On the football field, NFL coach Deland McCullough has all the answers. The running backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs excels at giving ball carriers the tools they need to out run — and out smart — defenses. But in his personal life, the coach was in the dark about one crucial piece of information.
See, Deland was adopted, but he never asked too many questions about his biological father. However, as time passed and adoption laws changed, the football mastermind finally embarked on a quest for answers — only to uncover information that sent shock waves through his life…
Deland McCullough was born in 1972 to a 16-year-old girl named Carol Briggs. His birth name was Jon, but was changed to Deland after Carol gave him up for adoption to a family who was better suited to care for him. Carol never told Deland’s biological father about their son.
When Deland was six weeks old, a couple from Youngstown, Ohio, welcomed him into their family. At first, life was pleasant, but Deland’s adoptive parents eventually divorced when he was two, leaving him again without a father figure.
Deland’s mother Adelle was determined not to let the demise of her marriage get in the way of Deland living life to the fullest. She encouraged him to get involved with sports and activities after school. There was one sport Deland not only liked, but excelled at…
That sport was football. Football helped him keep his mind off tensions at home, and over the years, he got better and better. By senior year of high school, he was the star running back of the varsity team, and that meant college recruiters took notice of his talent.
One of the recruiters who took a special interest in the young boy was a man named Sherman Smith, a coach at Miami University in Ohio. Sherman was incredibly supportive of Deland, and over time, the two formed a close bond.
After many talks with Sherman, Deland agreed to play for his team at Miami University, which was a huge stepping stone in his career. After a stellar performance at college, Deland was offered a deal every college player dreamed of…
He landed a spot in the NFL on the Cincinnati Bengals! All of his hard work, passion, and drive to be the best finally paid off. Sherman, who he still kept in close touch with, couldn’t have been prouder. However, not long into his new career, tragedy struck…
Deland suffered a horrendous blow to his knee that ended his professional career. He was distraught, but his mentor Sherman was by his side the whole time. Sherman knew just how disastrous it was to have a lucrative NFL career come to a screeching halt.
Within the next few years, Deland got married and had kids. His professional career was behind him, but he still loved football, and he still very much knew how to think the game. So, he eventually found a way to spend time on the gridiron.
He became a teacher and football coach at Harmony Community School in Cincinnati. There, he was able to take the skills he acquired over the years and help young players on their journeys to greatness. Within two decades, he was coaching at the University of Southern California!
Working so hard to mentor young people made him think about his own past. Before too long, Deland developed a burning desire to find out who his real parents were.
In late 2016, Deland began his search for his biological parents. There had recently been a change in state law that allowed for easier access to adoption papers, so he took full advantage. Almost immediately, he discovered his birth name and information about his real mother. So, he reached out to her, slightly nervous about what he’d discover.
Deland contacted Carol Briggs via Facebook. Carol happily spoke with Deland, and the two had a pleasant conversation. Then Deland asked about his biological father. Carol responded, and Deland’s world flipped upside down…
Carol told him his father’s name was Sherman Smith! It was the same man who met him 28 years earlier and mentored him throughout his football career! Deland was speechless. The entire time he had been with his father and neither of the men knew it!
It took Deland hours to wrap his head around the bombshell Carol just dropped on him; the odds of this happening had to have been astronomically low. But, now that he thought about it, he remembered oddly coincidental clues throughout his life that pointed to this truth…
People would constantly tell him how much he and Sherman were alike. People said they talked the same, walked the same, and had many of the same mannerisms. Now it all made sense: they were father and son! Now, it was time to tell Sherman…
Deland called Sherman and told him the news. Sherman was equally flabbergasted, but he also felt pangs of guilt about not being there for his son while he grew up. However, after a friendly conversation where Deland assured him it was no ones’ fault, Sherman felt so much better. The entire family was now a unit again!
Deland’s adoptive family and his biological family eventually met for a gathering in Nashville, Tennessee. None of them could believe the revelation that occurred between Deland and Sherman, but everyone was ecstatic they finally figured out the wild truth after almost three decades of friendship!
Deland McCullough, coaching with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs in 2018, went on a hunt for his biological parents but never expected such a wild outcome! There was a reason he and Sherman Smith bonded so well, and that reason could only have been one thing: family.
