Close this search box.

133 – Bet She Was Praying For You

In this episode Cheryl, the mother and our adoptee, is joined by her natural daughter Diahan from Washington state and South Florida respectively. Cheryl had an idyllic life growing up an athletic tomboy outside of Seattle. When her daughters started having children she got concerned about the missing medical information she was unable to transfer down the family tree. Fortunately there was no one better suited to usher Cheryl through her genealogy journey than Diahan, an early professional in the industry. In reunion Cheryl has found welcoming siblings and a gigantic family that filled a hole she didn’t know was there. This is Cheryl’s journey.


Cheryl (00:03): I mean, understandably, this is not something you want to broadcast in your family, that there was this child out of wedlock in the forties and here she is, and okay, let’s just blow her up and that’s the way they are. They’re just amazing people. They just enfolded me. Like I’d been there since I was born. It was amazing.

Damon (00:31): Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

Damon (00:42): 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 are Cheryl, the mother and our adoptee and her natural daughter, Diane from Washington state and Southern Florida, respectively, Cheryl had an idyllic life growing up in athletic tomboy outside of Seattle Washington. When her daughter started having children, she got concerned about the missing medical information. She was unable to transfer down the family tree. Fortunately, there was no one better suited to usher Cheryl through her genealogy journey. Then Diane, an early professional in the industry in reunion, Cheryl has found welcoming siblings and a gigantic family that filled a hole. She didn’t even know was there. This is Cheryl’s journey. Cheryl grew up in the small rural town of Centralia Washington, halfway between Seattle and Portland.

Damon (01:41): They were only about 5,000 people in her town. And there were lots of wide open spaces. Her parents bought her a horse as a child, and she competed in equestrian events. Her horse was stabled quite a ways away from the house. But Cheryl said, one day, the animal got out of its enclosure and showed up on the front porch of their home. Presumably looking for her Cheryl’s recollection was that being adopted was something she always knew about herself. She doesn’t remember being told she was adopted and doesn’t really remember anything negative associated with adoption. When she was young, her adopted family was pretty small and she only had a few cousins scattered around here and there. She said the classic family tree project at school was one of two events she can recall that brought her adoption to the forefront, flagging her as being a little bit different when she asked her family how to do the project since she didn’t know her natural history, her folks told her, just use their family tree instead. So she did. The other incident was this.

Cheryl (02:42): I, I did have one friend who tried to make fun of me one time about being adopted. And I turned to her and I said, well, I was chosen where you and walked away. So those are the only two things I can remember as a, as young person growing up that related to being adopted that I can recall vividly.

Damon (03:05): That’s a really funny story actually. What was your family makeup in the nuclear sense? What was your, did you have,

Cheryl (03:15): My mom had me at one point, I remember my mom telling me that they had an opportunity to adopt another child to the same organization where they got me and my dad refused. He said, and I quote, my mother. “I Have all my love wrapped up in one child. I don’t need another one.” And so I could’ve had a sibling. I could’ve had a sibling, but I didn’t.

Damon (03:44): That’s really cool though. I mean, to know that he was so focused on you sounds really awesome.

Cheryl (03:49): Yeah, he was, they were great. They were great parents. I had a really awesome growing up

Damon (03:57): Was a good student in school and an athlete. I was curious to know how she was alike and how she was different from her parents. She said she and her dad were both athletes. They went fishing bowling and her dad coached her softball team. She was kind of a tomboy, which meant she had less in common with her mother. But Cheryl said her mother was always there cheering at her games, even if she was accidentally cheering for the other team. Once in a while, Cheryl’s folks had a grocery store. So they were busy six days a week only taking one vacation that she can remember back then, I was curious about when the reality of adoption hit her that moment when she realized there was another family out there that knew of her existence.

Cheryl (04:39): I don’t remember my age. I don’t think I was a teenager yet. You know, you always think about probably around puberty area. You know, you think about, you know, the movies were coming out about princes and princesses and all those things. Then you kind of sorta wonder what your parents were like or who they were, but it wasn’t like totally. I got to find this out. I was, it was like that, you know, the ones I have were just fine, you know, I’m sitting with these guys, these are awesome people. And when Diane got into this business, when she was in college, she asked to take my DNA as a practice for the business, the company she was working for in Utah. And so that’s when we, and DNA was just starting to come out and some new stuff was coming in and I was her Guinea pig and that was kind of fun.

