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033 – My Sister Reunited Too, But Didn’t Know About Me

Jenny journaled about her birth mother from an early age. She grew up in a loving family, but the urge to find her birth family was always there. When Ohio opened it birth records, she obtained some vital information that led her to her birth mother on Facebook and later to her birth father. But she never expected to learn she had a full sister!


Jenny (00:02): I called them and I told them who I was and I said, you know her name and he’s like, Oh yeah, yeah, that’s who I am. And I mean, he didn’t try to act like that wasn’t him. And um, he just told me a whole bunch of stuff and that, that was one of the things he told me was, Oh, we had another kid together. He didn’t say how old or even if it was boy or a girl, but he was like, yeah. And I was like, Oh. But I didn’t tell him I knew.

Voices (00:30): Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

Damon (00:41): This is Who Am I Really, a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. I’m Damon Davis and on today’s show is Jenny. In Ohio where Jenny lives, the law changed to recently allowing her to access her original birth certificate. That meant after years of research with no information, she was able to finally track down her family. She connected with them on Facebook and just introduced herself out of the blue. But it turned out she wasn’t the only one to return to the family. In the end, Jenny made family connections she’s excited about and she’s looking forward to getting to know them all more. Here’s Jenny’s story.

Damon (01:27): Jenny says she has a great family referring to her adoptive family. Interestingly, her parents didn’t think they could have children, so they adopted. Her parents conceived her younger sister naturally thereafter. I asked Jenny about her feelings as an older adopted sibling growing up.

Damon (01:43): Did you guys, you and your sister talk about your adoption at all, maybe when you got older or anything like that when you could sort of have more logical conversation about it?

Jenny (01:55): Um, yeah. I mean, I, she knew that she always knew I wanted to search. Um, in Ohio, they just changed the law where I could get my original birth certificate. So growing up I knew I wasn’t going to get it. Um, and cause that just changed like two years ago. So, um, I knew I’d have to like hire someone or do something or you know, to be able to find them unless, unless they would join a mutual consent, which they never did. So like a registry.

Damon (02:23): A registry or some other online resource. I gotcha.

Jenny (02:26): Right. Yeah.

Damon (02:28): So did I hear you say you, you always wanted to search?

Jenny (02:32): Oh yeah. It’s all through… I’ve re-read my journals from when I was a kid. It’s all in there. I wanted to find her. I thought about her all the time.

Damon (02:39): Really. What kinds of things did you write in your journal from when you were a kid? When and why? Well, first of all, when did you start journaling and, and what kinds of things did you write in your journal as a kid?

Jenny (02:49): I was probably 10 when I started writing it like every day and I probably did it for 10 years every day. I would just think about it. Um think about her. I didn’t really think about my birth father, but I was just thinking about her like what’s her life like? What’s she like? Is she okay? Is she going to find me? Those were the, those are the themes.

Damon (03:13): It’s interesting you were concerned about her as much as, um, she was probably concerned about you, huh?

Jenny (03:19): Yeah.

Damon (03:20): Did you, did you explicitly write any fantasies? I mean, 10 years old is a pretty young age. You’re still fairly imaginative at that time. Did you, as you read back through your journals, did you find any like real fantasies about meeting her or who she might be or anything like that in your own writing?

Jenny (03:39): I think I just pictured her like my mom, except younger and with more kids. I don’t know why, but I always thought she would have them.

Damon (03:47): Oh really? You thought you had a bunch of siblings, huh?

Jenny (03:51): Younger than me. Yeah. But then I found out I had one older.

Damon (03:55): That’s fascinating and it’s actually a little bit of a hidden Testament to your own mother because if all you could imagine in a mother was your mother, that’s, that’s pretty cool. That, that she, you know, was so impactful on your life in such a loving mother that that was all you could envision was just a younger version of her.

Jenny (04:14): Right, I know.

Damon (04:16): That’s pretty cool. I asked Jenny how she began her search. She said she read voraciously about adoption, but the idea to use the birth index, a running record of infant births didn’t occur to her until she was older. Jenny had gotten her non identifying information when she was 18 indicating her birth mother had a younger sister and giving her additional information, confirming her birth had happened in the area where she lived.