Even if adoptive parents shower a child with love and support, like Deland’s had, it’s still natural for them to feel a powerful urge to seek out their biological family. Just ask Patricia Lofton, who uncovered a family secret that shattered her entire worldview.
See, Patricia was well aware that her mother gave her up for adoption when she was just a few days old because of financial strains. She accepted it, but it was always at the forefront of her mind.
Her mother already had three children when she gave birth to Patricia, and she was on welfare. Unfortunately, Patricia bounced around foster homes until the age of seven when she was officially adopted.
Throughout her childhood, Patricia never felt like she truly fit in with her family. She knew nothing about her biological mother, and she felt a noticeable disconnect between her world and the one surrounding the people in her life.
Patricia’s life grew even harder when she was in high school. She became pregnant with a baby girl, but unlike her biological mother, she intended to keep the child. She didn’t want her baby to spend her life wondering “what if.”
Around the time Patricia turned 20, perhaps because she was a mother herself, she felt an almost overwhelming urge to track down the woman who gave her up for adoption. She spent hours combing through her adoption papers, but in the end, she found no leads.
Patricia was pregnant with her second child by the time her daughter, Aquarius, was six years old. By then she was committed to the decision to raise both her daughter and soon-to-be son, Andre, by herself as best she could.
Through her 20s and30s, life was exhausting for Patricia as she tried to provide a stable environment for Aquarius and Andre. She managed to put food on the table and imbue a sense of respect and responsibility in her kids.
Still, the urge to locate her own birth mother never left Patricia, and while watching television one day, that urge took an astounding turn when the woman on the show she was watching captured her attention.
You see, a woman named Vernita Lee was discussing events in her life that matched Patricia’s adoption papers to the tee! Patricia immediately tried contacting Vernita — it could have very well been her mom — but she met roadblocks every time.
Despite the string of bad luck, Patricia pursued information about Vernita. While looking into the woman’s history, Patricia and her son found the name of another one of Vernita’s daughters that caused both of their jaws to drop: Oprah Winfrey.
Yes, it was true. Oprah Winfrey, perhaps the most powerful and recognizable celebrity in the world, was Vernita’s daughter. If Patricia’s suspicions were true, then, this would mean she and Oprah were half-sisters! So Patricia did a little digging.
Through some intense investigation, Patricia learned of a restaurant in Wisconsin run by Oprah’s niece. She arrived with the adoption paperwork, which convinced the niece to take a DNA test. The results came back positive; it was a match!
Word made its way around the Winfrey family, and eventually, a meeting was scheduled between Patricia, Oprah, and their mother, Vernita. The two long-lost siblings clicked immediately; they had a lifetime of stories to share with each other.
Now that Oprah learned the definitive truth about Patricia, she told the world in the most grandiose way possible: she introduced her on her television program so everyone would know their story!
The joyful sisters embraced each other in front of a stunned and elated crowd. Oprah went on to chat with Patricia about the rocky road she traversed to finally find closure.
One aspect of Patricia’s journey Oprah took to heart was she never sold her story to the news to make a buck. Having the wealth and influence Oprah did meant people sometimes tried to take advantage, and Patricia was soon rewarded handsomely for her humbleness.
Oprah bought Patricia a sprawling mansion in Wisconsin priced at nearly half a million dollars! She also gave Patricia money to return to school at the University of Wisconsin to finish her degree in social work.
Patricia took none of what happened for granted, and she worked hard all the way through school. At 53 years old, she finally received her degree, and who was in the crowd cheering her on? You guessed it… Oprah!
Vernita Lee eventually passed away at the age of 83, but Patricia and Oprah will never forget how she was the key to their reunion. Two sisters, separated for decades, finally connected again.
You can imagine what a shock it was for Patricia to find out she was related to Oprah Winfrey. Of course, most people who go in search of their biological family don’t discover news this big, but for one Oregon woman, the news completely shattered her world.
See, Jen Chervin is a teacher living in Beaverton, Oregon. Her life may seem fairly ordinary, but things weren’t always easy for her. As a baby, she was found on December 18, 1971, abandoned on the steps of California’s Fremont Hospital.
“It was a stormy night, and I was wrapped in two blankets,” she said in a 2015 interview. Jen knew she was adopted, but growing up, she could only find information about her earliest days in the local newspapers.
