Finding Full Sisters After 50 Years

Updated On: August 23, 2022

Christina and Eileen have several things in common. Both sets of parents took a huge secret to the grave. It took DNA magic for them to realize that they are actually full sisters, separated by more than 50 years. Their bond in such a short time is remarkable, as you’ll hear. In another “it’s a small world” moment, Christina and Eileen have ties to St. Louis and San Francisco, the two previous places where Corey and Kendall lived.

Join the Family Twist family here!

Listen, Rate & Subscribe

Apple

Amazon

Google

Spotify

Transcript

00:05 Welcome to Family Twist, a podcast about relatively unusual stories of long lost families, adoption, and lots of drama. I'm Corey. And I'm Kendall, and we've been partners for over 16 years. Welcome back to Family Twist. Thank you for joining us again. We have some very great guests today. I did a little pre interview, called with them a couple of weeks ago. It's a wonderful story.

00:29 We have full sisters, Christina and Eileen, although it hasn't been very long that they realize they were full sisters. Is that fair to say, Eileen? That is correct, yes. How long has it been since you two found out about each other? Well, it's fair for me to say that Christina knew about me before I knew about her. I've known about her and our other sister Julia since June of last year, like a year and a half at this point now.

00:59 So, Christina, this all sort of came out through a day test, right? Yeah, my sister Julia did 23 and Me several years ago and then called me last Christmas and said, hey, it looks like we have a niece out there that we never knew we had. And so I got on 23 and Me and found out I was related to this niece as well, but we had no idea who the mother of this or father. We didn't know if there was a brother or sister out there.

01:28 And so that started the digging to try to find out where this niece came from and who the sibling was that we had out there that we didn't know about. I leaned your daughter is the niece that was on 23 and Me. And why was she on there? Why did she do the test? Well, she's the middle child of my five. Okay. And she is a pharmaceutical student at UC San Francisco.

01:56 And it's a big deal, I guess, in her generation and in the field that she's in to know about family medical history. And so she was just doing the research. I guess a bunch of people in her class were just doing research on family background, medical history. And so when all these unfamiliar names popped up as being related to her because of 23 and me, Christina's name, Julia's name, and then our Aunt Theo's name and our Aunt Anna's name, and all these names popped up, and she was like, whatever, I have no clue who these people are.

02:32 So she never told me. She did this, like, almost two years ago, October, and she never told me any of the results. And so that's when Julia found out about having the full niece and told Christina. And then they started stalking me or trying to find me anyway and stalking me primarily on Facebook. And that's when they reached out to Daniella, my daughter, who did the DNA test. And she, first of all, was through 23, ANDME they were trying to reach her.

03:00 And first of all, doesn't get on 23 and me all that much. And then when she started getting messages, she thought, this is weird. I'm just going to ignore these people. It's kind of strange. So she never really got back to anybody. So as far as I know, I think their search kind of hit a dead end for a little while. It was in June of last year that I got contacted by Nick, who sent me this huge long text through Facebook Messenger. And I, at the time, was in Houston visiting my oldest daughter, who had just had a baby.

03:32 And so I was being grandma and going and hanging out with my grandkids and with my daughter, and I get this text. We're sitting at her dining room table for clarification. Nick Sheeti is a professional genealogist. He has been a guest on this podcast. And he's somehow related to you, correct? Eileen julia. He's related, actually, to Kevin. Okay. He's like a 13th cousin or something. So they have a very distant family relationship. So Kevin our brother in laws.

04:02 Kevin and Nick are very distantly related. And their friends and their genealogy nerds. Well, it's good to be a nerd and then maybe able to make a living out of it. Exactly. And I get to this very long message from Nick Sheeti about a family that I never knew about paris that I never knew about. He knew so much information about me that I was blown away.

04:30 I'm like, how in the world is he getting all this information about me? So I shared this text. I'm sitting right next to my daughter at the dining room table. So I shared this with her. Rachel, what do I do with this? And she reads it, and her eyes just pop open huge. And she's like, mom, this is a scam. Just ignore this. This is weird. This is a scam. Share this with dad, but don't respond to this guy. So I didn't. Turns out my husband got the same message, actually, and so did my daughter Daniella. So that night, I was talking things over with my husband because, like I said, I was in Houston.

