So, I determined I was a Foundling and I ordered an Ancestry DNA Test as suggested by CeCe Moore, Genetic Genealogist, who asked me if I would allow her to work my case?! Would I ever?? I was so excited about her offer of help because, you see, I knew next to nothing about DNA?! And it looked so complicated to me. As I had been reading stories and accounts on DNA Detectives and Foundling Finders Facebook pages, there were many successes, but there were plenty of people who searched for years and never really found a close enough DNA match to truly find what they were looking for. So while I was excited about doing the test, I was also trying not to get my hopes up. I honestly figured I would be one of the people who did the test and only had 5th and 6th cousin matches show up? I felt that if this was my expectation, I wouldn’t be disappointed?!
The DNA Test came the first week of January in 2017. I read the instructions and all kinds of tips that I googled on doing the sample properly so you don’t have a test that can’t be processed. Nothing to eat or drink or teeth-brushing AT LEAST 1/2 hour prior to giving the sample. “Be sure you give the proper amount of saliva in the tube…Not too much and not too little.” It sounded simple enough?! But being one to always err on the side of caution, I decided to do mine first thing the next morning when I woke up.
So, I start doing my sample and quickly learn that one’s mouth is particularly dry first thing in the morning?! You were supposed to complete it within a half and hour, I believe, so I was racing against the clock to conjure up enough spit to fill that little vial, which no longer looked so little?! I finally got what I thought was enough, but then I couldn’t tell if it was all saliva up to the fill-line or if part of that was foam? I even had my glasses on and looked at it in different lights, in different rooms of our house…Still not sure?! So I woke up my husband, Brad, and my son, Alex, to look at my spit in this tube. They thought I was crazy?! But they humored me and looked at my spit anyway. They agreed that I had saliva up to the line. So I went with it. I registered my kit and followed the rest of the instructions, sealed it up and drove it to the post office, took it inside, and handed it to the clerk….I wanted to make sure that sucker made it into the mail! And just like that…It was on its way!!!
Now the waiting began. Standard processing time said 4 to 6 weeks; however, evidently right after Christmas is a super busy time for DNA processing because people were giving and getting tests as gifts. Anyway, I checked my email daily!! And CeCe messaged me a couple times a week, asking if I have heard anything. I continued to be active in the Foundling Finders group. I also met a Foundling about my age who lived in California and we started messaging back and forth. Her name was Jacqui and we quickly became very good friends! We were also talking to one another by phone every few days. She was also on a search for her biological family. She had been abandoned on the steps of a church parsonage at approximately 3 days old. She was taken to a local hospital and a search ensued for who had left her there with no answers. She was placed in a foster care home and the family immediately wanted to adopt her! So they did. And she had a good life, until the past few years as she lost both her father and then her mother to illness. And she also felt somewhat alone in the world…Our common bond. She really only had her two boys and was raising them on her own. She was a school teacher. We had so many feelings and questions in common?! And we felt comfortable to talk about them with each other. I don’t think anyone really understands how “abandonment” feels unless they have truly experienced it. She was great support for me and she seemed to appreciate my support, as well.
By the time 6 weeks from the date I sent my test in rolled around, CeCe was pretty much messaging me DAILY…Sometimes, 2 or 3 times a day. I am not sure who was more impatient?? Me or her? She was chomping at the bit to get my DNA results!! Another week passed. And then another.
