"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.