Oh, the wonders of social media and ancestry websites! These days, it gets easier and easier to make connections with others from around the world, and sometimes this leads to unexpected discoveries. For these people, finding out that they had a relative they never knew existed was quite the shock. In this article, they share their stories about how they found their long-lost family member and how they reconnected.
All content has been edited for clarity.
"When I was 17, I found out that I have another brother. My father got another woman pregnant while my mother was pregnant with my older brother (yeah, he's a real swell guy). So I tracked him down.
It was really difficult. It turned out that he went to a university in a city only one hour away from me! I was so nervous! He is the nicest guy, and we get along very well. I was furious that no one in my family told me before. I mean, what if we met romantically by accident? He has blond hair and blue eyes, I have black hair and brown eyes. Not in a hundred years would I have guessed that he is my brother if we had met otherwise!
It was a nice surprise to get another big brother. Now I am waiting for maybe a sister to suddenly appear out of nowhere."
"A few years ago, I got diagnosed with cancer for the second time. The doctors wanted to send me for genetic testing to see if there was a genetic cause of the cancer (there was).
Before the testing, my parents decided to disclose to me that I was conceived via IVF from an anonymous donor, due to fertility issues. They didn't have any further information, so I took a 23AndMe test.
That test located a half sister. I messaged her, and we later met up. Though she lives in a different city now, we actually grew up only a few miles apart (far enough that we were in different schools). She was also IVF from an anonymous donor.
Ironically, she's a cancer geneticist. When we met up, she pointed out all the genetic traits we share (from our biological father). Based on her research (her former OB doctor, when she still lived in the area, was the same doctor who did the IVF procedure on her mother, and presumably on mine), she thinks our biological father was probably a medical student at the hospital at the time.
It was actually really cool meeting her. We'd both grown up as only children. She told me that she said to her mother at one point that she wished she'd had an older brother; her mother told her that's not how it works. Except, apparently, it did."
"My parents took me and my brother out for dinner when I was about 18 and my brother was about 16. They said, 'Guys, we need to talk to you.'
We thought they were getting divorced, but no.
Apparently my dad had knocked up a girl at 16, the girl wanted nothing to do with him, so she got him to sign away his rights as a father. He never tried to think about it again I guess.
The girl grew up, her stepdad had passed away, and that's when she found out that her step dad wasn't her biological dad. She went online and started hunting. The mother refused to give her the name of my dad (she is actually crazy, my dad is a good dude), saying he was really mean, and that she'd regret ever meeting him. One of the mother's friends finally gave up a name, and she found him.
She was 18 months older than I was (my parents had me very young - and got together right when my mom got pregnant). We met and instantly we all hit it off. She understood that her mother was crazy and holding on to weird high school insecurities still 18 years later. She got married two years later at 20 and my dad got to do the 'father/daughter' dance at her wedding. Her two little kids were the ring bearer and flower girl at my wedding last year. I'm super glad to have them in our lives, they are awesome people, except for her mother, but you can only win so much!"
"My mom told me when I was 10 - almost casually, just standing in the kitchen one day - that I had a brother, and she told me the last name of my lost brother (who was younger than me, she had had a fling with a rocker in San Francisco right after divorcing my dad and gave him up for adoption at birth). She also told me what she had named him Moses because his mother had to give him up at birth, and the first name that she thought the adoptive parents had named him. She said she had peeked at the papers when the lawyer left the room for a moment (it was a closed adoption). I remembered the name and filed it away in my mind.
Many years later, my mom had passed, and I decided to find him. His last name was unusual, and the state (California) wasn't one that loses many people (at least not back then). So I went to the main library downtown and looked up everyone with his last name. There were only four in the entire state. I did not want to call him directly. I felt it was more respectful to call his parents. So there was only one listing with his (purported) first initial, and I didn't call that. I called the first one. It was an attorney in San Francisco. I said I was looking for the parents of someone with this name. He was nice, but said he couldn't help. The next name was an elderly woman, a Holocaust survivor as I recall, with no living relatives. The third was an answering machine and I left a message with no details. The fourth (that actually had the right first initial, but at that point it was my last option) was disconnected. I went to sleep that night feeling pretty discouraged.