AND THEN IT HAPPENED!!! I was actually having a very busy day on March 10, 2017 helping my son with his FASFA so he could take some college classes the next semester, when I saw a missed message from CeCe later in the afternoon That said “Hi Sherri, your results are in and they are VERY good!” “You have close matches to both sides of your family!” “I can’t wait until you see this!!!!” “Go look^^” “Also, log into your account and see if any of them sent you messages.” “Nancy Kalman Bell is either your maternal half-sister or your aunt.” “Or maybe niece, but she is older than you are so unlikely.” So I logged into my Ancestry Account…And low and behold, she was right!!! First match I saw was Nancy Kalman Bell and underneath it, it said “Close Family”! CeCe had found Nancy’s Facebook page and sent me the link. I clicked on it and I guess took a little while to answer and I got another message from CeCe asking “Are you okay?” I told her I had been looking at the photos and that I was a little “shell-shocked” because of the resemblances I was seeing?! I sent her some pics of a younger me and a comparison to Nancy’s daughter, Missy, who I found a photo of on her page. CeCe said “Wow! Well there is no doubt this is your family.” She said “I am building Nancy’s tree right now.” She also told me her husband was searching, as were some other Search Angels, specifically Michelle and Steve Edsel! For me?! Such a wonderful feeling to have that kind of support!! I could also immediately see that I favored Nancy. Of course, there were not only pics of her Daughters, but also their kids. And upon looking closer, I could see resemblances in her Daughter, Missy’s son and my son…uncanny resemblances?! So by 7:01 pm that night, CeCe encouraged me to send Nancy a message through Ancestry’s messaging tool because she was, indeed, MY AUNT!!! I was not prepared for all of that to happen so quickly, so I was a little nervous! I said “Just like that? Just message her out of the blue?!” And she so calmly said “Well, I thought you wanted to find your family?” I said “Of course I do.” She then said “Then what are you waiting for?” I couldn’t argue with that, so I got some advice on what to say in the message and I sent it!! WOW! How exciting?! She told me “I have been especially focused on your case for some reason, so I am every more excited about your matches.”
But the waiting part…Oh so stressful.
I was checking my Ancestry at least 10 times a day for messages. I sent a second on a few days later because I thought maybe I did something wrong. And then I waited. Two days later, still nothing. So I sent a third one. A few more days passed and no answer. And I noticed that Nancy had logged in…which I figured meant she saw my message but didn’t choose to answer. So I messaged CeCe, sort of in a panic, to let her know this. She told me that didn’t mean she necessarily saw the message. But she had a suggestion for me….”Why don’t you just send her a Facebook message…You have her Facebook page right?” I had not thought of doing that. I didn’t know if she would get it because I had sent a Friend Request and she had not accepted. And she didn’t appear to be on Facebook a lot. CeCe said “What do you have to lose?” So, I decided to send Nancy a message that evening which was March 26th.
I checked Messenger first thing upon waking the next morning. No reply. I had to go to work and had a super busy day, so it was easy not to really dwell on it. As I was finishing up my day and getting on Facebook to post a story for my work, I noticed that I had a “1” in the messenger box!!! I thought to myself…This is the message I have been waiting for. Somehow, I knew it was from Nancy!! But my hands were shaking as I opened Messenger. Sure enough…I was right. And the message was so friendly and so kind! She told me she had done the test a couple of years ago and had been meaning to reach out to her matches, but due to some personal loss, she had not done it. She said that her youngest daughter, Missy, was having a medical test scare and she was heading to be with her a few hours away. However, she said “Please feel free to email me or text me” and she gave me her email address and her phone number. And she asked me if I was a Christian to please pray for her daughter. And by this time, I was bawling like a baby?!
I replied and told her that I would definitely pray and also told her that my daughter, Ashleigh, had a similar scare about a year before and had a biopsy and it was negative and I hoped her daughter’s would be too.
I then received the following message from Nancy: “Thank you for that bit of positive news…and because we are related somehow even better.”
I told her I agreed! And asked if her daughter was close by and she said a few hours from her in another part of … FLORIDA!!! I said “Wow! You guys live in Florida?! My very favorite place to spend time is the beach!!” And she just replied “Well..now you have family here. I so feel like your message is a GOD thing!!!” And that was the beginning of our connection. That messaging continued for the rest of the evening and we made plans to FaceTime the next day. So just like that, I had this beautiful, wonderful woman in my life. And she had been through some major loss and hurt and so had I…It was clear to me that we needed one another. So the stars aligned and I believe God smiled down and saw both of us struggling and helped us find one another.
I messaged CeCe to tell her that I got a reply! She said “WOOHOOOOOOO!!!! It is about time!” I told her I was crying and had goosebumps all over. And she said “Of course you are crying.” “You are getting close to an answer.” She then said “I am glad she asked you to pray for her. That seems very intimate.”
So…That was March 27, 2017 and just the very beginning of what would become a journey that has been going on for a year and four months and continues today, as more and more information continues to come to light….Secrets that were well-kept are becoming known. Puzzle pieces are starting to fit together….
And I continue to be blown away by the magnitude of how many people were impacted by the actions of a few people, many years ago.