For example, she knew that the nurses had heard her crying outside of the fire door as they happened to pass by on their rounds. Since this was just a week before Christmas, they decided to name her Holly Fremont. Unfortunately, they had no idea how she got there.
Moreover, police officers couldn’t find any identifying information about her birth parents. Luckily, Jen was promptly adopted by a couple who loved her deeply, and she grew up to teach math to children with autism. Clearly, she was quite well-adjusted, but she could never quite shake the questions surrounding her abandonment.
“Every year on my birthday at Christmastime I would wonder, ‘Is my mom thinking about me?’ Because I would think about her,” said Jen, who was 20 when she began to search for her biological parents herself.
The search went on for over 20 years, and by 2014, Jen started using social media to find some clues. Finally, she reached a turning point. “I had a woman reach out to me,” explained Jen. “She sent me a message, and she said, ‘Do you have a search angel working with you?'”
A “search angel” is a popular term for individuals who devote a great deal of their own time to helping others discover more about their family history. Jen decided to take the woman up on her offer right away.
“She said, ‘Have you tried DNA?’ And I thought, ‘What do you mean, DNA?'” Jen explained. Taking her search angel’s advice, Jen sent samples to two different companies that specialize in DNA testing.
“I had hundreds of DNA cousins, hundreds,” Jen said of her discovery after her test results came back. “And I’m looking at this page, and it’s people I’m related to, and that was surreal to me.” Once one of these cousins decided to help, Jen’s search accelerated.
The more family members Jen learned about, the more of them were willing to have their DNA tested. Finally, she found an uncle, and when he agreed to a DNA test, so did all seven of his brothers. Not long after that, Jen believed she had found her birth father!
That was good news, but what came next was unimaginably difficult: Jen had to call her biological father and reveal to him her identity. “He was shocked and tongue-tied,” said Jen. That wasn’t all, though. As it turned out, her father had some shocking news for her, too…
“They’re still married to the same individuals they were married to at the time, so [evidently] I’m a product of an affair,” said Jen. Because she was a reminder of his infidelity, he refused to meet her. That was hard to hear, but he did give her a clue as to who her birth mother was. Ultimately, it took more DNA testing, though… and another awkward call for her to find her mom.
Then, the moment arrived: she found her. “All the signs lead to you,” Jen recalled saying to her biological mother, who initially vehemently denied what Jen (who was essentially a stranger) was telling her. “She said to me, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.'”
“I don’t want to hurt you, I just want answers,” Jen remembered telling the woman over the phone. “That’s when she broke down and started crying, and she said, ‘I’m so sorry, and I thought about you every day.'”
Finally, the woman revealed the truth. Her husband had been serving in Vietnam while she temporarily relocated to North Carolina to stay with her family. That’s where the affair with Jen’s father started. Once she returned to her California home, she gave birth to Jen on her couch.
During this same conversation, Jen learned other things about her past, including the fact that her birthday was, indeed, the exact same day that she was found at the hospital: December 18. She also learned that she had some half-brothers and sisters. Most surprisingly, perhaps, was that she learned about the details of her abandonment.
“[After my mom gave birth to me] she said she held me for a couple of hours,” Jen recalled. “And then she woke up her daughters and put them in the back of the car and took me to the hospital and dropped me off.” Her birth mother was confident that the baby would be safe there.
As uncomfortable as the conversation may have been, Jen claimed that her birth mother was happy to hear from her. It brought up another challenge, though: her biological mother’s family may never find out that she exists, as she was the product of an extramarital affair.
“I know she was shocked that I found her,” explained Jen. “One of the first things she said was, ‘You can’t be a part of my family,’ and she said it panicked her, and I said, ‘I know, it’s okay.'” Even so, Jen hopes that one day she can meet her birth mother in person.
Proving that their connection was still being rebuilt, Jen received her first Christmas present from her biological mother in 2015: a necklace with a note that read, “The cross is a reminder that you are always in my heart.” But for one mother, the search to find her lost daughter followed her to her grave.
See, sisters Berni and Rose’s mother was South Vietnamese and their father was an American GI. This meant the mother and daughters were left to navigate war-torn Saigon alone… even the devastating aftermath.
“There were a lot of rumors that Vietnamese women with Amerasian babies would be tortured,” Berni explained. Luckily, the trio were offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be airlifted out of Saigon before it fell. After years of fear, they were able to relax.