The phone rings at about 3am and wakes me up. This young dude is on the phone and asks me what's up. I ask him his first name - wrong name. I'm at a total dead end. He says, 'You sound so dark...' Total west-coaster. I tell him that I'm looking for the parents of my lost brother who was adopted at birth, and that I've just exhausted all my options. He is sympathetic, but says he isn't adopted. So I realize that now I've just exhausted all my options.
Just before hanging up, I ask him, 'What year were you born?' Right year. I ask him, 'What city were you born?' He says San Francisco. I'm starting to calculate the odds here... I ask him what religion are his parents (my mom told me she wanted the kid to go to a Jewish home). His parents are Syrian Jews. Uhhh. Calculate the odds some more. Then I tell him, 'Well, you aren't adopted, and besides, you have the wrong first name.' He says, 'Well, this isn't actually my first name. I just started using my middle name as my first name. My first name is [the name my mother had told me, so many years before].' I start to shake all over. It turns out that the number that was disconnected, with the right first initial, was his old number before he moved.
I tell him the facts and how he meets the parameters. He is kind of listening with a bit of 'whatever,' so I say goodnight and let him go. I realize the odds. He doesn't.
The next day, he calls me back and says, 'By the way, my blood type is AB.' Very rare. I tell him that that was my mom's blood type. Then he says, 'I have a tremor in my left hand - my parents had a neurologist check me out when I was a kid, but the doctor just said it was genetic.' I tell him, 'Yeah, my mom had that, and so do I.' Now he's taking this a bit more seriously... But still, according to him, he isn't adopted.
I ask him for his birthday, and then ring off.
I call the hospital where he said he was born (SF Children's - a teaching hospital, so they keep records longer than regular hospitals) and ask their archives department if they have a record under my mom's name for that date. They hunt around for a while and then say 'yes.' They also say they can't reveal what it was for. I (playing it smooth), say, 'You mean because of the adoption?' - they say 'yes.' I've gotten enough and I hang up.
I call the dude back (this has taken a week or so), and tell him that my mom was admitted to his hospital on his birthday, to have a baby. Now this is hitting home for him.
Oh, by the way, I didn't mention: He's a super-talented classically-trained jazz-musician and composer. Remember, my mom had a fling with a rocker.
I let him go, I see that this is a lot for him to take in. A while goes by, and he calls me out of the blue and tells me that he confronted his parents, and they broke down and told him that he (and his sister - unrelated to me) are adopted, that it was a secret, and they never found the right time or way to tell him. They were very relieved.
He, on the other hand, was shocked. Having said that, he confided in me that he never felt like he belonged with them - just a kind of alienated feeling - and that they were fine parents. He went through a huge emotional upheaval, just kind of retreated into a cave for several months after finding out that he totally was not who he thought he was. I also sent him a picture of my late mom, and he said it looked like 'me in drag,' which was true. So he had a big adjustment. His girlfriend at the time kind of nursed him through it.
We have stayed in touch. I'm no longer the youngest in the family - he is, by two years. He's moved across the world (to Germany), but is in touch with my side of the family off and on and visits my family when he comes into the same city that they are in. He has found two other siblings from his dad, and found out that his dad died many years ago.
I love my brother. The thing that freaked me out about the whole story was how it was like a chain, and if any link was missing, the whole thing would not have happened. If my mom hadn't told me his name, if I hadn't decided to find him, if he hadn't moved and relisted his number under his middle name, if his name had been a common one, if he had been born in a state where people move out a lot, if he had not been born in a teaching hospital where records are kept, if he hadn't called me back late at night when I was half-asleep and less discrete.
By the way, that nice lawyer who told me he didn't have clue? That was his dad. I didn't find that out until much later (both his parents are passed now)."
"So one of my uncles is a bit mean. Lovable, but mean.
He got into a relationship in his 20s that got pretty serious. He introduced the woman to the family, and eventually, she got knocked up.
My uncle panicked and told her he didn't want kids. She, however, did want kids. So, my 'lovable' uncle did what he does best - he packed up and left the country.
