Whether you have a loud family with lots of siblings and cousins or you’re an only child, feeling connected to the people around you is one of life’s joys. Families help shape you as an individual, and they’re always there for you, no matter what. Sure, there are fights, but at the end of the day, it all comes back to one thing: the bond you share.
But what happens when you don’t feel at home in your own family unit? One Minnesota woman in her seventies had always felt like an outsider even among her closest relatives. When she couldn’t take much more of it, she decided to act on her instincts—and it turned her life upside-down.
Denice Juneski of Eagan, Minnesota, always felt out of place—even among her own family. Why did she feel like she was a stranger? She carried these feelings around for years until one day she couldn’t resist: she finally took a DNA test courtesy of 23andMe.com.
Denice told her family that she was taking the test in order to learn more about her health and well-being. But she secretly hoped it would prove that her suspicions about her place in the family were right…
When the results of Denice’s DNA test returned, she was relieved that she was not suffering from any serious illnesses. However, that wasn’t the only thing she discovered. She finally confirmed what she always knew: she didn’t share DNA with anyone in her family!
Denice decided to take the test again just to be sure—and she got the same results. Those who 23andMe listed as her closest relatives were all complete strangers. Though she suspected this, Denice was still in shock. What she didn’t know was that another woman not too far away was going through a journey very similar to her own…
Hammond, Wisconsin, resident Linda Jourdeans never felt right in her own family, either. She tried to shake the feeling for years, but couldn’t quite manage to keep her unease at bay. There were a litany of reasons she felt like the odd person out.
Growing up, Linda (bottom, right) was often ridiculed for being the only member of the family to have red hair. Linda’s mother, a brunette, was the only other one who stood out in a family of blondes, but that wasn’t enough to make Linda feel less alone. She was singled out constantly.
The differences didn’t stop at hair color, either. Linda was athletic, playing sports like softball into her fifties. Everyone else in her family hated sports of all kind. It was just another difference that made Linda feel isolated and alone growing up.
On the surface, these differences weren’t huge, and Linda knew that her family loved her very much. However, she just couldn’t shake the feeling that she didn’t belong. Meanwhile, back in Hammond, Wisconsin, Denice was still dealing with the fallout from own discovery…
It was tough news to process: “Either 23andMe made a mistake, or I was switched at birth,” Denice said. “I was really supposed to be another person.” It was the kind of news you can never be prepared to receive, but that was only the beginning—these two women would soon realize they were connected…
The two women’s paths finally crossed when one of the people listed as Denice’s relative was discovered to be Linda’s niece. When the niece shared the news of her DNA match with her cousin—Linda’s daughter—Linda wondered if she ought to take a DNA test, too.
For years, Linda and her daughter, Michelle, wondered why she didn’t look like the rest of her family. In fact, Michelle once checked her mother’s birth records at City Hall just to be sure!
When Michelle learned that her cousin had found a new relative in Denice, it was all Linda needed to hear to convince her to take her own test. Without knowing where it might lead, Linda sent her DNA sample to 23andMe…
When Linda received her results, it confirmed all of her suspicions. Next to the word “mother” was a name she’d never seen before: Marianne Meyer. This meant a woman named Marianne had sent her DNA for testing through 23andMe and the site had linked mother and daughter. But who was Marianne?
Marianne (below, left) was the woman who raised Denice! Through 23andMe, Linda and Denice made contact and quickly set up a meeting. Both women were eager to try and sort out how the mix-up came to be. The story was almost too much to believe.
It turned out, both Denice and Linda were born at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, on December 19, 1945. They were born only 31 minutes apart and somehow were switched at the hospital. Unfortunately, all of the doctors and nurses at from that day were long gone, and no true record of events existed that could explain the mix-up.
Although the women would never learn how this switch came to be, they didn’t mind at all. In fact, they were grateful to be presented with a whole new family they never expected! For Linda, the discovery was even more touching because the woman who raised her died tragically when Linda was just 17.
Incredibly, Marianne had no idea about the switch that took place at Bethesda Hospital those many years ago. At 99 years of age, Marianne finally got to meet the daughter she gave birth to!
Linda and Denice reacted to their circumstances in the best way possible: with open hearts! The two women, though not related by blood, knew they’d always be linked by their life-altering experience.
The first meeting between Linda and Denice gave them the opportunity to sort though all kinds of memories and discuss all the ways they’d felt like outsiders. That, in itself, was a satisfying conclusion to their story…
After they made their shocking discovery, both women decided to organize a massive family reunion so that their respective families could meet and get to know each other for the very first time!
Can you imagine spending your entire life believing that you belong to one family—only to find out that you, in fact, belong to another one altogether? Thank goodness this story had such a happy ending!
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