Dec 14, 2018 - Ancestry

A Reunion Decades in the Making


Brian, left, and his brother JJ, with whom he recently connected.

“What’s going on, my brother?” said Brian Chavarria. “Man, it is good to see you.”

These were Brian’s first words to his newfound biological brother, JJ Peck when they met earlier this year. This life changing moment at the John Glenn International Airport was the culmination of years of ups and downs for Brian, and a lifetime of searching for answers about his biological family.

Brian Chavarria was born in Dayton, Ohio, but raised in California by his adoptive parents. All he knew of his origins was that as newborn he’d been  dropped off on a doorstep in California. He’d been adopted when he was three years old. Life didn’t come easy for Brian growing up in an abusive household in East Los Angeles. He eventually fled that abusive home by bike, and made contact with a foster family he had lived with as a child who took him back in.

Brian never really knew where he came from or anything about  his biological family.

At least not until his wife tried 23andMe and then encouraged him to use 23andMe as well.

“What could it hurt?” he thought.

After years of search unsuccessfully, Brian had given up on finding his birth mother or father. But after four decades of not knowing anything about his birth family — not even their ancestry — his results came back with information not just about his ancestry but also about distant cousins. Six months later, he received an email. It was from a first cousin, who sent a message that  said: “This shows you are my first cousin. Tell me your story.”

He shared his backstory, and his cousin messaged back that he would talk to his mom and ask her if she knew anything that would help. Soon thereafter, Brian got another message from his cousin:

“Actually, I think I can fill you in,” his cousin said.

What followed was something out of Brian’s dreams. After connecting with his cousin, Brian started to learn more about his family, and learn that his family had been looking for him too. He learned that his birth mother had suffered from mental illness, which led to her needing to give Brian up for adoption.

What he learned next led to him breaking down in tears. His birth mother had passed away in 2015, before he had had a chance to meet her.

“I was so close, yet so far,” Brian said.

Then, Brian’s cousin dropped another bombshell. Brian had two brothers and two sisters who had similar troubled childhoods and had been raised by different families. A few of these siblings had been searching for him too. Since connecting with his cousin this past May, Brian has started to build relationships with his biological siblings. Their bond grew so strong that his brother JJ drove to Portland and helped move him back to his home state of Ohio, the place where he was born and where his story began. Since moving to Ohio, he began working with JJ at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center where they are trying to make a difference in the lives of others.

“It’s a start of a whole new world really. I get to spend it with my brother and it doesn’t get much better than that.”

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