I didn't see my uncle for 14 years, and as a kid, all I'd heard were vague comments about how potentially we had a cousin we'd never met. We never really knew for sure because the woman had cut all contact with our family.
So one day as a kid we moved houses, and, as a result, my parents gave me the choice of changing schools or staying where I was. I thought it'd be cool to go to a new school, so new school it is! On the first day, I made friends with this other kid, and we were instantly best friends. Absolutely inseparable. People would comment that we even looked alike and could be brothers.
On my birthday not long after, his mom dropped him off at my house for the party, and my mom stops dead in her tracks as she sees her.
'I recognize you,' is all she said.
And the rest is history! If we hadn't had moved houses, or if I hadn't made the choice to swap schools, or if I hadn't tried to befriend that one kid, who knows!"
"I am a social worker. I always knew I had a younger sister (there's a 12-year age gap). She was taken into CPS custody as an infant. Sometimes the woman who adopted her would send pictures, but at around age 5, she stopped. I never knew who the woman was, and I didn’t talk about it with my family.
I was assigned a new youth case at work... on the SAME road as me, just a few miles down. As I was doing the intake on my new client, her little 'sister' came down. She looked exactly like me. I had this weird feeling and I just knew this was my sister. I asked her mom about her, and she told me she adopted her as an infant.
I quit my job. For the next three years, I wrote letters to my sister and her mom, but I never heard a word. Last summer, my sister found my social media account after she snuck into her mom's room and found my letters with my name. We talked secretly, and she told me her mom was abusive and has been her whole life, and that her dad had abused her as well. I reported it and told her other biological grandmother who I kept in touch with.
This year, her grandmother was granted immediate custody of her after months of court hearings. The last two hearings the 'mom' knew about and had to come and relinquished her rights to my sister. My sister's grandmother hired a lawyer for my sister and her 'mom' knew that my sister wouldn’t be afraid to tell the truth about the abuse she has endured anymore.
Life feels amazing, and I have my little sister back. I hate that I missed out on so much, but it feels like she has always been here."
"My father left my mother when I was 3 months old. I didn't actually meet him until I was 22. That's when I found out I had two brothers and three sisters I didn't know about. None of them had talked to him for at least 15+ years at the time, so he couldn't help me meet them. He was an abusive addict though, so I couldn't blame them.
Eventually I decided to look one up online. When I saw the guys' face, I knew it was my brother: same unique last name, and same face as my dad. I was extremely nervous, but I messaged the guy. I basically said who my father was, that if he had the same father that we were siblings, and if he'd like to talk that would be awesome, but if not, I understood. Crazily enough, he messaged me back. It was a short conversation, but it was nice. He said they didn't know about me, and all the siblings still talked, but they still hated our dad. We lived only 30 minutes from each other, and we made some small talk about meeting up for coffee sometime and talking at some point. He added me to his friend's online, but I never met him or really talked to him after that. This was around 10 years ago.
Eventually I made a new online account and tried to add him, and he never added me. I figured maybe he didn't want to talk after all, so I didn't pursue it. I tried to find my other brother after that, and I'm pretty sure I found him due to the same last name and him being friends with my other confirmed brother online, but he never messaged me back. I've respected that and have left him alone. I haven't tried to find the others because I'm sure they know about me by now, and none of them have made any attempts to meet me, so I'm just leaving them be. It kind of hurts because I just wanted to know what they were like. Did they have the same sense of humor as me? Same quirks? How have their lives been? It's unfortunate that I'll probably never know."
"My mother found her lost sister.
When my grandmother was young and in love (so to speak), my grandfather was a womanizer and very good at it. My grandmother gave him the ultimatum to either commit to their marriage or to leave, and my grandfather chose the latter and walked out on his wife and five children he shared with my grandmother. My grandmother became significantly poor with the absence of her now ex-husband. She left her kids at home alone often and barely made ends meet. The children's childhood was very strained, stressful, and they suffered from poverty. They went many days without food at times or ate the most basic food, and many times their clothes were torn hand-me-downs.
Anyways, my grandmother met this man who helped fix her car, and they fell in love and had more children. With a now dual income, my grandmother could finally feed her kids, but with her ever-growing family, she had to continue working, still leaving her kids to tend themselves. Typical roles were established to the elder children to care for the younger ones.