Cheryl (05:33): And then we get to go into this database and people, you know, and she can tell you about that part. But that’s probably when I, I started thinking a little bit more, but then you kind of go, well, what if they’re, what if they’re not good people? What if they’re like, you know, in, in jail or something or they be that she was a prostitute in, you know, I want to know this. It was like, yeah, man, let’s leave this, let’s leave this alone. And so like, I just never had that drive or that desire. And I didn’t want my adoptive parents to think there had done something wrong or they weren’t enough because they were, I had really was not that curious about my natural family until they were both gone.

Damon (06:24): Cheryl’s daughters were born in the 1970s before all of the testing that is done now on expectant mothers and newborn children to determine genetic markers for certain conditions. So when her kids were born, Cheryl said she barely thought twice about what she could be passing on to her girls. She didn’t even know what gender her babies were going to be until they arrived. In later years, Cheryl and her youngest daughter, Diane had been working through various stages of search for Cheryl’s information off and on. Cheryl sounded like she felt obligated to learn as much about her own genetic history as possible in order to pass that knowledge of what diseases and conditions to look for down the family tree.

Cheryl (07:06): Every time a new medical tests would come out, that was genetically based. I had to get it because I had no medical history to transfer to them. So things like breast cancer and heart disease and Parkinson’s and all those kinds of things that are genetically transport, I could be giving to them. So I took all the tests and every time when came out and you answer the, you go to the doc and they ask you about your medical history, and there are any of your family, your natural family have any of these. And you have to say that. I didn’t know. I didn’t know. And that was always frustrating for me and scary because I didn’t know what I could pass to them and to their kids also. So that drove a lot of, of my wanting to find family. If I could, was the medical aspect of wanting to know the medical history. And then of course, we got more into the genealogy and then that kind of looked well to you. Well, where does my family really come from?

Damon (08:09): Diane, Cheryl’s youngest daughter shared that when she was in high school, her English teacher told the graduating senior class, the best thing they could do for themselves in college was to find a professor who was researching something they were interested in themselves and get involved. For all of us who have learned something about ourselves using ancestry DNA. You’re about to hear a little backstory from Diane about part of how the company grew to what it is today. When she got to college, Diane was interested in forensics and DNA. So she got involved with professor Scott Woodward, who was studying the DNA of ancient Egyptian mummies in a burial ground, 60 miles outside of Cairo Egypt. But the burial ground was a standalone entity. There was no city ruins nearby. It was just a huge cemetery with no city. The project was to determine who these burriedd people were. A bevy of experts were on the scene from archeologists to textile experts. And of course their DNA team, the collection of DNA was growing. And the team was able to discern some of the genetic relations of the people in the cemetery to one another, but without a database of broader information, there was no way to connect those people to others in our world, the team needed to make genetic connections and they needed a database to track them all.

Cheryl (09:32): So that’s the Woodward, this idea, you know, that we can create one. And so he hooked up with amending Jim Sorenson, who was a philanthropist in Utah. Jim Funston funded this project and it was called the science and Melissa, the genealogies foundation was like the first effort to create a database where anybody could get their DNA tested. And you’d be able to tell you who that was. That was the goal. And this was phenomenal and new and amazing. And this was in 2000. So we, so I started like traveling on weekends during college to go collect DNA samples from people who are willing to give us their DNA and their genealogy. And we started to build this database. And so I then graduated from college by then the company or the foundation had really become a company and moved outside of our college campus.

Cheryl (10:26): And so I started working for the company. I worked for some, some kind of offshoots of the company until really the company got big enough that it was sold to And so this database that we created became the foundation of the ancestry DNA test that you can take today. And so, yeah, so at that point I was just starting to have my own babies and I wasn’t in a position to work full time. So I didn’t pursue, you know, working for ancestry, but I still wanted to stay in the industry and kind of after a series of starts and stops, I ended up starting the company. I own now your DNA guide. And it was really just to bring education there. There was so much information coming out and so many new techniques and so many ways that we could help people, but it’s complicated. And you can’t just like take the test and find an answer most of the time you had to, you know, know what you were doing. And so that was the goal or still is the goal of our company is to help anyone who’s looking for a family member be able to use DNA technology to make that easier.