Jenny (04:41): I read from like 16 to 18 once I could drive. I read every book at the library about closed private non-family adoption. And so a lot of those were about, some of them were about reunion, some of them were about searching, but then I kind of stopped. I didn’t, I never read The Primal Wound until just recently. So I wish I would have read that. But I had stopped reading all the adoption stuff by then. But um, I got the idea to go to the, to the birth index when I was about 27 and because that is, you know, an anytime baby’s born, you know, they just record it right then in, in an index. So it wouldn’t have been, um, it would’ve had her name at the time. So, um, I found the last name in a birth index in the county I was born in, uh, in the university library.

Jenny (05:27): And from that I just would search online or just search for that name. But, um, she actually had come to Ohio to have me and then she went back to where she was from. So I knew she wasn’t like, you know, in Ohio. I wasn’t going to find her there, but I thought I could probably find her grandparents or something like that. Um, but then, um, in 2011, that’s when I found her father’s obituary, so I just could connect all the dots that, Oh, that was her. And then I got her name, her married name, first name. So that’s how, and then once the, once that happened, I found her on Facebook.

Damon (06:04): What did you think when you found her father’s obituary, and this is your grandfather, what did it, what, what went through your mind at that moment there?

Jenny (06:12): Well, I didn’t, I had been searching on Legacy for that last name. And it’s not like he had just died when I found it because even though I’ve been searching for a long time, it just happened to pop up. And he had died like a few years before that. No, I mean I was glad that I finally found something that I could use to, I mean, but it was, I mean it was weird to see that the names then their first names, cause I only ever knew the last name from the index.

Damon (06:38): Yeah, I bet that was very interesting.

Jenny (06:41): Yeah, yeah.

Damon (06:43): There’s that moment when when the person goes from fantasy to very real, when you can actually see their first name, you can see their last name and they, you attach an identity to a real person. You know, it’s a funny feeling that you get.

Damon (06:58): Jenny sent her mother a message on Facebook, but she never replied. But even without a reply, she could see pictures in her mother’s public profile and there were even old pictures of her mother posted, allowing Jenny a glimpse into the past. Jenny let her search rest there until 2017 when policy changes afforded her the opportunities to have her search advanced. And the curiosity about her birth father’s identity began to grow.

Jenny (07:26): Two years ago, you know, all the adoption stuff came back in the news because they changed the law. So I was able to get my certificate and you know, the name was right. I was right about who was so, um, but the, the birth father’s name was on there and, and I really, you know, hadn’t really thought about him much because I kind of figured, even if she had kept me, I wouldn’t have known him. I mean, cause they didn’t stay together. So I kind of felt like once I knew she was, well, I’m just like other people that don’t know one parent for whatever reason. But then it started bothering me more and more. And then when I got the certificate, there’s no names. So I went back to the agency and I told them, I said, Hey, I know I know who she is, I want to know his name, but they wouldn’t give it to me.

Jenny (08:04): I figured it was in the file just because, you know, I had all this non identifying information and it’s not like she didn’t know who he was, you know, just from the story that was there. So then I, I messaged her again and she didn’t, she didn’t respond, so I don’t know if she got it or not. So then I was like, well, it’s more time goes on, might never be able to figure it out. So, um, so then I messaged her sister on Facebook and I told her who I was. I was up late one night, feeling sorry for myself and I sent her a message. I didn’t get a response back right away. Um, and I just kind of put it out in my mind. And then four days later I get a response on Facebook and she says, she just got the message. Of course it was a day when I couldn’t charge my phone. I was out all day and then, and then, and I was like, okay, I’m going to take my daughter home. I’m going to just go sit in the parking lot cause I was early to pick up the other kids.

Damon (08:56): That must have been so crazy to know you had a message from her and not be able to read it. It must have been like torture.

Damon (09:01): Her aunt messaged her back after some introductory comments. Jenny got to the point of her outreach. She was looking for more information.

Jenny (09:09): She said, cause then my message, I basically just said I want, I want his name and I want my medical information. So basically what I said that was basically what I wanted. And she said, well she said she didn’t know his name and um, and she passed the message on. And then I gave her my email and cell phone just so that they could communicate with me easier. So then it was probably a few weeks later, my birth mom sent me an email and then that was the first time I’d ever communicated with her.

Damon (09:35): So you’ve introduced yourself to your aunt. You’ve been waiting for your biological mother to reply to you. You got nothing back. You felt sorry for yourself one night you said, I’m going to, I’m going to text her sister and just bam. I’m going to introduce myself and kick down the family door. Now you’ve, you’ve introduced yourself, four days later she writes back, did she say anything like, Oh my God, I had no idea you existed or you know, I spoke with your mother and any.. What did she say?