One day, my grandmother's sister, who had lived in the U.S. and married an American man, went to visit my grandmother in Mexico. Said sister was childless and unable to carry due to her husband's problems, or at least that's what they say. She took a deep interest in one of my aunts (my mother's sister), who was 5 years old at the time and the youngest from my grandmother's previous marital relationship with my real grandfather.
My grandmother's sister asked for permission to take said child on a mini vacation to the U.S., but to also alleviate my grandmother from stress, to which she agreed to for a week or two. Those two weeks passed, and my grandmother heard nothing from her sister nor her daughter. She traveled to the U.S to find her daughter.
Anyways, my grandmother tried desperately to locate her daughter or find information about her, but to no avail. My mother later immigrated to the U.S. and is now a citizen. My grandmother has passed on and as of a month ago, my mother found her sister online of all places. While what my grandmother lived through was horrible and what transpired was illegal, my mother's sister did turn out to have a good life and attained many privileges she may not have had if she had remained in Mexico.
I guess there's a silver lining to everything if you look for it."
"I was about 15 when I came home from school and there was a woman about 13 years older than me standing at the front of my house. I asked her who she was looking for, and she said my name. I said, 'Well, that's me,' and then she hugged me. I immediately asked who she was, and she told me that she was my older sister.
I was surprised because all my life I was the only child. She told me that she ran away from our parents during the time I was still inside my mom's womb. I was hesitant to believe her, so I decided to ask her a few questions, but she just gave me her number and ran away. That night, when I was at the dinner table, I asked my mom and my dad if I had a sibling and my mom looked at me with sad eyes and said, 'Why would you ask that?' and she cried while my dad comforted her. He told me to go to my room, so I did.
An hour later, my dad came to my room and told that before I was born, apparently I had a sister. She ran away from home because they had given her big expectations that she rebelled against, culminating in her running away. To this day I haven't told my parents that I have met my sister and that I still keep in touch with her. Apparently the reason she wants to meet with me is that she always wanted a sibling, but I'm guessing that she just wants a family to talk to and it's just awkward for her to talk to my parents."
"I guess I’m technically the lost baby?
My birth mother was around 18 when she had me. Not being ready for a child, and no longer being involved with my biological father, she put me up for adoption.
When I was 18, I reached out to her, and finally got in contact when I was around 21. I found out I had a brother and a sister!
It turns out that their father’s parents live about 40 minutes away from where I live. My sister, who lives with her father, came to visit them, and was there on my birthday. She invited me out, and we got together for lunch.
It was so surreal. Even though we had only been talking somewhat sporadically for about six months, it felt like I knew her my whole life. It was amazing, and we had a blast!
I got a message from my birth mother later that day, commenting on the photos we’d both sent her. She showed them to our brother, and he’s now determined to meet me around Christmas when he visits his grandparents.
It was an amazing experience, and now I’m very excited to meet him (and eventually my biological mom). Plus, our sister said I share a lot of mannerisms that he has, and we all look like our mom, so it’ll be fun for sure."
"When I was growing up, my mother never hid the fact that the man who was married to her, and loved her dearly, was not my father. This didn't really bother me since he was, and still is, an amazing father. Even though he was only my step-father, I consider him my dad to this day. He helped my mother move out from where she lived with my father and get back on her feet. They fell in love and got married. He was even there when I was born.
The stories I heard about my father growing up always led me to believe that it wasn't really worth me ever tracking him down. You know the kind, 'Your father was an addict,' 'Your father hit your mother,' 'Your father was lazy,' Basically everything I heard about him brought me to the conclusion that even though I might be curious, the chances that he would add any value to my life were minimal. For this reason, I just never pursued it.
When the whole 23 & Me thing was getting big, and they were starting to do DNA testing, I thought it would be cool just to see where my family came from. I knew everyone on my mother's side of the family, and where they came from. But my father's side was a complete mystery. So back in 2011, I took the DNA test and waited for the results.