But their relaxation didn’t last for long. Mere hours before they were set to escape Saigon, Berni and Rose were playing in their apartment’s courtyard when Berni realized something horrifying: Rose had disappeared.
Berni, who was a toddler herself, her aunt, and her mother searched desperately for little Rose, but she was nowhere to be found. The hours ticked by, but despite the dogged search for the two-year-old, they came up empty-handed…and late for their flight.
Berni’s mother was adamant that they stick together, but as it became more and more clear that Rose was gone, she was forced to make an agonizing decision: Stay in Saigon and look for Rose, or escape the dangerous city with Berni?
It’s a choice no parent should ever have to make, but there she was, forced to choose between her two daughters: the two-year-old she couldn’t find, and the four-year-old she had with her. With this in mind, she came to an impossible decision.
She and Berni found themselves on a plane bound for the United States. As they looked out the windows at the smoldering remains of Saigon, they did so knowing they’d never see Rose ever again. They had to move on with their lives…
“I could never understand it entirely,” Berni said of her mother’s decision. “My mother never spoke of it.” After all, Berni’s mother had her hands full. Once in the US, she reunited with her husband, had three more kids, and relocated to Colorado.
Now the oldest of 3 or 4 siblings, Berni set her sights on crafting an impressive future for herself. She had big dreams, so big that her childhood in Vietnam seemed small in comparison. She almost forgot about those first four years entirely.
Almost. The older she got, the more she thought about her mysterious little sister. She and her mother felt guilty for leaving her all alone in Saigon, at the mercy of unknown threats and dangers. Berni even visited Vietnam in hopes of finding Rose, but to no avail.
Still, she held out hope, and even brought her situation to the attention of thousands of people online. Out of thousands, she hoped, someone just had to have some kind of information about Rose. But months went by before Berni heard a fateful ping from her computer.
The email, from a woman named Vannessa Pham, brought her closer to her long lost sister than Berni ever thought possible. The story Vannessa told made Berni’s hair stand on end: She had something far more valuable than a distant connection to Rose.
She had her own story, and it too hailed from war-torn Vietnam circa 1975. Vannessa’s mother had worked at a police station, and Vannessa grew up alongside a handful of siblings, but despite this normal life, something always felt off.
“It just grew more suspicious,” Vannessa said of her childhood. She didn’t look like her parents, for starters, and her siblings always treated her like she was different. It took over thirty years for Vannessa’s then-elderly mom to tell her the truth.
Vannessa was adopted! Instead of feeling betrayed, she felt relieved. Finally, the displacement she felt as a kid made sense. But along with the truth came a difficult question: Who was she, then? It seemed impossible to answer…
That is, until she signed up for a DNA ancestry website. She was astounded to find hundreds of DNA relatives, but there was one connection that truly took her breath away. Underneath the name of one of her distant relatives was the phrase, “First Cousin.”
She emailed him and told him her story, and to her surprise, he welcomed her with open arms, and even offered to connect her with members of her own family. Vannessa held out hope of connecting with one person in particular.
“I need to go find my mom,” Vannessa knew. “She might be looking for me.” She had no idea where to start her search, but a shocking message from her newfound cousin made her all the more determined to find her long lost family.
He told her that her biological family was right in Colorado, just a couple states away from where she was living in California! Then her cousin dropped the biggest bomb of all: She had four adult siblings, and one of them had also been born in Vietnam.
This sibling was, of course, Berni, who sat in awe of the message she’d received from the not-so-strange woman, Vannessa. She wasn’t “Vannessa” — she was Rose! The two sisters agreed to meet in Colorado, nearly 44 years after being separated
Rocky Mountain PBS
The moment they saw each other in the airport was like two lines finally intersecting. They were together at last! Family and friends watched on as the two hugged for the first time in decades. The sisters spent the next few days getting to know each other again…
Vannessa learned her birth name and finally met her three half siblings and their families. After being alone for so long, she was finally home…but the person she most wanted to see (besides Berni) was nowhere to be found.
Berni tearfully told Vannessa the truth: Their mother had died nearly six years before. “It felt like a thousand heavy weights,” Vannessa described. Still, they were connected by more than just their mother.
They shared DNA, and both knew that their bond was strong enough to withstand anything. “I have been…walking and wandering for 43 years, and I found my way home,” Vannessa told Berni. For other long lost siblings, reuniting can be the goal of a lifetime.
