When our client contacted us in April, she had no idea that a 50 year mystery would be solved by December! Read Sheri's Story and experience her Christmas Miracle!
A Christmas Miracle
I sat in the trailer at a track meet in Pasadena waiting for her phone call. With the sound of a starting gun billowing in the background, I waited for Sheri's call. I had been contacted earlier in the week by my friend, Karen, inquiring about our birth family finding services. In that phone call, Karen explained that her best friend, Sheri, was an adoptee who wanted to begin searching for her biological family. She stated that although Sheri was going to take the first first step in her search, she would likely be apprehensive throughout the search process; a sentiment that I was used to hearing.
Over the past 20 years of doing this work, I have experience every type of client; eager and ready to discover, apprehensive and fearful, angry and uneasy, and silent with a healthy dose of skepticism. Each client brings a different tone and texture to our services and Sheri's feeling was not surprising.
She phoned at about 9:00am on that that cool April morning. Her voice quivered as she told her story and I listened to her intently, without asking any questions. I got the impression that she had prepared her script and I didn't want to interrupt her pre-planned narrative. She spoke for about 10 minutes and in true form, as she finished her statement, I said, "ok...now breathe." I could hear the relief in her breath and I swiftly informed her that she was in good hands. As always, I gave her the "no guarantees" disclaimer and she and I both relaxed into a conversation about what she knew. From that first conversation l learned that Sheri knew very little about her biological family or the circumstances surrounding her adoption. She knew her birthday and that she was born in Los Angeles, but beyond that, nothing. She also stated that she had submitted her DNA to Ancestry.com and was awaiting her results. We made a plan to chat later that weekend after I had the chance to create a file for her and receive her amended birth certificate via email. We hung up, and as always, I prayed.
Prayer is an essential element of this work. I have a certain level of skill and investigative ability because of my long legal career and history at the US Attorneys Office Criminal Division, but nothing trumps pure, unwavering Godly intervention. Nothing happens without God saying so and I have become keenly aware of His great and powerful intervention in this work. I summon Him first, and then heed the guidance of the Holy Spirit to do what I do.
Shortly after our first conversation, Sheri's DNA results came back. She had a 2nd cousin match that had a non-indentifying username. In short order, I was able to determine the true name of the match and with her information, began building a mirror tree with her information. After building the tree to 4 generations, I was at a stalemate. We knew that Sheri was bi-racial because of her DNA ethic profile and we knew that the family tree that I had build was purely Hispanic. What we didn't know was whether her biological father or mother was of Mexican descent. For that answer, we turned to 23 and Me. At the same time that Sheri had submitted her DNA to Ancestry.com, she also submitted her DNA to 23andMe.com. Though both services analyze DNA, they do so for different reasons and in different ways. We discovered, through 23andMe.com that Sheri's maternal side was Mexican.
At this point, we made the difficult decision to contact the 2nd cousin match to see if we could identify Sheri's biological mother. We had learned that there were about four females that were of child-bearing age at the time that Sheri was conceived, but we had no way of knowing which woman was her biological mother. In addition, all of the women were deceased so the secret of this child likely died with them.
We contacted the match and was told that she didn't have alot of information that would be helpful, but she would "ask around the family" to see if anyone knew anything. And so, with that, we waited. About a week later, I received an email stating that Sheri had a new DNA match. I clicked the link and much to my shock, I saw a match with over 1500 centimorgans! In DNA analysis land, that is the equivalent of seeing rainbow unicorn riding in a Maserati. Based on our research, we determined that the match was most likely a half-sister. Finally Sheri would get answers...so we thought.
Using my investigative skills, I discovered who the match was and I contacted her. She stated that she too had been adopted and was looking for her biological family. The great thing is that she had secured her non-identifying information from the adoption agency that handled her adoption. Her biological mother was described to a tee to one of the four women that we had suspected and with that, we had the name of their biological mother within minutes of the DNA discovery.
In the end, we learned that Sheri and her new found half-sister had two other siblings and a host of other family members. They all traveled to California for the holidays to meet and invited me to share in the festivities. What a blessing it was to see the fruits of my labor and watch a new chapter in the lives of these four lovely individuals begin.