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Jun25FriHow a DNA test was the missing piece to my family puzzle. June 25, 2021 by Major Tina Mitchell
I always knew I was adopted. There were no secrets in my family. As an infant, two incredible members of The Salvation Army, William and Laura Moulton from Burin Bay, N.L., took me into their home. I lived most of my life believing God had a special plan for my life because they had chosen me.
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I always prayed that, one day, I would meet my birth parents. My adoptive parents—now deceased— had encouraged me to find my biological family since childhood. As I grew older, married and had children of my own, I became more inquisitive about my birth parents. I had many unanswered questions: I wanted to know where my ancestors were from, find out more information about my genetic makeup and obtain a health history.
While I believe that deciding to trace a birth family is an individual decision, I was hesitant and spent many years contemplating how this decision would impact other lives as well. It’s critical to have a proper support network in place before setting out on this journey.
The Adventure of a Lifetime
Through my own research using government adoption records, I was fortunate to track down my birth mother’s family, the Yetmans from Bay Roberts, N.L., about 15 years ago. Sadly, I learned that my birth mother, Margaret Rose, had been tragically killed by a drunk driver when I was four years old. This gave me a greater desire to find the missing piece of the puzzle: my biological father.
That proved to be a time-consuming and difficult process. My birth mother, unable to care for me properly as a young, unwed woman, had placed me for adoption without a word to anyone of my birth father’s name.
Approximately 10 years ago, a colleague suggested I register with an ancestry DNA company, which might provide some links to my past. It was time to walk through the open door from God.
Little did I know that swabbing my cheek could result in family connections across Canada, some with Indigenous roots. I truly began the adventure of a lifetime.
An Extended Family
In January 2020, I received an email claiming a significant DNA match had been made. Even though I did not have my birth father’s name, my DNA was matched to one of his sisters who had registered with the same public DNA bank. It was the missing piece that I had long been waiting for. I had been connected with an aunt on my father’s side.
I also received numerous notifications of DNA matches, all stemming from the community of Stephenville, N.L. It seems I had hundreds of second, third and fourth cousins— an entire extended family.
Getting to Know Each Other
Of a family of six boys and six girls, Bernard Cormier was the only living brother of my Aunt Hazel, and he had had no idea I existed. Receiving support from my husband, my newly found aunt and my half-sister, God gave me a peace and a strength to telephone “Bernie” with this news.
Bernie’s sister had informed him already of the possible match, and that one of his daughters was willing to submit her DNA for confirmation.
He was shocked and surprised, but happy. I assured him that I had hoped and prayed that discovering a daughter he never knew existed would not be upsetting to him or his family.
“My darling, it is going to take more than this to upset me!” he lovingly replied. I was struck by this comment. I’ve often said the same thing on numerous occasions.
The conversation was lighthearted and enjoyable. We laughed over the similarities in our voice expressions and looked forward to chatting again soon.
Within a couple of weeks, a DNA match with his daughter revealed we were half-sisters, confirming Bernard Cormier was indeed my father.
His daughter telephoned him with the news, and I talked to him again later that evening. His immediate acceptance was heartwarming and it brought tears to my eyes.
Sensing my tears, he asked, “Are you OK?”
“Yes,” I replied. “My tears are tears of joy when I realize God’s grace and faithfulness throughout all my life and especially in this moment.”
We both agreed that the events of the past were all a part of God’s perfect plan and that we would spend the rest of our lives enjoying getting to know each other better.
A Gift From God
With my husband, Cecil, I reunited with my father and his partner, Lola Ogden, in Newfoundland and Labrador in July 2020 during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was thrilled when the provincial government granted me permission to travel there for this long-awaited reunion.
It was an amazing experience meeting both the Yetman and Cormier families, the highlight of my life. I now know what it is like to walk into a room full of people who look like me.
When my father and I first embraced, it was an instant family connection, and a sense of comfort and belonging. There was a remarkable resemblance, and why not? I was looking at my own flesh and blood.
Finding my biological family has truly been a gift from God. I have a beautiful new family. My life is now complete.
Today, nearly one year later, my bond is strong with both families. We speak with each other regularly, we text and visit frequently, and we thank God for allowing us to have found each other after 50 years apart.
Adoption is a wonderful way to start a family, and I am blessed to have had this life chosen for me.
Major Tina Mitchell is the corps and community ministries officer at The Salvation Army’s Cedarbrae Community Church in Toronto.
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