05:02 My husband and I live in San Diego. So he was in San Diego, and he went looking over my birth certificate. And for the first time in my 56 years, because, well, 57 years, I noticed that my birth certificate did not look like a normal birth certificate. I had never dawned on me about why my birth certificate looked a little strange. There's a lot of things that had been blacked out on my birth certificate. There was a lot of things that were blank on my birth certificate. And as we were looking at this, my husband went, I think this is a copy.

05:33 I don't think this is an actual original birth certificate. I think your original birth certificate has been modified, and then this is a copy of your original birth certificate. So at that point then I decided that I would contact the only person still left living because all our parents are dead at this point. The only person left living was my Godmother. So I sent her I actually started calling her and I left her a voice message and I'm asking her to tell me the truth about my birth and the truth about whether I was adopted or not.

06:02 Well, she didn't get back to me until the next day. Danielle and I had a long conversation that night too, but regardless, my godmother got back to me the next morning and when she said, yes, Eileen, you were adopted, I literally almost passed out on the kitchen floor of my daughter's house there in Houston, and I just sat there on the floor and the wave after wave after wave of shock just I'm 57 for heaven's sakes. All parents who knew anything about this all went to their grave without telling me or telling anybody because Christina and Julia didn't know either.

06:35 Okay, so nobody knew that I was adopted. So it was quite a shock. Never an inkling growing up or anything like that, that you were adopted, that it was always never your parents were your parents and nothing was ever said. Correct. Nothing was ever said. There was never any hint, nothing I leave. You grew up just normal existence. No idea. And your parents didn't have any other children.

07:06 Correct. I was raised as an only child, okay? Alright. And you have no idea how many times I craved a sister so bad. I don't want to start crying. But as I was growing up, I wanted a sister so bad. And now here she is in the flesh and it's like I wish I had known her 57 years ago. My life would have been so different. When you were speaking to your Godmother, did you ask her why your parents never told you?

07:36 Apparently my adopted father had no desire to tell me. I don't know if he thought that I would hate them or something. I don't know. All I know is that my adoptive father told everybody not to tell me. When you were growing up, did you have any friends that were adopted? Did you know any other kids? I know a lot of kids, but I didn't know anybody who was adopted. Not that I know of. I mean, it could have been and I just didn't know. Yeah, I'm just curious if there was some kind of a weird stigma or something that your father had that made him not want to tell you.

08:08 No, other than the fact that my adoptive father was a little weird, but no, other than that, no. Christina, here we are. You grew up with a sister and a brother, right? Yeah, just one sister, actually. I don't know about his brother. Wait a minute. That's the next episode? Yeah. Please say no more. This has been enough. So no inkling at all that your parents had another kid out there?

08:39 Nothing was ever spoken of. What was their history that you knew about as far as before they got married? And to clarify, when we first saw Daniela on 23 and me and looked at who else she was related to, a lot of my dad's side is on 23 and me, so she was related to a lot of our aunts and cousins. We at first thought this was just a child of our father's, and we didn't even think that it could be our mother's child.

09:11 And so, honestly, we thought, well, it might be interesting to meet her. We weren't as invested. But then one day, I got on and was looking and saw that Daniella and I had relatives in common on both sides. Some of my mom's relatives were also her relatives, and that threw us for a loop, like, how can this be possible? And then that's when we contacted Nick Shetty, who helped us look at all the possibilities.

to of our parents together in:they didn't get married until:

10:39 But we can't find anybody who knows that she was ever pregnant and then gave up a baby. How did she hide the fact that she had a baby? Did she leave town? She grew up in Colorado and moved out to the San Francisco Bay Area for a nursing program there. And so it was there that she had Eileen and gave her up for adoption. And we looked back through, like, White Pages accounts of where she lived and the year that Eileen was born.

