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An Unexpected Confirmation Leads to Family

I was prompted to do a DNA test because, in my younger years, I questioned if the man who raised me was my father. I asked my Aunt, and she said she didn’t know.  I also asked my mother’s best friend the same question after my parents died, and she didn’t give me an answer.

In order to understand these feelings, I want to share that both of my parents were alcoholics. My father was a mean drunk, and even when he was not drinking, he was not a very sociable or nice man. My mother was the typical housewife, but she enjoyed socializing and drinking. She was a bartender in a bar for many years and loved the attention of the men who came in the bar. I know that my mother was promiscuous at times.

Years had passed after they both passed away, and my very best friend since birth joked and said maybe her dad is my father, and I really was her sister. That prompted both of us to get our DNA done through Ancestry.com    

My father was all German, and my mother was English and Welsh. When my DNA came back, I had no German. My DNA showed England, North Western Europe, Ireland, and Wales.  

When I saw the results, it wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be. Even though there was a part of me that was grateful that I didn’t have his genes, I couldn’t believe that all my suspicions through the years were true.  

I shared my results with a friend who was involved with the Adoption Network of Cleveland, and she shared that there was a support group for people like me who experienced a DNA surprise. My greatest supporter, who encouraged me to follow through with this search, was my daughter. If it wasn’t for her technical help and emotional support, I would not have done this.

I "zoomed" in on a couple of the meetings, and it was mentioned by the group facilitator that the organization had a search expert who could possibly help with the discovery of my biological father. These meetings also helped me to realize that there are many people who are experiencing DNA surprises just like me. I was not alone.

I contacted Traci Onders, the Search Specialist and Program Manager at Adoption Network Cleveland, and she walked me through the process of finding my biological father. It took almost a year, and several times it appeared she had reached a dead end; however, Traci and her team continued to research. Then one day, she contacted my daughter and me to have a conference call with her. There was no doubt in my mind that it wasn’t going to be good news. When she told me that there was a possibility that she found my biological father, I started to cry. She also added that I could possibly have a half-sister in Fort Myers, Florida. I just couldn’t believe that this could happen to me. I might add that I am 77 years old and never expected, at this time of my life, that my life would change so drastically.   

Since the man believed to be my biological father was deceased, Traci explained the only way to verify the theory is for me to contact his daughter and ask if she would be willing to do a DNA test. Traci provided guidance on how to do this and what to say, and I sent a letter to my potential half-sister. I didn’t get a response. A couple of months later, I sent another and decided if there were no response, I would let all of this go.  

The day after she received my second letter, she called me. We talked for over forty-five minutes on the phone, and she couldn’t have been more accepting and willing to do her DNA. I do need to add that she was an only child and had no idea that her father had had an affair.  

The biggest question I had for her was what kind of a father he was. She explained that he was a wonderful father and very loving and kind.  Anything she wanted to participate in (golf, swimming, horseback riding, etc.), he encouraged her to do. That made me feel good that I had his wonderful genes.  

My half-sister tested her DNA, and yes, the results showed she is my half-sister! She is 80 years old and in good health. After much discussion with my husband and trying to absorb all this, we decided that I should go to Florida and meet her because we both are at an age we shouldn’t waste any more time not meeting. She recently had to admit her husband into a nursing home because he has advanced Alzheimer’s disease, so there is no way she could travel at this time. 

We were planning on a trip to Georgia for our granddaughter’s high school graduation, so we just extended our trip to Florida.  

I am blessed to say that my story has a happy ending. This is not always true for everyone. I met my half-sister, we both are thrilled we are related, and we continue to talk on the phone on a weekly basis. We are amazed at how many things and interests we have in common. I have to admit this all seems strange, and you can’t become emotionally involved with someone because you share DNA. But, I do believe in time, we both will become closer and closer. We both want that.  

I am so grateful for being introduced to the Adoption Network Cleveland and Traci Onders and her team of researchers for helping me find answers, and for supporting me and guiding me through this journey. My life has taken a different spin, but all for the good.


Written by Sara Fullmer, a participant of Adoption Network Cleveland's DNA Discovery Support Group and Search and DNA Assistance program. Please visit our program page for more information about our Search and DNA Assistance program. For information and meeting dates for our General Discussion Meetings and DNA Discovery Support Group, please visit our calendar.