David Wrate


I always knew I was adopted. My adoptive parents used to say, “When we got David” as compared to “When David was born.” I suppose that’s what parents say when they aren’t the birth parents.

I was adopted into a family of three; two biological children and another adopted girl. We lived in Southern Alberta in Canada and attended a small country school for grades 1 – 6. My adopted sister is Indigenous. Together we suffered no small amount of racism. From taunts on the long bus ride to and from school, to jeers in the schoolyard, we got it all.

At the time I was completely confused by the abuse because by my reckoning I was exactly the same as my classmates. At home, there were discussions about “what is David,’ like I was an archeological discovery. My birth records were somewhat vague about ethnicity. The father listed on my birth was blonde and blue-eyed. I have dark brown eyes and hair. Spoiler alert – he was not my father.

Alberta adoption records were sealed though a passive search was available. I registered for the passive search hoping that perhaps my mother would also be looking for me. I was constantly looking at people and wondering if I was related to them. I was always looking for someone who looked like me.

Years went by with no response to the passive search. Eventually, Alberta opened its adoption records and released non-identifying records to anyone who wanted them. Naturally I requested my records. I learned that I had uncles and aunts and that my mom was from rural Saskatchewan. They included medical records that echoed what my family had wondered; the doctors and nurses speculated that perhaps I was “Oriental (sic).” Eventually, they also opened up identifying information which I eagerly requested.

With my newfound information, I began looking for my mother. By chance, I happened on a Facebook group that focused on searching for Canadian adoptees. I entered what little information I had and pressed send. Not thinking anything would happen, I carried on with life.

A number of weeks later I got a message from a lady saying she had taken on my search and she had found my maternal family. Being from a small Saskatchewan town and having a Scottish last name made it pretty easy. Fast forward and I found my birth sister, brother aunts, uncles, and a whole raft of nieces and nephews, who all welcomed me with open arms. Sadly, our mom had passed away years before, so I never got to meet her. Mom also didn’t tell anyone about me. No one knew I existed nor anything about who my father might be other than it was not mom’s husband. There was one aunt who was rumored to know something.

Having sorted out one side, I took a DNA test to see if I could find my father. I anxiously awaited my results. After a couple of false starts with an insufficient sample and a lost test, I finally got my results. A nearly equal mix of Chinese and Scottish. After 40 odd years of wondering, I had the answer to “what is David” and the racism finally made sense.

Finding my father would be like finding a proverbial needle in the stack of needles. I loaded my DNA into every database I could find. Fourth or fifth cousin was the best I could do. Without much corroborating information, those matches were too far down the family tree to be much help. I threw caution to the wind and emailed my aunt to tell her my newfound information. Shocking no one more than myself she wrote back and gave me details that became the seeds of my search.

After I was conceived my mom left her job and basically vanished. I know my father was looking for her because he had called and even visited my aunt wondering where my mom was but at the time she didn’t know. Had she known, my life may have taken a completely different turn.

My mom and my dad worked at a university, she was a ‘steno’, he ran the print shop so presumably, that’s how they met. My partner is a university-trained researcher and I have my black belt in Google-fu. With the information from my aunt, we poured over business directories from the appropriate time period and within a couple of hours, I found my father’s name in black and white: Wailun (William) Quan. With his name, it was fairly easy to track down my family. I made some phone calls and hit the jackpot with my paternal sister. I also found a brother from my father’s first marriage. Amazingly, they had never known each other existed.

My sister was shocked to say the least and wondered if I was scamming her to get information. The more we talked, the more she was convinced that I was indeed her brother. She agreed to take a DNA test and the results confirmed that we were half-siblings. Fast forward to the summer of 2019 when we all met at my brother’s home. In attendance was my dad’s cousin who recalled hearing my father talking about my mom. I strongly believe that my father didn’t know that I existed and that if he did he would, he would’ve loved to have known me.

There are no experiences in my life that equal the emotions of walking into a room and seeing people who look like me. At long last my search was over, and a new journey began.