When they came back, nothing was that shocking. I kind of thought it was interesting and shelved it. Fast forward about five years, and some friend was talking about their results and how interesting they were, so I pulled mine up. I saw something new in the results that wasn't there the first time I looked at them. It had 'Additional Communities.' These tend to be immigration routes, or other small groups that share characteristics. Mine showed two: 'Missouri Ozarks and East Tennessee Settlers' and 'Northeast Georgia and Upstate South Carolina Settlers.'
I knew this was from my father's side, since my mother's side has a family bible that is about 200 years old and tracks births and deaths in the family. Again, this all was interesting to me, but didn't really provide anything that was enough to track anyone down. All of my matches were third cousin tier and higher.
Fast forward again to 2017, when I was retiring from the Army and had just moved back home to be closer to my family. I had started to date a girl that had never met her father, but through 23 & Me was able to track him down. So while we were talking about it, I again logged into my results to compare with hers and to marvel at where we both came from.
It was at this point that I saw I had a DNA Match with a 'first cousin.' This was someone I didn't know. When I saw this, I knew it was my father's side. I spent the next week digging around. I was able to find a tree that she had started, but didn't get very far. That provided me with some hints. It's when I saw the name of the family tree, I knew I had found a lost 'family.' My mother had said my father's name many times, so it wasn't like I had no information to look for him. When I saw this tree name, it was the same last name as my father.
I work within cybersecurity, so a lot of times, people think they are good at sanitizing their online presence, but that is normally not the case. Through some searching, I was able to find out who the first cousin was, her husband's name, and address. I then was able to track an obituary of her father. In the obituary, it named my father as a survivor. This woman was my aunt. I searched my dad's name Google, only to find out he had passed away three years earlier. Also, that he lived within 15-20 minutes of my family for most of my life.
I messaged her, and then used the number I had found to call and leave a voice message. I made a statement like, 'I think we are closely related via the 23 and Me results, and I just want to see if our stories match up, and maybe get some medical information from you.'
She called me back a couple of days later and said something on the phone like, 'Are you Linda's kid?' I only replied 'no' on the phone, and left it at that. We ended up establishing a time to meet for dinner, and share stories.
When I got to dinner, and we went through the niceties, some information came out about some family being married into either the Hatfield's or the McCoy's, and being buried next to them in cemeteries. This explained some immigration routes I saw on 23 & Me.
I took this moment to bring up what she said about 'Linda's kid' on the phone.
It turns out that my father was drafted for the Vietnam war. When he came back, he wasn't the same person, but tried hard to fit back in, went to church, and went about life. After hearing this, I now understand why he might have turned to substances later in life. His sister seemed to have so many good stories of him, that it sounded like MAYBE my mother met him at a dark time in his life.
When he got back, he met Linda at the local church that his family attended. They fell in love, and she got pregnant. She was only 18 or 19 at the time, and the pastor convinced her family to take Linda away to have the baby and put it up for adoption through Booth Memorial. Anyone that knows anything about this place, well, it's religious, and they tend to only do 'sealed' types of adoptions - meaning, you give birth and the baby is taken away. No one even knew the gender of the baby. Additionally, the babies are only adopted out to religious families.
So I ended up leaving dinner with my aunt with some more medical information which might come in handy, things like that he suffered from effects of Agent Orange, etc. and also with the information that I had a sibling somewhere out there with absolutely no information to act upon.
Fast forward another six months, I get another match on 23 & Me. This one was closer than my aunt was. It turns out 23 & Me was able to put me in touch with both my Aunt, and my 'new' brother.
We ended up messaging, and talking on the phone. My uncle had married a Linda, and had two of my cousins with her. This was on my tree. So when we started to talk, he thought he was my cousin and that my Uncle was his father.
But I knew the story of him already. So I relayed as much of that info as I could to him. It took time due to busy schedules. He has a family, I work a lot. But we were finally able to meet for dinner a few months later. We look like brothers, as much as you can when you are seven years apart from each other.
He's tried, and I have as well, to get our aunt to have a sit down with all of us, but she's been non-responsive to him for some reason.
I have my life, and he has his. I guess it comes with the fact that he is nearly 50 and I am in my 40s. But it was sheer luck that we found each other."