11:08 There's no record of where she lived that year, so I honestly don't know. I'm sure you can hide it from everybody, but she never told her family, and obviously, she wasn't around her family. She was in a different state. She didn't tell the roommate that she lived with right after Eileen was born. We asked her. She didn't tell. We can't find anyone, actually. And that's probably the hardest part about this, is knowing she went to her grave without telling anybody about it. So it's interesting, and obviously, you can't ask her but maybe she didn't think that Eileen was your dad.

11:42 I guess. Hard for me to fathom. Like, if she did think that your dad was also Eileen's dad, then why not tell him? Exactly. Yeah. Was it a closed adoption? Yes. Okay. I guess that makes sense. With your dad. Yeah. Early, before he died, my Godmother would call him repeatedly and ask him, please tell Eileen. Please tell Eileen. Please tell Eileen. She needs to know.

12:10 Apparently, she called him several times while my father was dying. My adoptive father was dying, and he destroyed all records of the adoption so that once he was gone and we were going through his paperwork and stuff, there was no record at all of any paperwork of my adoption. He just some reason had it in his head that he did not want me to know. Took it to his grave. Christina once you started to put things together with Nick's help, what was the next move?

12:40 How did you sense? Danielle wasn't really wanting to respond, and Eileen was a little bit hesitant, like, not sure if this is a scam or what's going on. What was the next move towards you getting to meet? It was an interesting process going through, because on 23 me, we had Danielle's full name, but we didn't know really who she was. So we had to kind of stalk her on Facebook, find out who we thought she might be, find out her mom's name. And then Nick was able to find Eileen's birth record.

13:11 And then we found a birth record with our mother's maiden name that matched identically Eileen's birth record. So that's how we put the pieces together. How Nick put the pieces together. And then he said, hey, this is super awkward. Why don't you let me reach out to Eileen? Because I have credentials. She can look me up, and I can tell her the whole story. And then if she's ready, if she wants to, she can meet you guys. So you said that was fine?

13:42 We gave him permission, and that's when he sent the lengthy Facebook messenger message to her, her husband, and Daniella, just so they would all see this is legit, and they could talk about it with each other before making contact, which is exactly what we did. My cashing was out with family first before I reached out. What made you think, Eileen, that maybe this wasn't a stand, that this might be legit? What verified it for me was my Godmother the next day telling me that, yes, I was adopted.

14:10 Up until that point, I was still hesitant to accept the truth. So my Godmother telling me the next day I was adopted and that my adoptive father just didn't want me to know. That was when it solidified it in my head. What was the first contact between the two of you? What did we do? Christina how did we reach out to each other for the first time I'm drawn a blank on that.

14:36 Well, I remember I think you responded fairly shortly after you got the message from Nick and we were talking on Facebook messenger. So I think once she found out our names, then she looked us up on Facebook and we started messaging each other through messenger. I had just flown into California. I think I was in La. Right? I flew in for a wedding and you were in Texas.

15:04 So we did a lot of just messaging each other back and forth, asking questions, stalking each other's Facebook pages. But then our first actual meeting I don't know if you want to tell that story, Eileen. Oh, yeah, that was pretty cool. During all that, I'm still in Houston, right, because I'm playing grandma with seeing my new grandbaby and stuff. So Christina, Lem and Luke were in California because they were college shopping for their son Luke.

15:32 I'm figuring this is a very interesting opportunity because Christina lives in Tennessee, so what's the likelihood that I'm going to be flying out to Tennessee anytime soon to go see her, right? So when I came home, quite literally, they were like, leaving San Diego as I was coming into San Diego. So they were on the road up to La. Doing touring, like I said, visiting colleges and stuff like that. And then Christina was going to a wedding up in the Sacramento area. And so they were going to be in California for like ten days.

16:02 I think you guys were like seven to ten days, something like that. So there was ample opportunity for us to coordinate a trip. So literally, I came home from Houston, my husband said, let's go up and go meet your sister. So literally, almost the next day, I'm packing another suitcase and we're heading up the road to Sacramento so I can meet Christina. And it was kind of late at night by the time we got up there. It's just like a nine hour drive from San Diego to Sacramento, and we had so much traffic, it was awful.

