Nov 16, 2015 - Ancestry

Hidden in Plain Sight

Many adoptees talk about walking through a crowd, looking at the faces of strangers and wondering if they are brushing shoulders with one of their parents or a brother or sister.


Carole, center, with her sister Felice Weinbaum, left, and  Sabrina Goldberg on the right.

Carole flanked on her left by sister Felice Weinbaum, and her sister Sabrina Goldberg on her right.

Carole Huber, an adoptee, was no different. That urge to learn more about her biological parents, about her story, never really went away. But decades of wondering left her thinking she would never find her biological family or learn her story. That changed after using 23andMe.

“This brought me to my family,” she said.

In fact, Carole met her mother, without even knowing it, more than 2,500 miles from where she had been placed for adoption.

Carole worked as an oncology nurse at a Florida hospital’s cancer unit. She now thinks hard about one patient in particular, as well as his wife, daughters and sister-in-laws that had visited him daily over his three week hospital stay on her unit.

Many years later, Carole now has trouble remembering his family and any conversations they may have had, but she thinks about them all the time.

“My (biological) mother’s husband was admitted onto the oncology unit. I was the charge nurse so I met my mother, sisters, cousins and aunts. I was in the room with them, but I didn’t know,” she said. “I had no idea.”

She now also wonders about a house, not far from her home.

“It turns out my aunt lives in that house and I pass it every day and I didn’t know,” she said.

Now after learning about her family, those encounters and her daily trips past her aunts house suddenly take on a new meaning.

From left to right Carole's daughter Carley, Ryan Kaplan, Carole Huber, Marissa Kaplan and Joan Sinkin, Carole's aunt.

From left to right Carole’s daughter Carley, her cousin Ryan Kaplan, Carole Huber, Ryan’s sister Marissa Kaplan and Joan Sinkin, Carole’s aunt.

Until recently Carole didn’t know anything about her biological family. Put up for adoption in 1964, she had almost no information about herself. By accident she’d been given her mother’s maiden name, but it was so common to be unhelpful. And her mother had also told her something.

“My mother thought I was part Swedish,” Carole said.

Wanting to learn a little more about herself, Carole turned to 23andMe in 2011.

“So I set on a journey to find my ancestry,” she said. “I never intended to find family.”

She learned that her adoptive mother was not far off with what she knew. Her 23andMe results showed she had about 40 percent Norwegian ancestry and she learned many other things, but initially didn’t connect with any close family. All that changed in 2014 when two new matches popped up in her DNA Relatives on 23andMe.

Carole connected with a brother and sister with whom she shared about 7 percent DNA – meaning a close relative match. For Carole, who’d never before been connected to a close biological relative, this was a big deal.

Messaging the two through 23andMe she explained that she was adopted and that she knew almost nothing about her biological family. Giving them her email address and the one bit of information she did have about her birth mother, her mother’s maiden name. She got a quick message back.

“I’ll get back to you.”

This man and woman turned out to be the children of Carole’s first cousin. Their grandmother is Carole’s aunt, the aunt who lives in the house Carole passed by almost daily on her way to work.

In the meantime, she went to Facebook and looked them up scanning through their family photos.

“Within 15 minutes I was looking at my mother’s face,” she said.

The next morning she heard back from her new found relatives and was brought into a very large family. Her biological mother had only died nine months before, but Carole’s aunt gave her the backstory of her birth and her biological mother’s life.

She’d been conceived after her birth mother moved to Los Angeles, but that had remained a secret. After Carole was given up for adoption, her mother moved back to New York, ironically not all that far from where Carole grew up.

Within a few months of returning from Los Angeles, Carole’s birth mother met her husband and was married. Soon thereafter, she had two more daughters, Carole’s half sisters. Her aunt told Carole all this only 12 hours after they made their connections through 23andMe.

“She knew about me and she told me I have two sisters,” Carole said.

Right after talking to her aunt, Carole got a call from one of her sisters.

“It was so immediate,” Carole said.

Wondering for more than 50 years about her biological family and where she’d come from, the immediacy of learning was a little shocking for everyone.

“I wasn’t sad or happy, just emotional,” she said. “I know I got very, very lucky, I know that something like this could have gone very differently, but they’ve embraced me and I’m part of their family now.”

Carole now has two sisters, two aunts, an uncle, nine first cousins, and 5 nieces and nephews. Her own three children are intrigued and her adoptive mother is tickled by the whole story.

“She’s very solid in her own shoes,” said Carole about her adoptive mother. “She thinks it’s a hoot.”

Carole’s one regret is that she made this connection just a few months too late and wasn’t able to meet her birth mother. That’s when she thinks of all the times she might have crossed paths with her mother and her aunt. It turns out that her mother and her husband retired to Florida and had lived in the same town as Carole. Her aunt lives there too, only a few blocks from her home.

“My aunt lives in the next development over and I pass her house every single day on the way to work,” she said.

She’s sure she met her mother when her husband was admitted to the oncology unit where she was the charge nurse.

“I met my mother, sisters, aunts and uncles,” she said “But I had no idea.”

Carole feels extremely fortunate and is so grateful for 23andMe who has helped change her life forever.

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