Jenny (10:04): She said that, um, that my birth mom didn’t get those messages that I sent her.

Damon (10:08): Oh wow. That’s too bad.

Jenny (10:10): But she didn’t know about me either. She didn’t know that I was out there.

Damon (10:13): Oh, she admitted that too. Wow.

Jenny (10:16): I think she told me that. She may have told me later that she didn’t know about me. She may not have said that right away.

Damon (10:20): There was lots of texting and messaging happening. Her birth mother gave Jenny her birth father’s information and a whole lot more.

Jenny (10:28): My birth mom, she gave me his name, but I didn’t really do anything with that. I didn’t, I mean I searched, but at the time I didn’t even really know what city I should be searching in.

Damon (10:35): Right.

Jenny (10:36): I mean, I knew where she lived now, but I didn’t know for sure. I didn’t really have anything to prove that that’s where they met. So, but then I found out that, you know, the right city. Um, and I found him right away. He was just in the phone book.

Damon (10:49): It was very easy.

Jenny (10:49): Yeah, that was easy. Um, but so I talked to my aunt and then, um, probably after the original contact, that’s when I found out that, that, um, my birth mom had another child before me that was also placed for adoption.

Damon (11:04): Wow. So you, you were right about the siblings then, so, well, so tell me a little bit about that first conversation with your aunt. What do you remember from that? I know you’ve probably, yeah.

Jenny (11:18): Um, she was telling me about her family, about the family and stuff, and about her parents.

Damon (11:24): Did you guys talk about your biological mother at all? Did she tell you a little bit about her?

Jenny (11:27): No, not too much. I mean just that she didn’t know about me.

Damon (11:31): So she kept it between you guys.

Jenny (11:32): Yeah.

Damon (11:33): Let’s jump to, um, finally getting in touch with your biological mom. So you said she messaged you back. She had not received your prior messages.

Jenny (11:41): So she gave me his name and just told me a few things that was really it. And then I responded and, and um, and then it was maybe a few weeks later when I got an email from my sister and she said, um, that she had just found out about me.

Damon (11:58): Is this your older sister who had also been put up for adoption?

Jenny (12:02): Yeah. But she had reunited with them over 20 years ago.

Damon (12:04): Wow is that right?

Jenny (12:07): Yeah. But they, um, they, she wasn’t told about me. She would have found me if they had told her because I was on all those registries and all.

Damon (12:15): Why did they not tell her?

Jenny (12:15): I don’t know. I mean, maybe they thought I didn’t want to be found. I don’t know.

Damon (12:21): That’s really interesting.

Jenny (12:22): I don’t know. I mean maybe they thought that they would get, you know, Ohio’s like it was like mutual consent, but where she was from she just had to go to the agency and then they did the contact. There didn’t have to be somebody else in the file like we want contact. They just called and said, do you want to meet her? And they said yes but that Ohio doesn’t work that way. They weren’t going to call or anything.

Damon (12:44): That’s really fascinating.

Damon (12:46): Jenny had been in touch with her birth mother by phone, then they decided to FaceTime one another. But by the time Jenny had reviewed her mother’s description from her non identifying information and perused historical pictures of her on Facebook, Jenny was already looking at a familiar face.

Jenny (13:03): We just talked a little bit about like just kind of current things like my kids and things like that. Like I didn’t quiz her about the past or anything like that. Like what happened or anything like that.

Damon (13:15): Did you scan her face looking for bits of your own?

Jenny (13:18): Oh yeah. Yeah. So by then I had seen more photos online. So I, I mean I could, you know, I already knew like what she looked like and things like that.

Damon (13:29): And what did you see?

Jenny (13:31): Oh, I mean we, I think we look alike even from my non identifying that I got when I was 18 I mean that was, I almost didn’t believe it when I got it because we have the same hair color, eye color, same height, same weight. I really, yeah, when I got that I was like, it just sounded made up. That was like, how would someone make this up? They’d have to like follow me around. Back then, it’s not like they could have seen me online or anything.

Damon (13:59): Jenny’s sister didn’t know Jenny existed until her aunt and birth mother told her, her sister emailed her immediately to get in touch.

Jenny (14:07): Before we did that the FaceTime thing, I reached out once I found out about my sister, then I was kind of motivated to call our dad. So I did that, called him.

Damon (14:21): So before you get to your dad, you said you talked to your mom and then you talked to your sister. She reached out to you?

Jenny (14:28): Yeah. Yeah, she was, she’s the first person that told me that. I mean, no one else, my aunt or my birth mom didn’t tell me about her. So she emailed me.

