ADVOCATE. EMPATHETIC. BRAVE.
Let me begin my story at five years old when my mother dropped me off with my paternal “Grandparents” for them to raise me. They obtained custody of me and raised me. Shortly before my 13th birthday, I came across the letter my mother had written to my Grandparents stating she wanted me back and had plans to try to obtain my sister also. I wasn’t aware that I had any siblings at that point, as I was raised as an only child. My grandparents had photocopied their reply letter, and in that letter, they stated that she would be hurting me……. and little Amy.
Being a young girl, I was not very good at putting things back in their original place and it was soon discovered by my Grandparents that I had read these letters. It was then that I was informed of my half-sister on my mother’s side, who was adopted by my maternal uncle and his wife, so now she’s legally my cousin. My mother passed away shortly after this discovery, and I never allowed her to tell her side of the story, maybe if I had, this story may have ended differently. I developed a relationship with Amy, but never a very close one. I continued being raised by my “father’s” family.
Fast forward, I’m 44 years old and I purchased a DNA kit for my significant other. I watched him get his results and I really wanted to try it also. I ordered an Ancestry DNA kit and immediately sent it off and waited for the results. When they came back I was very surprised to discover I was almost 1/2 Norwegian and Swedish. I know for a fact my paternal grandmother’s family came from Germany, but I didn’t have any German.
I called Ancestry DNA and explained that there was a mistake — my DNA must have gotten mixed up. They asked if I knew anyone in the matches and I replied no. Then they had me look for surnames I might know. I found a few of my mother’s and maternal grandmother’s maiden names. The lady then told me that I definitely had the correct DNA profile. I went on with my life like normal, disappointed that with all the hype on DNA, they could screw up someone’s so badly.
About a year passed and I was showing my grandmother my results. She thought it was very interesting and wanted to do one herself, so I ordered one for her, my grandfather, and my father. If nothing else, it was entertaining. My grandparents both tested and sent them in. I linked theirs to my email, as they aren’t very technologically savvy, and waited.
On Father’s Day 2020, I gave my father his test. Later that evening, I heard the familiar ding of my email that grandma’s results were ready. I go to look and found that we are in no way related. My heart sank. And then the fear of just giving my dad a DNA test earlier that day, for none other than Father’s Day, hit me!!!! I called my stepmother and explained the situation and asked her to please hide the test before he could take it. What kind of Father’s day gift would that be when your only child gives you a test stating you are not the father?? While I was still not fully convinced, my grandma’s results were enough to set me down a road of discovery.
It was at this point my search to find where I came from began. I was very excited to start this journey, as I never really fit in. I still had a nagging doubt about whether my DNA was really mine and not someone else’s who probably got my actual DNA. I think something was always missing in my life.
I am much darker complected than the family who raised me. I have such dark brown eyes that they appear black and unable to differentiate the pupil from the iris, while my family is a sea of blue and green eyes. I questioned my eye color while in high school after the subject of eye color came up in Biology class. A story similar to my situation was told and the teacher said “I didn’t have the heart to tell the student that they were the milkman’s baby”. I was told I remembered my mother’s eyes incorrectly and that they were brown (they were blue, I was correct). I still never really thought that I really was the “milkman’s baby”.
I texted my half-sister, from earlier in the story on my maternal side, Amy, and asked if she had heard anything about my dad not being my dad. She replied that she was told about it quite a while back. She said my birth father’s name was Dennis and he was shipped out with the Army before my mother could tell him. She then started dating the man I know as my dad and hurried and married him and led him to believe I was his daughter. She had no other information besides where he was stationed at the time of my conception.
Here I was armed with disturbing knowledge and not even a last name to go off of. I began searching the unfamiliar surnames that were on my Ancestry DNA account. I honestly didn’t even know how to get the ball rolling to find this mystery man. This was not something that came with instructions. I was on my own. After all, I was the only person on earth with such a dilemma, as to not even know who they were.