So it was like:

17:04 That's great. And that just warms my heart, these kind of stories. And of course we can relate with Kendall's journey and finding his family. Sure. Part of the frustrating thing is that unanswered questions and all of the years miss, but it's like, well, we just got what we got now. Exactly. Got to move on.

17:27 I think the part that makes me the most sad is that because of the fact that our mom kept it a secret and didn't want any contact with me, she missed out on five beautiful grandchildren because I'd have five kids, and now I have eight grandchildren. So she would have had well, I don't know that she would have had great grandchildren at that point because she was gone, but before my kids started having babies. But she missed out on five beautiful grandchildren, incredible grandchildren.

17:59 And I think that's the part that makes me the most sad for her, especially, is that she didn't get a chance to be a part of my kids as growing up years. So Christina talked about what it's like to form a relationship with a sister that after 50 plus years. Yeah, it's been a roller coaster. It's been great. Eileen is very easy to love and fun.

18:27 I think that first weekend when we met, I was busy with my friend's wedding, and I didn't get to hang out with her a lot, but we went for walks together, and we went deep pretty fast, caught up pretty fast. And the fun thing, too, we share similar faith, and so we really can just, like, there was automatically, like, this connection is feeling like God had brought us together. And that was, like that was a cool thing. And then Eileen came to what?

18:55 We had a family reunion on my dad's side of the family over in September. Labor Day weekend. Yeah. So Eileen came for that, and that was really sweet just to connect the three of us. The three sisters got together in Julia's hotel room, and just we had to each do, like, a timeline of our lives and share, like, the highs and lows of our life so we could catch up. And so we each went around and did that.

19:24 And I felt like that was really special, too, just to cover all the years that had been lost. And it's been sweet to see how our aunts and our cousins just have embraced Eileen. It's like she's always been a part of the family. And my nephews, too, have embraced me as well. So particularly Alex. Alex is just julius has two boys, and her older son Alex is just, like, absolutely flipped out that he has family, and he has gone out of his way to come see me.

19:56 My daughter just graduated from UC San Francisco. Talk about full circle, by the way, because that's where our mom was, was at UC San Francisco, and my daughter graduated from UC San Francisco with her pharmaceutical degree in May. And our nephew Alex came to her graduation because he wanted to meet his cousins. Now, not all of my children came, but four of my five children came, and four of my eight grandchildren came.

20:24 So Christina got to meet all four of my five kids, which is cool. Because up to that point, she hadn't met all of them. She'd only met Daniella and Joe at that point. But she got to meet four of my five, and Alex got to meet his cousins, and he just flipped over his cousins. He said, My cousins are the bomb. They're great. It's been cool for him, too, to know that he's got a really cool family that he could hang out with and stuff, and so they've all opened their arms and embraced them, too. So it was pretty cool.

20:54 Yeah. I find it incredible that when siblings find each other, it impacts so many people. It spreads and spread. It does. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, close friends. I'm sure your close friends were excited for you as well. Kendall and I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for nine years, and I believe the Christine of the family reunion you mentioned was in St. Louis. Yes. Where are from?

21:25 So crazy. I know. It feels like everybody in St. Louis is sort of related to each other one way or another. We could be 13th cousins. Also, the weekend we met in Sacramento, I had only college friends there for this wedding, and so Eileen got to meet, like, five of my really close friends from college, too. I mean, it's been a cool process.

21:55 Christina, when you met Eileen, what did you see in her that everybody's two parents? Eileen's eyes look like on my mom. Totally. And her coloring is very similar to my mom. My mom had lighter hair, and so looking in her eyes, I feel like I'm looking at my mom. And the way she smiles, too, is very similar. And then her personality is similar to my father. So weird. So she's like a combination of both of them.