Damon (14:37): She just emailed you randomly. You didn’t even know she existed?

Jenny (14:41): No.

Damon (14:41): Whoa. Really?

Jenny (14:45): Yeah.

Damon (14:45): That’s kind of bizarre cause they’re both in touch with her. So why wouldn’t they say, Hey, there’s somebody else.

Jenny (14:51): They, I mean, they did. They gave her my email. I mean, they tell her about me, but it was like right then when I, you know, and then she emailed me right away when she found out about me.

Damon (15:01): That’s unbelievable. Wow. So how was your connection with her?

Jenny (15:05): That was great. Yeah. I mean, it was just like, because they’re so far away that I couldn’t just see her right away, like meet her. So, um, we would email and we talked on the phone a couple times and then I just said, um, I want to come out there and meet you.

Damon (15:23): Jenny made the trip to the West coast for a four day visit. She had never really left Ohio and had never left her children. So this was a big event in every way. I asked her how it all went and what kinds of things they did together,

Jenny (15:37): Like touristy stuff. She took me to all kinds of places and it was great.

Damon (15:40): That’s amazing.

Jenny (15:41): Yeah. Yeah, there’s a lot of fun. And then my aunt came up, she came up for the day to see us too.

Damon (15:46): Oh, that’s awesome. So the three you got to hang out together.

Jenny (15:50): Yes. Yeah. Yeah.

Damon (15:54): Were there tears? Were you laughing? What kinds of, what kind of reunion?

Jenny (15:57): No, no, no. I didn’t cry at all. No, not until I left, when it was over. Just cause I miss them and I knew I wasn’t gonna see him for awhile.

Damon (16:10): That’s really spectacular that your aunt was able to come up too and spend some time with you guys.

Jenny (16:16): Oh yeah. I mean she’s only like 10 years older than me, so that’s pretty cool.

Damon (16:20): Oh yeah. So you guys are in close proximity in terms of age. That’s great. Yeah, of course. I was curious about Jenny’s contact with her birth father. Her sister had never attempted to contact him. When Jenny did make contact, he was ready to know her, but he didn’t want to revisit the past.

Jenny (16:37): And if she had, he would have told her about me too, because that’s one of the first things he told me. He said, Oh, we had another kid together.

Damon (16:49): Interesting. So he came right out with it.

Jenny (16:49): He was very, um, he just, I called him and I told them who I was and I said, you know her name. And he’s like, Oh yeah, yeah, that’s who I am. And I mean he didn’t try to act like that wasn’t him. And um, he just told me a whole bunch of stuff and that, that was one of the things he told me was, Oh, we had another kid together. He didn’t say how old or even if it was boy or girl, but he was like, yeah. And I was like, Oh, but I didn’t tell him I knew already. Like, Oh cause I didn’t want to tell him that cause I didn’t want to answer a bunch of questions about her, you know?

Damon (17:21): Yeah, right, right.

Jenny (17:22): And then we emailed a few times. He’s not contacted with his kids that he raised. So it’s kind of not a good situation as far as um, like what happened in his life. I think he’s fine now but, but um, but he hasn’t talked to them at all.

Damon (17:39): Did he fall on hard times or did they have some other sort of major thing?

Jenny (17:43): Some kind of some kind of problem.

Damon (17:46): Who did you, you’ve now spoken at least with all of these folks and you FaceTimed with some, who did you just feel like an instant rapport with? That sends to be something that happens with adoptees is they connect with somebody in the biological family and a lot of times there’s, there’s an instant connection. Did you feel that with anybody?

Jenny (18:05): I don’t know that instant I think I was just so probably nervous about everything. I mean I think once I went out to visit then there was, but it’s just really hard on the phone and email.

Speaker 3 (18:17): Oh yeah. So when do you think you’re going to meet your, your biological mother and father?

Jenny (18:22): Probably next year sometime I’ll go out there.

Damon (18:25): Are they also on the West coast?

Jenny (18:27): Yeah. Well near there. They’re out there.

Damon (18:31): They’re out in that same direction.

Jenny (18:31): Yeah. So I can’t just drive there or anything, but I mean my, I mean my birth dad, he was, he was just very like open and he’s like, Oh, come out here and meet me and all this. I mean, so I kind of felt like a connection to him just because like, that’s one thing people will always, certain people have said like, Oh, why would you just blurt stuff out like that? That is something I do. And that’s what he was doing. He was just telling me all this like, like there was no, uh, filter or anything.