Throughout Hillary Harris’ childhood her parents wrestled with a secret — one they feared would hurt their little girl. There were so many things that could go wrong if Hillary knew the truth: she could feel heartbroken, angry, and deceived…
When she was a teenager, they knew it was time to tell her their secret. She was adopted. She’d been left by her birth father at an orphanage when she was a year old, and at first, Hillary was shocked.
She took the news remarkably well, but the older she got, the more she wondered about her biological parents. She tried to move on and eventually got married and had a baby. Still, even after her own family grew, she felt like something was missing.
She yearned to learn more about her background, so she looked at her adoption papers for the first time. These papers were her only connection to her real past. She rifled through them, hoping to find something to go by.
And she stumbled upon extremely valuable information: Names. She found out that her biological father’s name was Wayne Clouse, but the real shocker came when she found out that she had a half-sister named Dawn Johnson. Hillary was stunned.
Hillary knew she had to find her, but she had no idea where to start. She visited her old orphanage in hopes of finding out more information about her biological father and family, but her hopes were soon crushed.
The orphanage had been abandoned! But she didn’t allow herself to feel discouraged. Instead, she searched the name “Dawn Johnson” on Facebook and spent countless nights scrolling past hundreds of “Dawns,” trying to recognize a face.
After awhile, Hillary started to lose hope in the search. Meanwhile, a new couple moved in next door to the Harris family. When her new neighbor introduced herself as “Dawn,” Hillary didn’t think much about it.
But then Hillary found out that her new neighbor came from a town called Greenwood — the same town that had been highlighted in her adoption papers. Finally, Hillary knew something was up. There was a reason for hope after all.
The numbers kept adding up, except Hillary didn’t know if her neighbor’s last name was “Johnson.” This one piece of the puzzle nagged at her for weeks. It was the one thing separating her from her potential blood relative.
Though Lance encouraged her to be honest with Dawn, Hillary just couldn’t get up the courage to ask about her last name. But one summer morning, Hillary was just going about her business when she noticed something unusual in her neighbor’s driveway.
It was a large package of shingles. She glanced over at the package — and her jaw dropped. The name “Johnson” was on the package. “I was floored,” Hillary said. “I was almost speechless.” But even with such compelling evidence, Hillary was terrified.
Dawn could reject her as a sister or even just as a neighbor, or she could simply not be the “Dawn Johnson” she was looking for. Hillary had put years into her search, and she didn’t want it to be for nothing.
She and Lance knocked on the Johnson’s door intending to ask the question, but Hillary was speechless while she stared at Dawn’s face and curly hair. Questions blew through her mind: Did they have the same eyes? The same hair? The same smile?
The awkward small-talk ended, and Hillary still had not confronted Dawn. Dawn went on a trip soon after, but Hillary couldn’t keep what she knew to herself any longer. More nervous than ever, she sent her neighbor the oddest message.
”Were you the Loyal Corn Fest Queen in 1983?” Hillary asked, using one of the tid-bits she had learned from her adoption file. Would Dawn think she was crazy, or worse — creepy? She waited anxiously for her phone to buzz.
When Dawn saw the message, she was puzzled, to say the least. “LOL, why are you asking me that?” she wrote back. Hillary knew it was finally time to ask Dawn the question. “Who is your birth father?”
Dawn told Hillary that her father had died in 2010…and that his name was Wayne Clouse. Everything finally added up. Hillary immediately called Dawn, who cried, “You and I have the same dad, don’t we?!”
They did. ”I could hardly believe it, since I was never made aware I had a sister out there,” Dawn said. The next day, Dawn went to Hillary’s house with flowers and photos of their father. Dawn greeted her with an excited, “Hey, sis!”
For Hillary, Dawn is like the mother she’d lost all those years before. “She fills so many voids in our lives, she’s like a big sister and mother to me,” Hillary said. Dawn also gained a niece in Hillary’s young daughter.
Finally, after years of searching without answers, Hillary found what she was looking for in Dawn. Her advice for fellow adoptees seeking answers? “Keep looking. Look everywhere. Go look next door. You don’t know what you’ll find.”
This was a lesson that, Genevieve Purinton could’ve used in 1949. She was 18 years old, dating the love of her life, and just about to finish up high school in her hometown of La Porte, Indiana. There was only one problem.