22:24 Honestly, Eileen is more a combination of both my parents than my younger sister and myself. Like, she looks like both of them put together well. It's about nature versus nature on this podcast quite a bit just because Kendall grew up not knowing his first family at all. And so we've talked about some of the similarities between him and his adoptive parents, and he had a wonderful relationship with his adoptive parents, but then now meeting his dad and his siblings, seen some of the similarities there and personality traits and stuff.

22:58 I don't think they'll mind me saying, they've all got, like, a very they don't have the longest views as far as temper goes. They're not me or anything. They're all short used. It's just kind of funny to see that through siblings. Yeah. Eileen even has some mannerisms that I remember my mom having, and it's like, how does that happen? Like, they were never around each other.

23:23 Well, what's interesting is when our cousin Florence is in the area above Sacramento, and we actually inadvertently managed to stay a night with them because while we were up there, our car got broken into, and we had to stay an extra night, and it was a mess, and we had to get a new rental car and all this stuff. And it's like I said, a nine hour drive down from Sacramento, florence has five girls. Beautiful girls are just amazing.

23:47 So our cousins once removed, these girls, and I'm sitting at the table of them at Rubio's, and all of them are grilling me with questions and wanting to get to know me and just going on a lot about questions and stuff like that. And one of the answers I reacted to funny I don't even remember what the question was, but I reacted to it in a funny way. And Florence, who's our first cousin, florence's husband Roland, looks at me and he says, that's exactly how Paul would have answered that question. And he says, you are so like your dad.

24:18 It's amazing. And I'm like, oh, okay. He does. Your facial expression, your mannerism, the way you answer that question, your reaction just now, even your laugh, was just like your dad. And I never knew him, of course, and here I am, and I act just like them. This is a question for both of you. Talk a little bit about your relationship with Julia. So Julia is the youngest, obviously, and she has a lot of health issues, so she's been slow to just jump into this whole thing.

24:48 I think she's interested but cautious. So when we were together, though, I felt like she was pretty engaged when we met for the family reunion. And then Eileen has gotten to see her once more since this. But I think I honestly feel like for her, there's still some bitterness towards our parents, mostly towards our mom, you know, for not telling us about this when there are secrets like that. I mean, probably for you, too, Eileen, it feels like, well, did I ever really know her?

25:18 I thought I knew her. And there's this huge secret, this huge part of her life that I didn't know. And I think Julia is probably struggling with that, and that's probably why she's a little more cautious as well as just not being in great health. I think that initially she was very engaged and was wanting to know all about me, was grilling me with questions.

25:41 And we spent a long, lengthy face time together one time in the hotel room, and she and her husband Kevin just wanted to get to know me and get to know a couple of my kids, because I think Joe and Danielle were there at the same time. This is when we were in Sacramento, so we spent some time face timing. Like I said, I know Julia struggles a lot with her health, and so, bless her heart, that's been probably the biggest factor in her being able to interact at all with her health.

26:13 So I make it a point to stay in touch with her, even if she doesn't get back to me. I just want her to know that she's loved, even though I didn't know her until 57 years later. So I don't want to ever feel left out. I try really hard to keep her engaged in what I'm doing in my life. Even if she doesn't respond, I don't care. I still stay in touch with her. Our lifestyles are very different, very different.

26:37 Because of her health issues, she struggles, and I'm very physically active, very outdoorsy person, very involved with my horses, and she's a lot more reclusive by nature because of her health. So I think a lot of it is just our personalities, which are very similar, I don't think struggles with the fact that we don't really have a lot in common, so she has a hard time relating to my lifestyle. So that, I think, has probably been the biggest challenge that Julia has faced with.

27:08 This whole thing is just Eileen is very different from me, and I can't relate to her lifestyle. I keep reminding myself that this is so fresh. This is just within the last year. But I'm curious, what kind of future plans do you have as a family? My son is going to school tomorrow at USC in Los Angeles, so we're flying out tomorrow to drop him off, and Eileen is going to drive down and see us or drive up, I guess, from San Diego.

27:43 So that's an immediate plan. And then my hope is that our son can get to spend some time with her while he's only 2 hours away from her and studying in California. And I still need to meet one more of Eileen's sons, so try to get that somehow scheduled. And then, like, Eileen's daughter Daniela is going to come stay with us in September just for a little getaway.