Damon (11:38): That’s really unbelievable. Wow. That historical knowledge of how ancestry started is really fascinating. I’ve had so many people come on here and say, I use the ancestry myself included. I found my biological father through ancestry. So this is really fascinating to hear that you were at the forefront of the database that so many of us have relied on. That’s really fascinating. So yeah, pretty cool. I loved hearing your energy about how exciting it was to learn about, you know, this lost civilization and the inability to, you know, connect to them in any way and, and how you grew this into something that would be desirable for a company that was growing like ancestry is amazing. But what was the thing about your mom that you focused on? Like when did you turn your focus on her?

Cheryl (12:30): Well, the thing about my mom is she’s all in, she’s been all in my whole life and my sister would say the same. She, whatever we’re into, she’s into a hundred percent. And so when I was in college and working on this project, like she said, she came to visit and that was like, Hey, can I draw your blood? We have a picture of me, like physically drawing her blood. I’m not a phlebotomist, but she liked, it opens her arms to me. It’s like, sure, let’s try it because this is back before when we had to take blood and we couldn’t just do a cheek swab. And so she was just, she’s forever curious, she’s a scientist at heart. And so she was like, let me try that. And so we did, we, we took her DNA through the whole process that I was taking everybody else’s DNA through from taking it out of her arms, the part where we can actually see her DNA in a tube at the end of the process.

Cheryl (13:18): And so she was just kind of grandfathered into this database. And she just went through the process that all of these other people went through and there were lots of iterations. And eventually that whole database became kind of the first public offering. It was called gene tree called relative genetics first. And it was called gene tree anyway. So she was suddenly exposed to the public, like, because there were lots of other people and suddenly we could get matches. And it was like, wow, this is kind of cool. We could like find a relative. Like it didn’t occur to me or to her at the beginning of all this that we could find her family like that wasn’t the goal. It was just, my mom was like, you’re doing some cool projects with DNA. I want to help let’s do it. We just kind of did it. We didn’t think about the ramifications or we weren’t thinking, Oh, let’s find your family. That wasn’t even on the radar. When we took her DNA,

Damon (14:09): Just building a database and you needed more people and she was one of them. I presume somebody stuck your arm too right, Diane.

Diane (14:17): Well, no, because actually she didn’t qualify for the database because to be in the database, you had to have your DNA and you needed to know all four of your grandparents. So she got in under the radar just because we wanted to do her DNA. Like she wasn’t supposed to be in the database because the database was made of people that knew their genealogies so that we could help people like my mom eventually. So she was kind of like slid in under the door, you know,

Damon (14:44): That’s so cool. Wow. So Cheryl has been slipped into this database of intended for people who know all four of their genetic grandparents, but as an adoptee, she knows zero of her grandparents. Fortunately, she knew someone important at the company that could get her in the front door to the database. The door really opened for Cheryl and Diane in 2007, when 23 and me launched their testing before then the only analysis that was available was focused on mitochondrial DNA that have the direct maternal connections in a family, 23, and me announced they were testing her health indicators. So Diane called Cheryl to let her know a new test was on the market that could finally provide some of the health information they were interested in for the first time, Cheryl was able to see her European heritage there in her DNA. A few years later, 23 and me came out with their DNA match list where customers could start seeing their family relationships. For the first time the women were staring at names of biological relatives. They were mostly third, fourth and fifth cousins, but there were a lot of them and this was an unexpected and amazing bit of information that started to point to great-grandfathers and other relatives.

Cheryl (16:07): And then there was a lot of them. I mean, a lot of that Coming from this family, this family with six cousins, I’ve got a total of six cousins in my adoptive families on both sides. And now I’ve got, you know, 60, the first time we looked, it was like 30 people on there that were somehow related to, it was like, Whoa,

Damon (16:30): That’s incredible. Wow. So then you, I have this image in my mind, you guys are sort of, it’s almost like you’re walking down the sidewalk and you find a penny and you’re like, Oh, that was lucky. And then you find another one. You’re like, Oh, that was kind of lucky. And then all of a sudden you realize all these pennies are like on a path and you should actually be looking for something is what, that’s the sense that I get. So when did you turn the corner and realize like, I need to start following this trail. It’s leading somewhere. And I want to, I don’t want to just be discovering these things. Luckily on the ground. I want to actually start looking for this path that it’s taking me down. When did you invest in the search?

