Sisters Connect with 23andMe


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Stacy Arena and Greta CreechGreta had given up on ever finding her mother.

From her adoption papers she had a name, Carolyn Palmer, but decades of searching never got her any closer to finding the woman who gave birth to her, or any other blood relative for that matter.

“My missing family history amounted to a million missing pieces that left me feeling vulnerable and disconnected,” she said.

So by the time she joined 23andMe it wasn’t really about finding family members, she just wanted to learn a little bit more about herself.

That all changed earlier this year when Greta got an email from another 23andMe member.

“’I am new to this DNA relative finder website, but it seems we are first cousins! This is a pretty neat discovery,’” said an email from her new-found cousin Laura Oliver.

Greta was stunned. It was her first contact with a blood relative.

Greta and Laura exchanged emails and then Laura mentioned her grandparents names, Thomas and Sadie Palmer.

“I gasped in disbelief as I realized that, for the first time in my life, I was hearing from such a close relative. In that initial email she also told me that she was the grand-daughter of Thomas and Sadie Palmer. My biological mother’s name was Carolyn Palmer. I began to cry,” Greta said.

Then the bitter pain of learning that she was just a few months too late to meet her mother, who had died less than a year before.

“But you have a sister who is still alive,” Laura told Greta.

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“The words still take my breath away. Laura went on to tell me that my living sister’s name was Stacy Arena and that she was “so beautiful.”

Unbeknownst to Greta, Stacy had been searching too.  It was just that Stacy didn’t know where to start looking. More than 20 years ago, after Stacy’s older sister died in an accident, her mother told her that she had a sister, whom her mother had given up for adoption at birth.

But her mother had told her nothing more and wouldn’t speak about it. So for Stacy, all she had were questions. Who was her older sister?  What did she look like? Where was she?

Ever since then Stacy would wonder whether she was passing her sister in the street. Sometimes she’d look out into a crowd and scanning for a women who looked like her. “Could that be her?” she’d ask herself.

It wasn’t until her cousin Laura made the connection through 23andMe, that Stacy could finally answer those questions. A few weeks after connecting online the two sisters met for the first time, hugging in the front yard of Stacy’s home in South Carolina, holding on to each other for a very long time.

Inside the living room the two sisters thumbed through family photo albums. Greta marveling at pictures of people who were strangers to her but who were her relatives. She spent a long time staring at pictures of her mother, looking at her face and eyes.Greta Creech

“I’m connected to all these people I’ve never seen before. This was my family,” Greta said. “It’s quite disorienting.”

With her sister sitting next to her Stacy marveled at the miracle of the two finding each other.

“If it weren’t for 23andMe this never would have happened,” she said.

23andMe provides genetic testing services for informational purposes; your results may or may not help you to search for or identify relatives or family members.






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  • Carla

    I am 46 years old and recently discovered that the name on my birth certificate for Father isnt the truth. My Mother refuses to tell me who my “real” Dad is. What steps do I need to take to find the man that helped in my creation!?

    • ScottH

      Carla,
      We can’t tell you how to find your real dad. 23andMe’s DNA testing will help you find “DNA Relatives,” and this may help you in your search, but it doesn’t guarantee you will find out who he was.

      The sisters in this video got results because they were able to triangulate a connection between the two of them and a second cousin, but if their second cousin hadn’t been on the site they wouldn’t have been able to make that connection. It also helped that Greta had enough information — a family name — to help her confirm the family connection.

      So 23andMe can help you by returning results that together with additional information you may have — surnames, geographical information or other bits of information about ancestry — could help you in your search.

      We have had several cases of adoptees finding close relatives — a father, mother or sister, for instance — but those cases are still rare. I hope that answers your questions and I wish you luck in your search.

    • Greta Creech

      Hello-

      I’m one of the two individuals featured in this story. One slight correction to the valuable information Scott provided – Laura is our first cousin, vice our second. However, his point is spot on. Your best chance is through other relatives on the site who possibly can help through triangulation and process of elimination. Also, I was on the site for two years before I was matched with anyone closer than a third cousin, whereas Laura was matched with me right after she joined. New members are joining every day, so hang in there. Good luck to you in your search. I know firsthand the yearning “just the know.”