It’s common knowledge that Facebook listens to your conversations and offers you ads according to those conversations. One day DNANGELS came up on my feed, I had no idea that groups like this even existed. I applied to get help in my search. They said they had a waiting time, but from applying to having my birth father’s name and information in hand, took less than a week (I actually think it was four days). They directed me to support groups to help the emotional side of finding a stranger in my DNA. It’s been so helpful connecting with others in the same boat as I am. My angel, Ammie was awesome! She sent me updates as she found them and even pages written about my great, great grandfather! It took her less than a day to give me my birth father’s name and phone number and to tell me about my siblings! That day I got to see the man’s photo that I came from!
It took me about a week to get the nerve to dial the phone number she gave me. I got no answer but left a message. I then tried the number of my paternal grandmother that Ammie gave me. No answer again, but I left a message. After extensively stalking this man online, I discovered that three short months earlier, he had passed away. I was devastated. Had I jumped on the bandwagon when my DNA first arrived, I would have gotten to meet my father and maybe even built a relationship with him. It was then that I began Facebook research. I found a gentleman who fit in line to be my half-brother. On July 29, 2020, I sent a very long message explaining that I believed we were possible siblings and why I believed this.
It took a while but I received a reply, asking if he and the other two siblings could conference call and speak to me. We set up a time that evening. They called me and I told my story and explained why I thought this and they were very accepting. The eldest brother, James, is very middle of the road, he accepts that I am his sister, but doesn’t want to push. The middle brother, Daniel, is very excited about the whole experience and I speak mostly with him. The youngest sister, Caroline, is in disbelief and pretty much freaked out by the whole situation. I’m sure it didn’t help when she saw my photos on Facebook and she is basically a carbon copy of me. In fact, the eldest brother, James, said that as he was looking at my photos, he had to remind himself that it was me in the pictures and not Caroline.
I still needed further proof that I had found the right family. Daniel had taken a 23andMe test so we both uploaded our DNA to GEDmatch, a DNA database. It too verified we were half-siblings. I still wasn’t 100% satisfied, after all, I originally thought the first test was mixed up. I secretly took a 23andme and waited. When my results arrived and I opened my matches, there was Daniel’s DNA staring me in the face. I messaged him and told him to open his 23andMe, and I told him I was now 100% satisfied that I belonged to them, finally.
On July 21, 2022 I boarded a plane for Richmond, Virginia. A trip of self-discovery, as I call it. As soon as I settled into my hotel, my first meeting was with my middle half-brother, Daniel. We had lunch and talked a bit—there were so many similarities! Here was a stranger, a man I have never met, but he was also so very familiar to me. It’s a strange feeling to sit with someone for the first time and feel connected, that was a new feeling for me.
That evening I went to the eldest brother, James’s home. I have anxiety and I never could have imagined going to a stranger’s home, by myself. Heck, as a girl scout, I had difficulty knocking on doors, selling cookies, and here I was selling a whole lot more. He and his family met me at the door with hugs, welcoming me. Once inside, they had a “It’s a girl” cake for me. Again I felt so comfortable and connected. I got to meet my nieces and nephews and we played games that my biological father enjoyed playing.
I did very well at this meeting until my brother’s wife stated that Dennis was there with us. I agreed, stating how funny it was that I started looking for him so shortly after he had passed. I was positive that he had guided me into my discovery. She then said, “No, I mean he’s on the mantle” I had a wave of emotions come over me. Yes, I knew he had passed away, but the obituary stated his final resting place was in South Dakota. It never occurred to me that he was cremated first. I began crying, which in turn got my niece crying, and before we knew it there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
The rest of the weekend was spent showing me the house they grew up in, the home my mother grew up in, and just spending time together. It was unfortunate that Caroline was unable to attend the meeting, but we are planning another meeting spring of 2023 and we hope she will be able to attend. They gave me a shirt Dennis wore, a book of memories of Dennis, and filled a necklace urn with his ashes. I am more than thankful for how they have welcomed me and shared their father with me. So many stories like mine don’t have the happy ending I did.
I also visited with my half-sister Amy, while I was there. Her situation is similar to mine, she too had an NPE, but her birth father did not want a relationship with her. We looked at photos and talked about the events that led up to the trip. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better trip or family. I know how blessed I am to finally be accepted and feel I belong. I still have so many questions that will never be answered, but I found a piece of me that can help me in the search for myself.