Diane (17:09): I think mostly it was again, because I was trying to help my customers and figure out what my customers needed. And so the data that I had to work with was my mom. So I needed to be into these companies. I needed to be looking at results. I needed to be figuring out how to interpret and understand them so I can help people. And of course, naturally then I began to see patterns in my mom’s DNA results. And again, like she said, she wasn’t looking. And she was very, very sensitive about my grandmother who was alive at that time and just did not at all, ever want her to feel like my mom wanted a different life because she didn’t. And so we weren’t looking, but you just can’t help. Like you said, you’re walking down the sidewalk and stuff jumps out at you. One huge pattern I saw in the 23 and me results was everyone was from North Dakota and work in Washington state, you know, our whole family.

Diane (18:04): And we’re like North Dakota, what does this have to do with anything? So many people from North Dakota. And then we came across, we got a new match and it was a second cousin. And again, a second cousin is going to share great grandparents and that’s getting pretty close. And this guy had listed not only North Dakota, but Washington state locations where his family lived. And so this was the first time we’d seen that bridge, that this is a person who knows their ancestors and they were in both places. And that was like almost too good for me to pass up. Mom, can I just email this guy? You know, ask him for a little bit of information.

Damon (18:51): All of the names and places were creating patterns that Diane wanted to explore. Of course, Cheryl, who was all in agreed. So Diane reached out to her mother’s cousin match on 23 and me, she asked him for some information about his family. Candidly admitting her mom, Cheryl was adopted, but that if he was interested, they’d appreciate some information. The man responded with similar candor, admitting that he had some reservations about sharing too much information, because he could be opening a can of worms within the family, after some back and forth and relationship building by Diane. The man finally agreed to share his pedigree chart. Diane was excited because somewhere in that guy’s tree could have been the identity of Cheryl’s parents.

Diane (19:35): So I start looking at the tree and, Oh my gosh, these families are massive. We’re talking like 12 kids who had 12 kids who had 12 kids. The possible descendants were so numerous. It was like, I just kind of looked at the tree and I was like, Oh, okay. Yeah. I don’t have time to figure this out. And my mom doesn’t really want to know. And so what we did get from that, and my mom will tell you how cool this was for us for the first time was we have names the first great-grandparent couple we could like put on our tree. These people were our people and their history was fascinating. They were immigrants from the Ukraine and their, their history was just, I mean, storybook kind of the things that they had gone through and their immigration. And like, there was so much information about this couple and about their family. It was so fascinating to read.

Damon (20:36): Growing up, Cheryl was always told she was Irish and Polish, probably because her adoptive parents had seen a birth certificate with a Polish name. What they learned in the family history was that distant relatives were actually German Russians. The couple they read about in the family archive led the German conscription of young men into the military. They relocated to the Ukraine. Very rough time, struck the Ukraine. Then the Russian army also started drafting men into the military. So the couple got on a boat to North America where the family landed in North Dakota to try to figure out who Cheryl’s parents might be. Diane explained to her mom how to analyze the information they were seeing. The database was getting larger and larger and it became clear. There were certain paths to follow where their family didn’t just have one match, but multiple matches to others on the family tree, Diane started assigning Cheryl genealogy research to complete over time.

Damon (21:38): They narrowed their search down to the Thomas family. At the same time. One of Diane’s friends, a genealogist mentioned in passing that Washington state had recently opened its adoption records. Diane and Cheryl ordered her original birth certificate from the state. And it arrived the week before mother’s day. It listed her mother’s name, Catherine, the town, she was from Ellensburg, but no father’s name. Cheryl emailed the librarians at the Washington state library to see if they had any addresses that matched what was on her birth certificate there in Ellensburg, they wrote back to say the closest matching address they could find was in Yakima, Washington, something wasn’t adding up. Catherine’s information was associated with a different address than her own.

Cheryl (22:28): Barbara was the next daughter to my, my mom. There were 11 girls and two boys in the family. And my mother was the second to the youngest, the youngest being a boy. And so her first day kind of was closer than Barbara’s the bolshie and Barbara were possible in our search. And she had Murphy Paul Brisky, and they lived in Yakima at the address that was listed, but Catherine was my mother’s name. And so it was it dawned on me that she had lied, basically lied and you know, used her sister’s last name on the birth certificate. So I was pretty sure that she was my mom.