Genevieve soon found out she was pregnant. While never the most welcomed news for a young girl in high school to receive, Genevieve felt comforted knowing the father of her child was a good man and they would raise this baby together.
As her pregnancy advanced, she eventually came to the decision that she needed to leave school once her belly started to show. Unfortunately, with the bump of her belly came a major bump in her plans.
Her baby’s father revealed to Genevieve he was actually married and he planned to take her baby and raise it as his own — without her. The young mom-to-be was horrified. She was out of school, out of favor with her family, and now suddenly out of hope as her relationship came to an abrupt end.
On May 12th, 1949, Genevieve checked herself into St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital in Gary, Indiana, to deliver her baby. As she lay in the hospital alone, she thought of a teacher she had in high school, Margaret Ann, who was thriving despite a polio affliction. If she had a girl, that would be her name.
The hospital staff asked Genevieve to sign some papers she was made to believe were a directive in the event that she died and/or could no longer care for the child. So, of course, she signed, and shortly after Genevieve gave birth to a baby girl.
Moments after delivering Margaret Ann, Genevieve was confronted with the worst news any new mother could face: her baby had died. The world became black. What had hardly even begun was now over, and Genevieve once again was wholly alone. Or so she thought.
Between the years of 1945-1973 (the year of Roe vs Wade), many thousands of women were tricked or forced to give up their newborn babies when it was believed they were not suited to be mothers. Genevieve, alone, young, and out of wedlock was deemed unsuited.
May 12, 1949, was the day Margaret Ann’s life began, not the day it ended. Those “directive papers” that Genevieve signed were actually consenting to have Margaret Ann put up for adoption. The day her bereaved mother walked out of the hospital was the day Margaret Ann was sent to an orphanage.
She wasn’t there for long, though. Baby Margaret was soon adopted by a couple from southern California who renamed her Connie. Despite her tragic start, Connie grew up in a happy home in Santa Barbara. That was, at least, until she turned five.
Her adoptive mother was diagnosed with cancer and soon passed away. Following that trauma, her adoptive father re-married to a woman who was abusive to little Connie. What’s worse, her dad was soon diagnosed with a chronic heart condition.
Before she was a teenager, Connie lost both of her adoptive parents. It was during this time, as she felt unhappy, she started searching for her birth mom. Every birthday wish was a wish that this year was the year they would find each other.
But with only a name, Connie’s wishes never came true. She grew up to become a nurse, marry, and raise a daughter who eventually gave her two beautiful grandchildren. Life was good, but she never stopped thinking of her birth mother and if they would ever meet.
Then, for Christmas in 2017 Connie’s daughter gave her mom, now 69-years-old, a DNA test. The kit was through Ancestry.com and Connie could hardly wait to receive the results of what she hoped might give her some answers about her mysterious origins.
Several weeks later, Connie finally got the results! She found out she had a living first cousin, and what’s more, that cousin even reached out to introduce herself. Of course, Connie really just had one question to ask: “Do you know a Genevieve?”
Connie didn’t have to wait long for an answer; her newly-found cousin immediately replied, “Oh, that’s my aunt, and oh, by the way, she is still alive.” It was almost too good to be true. After all these years, she finally tracked down her mother.
Connie’s cousin promised to write a letter to Genevieve giving her Connie’s contact information. Soon after, on one fateful Sunday morning, Connie’s phone rang. She picked up, and a quivering voice said, “I think I’m your mother.”
Connie remembered, “you could have heard pins drop.” The two stayed on the phone for hours that day. The connection was immediate. After all, they had nearly 70 years to fill each other in on!
It wasn’t long after that initial phone call that Connie got on a plane in her home of Richmond, Virginia, and flew down to Florida to meet her mother for the first time. Genevieve who was now 88-years-old and living in an assisted living center told her daughter she would be using a walker.
And that was the only description Connie needed, as she walked in the doors she immediately spotted her mother. “It was like looking in a mirror” She recalled. We walked to each other, hugged, and then it was just “a total cryfest.”
Despite, their cruel separation and trying to forgive the many decades they would never get back, this reunion finally completed Connie’s and Genevieve’s family.
Families help shape you as an individual, and they’re always there for you, no matter what. At the end of the day, it all comes back to one thing: the bond you share. But what about those like Connie who never feel at home in their own family unit?
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!