baltrinic said.
After marrying her husband, Michael, and her two sons, Mike and Mark, were born, Baltrinic began the research to find her two illegitimate brothers and biological father and to understand her mother’s inability to love her.
“After her death in 2000, I pursued uncovering all her secrets,” Baltrinic said.
“Maternal Failure” follows the many dead-ends, shocking revelations, and extraordinary twists and turns Baltrinic faced in her research.
“My mom never gave me the correct info,” Baltrinic said. “I remembered some things she said and put that into my detective work.”
Baltrinic discovered she did not have the only troubled childhood among her family members. Her mother and grandparents suffered from generational dysfunction influenced by poverty that created the inability to love their own children. Dorothy made the wrong choices, and she spent her life hiding them, she added.
“I share the dysfunction and behaviors toward me, the physical and emotional abuse in the book,” Baltrinic said. “I came to learn she [Dorothy] couldn’t love herself. I became her scapegoat for her unhappiness because I was a reminder.”
The cover of the book is a photograph of her mother Batrinic found in a drawer. Dorothy tore the picture apart and then taped it back together.
“I couldn’t figure out why she would tear up such a beautiful picture,” Baltrinic said. “But it’s symbolic of the mother and daughter relationship.”
Baltrinic found her mother’s intake papers [social worker’s notes] when she gave her three illegitimate children up for adoption, including Baltrinic. The attitude at the time toward unwed mothers was negative and both the mother and child were considered mentally deficient by social services, yet Baltrinic and her two brothers she found six years ago are very successful.
“I think my background helped me to become a good teacher for urban schools,” Baltrinic said. “I was a good role model and taught them to reach for what they wanted. Education is your ticket out. I knew that would get me out of where I came from.”
The paper trail answered some questions, but DNA revealed family members she never knew existed.
“It was finally DNA which uncovered the biggest secrets my mother kept hidden,” she said. “This book offers hope to others who seek answers about their adoption, finding bio-parents and bio-families, and using DNA testing to help solve the mystery of their beginnings.”
Baltrinic does not regret her search.
“My life is now incredibly rich with the answers I have found and embraced,” she said. “My search for answers helped me overcome my own feelings of frustration with my mother and her inability to love me. I now believe she did love me, but her many secrets blocked her ability to build a relationship with a daughter who only wanted her love.”
Part of the book is about the search for answers, and Baltrinic hopes others can follow her leads in their own family searches.
“I walk people through the journey of searching and finding family members,” she said.
With the popularity of ancestry shows and the availability of DNA testing, Baltrinic said her book appeals to those searching for long-lost family members. In addition, her book shows how she survived growing up in a dysfunctional home and had a successful life, she said.
Her sons did not know her story until they read her book, which was published in October of 2018.
“Both were appalled by what I went through,” she said. “It gives them a better appreciation for what they have in life.”
Writing the book helped Baltrinic forgive her mother.
“You don’t forget, but I forgave much of what she did and have come to peace with it,” Baltrinic said. “I had to wait [since the book’s publication] to be able to talk about it without getting emotional.”
Book launch set for March 4
Baltrinic will host a book launch at the Tallmadge Library at 6:30 p.m. on March 4 with a book sale and signing prior to and after her presentation from 6 to 7:30 p.m., which is open to the public. The book is also available on Amazon.
Her previous two historical novels, “A Founder For All” and “A Patriot’s Price” are set around the Revolutionary War period.