Damon (23:08): So Katherine, the youngest girl had likely put her older sister’s last name and address on Cheryl’s birth certificate in December of 2015, Cheryl was in South Florida with Diane for Christmas. Cheryl was on the couch doing her favorite thing, reading a book, and Diane had logged into her ancestry accounts online. She went to Cheryl’s match page, showing family relationships where she saw a very close match for Cheryl.

Diane (23:35): I’m staring at the computer screen and she’s right there. And I kind of look over at her and she’s reading and I’m looking at the computer screen and I look over at her and I was like, mom, I was like, I think

Diane (23:46): We found a half-brother and she’s so like collected. She’s like, Oh really? No snow, like screaming or shock or panic. No, she’s like, huh. Interesting. And so we start to look at what he had listed and he had a small pedigree chart and all it said was Thomas as his mother’s name. Like that was her surname. And so it really confirmed again, either Barbara or Catherine, these two sisters that we were looking at, but it didn’t really tell us which one it was. And so we wrote him an email and waited and then waited and waited. And then in April. So it was all the way till April. And I was talking to my mom on the phone and we were talking about this and I could tell that she was frustrated disappointed. And I just hung up feeling terrible. And the worst feeling was, I felt like my older sister was right.

Diane (24:47): And you know, that’s the worst feeling you cannot be. Right. because the whole time she was like, Dan, I don’t know if I want you to do this. Like, you know, I don’t, I don’t think mom needs the disappointment. You know, we don’t know what’s at the end of this road and what if it’s terrible and you know, all of those things and I thought I’ve done it. I disappointed her. I, you know, I’ve let her down. I’ve you know, this brother doesn’t want to talk to her. And that’s basically how she was feeling as well. He doesn’t want to talk to me. I thought, you know, that’s not the case. Like people don’t get messages. They don’t, ancestry system is not perfect and people don’t read their email and people don’t log into the testing company. I bet he hasn’t even seen it. And so a couple of weeks later I was doing a little research. I was going to give a talk to some 18 to 12 year olds about family history. So I had to make it interesting. And that’s really when I went looking on family search and I just put in the name, Catherine Thomas and I found her obituary and right there in the obituary or listed all of the children. And I could tell from the username of the person at ancestry, that one of those sons was this man that we match.

Damon (26:03): Diane asked Cheryl again for permission to reach out to the half-brother. But the only phone number she could find was for a different brother, not the one on And it wasn’t even his phone number. It was the brother’s son’s phone number. So when Diane called Cheryl’s nephew’s wife answered the phone. When Diane asked for Cheryl’s brother, Jack, the wife said she had the wrong number and clarified that Diane had called Jackson’s home. Diane asked for Jack’s number. So the daughter-in-law got suspicious and asked who was calling.

Diane (26:38): And I said, Oh, I think that we’re family. That’s all I said. And she’s like, Oh, okay, sure. And she gives me a number. It says, Oh, by the way, when you call, they won’t answer because they never answer numbers. They don’t recognize, but just leave a message and they’ll call you back if I said, okay, and sure enough, that’s what happened. Yeah. It rang all the way to the answering machine. I just said, hi, I think we might be family. I’d love to talk to you about it. Please call me back. And I had just hung up the phone and kind of caught my breath after like thundering heartbeat. And he called me back like right away. And he’s like, did you just call him? I was like, yes, I did. And he says, Oh, we’re family. And he’s just like so nice and jovial.

Diane (27:22): And I was like, well, I think your brother recently took a DNA test. Did you know that? And he’s like, Oh, did he? And I said, yes, then my, my mom matches him. And I think that she might be your half sister and there’s kind of silence for just a beat. And then he’s like, let me get my wife. And then he goes over and he grabs his wife. She gets on the other line right now. Say that again. And so we talked for just a little bit, but they were very sweet, very reassuring, very understanding, very open. And eventually, you know, we talked maybe 20 minutes or so. And then he said, well, I’d love to talk to your mom. And so I gave them her phone number and they called her,

Cheryl (28:11): Well, Diane had called me and gave me a heads up. I said, you might get a call from your brother. I said, my what? And so I said, okay. And so the phone rings and I say, hello. And he says, hello, my name is Jack. And I think I’m your brother. And I said, yeah, that’s what I hear. And so we chatted for a little while and then I hung up with him and then the phone rang and it was my other brother calling me. And the one that had put his DNA in that started this whole thing. And it was like, well, I guess your family and yeah. Okay. And it was very accepting and interesting. And we set up a meeting between my sister. I also have a sister and my younger, the younger brother, they were going to be in host to me.

