This year, after finding her biological father, Farhad, with the help of 23andMe, she can actually wish him a Happy Father’s Day.
For all her life, Esther had lived with questions about who her father was and where he came from. With few clues and years of futile searching, she had largely given up hope of learning even the basics.
“I didn’t have anything,” said Esther, a 29 year-old journalist and mother of three living in Arizona. “I just knew that he was originally from Iran.”
At one point she’d even talked to a private investigator to help her find her biological father, but the investigator turned her away.
“He told me to save my money.” There wasn’t enough to go on, she said.
It doesn’t happen for all customers, but Esther was fortunate that cousins she didn’t know also happened to use 23andMe.
All the stars had to align for her to have made this connection and they did, her cousin later told her.
When they did, the speed with which she made her connections felt overwhelming. She used 23andMe mostly to see if what her mother had told her was true, that she was half Middle Eastern and, on her mother’s side, Latino. So the first thing Esther looked at were her ancestry results.
“I wanted to confirm I am Middle Eastern,” she said.
She did, seeing a large percentage of ancestry from the Middle East in her results, as well as ancestry from southern Europe and Native American ancestry. But she didn’t expect the close cousin matches. In her DNA Relatives, she saw a handful of second and third cousins, including a few who had Iranian ancestry.
She sent a message to one of them, her second cousin Pejman. Within hours, she got a message back. When she shared her photo with Pejman, he knew right away who her father was.
“I thought it would be this long journey to find things out or that maybe I’d need to speak Farsi,” said Esther. “I just didn’t expect this. My whole life changed in one day.”
Esther’s cousin asked a family member to contact her biological father, who was in France visiting his other daughter, Esther’s younger half sister, Julia. When they tracked him down, he thought the urgent message was because someone in the family won the lottery. When he learned the news, it felt as if he was the lucky winner.
“My God, after 28 years I have another daughter,” he said later.
It’s hard for Esther to describe that emotional first meeting.
“Someone needed to pinch me, I thought ‘How could this be real?’” said Esther. “A miracle happened.”