28:09 Her daughter Rachel and I are going to get together also in September, so we've got little plans. Just connect points with each other. But yeah, honestly, I told Eileen I don't know when it was eileen, I told you, yeah, this is it, man. We're family for life now. We're family for life now. It can happen. I would love to come out to Tennessee again and spend time with Christina again. I don't know how big Christmas is for you, too, but is that something you've talked about wanting to do?

28:39 A big Christmas celebration with his many family members as well? Christina, was it? You guys have had COVID at that point, and you couldn't come, so yeah, we had a big family plan all planned out for Christmas. Everybody. It would have been nice if almost all my kids again were there. One of my sons is in the Navy, and he was deployed, so he was unable to come. But anyway, we had to, unfortunately, minimize the plans because Kobe struck, so Christine couldn't come.

29:11 And then Kevin and Julia decided that they were too afraid of Covet, too, and they. Were actually in the airport when they canceled their flight and went turned around and went back home again. So Yay Covet, definitely. The last couple of years, I've thrown a lot of wrenches into the works for families. Yes. So I'm curious what kind of advice you would have for siblings or daddy kids or mothers and kids that are just fighting each other for the first time after years and years, like, how to approach this? Any words of wisdom?

29:42 Well, some people wouldn't necessarily embrace it with open arms the way I've actually told that many people that I've handled it extremely well. And I'm not going to deny I have had to work through some forgiveness towards both sides of the parental party here for not telling anybody about me, that I had to find out this way.

30:08 But in the long run, it's like, okay, so now I have 57 years to make up, and I want to get to know my sisters as best as I can. I want to do as much as I can to spend time with them and treasure every minute I have because I didn't have 57 acres, and now I have what's left, and so we have to make the most of it, and I have to just accept the fact that the past is the past. I can't change.

30:33 It time to move on and embrace what I've been given and just praise God that I have a family, because like I said my whole life, I believe I was an only child, and now I'm not. And now I have a family, and that just blows me out of the water still, to this day, just blows me out of the water. I have a neighbor who's adopted, and when I found out about Eileen, I was talking to her about whether we should make contact or not, and she said she would not respond if someone from her birth family reached out to her.

31:12 And it was just she had a happy childhood. She didn't want it interrupted. I think everybody's different, but I guess what I would say is just go slow, go at the pace of the least comfortable person. So whoever is, just disrespect that and go slowly, because Eileen was all in, which is awesome. Julia is not so all in, so we just let her go at the pace she wants to go.

31:39 And I think, too, biological, families that you were raised with and families that you discover that you weren't raised with, like, we're all different. Like, there are things about Eileen I'm not a horse person. She is. We have some things that are different about us, but Julia and I grew up in the same house, and we have things that are different about us. So it's not like you have to have everything in common, but just kind of exploring, getting to know each other.

32:07 And I think that sensitivity to the least comfortable person is probably the most important thing because you don't want to push it on somebody if they're not ready. Yeah, this has been great. And I know the story is still fresh and unfolding, so hopefully you don't mind if I check in with you. Yeah, no, that'd be totally fine. Six months down the road, I'm going to have another grandbaby in February, so that'll be grandbaby number nine for me. Yeah. So I'll be in Colorado probably sometime February, March to go see it out, baby.

32:40 Well, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I think it's so helpful to people who are going through this or thinking about doing a DNA test and sort of testing those waters. So I think these kind of stories are invaluable to people as more and more come out. We always say, you can't hide DNA. It's the truth. Yes, it is. And sometimes you just get something brushed at you and you have to figure out how to deal with it.

33:09 So I think these stories are very helpful for that. So thank you. Yeah. Thank you, Corey. This has been fun. This is the Family Twist podcast hosted by Kendall and Cory Stalks with original music by Cosmic Afterthoughts and produced by Outpost Production and presented by Savoir Fair Marketing Communications. Have a story you want to share, visit familytwistpodcast.com. All our social media links are there as well.

34:23 Bye.