Father’s Day is coming up, and many of us are scrambling to find a funny card, the right gift, or the perfect words to say to our dads this year.
But for a select few 23andMe customers, this Father’s Day will be their first with their birth fathers.
While fatherhood is about much more than biology, for many using DNA to connect with their birth fathers for the first time has given them answers to questions about their origins, and their family history. Seeing how DNA connects them has helped these fathers and children better understand themselves, the traits that make them who they are, and what they have passed on to their own children.
It isn’t always easy or even pleasant, but for some making these connections has been life-altering and wonderfully unexpected.
“Growing up, I wasn’t sure of myself or who I was,” said Keani, who recently found and connected with her birth father, Adam. “I was trying to find my identity. Now I feel more confident. I don’t have this hole in my heart. I have the other half of who I am.”
Her grandparents raised Keani, and she considered her granddad, her Pop-Pop, as her father. He passed away not too long ago. Finding Adam, her birth father, and building a relationship with him and his family, came at a perfect time. She just graduated from college and got married. Keani, her husband, and her 7-year-old daughter are moving from her home on the east coast to be closer to Adam.
For Adam, who has a teenage son and a foster child with his partner in Seattle, finding his daughter has been the ultimate gift. When she first came to visit him and his family, Adam gave her a present for each of her 29 birthdays that he missed. He also gave her a key to his home in Seattle and a specially engraved necklace.
“We’ve grown this relationship, it’s so strong, and it’s so amazing,” said Adam. “I’ve never been happier in my entire life. She’s my daughter, and it’s fantastic. Keani will never lay her head down at night again, wondering where I am or how I feel. I love her with all my heart and soul. I feel privileged to let her know that every night for the rest of my life.”
Reba, of North Carolina, had been searching for most of her life. She was adopted. Many years ago she was able to find her birth mother using her adoption records, but her efforts to connect with her mother were rebuffed. Reba thought the door to finding out anything more about her birth parents had been closed. But she never gave up hope.
Then her daughter gave her a DNA testing kit as a gift. Using 23andMe’s Family Tree feature, which sketches DNA Relative matches on the maternal and paternal branches of your family tree, Reba was able to find her father’s name. While her mother’s side of the tree was empty, her father’s side was filled up with relatives. She saw her birth father’s name, along with his sister, Reba’s aunt. Reba learned that they were from the same town in Ohio where she grew up.
“This was my key to locating and contacting my father,” she said.
She ultimately connected with her birth father via Facebook. He responded to her messages and was eager to connect. She learned her father had never known of her birth, and he’d also never had children of his own. Within five days of connecting, he drove and a nephew, from his home in Florida to meet her in person at her home in North Carolina. He didn’t want to waste any time waiting to meet his daughter.
“I have a daughter, I have a granddaughter, and I have a grandson. I have to be there!” he told Reba.
The hours leading up to seeing him for the first time were filled with nervous excitement for Reba.
“Finding what I thought I’d lost forever … was a gift from God,” she said.
In May, she was able to celebrate his birthday with him at his home in Tampa. They’ll be celebrating Father’s Day together too. Their first one as father and daughter.
A Special Gift for Father’s Day
Linda always knew she’d been adopted. She didn’t have a great desire to find and meet her biological family. Her adoptive parents loved her, and she thought meeting her birth father or mother, “would be like meeting a stranger.”
Or at least that’s what she thought until it actually happened.
Linda, on a whim and at the suggestions of a friend, used 23andMe and found not just her birth father, but her birth mother as well, and a brother. Her biological parents had been teenagers when they had her and put her up for adoption. A few years later, they got married and had two sons. One recently passed away. Meeting them, she said, brought her so much joy. Linda was surprised at the emotions that welled up in her when she traveled from her home in Arizona to Florida to meet them in person for the first time.
“I actually have a video of us driving in,” she told the Scottsdale Progress, her hometown paper “I didn’t realize how excited I was. When my Dad [hugged] me … he held me for the longest time, and I was just balling.”
She also saw her own kids, her son, and daughter, in her birth father, and her brother. They carried themselves in the same way and have similar mannerisms and expressions.
It wasn’t just the physical similarities, her son is burly like them, but his interests too. He’s an electrician, and so are several members of her birth father’s family. While she was in Florida, her father shared that he, too was filled with emotion. “Oh, my heart’s just a flutter seeing everyone together,” he told her.
This Father’s Day is going to be different this year, Linda said.
“Well, I haven’t had a father to celebrate with since 1988 when my adoptive father passed away,” said Linda. “My only grandpa I knew passed when I was 5. So, finding my dad was huge for me!”
Linda is using some of the photos she took during her visit to make her dad “a special gift.”