DNA Story: Tester Discovers and Reunites Sisters

Melanie Mohler

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Inspiring DNA story! Thanks to the heroic actions of a DNA tester, two sisters who both matched him–at different testing companies–have been reunited. Read this wonderful DNA story below. 

Not everyone who has taken a DNA test puts their results on multiple DNA testing sites. Many times, people only have their results on one site; they could be missing important matches at another testing company! Like a long-lost sister.

Mike, one of our DNA Skills Workshop participants, shared the following story of how he reunited two sisters who were his distant cousins.

Mike’s DNA Story: Reuniting Two Long-Lost Sisters

Four years ago I saw a DNA match named Carol on 23andMe. I sent her a typical query giving the surnames of my 2g-grandparents and asked if there were any matches with her tree. She didn’t have a tree but she said her mother was 100% Polish and her father was mostly Scottish and Dutch. She knew the surnames of both her parents. She also knew that her mother had another child that was put up for adoption in New Jersey when she was very young.

Carol was raised by her mother and was told that her sister was adopted because her mom and their father divorced, and she couldn’t take care of both babies alone. I didn’t follow up with Carol because we had no matching surnames. Her mother died in recent years and Carol had given up on ever finding her sister.

Two years passed. I was browsing my DNA matches on Ancestry and one of them caught my eye. Suzanne had been searching all her life for her sister. She knew her mother was Polish and her father was Dutch, and the surnames sounded familiar to me. Then I remembered Carol in Florida from two years earlier, so I wrote Suzanne to learn more, but her last post was a year old and she was no longer active on Ancestry.

I searched newspapers and googled nation-wide for Suzanne without success. Months went by. Then I was surprised to see Suzanne pop up on MyHeritage, still talking about her birth parents from Poland and Holland, and she mentioned her sister. It sounded like they were all in contact so I wrote to Carol. She had no idea about Suzanne, but was certainly curious. By this time I was pretty sure they were sisters. The dates and surnames all made sense.

I wrote to Suzanne, got her email and phone number in New York City and called Carol in Florida late on a Friday last fall. She was surprised and elated, and she asked me, “What should I do?  What should I say?” I said, “Don’t even think about it. Call her on the phone and the rest will just happen.” They spent the rest of the weekend on the phone.

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They were both extremely appreciative, pledged to visit me on the west coast, and were all about love and kisses for me, their “guardian angel!” I said, “You’ve got it all wrong.  I’m only a distant cousin and you two are sisters. Get on a plane soon and meet each other. You’re lucky to have found each other while you’re both still alive. Your common ancestors with me lived in New Jersey before the Revolutionary War.”  It was hilarious but exciting for me to explain this to them.

Within a few weeks, Carol and her husband flew to NYC and met Suzanne and her grown sons for dinner. They were all tears and smiles and sent me pictures. They spent a week together comparing notes, shopping, sightseeing, and doing 50 years’ worth of catch-up.  It’s truly an amazing story.

Lessons Learned

Mike also shared the lessons he learned from connecting these two sisters.

“First, don’t assume that there is any [communication] between DNA testers at 23andMe, Ancestry, or MyHeritage. Were it not for me, these full sisters would never have found each other since they were not both using the same DNA testing site.”

“Second, geni-buffs like us don’t realize how naïve people are about their ancestry. These long-lost sisters wanted to meet me in Vancouver as if I were the important one, when they were sisters! Too funny.

“Finally, these ladies were so accustomed to being discouraged and sad about each other, that when presented with a name and phone number they didn’t know what to do.”

“It turned out that Suzanne and I grew up in adjacent towns in New Jersey.  We never met, but had mutual friends. I didn’t set out to facilitate a life-changing reunion. It just happened because of my long-time interest in genealogy.”

If you don’t have your DNA results uploaded to multiple testing sites, you could be missing out on some crucial matches! Consider transferring your results to MyHeritage, Family Tree DNA, and Living DNA to find additional matches you may not have known you had.

Once you’ve found those matches, you might not be sure what to say. Get our free guide on tips for contacting your DNA matches:

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What to read next?

Why Transfer to MyHeritage | Cousin Connection!

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