Cheryl (29:06): And so we ended up scheduling a meeting between my sister and my younger brother and my husband and myself in Oregon. And we met and had lunch and it was like, wait, you’re a family. Great, come on. Here we go. And my older brother had had a daughter that lived in which is about 30 minutes from us. And they came, grabbed her and her husband and they came over to our house to meet us and had lunch with us here. And it was like, okay, well I guess we’re DNA match. So you must be my sister and I must be your brother. And we just chatted and talked about what life was like going up on. They were in three, three hours for me, my entire life. They’ve lived three hours away from me. And it’s just like, you know, great.

Cheryl (29:59): And they decided they wanted to have a family reunion. So in August of that year, there was a family reunion at my younger brother’s house in Spokane. And there were like 40 people there that I’m related to 40 people. Oh my gosh. I went from six cousins to 40 people and that wasn’t all of them. It was, it was like, and everybody was hi auntie. And all these people were calling the auntie. And Oh my gosh. Diane and, and Denise both came with me and my husband. And as it turns out, my older brother had an adopted daughter who was in the military and she’s dark skin. And she was in the Navy and they were in the med and every time they landed in the port, all the people thought she was a native. And so she decided she wanted to do a DNA test to find out what her genetic background was and had given the DNA test to my brother and his wife for Christmas present. That’s how he ended up in ancestry to get a hit.

Damon (31:08): That’s incredible. It was simply the fact that she given him a gift. Wow. Yeah. Oh yeah.

Cheryl (31:16): And she was adopted herself and, and it’s, it’s been great. I mean, I can actually say I have a brother, I have two brothers and a sister and it sounds like it it’s true now after four years, it finally sounds like it’s true.

Damon (31:32): It doesn’t just sound like you’re telling somebody else’s story. Like it literally feels like, yeah, I’m speaking of my own family. Wow. Yeah. I can imagine it takes a while for that to set in, especially as an only child, you know? Yeah. Dang. That’s, that’s amazing. Since the family didn’t know Cheryl existed, her natural mother would not have shared much of her story with them as to why Cheryl was relinquished, but she could get answers from the siblings about what kind of person her birth mother was. She was a hard working, outgoing, gregarious woman who got married, very young. Her husband, Sheryl’s siblings, father took off with a younger woman, leaving their mother, Catherine to fend for herself. Catherine took her children and her disabled sister to their sister Barbara’s place in Yakima, where they stayed in a one bedroom bungalow with the children, everyone sharing a small bed or the couch to sleep on. Catherine worked nights as a waitress. And when she got home in the morning, the kids went off to school while she slept. They lived that way for quite a while, until Catherine was able to save enough money to buy her own home. Cheryl also said

Cheryl (32:40): She was very religious. They’re a little mist that even as adults, she never told them about me. However, they did say that now it makes more sense to them that she would go to church every morning, before every day, not just on Sunday. And they looked at me and they said that she was praying for you.

Damon (33:04): Oh, wow. How’d that make you feel when you heard that?

Cheryl (33:09): I cried.

Damon (33:11): Cheryl said that Catherine, who was Catholic, unmarried and pregnant in 1949, couldn’t afford to have another child in that one bedroom home, social norms of the time frowned on her situation. She went to a home for unwed mothers in Seattle. Unfortunately later, a huge fire destroyed the facility, eliminating any chance of Cheryl retrieving her records from that home. Cheryl said, she asked her adoptive parents about her birth mother from time to time. And her folks said, they thought they saw her once, while they were being interviewed to be approved for adoption. A young woman walked into the room, sat down for a few minutes and then left her parents figured it must’ve been Cheryl’s natural mother. Sheryl is the youngest of her siblings. When she asked her sister, if she remembered their mother being pregnant, her sister recalled a time when she commented on their mother’s stomach bulge, but their grandmother dismissed the pregnant belly. As a hernia. Cheryl took a moment to tell another family story. She had heard,

Cheryl (34:13): I had an uncle that was still alive four years ago, and I met him after he got to meet him. And he had related a story about getting a phone call from my mother from Seattle and needing $50. And he didn’t know what it was for, but he and his wife got the $50, which is a lot of money in 49 out of their account. Send it to her. And I said to him, well, I guess I, I guess I owe you $50 bill. That looks like the best $50 I ever spent.