Damon (18:59): Mhmm. You did identify a trait in him that seemed to be present in yourself.

Jenny (19:06): Yeah. I had to like stop myself from saying something, you know, ridiculous or whatever, but he was just like, went on.

Damon (19:17): That’s really cool. Well, that’s really great that he was welcoming too. I mean, there’s some folks who, you know, you come out of nowhere, uh, I mean they know you’re in the world but you’ve come out of nowhere and they’re like, Hey, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa.

Jenny (19:31): Right, I know it.

Damon (19:32): But he sounds like he was ready for you to come out and that’s really awesome.

Jenny (19:36): Yeah. Yeah. He didn’t want to talk about that was the other thing he said was, um, he didn’t really want to talk about the past. He was like, the past is over and the future’s not guaranteed and this is all we have is right now.

Damon (19:49): And in a way that’s nice. It’s a little bit hard though because I mean, do you want answers about the past and how you were placed into adoption and stuff?

Jenny (19:58): I think when I first called them I did and he was asking me a lot of questions about like my life now, my kids. And I didn’t really feel like I wanted to answer them. I wanted to ask him questions, but you know, he was asking me questions, but it was fine.

Damon (20:13): Interesting. He was occupying the space with his own questions about you. But it sounds like he was probably deflecting a little bit to get away from his own issues and leave no space for you to ask questions about him.

Jenny (20:27): Right.

Damon (20:28): Yeah. Very tactful.

Jenny (20:31): Right.

Damon (20:31): That’s alright. He’ll run out of questions one day and I’m sure you’ll find the space to sneak in a few of your own to find out what happened in the past. Jenny said she’s not super curious about the circumstances of her adoption. She understands that her parents were young, high school kids, and then adoption plan was made to give her a life. I asked Jenny how she was feeling at this point in her journey.

Jenny (20:53): Oh, I think, I mean, I’m really glad that, that I, you know, did this, I mean I wish I had done it earlier. Like I had just hired someone and that person would have gone to the index and found them, you know, just, I mean, but I, I don’t think I really understood that, that, that it would have been that easy even though it would have, just knowing what I know now. I don’t know how that would’ve turned out if I had just called them back then what, what their response would have been either.

Damon (21:18): Yeah. It’s a, it’s a hard question to answer. I mean, you know, hindsight is 20/20 but you, you’re right, it would, it’s very hard to think, well, how would this have been different if I had started this 20 years ago, you know, at the same time as my sister or what have you.

Jenny (21:34): Right, right.

Damon (21:34): You know, it could have been overwhelming. It could have been, you know, just 20 more years of knowing these folks. It’s, it’s very hard to say.

Jenny (21:42): Right.

Damon (21:42): Well this is, this is fascinating. I’m really happy for you that you were able to locate these folks seemingly relatively easily. I mean, it doesn’t seem like it was too raw with challenges except for the fact that the OBC wasn’t open until fairly recently.

Jenny (22:00): Oh yeah, it was. I mean it was pretty simple. Yeah,

Damon (22:03): That’s great. Fantastic. Congratulations to you Jenny. Well done.

Jenny (22:10): Thanks.

Damon (22:10): I appreciate your time tonight. Thanks for calling back all the best to you, okay?

Jenny (22:14): Okay. Okay, great. Thanks!

Damon (22:15): Thanks. And Jenny, do me a favor. When you reach your, when you do go visit your biological mother or father, would you let me know? I’d love to hear how it goes.

Jenny (22:25): Oh sure, yeah!

Damon (22:25): All the best. Take care.

Damon (22:33): Hey, it’s me. Reunion is new for Jenny and her family, but it sounds like things are going well. It was cool that her birth mother’s Facebook page was open and offered her a look into her birth mother’s life and past. But it sounds like her birth father just isn’t interested in talking about the events of long ago that brought Jenny into this world. I got the sense that Jenny is kind of curious, but she’s giving him time to open up. It’s a delicate process when you’re introduced to family members. Some are open books. Others require patience and time and still others will never be open to talking at all. Jenny says she’s excited to get to know her new family better. I’m Damon Davis and I hope you’ll find something in Jenny’s journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am I, really? If you would like to share your story of locating and connecting with your biological family visit, you can also find the show on or follow me on Twitter @waireally. And please, if you’d like to show, take a moment to rate Who Am I Really on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts or leave a comment at Those ratings can help others find the podcast, too.

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