J.S.

"My name is Jennifer, born in April of 1975.  I am an adoptee.  I have been searching for my birth family since I was 18. I live in the Metro Detroit Area in Michigan. I had a closed adoption. Here in our state, adoptees who were born between 1968-1983 have records that are double sealed which has made my search extremely difficult. After years and years of watching adoption stories, reading adoption books, and going to support meetings, I was exhausted from hitting dead ends.

As years past I tried to keep up on laws changing and new breakthroughs. In 1995 I was able to hire a Confidential Intermediary through my state.  Within 6 weeks she was in contact with my birth mother.  My birth mother wanted no contact with me. The rejection was heart breaking.  Although I did find out during this time I had 2 older half sisters placed for adoption,  one out of state, but that's all the info I was given. After a lot of determination and strong will, I pursued the caseworker to look into this for me. Within 2 years I found both sisters - T. born in Ohio 1971 (raised in California ) & S. born in Michigan also (raised in Maryland ).  I met S. first in 2005. We were reunited because we both registered through Central Adoption Registry . It was an amazing connection at first; the one adoptees only hope for.  S. and I compared our non identifying info and decided to contact her caseworker to see about contacting our birth mother again hoping she would see 2 of the 3 were searching. After a short period our birth mother rejected us again. This time it was a major emotional let down.

A few years passed, my adoptive father said, Are you going to finish what you started?" I said, "What do you mean?" He responded, "Search for your birth father?"

I contacted my caseworker in 2008, completed the paperwork and waited.  I found out the birth father named had signed a petition at the time of my birth denying paternity and proved to NOT be my birth father when I searched....another dissappointment. I found this out the week of Father's Day 2008. My adoptive father passed away from cancer 2 months later. I never in my life thought I would ever find where I came from.

Last year (2015), I saw an AncestryDNA commericial. After a few times, I thought to myself "Omg , if I submitted my DNA, I may be able to find my biological family!" WOW!!! Hmmm..but I have no names ??

I got out my adoption binder after 7 years.  Dusted it off, gathered what info i had and started researching AncestryDNA along with checking out Facebook groups.  I ran across DNA NEWBIES, joined & read stories constantly. For my 40th birthday I told my husband I wanted a DNA test and explained all this amazon new information.   Ordered the test, submitted, and waited.... in the meantime I saw the DNA DETECTIVES group and joined that also. Once I received my results, I posted my info seeking assistance .  To my surprise, Cheryl Hester responded to me. Having false birth father info and no birth mother name at the time, and I had a 1st cousin match through AncestryDNA with the last name SMITH. I thought gee just my luck. With Cheryl's knowledge and expertise, we worked together endless hours, days and weeks.

While that was taking place, Ohio, where my oldest sister was born, released their original birth certificates. With my help, T. submitted the correct paperwork eight days after Cheryl and I were putting the puzzle pieces together. I received my birth mother's name, D.T.. Instant anxiety,  feeling every emotion possible.

I messaged the person who created my 1st cousin match D.E.S. as I now had a birth mother's name to go by and waited a few weeks. Cheryl was able to get through to her before me. She guided me with the tools and info on making my next steps. My 1st cousin matches wife was the administrator on the Smith tree. We uploaded our DNA to GEDmatch comparing one on one.. and found out my 1st cousin match was my birth father's side. We both carried an X chromosome which is passed from the mother to the son. My 1st cousin matches mother and my birth father's mother were full sisters.  Whoa!!  N. heard my story, shared it with her cousin , who is now known as my Aunt D. (birth father's sister). Both women live in San Diego, CA. One distinctive trait of mine is I'm a redhead.  N. told Cheryl that her husband has 2 redheaded male cousins who live in Michigan possibly fitting the description of who might be my birth father. With amazing support and guidance from Cheryl Hester , we were able to narrow down the gentleman.  With my known birth mother's name, I reached out privately to them. G.L. who is now my uncle responded first to my request and he spoke with his brother G. G.L. agreed to submit his DNA. Since both men were adopted by their stepdad they understood my longing to know my roots. If G.L. was not my birth father,  it would then be G. G.L. came back as 'close family match' .  My birth father never knew I existed. He asked for some time to get through his feeling of guilt that had he known he would of never left me behind.  A side note..While I was working through my DNA matches, I got in contact with my birth mother via email who gave me five possible birth father's names, none of which were my DNA match. A rare finding it was...

Fast forward to today - a little over a year now.  We have spent every holiday together, met everyone in his immediate family, introduced meas his "new oldest daughter ". They have embraced me with open arms. My dad, G., threw me a surprise (first) birthday this year since he missed the first 40.

No matter what obstacles I had to face,  brick walls, rejections, I NEVER gave up. Thank you, thank you to DNA and the amazing genealogist, Cheryl Hester,that helped me through it all." - J.S.

A.J.

"I was adopted at birth, in 1976, and knew little to information about my birth parents.  With rapid changing laws in progressive adoptee-advocating states, like Illinois, I was able to obtain the name of my birth mother from my original birth certificate. I was very excited to reach out to my birth mother to find out information! I would get finally get to know where I came from!!!  Sadly, each and every attempt I made to contact her was rejected.  My birth mother refused to talk to me or acknowledge my existence.  I was denied information on my heritage, genetic medical conditions, and answers regarding my adoption.  I was also denied access to any information on my birth father, as she did not list him on the original birth certificate and ignored all requests to name him.  I was heartbroken and felt defeated.