Damon (34:46): Oh, that’s sweet. Wow.

Cheryl (34:49): That was really fortunate to get a test to me. He was 95 when I met him and he’s passed. He says, Pat, I was very fortunate to have met him

Damon (34:58): On Cheryl’s paternal side. Diane has met paternal cousins online, two very sweet sisters who are the genealogists of the family and have relayed a lot about Cheryl’s paternal relatives. Diane was traveling for work speaking at a genealogy event, which took her to Texas.

Diane (35:16): And she and her sister drove about three hours to come to my event. And I met them in person. We went out to breakfast and that was actually the first biological family member on my mom’s side that I had was, was June. So that was before we’ve met our biological mother’s family, but this was, this is our biological father’s family. And it was wonderful on there. Very, very wonderful women, the genetics and the genealogy figuring out who is the dad on this side has been a little trickier for a couple of reasons. We’re pretty sure we know who it is. We don’t really have a way to prove it. And so we’re kind of just waiting for someone to test really. I’m a descendant of this man, if, if he had other kids, I mean, if he didn’t have other kids, we’ll probably never know. But if he did, we’re just hoping that that person will test. And then we would know for sure.

Cheryl (36:12): Everything on that side, except for doing his all been further distance away. So we’re wondering if he maybe never had never had children.

Diane (36:20): So sad because then I really want to meet him and say, you know, he could still be alive. I mean, most likely he passed away, but he could still be alive and say, you have a daughter and you know, what if he never had yet?

Damon (36:35): Wow. Yeah. You know, Cheryl could be a gift. Unbelievable. Cheryl May ask you, I know you didn’t want to search, especially when your adoptive parents were alive, those are your folks and you love them and you are that, that is your family, but what is your guests right about how they might have felt about this search?

Cheryl (36:59): I think they would have been all right with it. They might’ve even been interested to meet her, to see if that really was her, that came into the room when they were being interviewed. I just, I never broached the subject with them. I mean, I had asked about, and they had told me what they knew as much as they knew. And they thought that they had seen her phone number in the Seattle phone book. But as it turned out, it was Barbara, Barbara Brisky stole number Barbara Bruski lived in Seattle for a long time. They moved from Yakima to Seattle. So it was actually her number and not my mother’s as it turns out. So I don’t, I don’t, I don’t think that they would have cared now that I’m an adult looking back. But at the time I just, I just didn’t want to hurt their feelings. I didn’t want them to think that they were inadequate in some way that I had to have this other piece because I didn’t.

Damon (38:00): Yeah. I hear you 100%. That’s amazing.

Diane (38:04): But now that, now that she has the piece, like when we were driving home from that reunion that we went to, so the reading was in Spokane. And so we drove over there and my daughter was with us. And on the drive back, I can’t even tell you the transformation that I’ve seen in my mom after meeting her family. She wasn’t missing anything before that, now that she has those pieces, she’s so different. She’s, she’s more complete. And that ride back, she just was, she was so joyful and so full and I’d never seen her like that. It was a beautiful transformation.

Damon (38:49): What do you think, Cheryl?

Cheryl (38:51): I didn’t notice. Apparently I did feel, I felt very loved and accepted. I think part of the whole thing was I was afraid of, of, I mean, understandably, this is not something you want to broadcast in your family, that there was this child out of wedlock in the forties and here he is, and okay, let’s just blow her up. And that’s the way they are. They’re just amazing people. They just enfolded me. Like, I’d been there since I was born. It was amazing. It was just a warm feeling and, and acceptance and that you know, and every once in a while, like now the daughter that lives in Olympia, she calls her, hi, auntie, how you doing? And now your auntie and I still don’t that still doesn’t, you know, because it’s, you know, it’s, it’s just, I don’t know. I didn’t, I was so grateful that that was the reaction and it wasn’t well, because I had a friend who had an adopted brother who found his mother and when he knocked on her door, she told him that her husband didn’t know about him and to go away and slam the door in his face.

Damon (40:08): Wow.