      Greta

      • Alicia

        Hi, Ms. Greta; I just ordered my kit today. Like you I was adopted, but unlike you I don’t have any names to start with; so I guess I have a few more missing pieces then you had. I choose to do this to find out my genetic origins. Learning more about others luck at this has given me hope that I’ll find some answers to those missing pieces. But I still feel very scared I’ll never have your level of luck in finding any of my biological family. So here’s to hope; may it feel me with courage to step into the unknown.

    • Bev

      I was reunited to my birth family and it’s been an absolutely horrible experience. My opinion of people raised by other than family members is to never never look them up. If they would have wanted you, they would have kept you.

  • Gloria Gonzales

    What a wonderful story. It brought tears to my eyes. I wish the sisters many happy years together.

  • joannyadoptees

    Hi, how wonderful they have been reunited. We also had an adoptee who had names. Only the names were fake. The adoptee did DNA and found the family. Mom and the whole family is very happy. So DNA is helping. There are search and support groups for adoptees and siblings and parents searching. We also have groups for AdoptionDNA who are adoptees and have done their dna tests.

  • Robert

    I apologize this may not have been the place to present this real or perceived problem. I have now read the article and how genuinely wonderful for Greta and her family!

  • Elizabeth

    That is awesome! I was adopted too, and found out that ALL my siblings (5 of us in all) were adopted or in foster care. One I met a few years before he died when having a very long seizure at age 38. I was very lucky, as my sisters did not get to meet him. Another contacted me in Germany about a genetic condition her toddler son was diagnosed with, and doctors thought she had it also. Because of this, she got permission from the state we were born in to find her siblings. They did not help her find birthparents, which was strange. Two others were adopted together and I met one briefly, but she said she was uncomfortable with maintaining contact because she and her sister were just out of high school and still dependent on adoptive family and did not want to disrupt things. Many years had passed when I met who we think is the last one over the internet. We have not met in person. Our birthmother developed schizophrenia about 3 years before I was born. All my siblings are younger. Even though our birthmother married, she was unable to raise any of her children. We were all scattered to foster care when babies and adopted when under 2 years old, except the brother who spent his whole childhood in foster care. Amazing that we have met. If there were any other siblings, maybe we will meet through 23andme.

  • Jennifer Webber

    I wasn’t adopted but I never knew my dad- he left before I was born- and my mom knows little more than a name and that he passed away when I was about 6 (I’ll be 32 in November). Is there any chance of me (female) being able to identify any relatives on my father’s side without the help of any relatives on my maternal side? I’m a little confused about the paternal and maternal lineage thing, but it seemed as if the help blogs were saying that a woman can only trace lineage on her mother’s side, and since no one on my mother’s side knows anything about my father, that would not help. I would be very grateful for anyone’s help or suggestions.
    Thanks!

    • ScottH

      Jennifer,
      You cannot get your paternal haplogroup without testing a male on your paternal line. That said 23andMe’s test also looks at the autosomes (the non-sex chromsomes) and matches relatives that come from all branches of your family tree (including your father’s side). What that means is that yes you would get matches on both your mother’s and father’s side, but it might be difficult to determine which side of the family they are on. If you have other questions you can go to our Customer Care link and ask or explore FAQs.

  • Harold Vance

    There is also an interesting side story to Greta’s story. Greta’s cousin Laura Oliver contacted me at 23andme back in March, wondering how we might be connected. I didn’t see any obvious overlaps in our lists of surnames. However, Laura did indicate that she was searching for her biological father. She had a few vague clues as to his identity. I’ve done a ton of genealogical research and I love a good puzzle, so I volunteered to help her and was able to identify his full name and the names of his parents and his brother. I also helped Laura connect to the brother’s family by tracing their children. With this information and with the help of an investigative service, Laura was able to find her biological father, whom she had never met before. They had a joyful first meeting and she brought him back to live with her as part of that same trip. He was 84 years old.

    I had the privilege to witness much of this on Facebook as well as the highly animated (joyful) exchanges between cousin Greta and Stacy. Greta’s miracle wasn’t the only one that was born from this 23andme connection. Laura also found her father.

    • ScottH

      Harold,
      Thanks so much for sharing this.

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