When Carolyn Conery connected with her biological sister, Gail, after nearly 60 years, she felt like the luckiest person on earth. But as more of the family history was revealed, Carolyn realized that finding Gail now was more than just a coincidence.
Power of Love
Scanning the computer screen, 58-year-old Carolyn Conery’s breath caught as she came across an article on Facebook entitled, “How I found my birth parents and family with my DNA.” As she read about the writer’s happy ending, Carolyn’s heart filled with a familiar ache.
Carolyn had been told early in life that she was adopted. And she actually felt lucky. Her adoptive parents, Marie and Bill, had told her how special she was … that they had picked her. And they’d showered her with unending love. Still, as Carolyn got older, she had a burning desire to find her birth mother. It wasn’t just curiosity about her roots; she wanted to also thank her mother for giving her to parents who filled her life with so much happiness and love.
After becoming a mom herself, Carolyn understood what a sacrifice her birth mother had made for her and decided to begin searching. But as she dug for information, she hit brick walls, including the Catholic Charities that organized her adoption refusing to release any information about her birth parents. Finally, Carolyn gave up.
Over the years, she would think about searching again, especially when she lost both her adoptive parents. Maybe finding my birth mother will help fill the gaping hole in my heart, she’d wonder. And with no information to go on, she didn’t know where to start.
But now, as she read about using DNA to track down long-lost relatives, she felt a surge of hope. Maybe this is the key I’ve been looking for, her spirit whispered, vowing to make it happen this time.
Help from Heaven
After sending a saliva sample to both AncestryDNA and 23andMe, Carolyn was able to locate a few relatives, which then led to a devastating discovery: Her birth mother, Mary, had passed away 20 years earlier. Carolyn wept, knowing all of the words she longed to tell her mother would forever stay silent. Then, right before Christmas 2019, the DNA tests revealed Carolyn had a half-sister named Gail Prasnicki.
Carolyn felt a strange urgency to connect with her and immediately sent an email, explaining who she was.
I can’t believe this, Gail thought when she read the message. She’d known her mother had given up a baby. She’d even tried to find her in the past. But she was amazed that Carolyn had found her — especially now.
Just two weeks earlier, Gail’s younger sister, Donna, had passed away. They’d been best friends. Her loss had crippled Gail with sorrow. But now, hearing from Carolyn, Gail felt her heart lighten a little. She immediately sent off a reply. I know who you are! she typed joyfully.
After a few more emails, they talked on the phone, sharing life stories. Carolyn felt an instant bond and wished they hadn’t missed so much time together.
But despite growing up apart, the sisters found they had much in common. “I didn’t think anyone could talk as much as I do,” Gail laughed.
They also had the same taste in music, were outgoing and both loved and owned Shih Tzu dogs.
As the two set a date for Carolyn to travel from Massachusetts to Gail’s house in North Carolina, there was one thing they both agreed on wholeheartedly: Finding each other after 60 years in the midst of Gail’s horrific loss wasn’t lucky timing. It was God at work from above … with a little help from Donna.
The Gift of Sisterhood
On a clear March day, Carolyn flew into Charlotte from Boston. She was so excited, she shared her story with her Uber driver, who wept. And when they pulled up to Gail’s house, Carolyn’s tears flowed seeing her sister waiting with a broad smile and arms open wide.
“Hi, honey,” exclaimed Gail, pulling her sister into a hug. “I’ve been ready since ten o’clock this morning!”
“I’ve been ready for decades,” Carolyn chimed, her heart full.
The long-lost sisters went inside where they shared a chocolate coconut cake, popped some bubbly and enjoyed more hugs. They then settled at the kitchen table to pore over family pictures, including many of their sister, Donna.
“I think God wanted us to meet each other,” Carolyn whispered.
Gail wiped tears from her eyes and nodded. “Losing Donna left such a big hole in my heart, but you’ve stepped in and taken some of that emptiness away,” she wept.
Over the next six days, they continued to look at photos and share stories, and they took a day trip to Aberdeen to see where their mother and her three sisters grew up. Then they went to Shelby to meet Carolyn’s Aunt Doyle and her husband, Glenn, who welcomed her instantly as family. By the time the visit came to a close, Carolyn found a new sense of peace.
A trip is now in the works for Gail to visit Carolyn to meet her husband and children. In the meantime, the sisters enjoy lots of phone chats, texting and staying close on Facebook.
“Being adopted is like going to the movies — laughing, crying, living the story — except you missed the beginning,” Carolyn shares. “Now, I’ve finally solved the puzzle. My life is complete. I love Gail with all of my heart and look forward to making more memories with her. On to the next chapter!”
3 Free Ways To Connect With Lost Loved Ones
- Try this online resource. Visit YourFamily.com and post a request on the genealogy message board to fill in missing details on your family tree and find ancestors. You can even create your own family homepage with a newsletter, online journal, photo album and scrapbook of your family’s history to make it easier for long-lost loved ones to reconnect!
- Check public records. Put in a request with your state’s Department of Social Services for non-identifying background information on potential family adoptions. “You can get any amended birth certificates or documentation on birth dates and places,” says Lisa Joyner, host of Long Lost Family on TLC. Then visit TruthFinder. com to scour millions of entries in public records, court judgments and other archives that are free to the public.
- Make a family Facebook. “Social media is a fantastic tool for finding family members,” says Chris Jacobs, host of TLC’s Long Lost Family. To do, simply create a Facebook Family Group and add relatives to share stories, photos of ancestors and heirlooms and other memories. Encourage members to add relatives they know, and soon enough, your family tree could be complete!
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.