Cheryl (40:09): I had another friend of mine who found out at his mother’s skill role that he had a sister that he didn’t know about. He contacted her and he, she was really angry with him because he was a full sister that had been given up and she was angry because their parents had kept him. Wow. So I was worried that first of all, when they didn’t respond, I just figured, Hey, you know, it’s something they don’t want to touch. Okay. all right. I understand. I can understand their feelings and that’s fine. We’ll just leave it alone then to have it be totally the opposite. And I still feel it. It’s great. It’s awesome. And then my cousins that I grew up with, I still have them and they’re good with it too. They’re happy for me. And we finally got them to put their DNA and then they found out a lot of stuff about their family history, about where their family came from too. That was interesting. But you know, so I have two families it’s in that second one is just huge. I mean, my husband was commenting. I married this girl that had six cousins and now she’s got 60, you know, it was like, for him, it was overwhelming to as well to now have, he’s got two brothers laws and the sister-in-law I didn’t know existed.

Damon (41:30): Yeah. It’s funny. I’m so grateful to you, both for getting on the phone, especially for this last piece here. Because if I had asked Cheryl about how she felt coming out of this, she might’ve responded the way she did to you, Diane, which was, I didn’t feel anything different, but when you said it, she, she shift against it. But then she went full bore talking about how excited she was. It’s funny to hear you share. You may not think that you feel it, but I can hear it. And Diane hears it and it’s definitely there. And it’s just one of those things that happens. I think with a lot of adoptees is you end up with this, you didn’t know there was a hole and then once it’s filled, you realize it was there. You know what I mean? That’s what it sounds like. Yeah.

Cheryl (42:23): Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. I didn’t know. There was one. Yeah. I imagine I knew that was one, but you know, you, you put a lid on it and pretend it’s not there. That’s right. Because you can’t do anything about it anyway. Yeah. And then, then when all of a sudden that hole is opened and it’s filled with all these people that love you just unconditionally don’t care. So glad to find out about you away. We got one more family member. Yay. It’s like, wow. Okay.

Damon (42:59): Wow. I can hear it in your voice. Cheryl. I’m so happy for you. It is really amazing. I’m so thankful for you guys again, for getting on the phone together. I think this was really cool. I think Diane, it’s amazing that you have a professional background that facilitated this from all the way back to sticking your mom’s arm, to bringing this thing full, full bore ahead. I think it’s incredible. And Cheryl, I’m just so happy for you to be in reunion in a, in a positive way that is welcoming and that has filled a void that you didn’t even know was there. I think it’s incredible. Congrats.

Cheryl (43:33): Thanks for having us talk about it. It’s been wonderful. It’s wonderful. What you’re doing.

Damon (43:40): Thank you so much. You guys take care all the best to you. Thanks. Oh, for sure. I hope so. I know it will take care guys. Bye-Bye

Cheryl (43:49): Right. All right. Thanks. Bye-bye bye-bye

Damon (43:56): Hey, it’s me. Cheryl had so many of the classic feelings adoptees talk about not wanting to make their adoptive parents feel badly because they’re launching a search and not realizing what a void they had in their life without a clearer understanding of their own origin story and who their family is. I loved hearing how her siblings and extended family were so open and welcoming and just kind of said, come on in of course it was unfortunate that she never got to meet her birth mother, but it sounds like Cheryl is proud of the woman. She was a lot of times, family members are really supportive of an adoptees search, but how cool is it that Cheryl’s daughter, Diane was part of the company that anchored Ancestry’s current model, which has helped drive the consumer genealogy industry forward for so many of us who better than the daughter of an adoptee to be part of such a movement Diane’s company is called your DNA guide, which you can find online at

Damon (45:00): I’m Damon Davis. And I hope you’ll find something in Cheryl’s journey with the help of her daughter, Diane, 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 adoption journey and your attempt to connect with your biological family, please visit who am I really You can follow the show at, or follow on Twitter at waireally. If the show is meaningful to you, you can support me with a contribution to keep it going on. Patrion.Com/waireally please subscribe to who am I really on Apple podcasts, Google play, or wherever you get your podcasts. It would mean so much to me. If you took a moment to leave a five star rating there, those ratings can help others to find the podcast too. And if you’re interested, you can check out the story of my adoption journey. Who am I really and adopt the memoir on on Kindle or as an audio book on audible. I hope you’ll add my story to your reading list.

Who Am I Really?

Find the show on: