Kathy’s DNA Story: Meeting Her Birth Family

Like many adult adoptees, Kathy was curious about her adoption.

Julia K. Porter October 02, 2018
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It is not uncommon for adult adoptees to begin to search for their birth families later in life. In some situations, they wait because they’re nervous about the outcome, or they’re concerned about hurting someone in their family. Like many adult adoptees, Kathy was curious about her adoption.

Her family didn’t keep it from her that she was adopted, but because her adoption took place in the 1950s, it was a closed adoption, and there was little information. All that she knew was the location of the home she was in and that she was adopted in New Orleans, about 325 miles from where she grew up.

It wasn’t until the death of her parents in 2005 that Kathy began the life-changing search for her birth family. Though she made multiple efforts, it was to no avail. With the close of older agencies, records getting lost and destroyed, the death of birth parents, it can be difficult for people to find their birth families.

“A friend suggested that I try a DNA test to find my birth family,” Kathy says. “I started with Ancestry and in just about two weeks, I had a close match.” This close match turned out to be her half-sister on her birth mother’s side. Still, she had over 1,000 other matches to sift through. She was able to find who her birth mother was, and though she had passed away, she was able to connect with her family.

After finding her birth mother and comparing that with the DNA, no one in her mother’s family had indication of who her birth father might be. However, when Kathy found her 3rd cousin, she eventually figured out who her birth father was.

The shocking part?

Kathy’s birth father was alive and living in a nursing home, not far from her own winter home in Florida. Though he had some dementia and was ill, he remembered her birth mother and didn’t know that she was expecting when he left the state.

“My birth father died a few days after I met him, and I was included in the mention of the family at the funeral,” Kathy says. “I have visited the gravesite since then to leave flowers.”

This has been an amazing journey for Kathy. “I have made two trips to Louisiana to meet some of my relatives, from siblings to nieces, nephews, and cousins,” she remarks. She spends time talking to her newfound family members on the phone and has gotten together with a few of her siblings on more than one occasion. “Now, I have pictures of my birth parents, my birth father’s memoirs, and I am building new relationships.”

Kathy’s advice to adult adoptees is that they decide what they are really looking for in their search. “Be realistic with your expectations and be prepared to be accepted or rejected. You may find more about your story and this could enrich your life.”

Kathy grew up with one brother in a small family. “Before, I only knew myself in relation to the family that I grew up in,” Kathy says. Like other adult adoptees who have been connected to their birth family, Kathy has been navigating all of her new relationships. “I am the oldest of ten children. I have four sisters now. I feel very blessed.”

Your first step in your search and reunion journey is to register in Adoption.com’s Reunion Registry.

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Julia K. Porter

Julia K. Porter is an educator, writer, and cultural competency consultant. She began her career as a high school English teacher in Brooklyn, NY, and has taught college courses since 2008 and has done nonprofit work. Currently, she is the project manager for Celebrating Cultural uniqueness at Tiffin University. Julia has a passion for diversity and in educating about the nuances of adoption as that is how she chose to grow her family. Julia holds a Ph.D. in Global Leadership from Indiana Tech, an MA in English Literature from Brooklyn College, and a BS in English Education from Indiana University/Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI). Her personal interests include reading, writing, traveling and experiencing new cultures, and knitting. She lives in Indiana with her husband, Kyle, daughter, Brooklyn, and Australian Shepherd, Hunter. For more information, visit www.juliakayporter.com.

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