In 2015, I began too see advertisements from various DNA companies, touting their ability to show the consumer their actual heritage. As an adoptee, knowing my heritage was something I had to accept I would never know.  So, without hesitation I purchased my first kit and waited, anxiously, for it to be processed.  While waiting I saw how people were finding relatives they didn’t know existed, thanks to DNA.  The anticipation of learning my heritage with the possibility of finding a blood relative was exhilarating!  When my results came in, I was very happy to learn the generic explanation of my global heritage.  Better than nothing!  Much to my dismay, I didn’t have any close matches to other members on the DNA websites.  Meaning, I didn’t have any family beyond distant relatives. The closest was a “possible" 3rd to 5th cousin match.  After a little research, I learned that it is very difficult to find a person you know little nothing about from such distant matches.  So, a waiting game ensued.  Every day I would check the multiple DNA sites to see if a new genetic connection was made.  Then came the day, a great day!  I logged in and found a new match, this person was a potential 2nd cousin.  Hmmmm, but what the heck do I do with that information? I still had no idea how that person was related to me.  And what does a “potential” 2nd cousin mean anyway.  I’m a bright woman, but DNA decoding is not something that comes easy to me!

During the time between sending off my first DNA test and finding a potential 2nd cousin match, I had also found several groups on Facebook, dedicated to adoptees trying to find their birth parents and families by using DNA.  Naturally, I took my new found potential 2nd cousin information to the group to share the excitement of getting closer.  Many members of the group were excited with me.  Then a moderator of the group swooped in and sent me a private message, her name was Cheryl Hester. Cheryl quickly informed me that it was possible to find my birth father with such a match.  Cheryl offered to help me find my birth father.  I was in disbelief and so grateful that a complete stranger would want to help.  I gave Cheryl the tiny bit of information I had on my birth father; hair color, eye color, age, height, number of siblings and that he was in the Marines. I had no other information on him.  Could she really find my birth father with such little information?  Within hours of her contacting me, she had narrowed down her search to a handful of families.  This woman, Cheryl; who lived several states away from me, had never met me, owed me nothing, was suddenly communicating with me throughout the night, updating all the time and coaching me through an extremely emotional time.  I remember her being so kind and supportive.  Neither of us slept.  She kept me updated throughout the whole process. She was like an angel that had come to grant me a wish.   And then it happened…. In less than 24 hours, Cheryl Hester found my birth father.  We had a name.  I HAD A NAME!  

The story doesn’t end there.  Within 48 hours of meeting Cheryl, I had a contact for my birth father.  Cheryl even coached me on my choices of contact.  I chose to contact him on my own. I remember the first phone call, I got to tell a 70 year old man, with no children, that he had fathered a baby girl 39 years ago.  He had no idea of my existence.  That moment, of hearing his voice and telling him that I was his daughter will remain one of the most treasured moments in my life.

That first phone call changed the lives of many and we are all so much more because of it.  The love and connection I have with my newly found birth father and family is more than I could have dreamed of. The story of connecting with my birth father is beyond exceptional.  A month after contacting my birth father, I was able to fly to Texas and meet him.  Coincidentally, Cheryl was close enough that I was able to meet her and tell her in person how much I appreciated her help.  Cheryl’s knowledge, persistence, kindness and support changed my life.  I am forever changed because of her skills and forever grateful to her.

I spent many years trying to find things on my own.  Countless hours looking through old newspapers, public records, registries, etc.,  to find a name or some tidbit of information.  DNA has made it exponentially easier to locate someone.  However, understanding genetic genealogy is not for everyone.  I like mysteries and puzzles more than most, but genetic genealogy is very complicated.  I couldn’t have done it alone.  I wouldn’t know who my birth father is today had I not been helped by Cheryl.  Please, give yourself the gift of finding who you are looking for, whomever that may be.  You are worth it! " - A.J.

D.H.


"Abandonment is an issue all of its own. It comes with hundreds of questions that have zero answers, until DNA AND Cheryl Hester! Cheryl worked tirelessly on Jenna's case and we went from knowing nothing about our 20 year olds birth family, to knowing who both birth mom and dad are, to meeting grandparents, aunts and cousins, so quickly our hearts were amazed!  She put a family tree together that she will have forever!  Cheryl has the knowledge that made connections we would have never made, and the compassion of a true angel! Jenna says "She really knows her stuff, but she is so personable she made me comfortable sharing my concerns."  When you work with Cheryl Hester, you not only gain the information, but also a friend who guides you through what to do with the information you are given. I will forever treasure her! She is professional, and lives up to everything I can imagine as a genetic genealogist!" - D.H.

M.A.

"I recently completed the search for my birth father. I could never have competed my search without Amanda Reno. She was able to look at the overall picture of the research in ways that I never could. She kept me focused, directed my research and did an amazing amount of research from sources that I will not ever have access to. She was a cheerleader, a counselor, a data miner and a friend all at once. She gave me hope and then she gave me answers! Thank you, Amanda!" - M.A.

B.B.

"I waited 43 years for information on my birth family. When I finally got it I had NO idea what to do with it.  I now had names, but all of the other information was decades old. That is when I turned to Amanda. I had seen her in one of the FB groups offering her help to Ohio residents who were beginning to get their adoption information. Once I gave Amanda my information it was only a matter of hours before I had current updated information on my birth family. She was with me every step of the way, reminding me to breathe, helping guide me on “first contact” and providing compassion when the search for my bf ended at a grave.  She explained DNA and provided me the knowledge to be able to back up my findings with DNA matches. Only a fellow searcher would understand what a gift she has given me. I will forever be grateful for all that she has done for me." - B.B.