My Half-Brother Found Me on Ancestry dot com

I posted the following long story on my Facebook page on October 23. I've decided to keep in touch with him and have scanned some old pics of dad for him. Family is so darned complicated.

My brother only just got on Facebook, so I'm keeping communications with the half-brother on Ancestry dot com. Besides the two of us there's my brother and sister and his brother to consider. But it feels good to make a connection.

Have any of you found or been found by relatives this way? Has it been good or bad?


When I think of all the ways that technology improves my life, I'm also aware that there can be a downside. And I don't think this is bad at all. (I feel like I should insert a warning here for my brother and sister, as family information sometimes comes with a bit of a shock.)

I'm aware that when people get divorced everyone goes on to lead completely different lives than the ones they started out with. Usually, though, kids grow up knowing their stepfamilies. We did not. Mom and Dad had an epically bad, movie worthy divorce.

I've always known that Dad remarried and had other kids. But my last contact with him was prior to that, when I was ten or so. He suffered a fatal heart attack when I was 24, so all I've ever known about his life after us was through 3rd party hints and rumors.

Remember those old headstone photos I shared yesterday? They kind of set the stage. (I'd taken some photos from a cemetery just down the street from me. Headstones were early 1900s and many too weathered to read. No relatives buried here.)

When I sat down to write this evening (October 23, 2022), the first thing I see on my computer screen was an email from Ancestry dot com, telling me I had a message from - insert Dad's full name here! I got a chill just seeing his name.

I heard the Twilight Zone theme in my head as I read that message, and I recall that the first son born to my dad's second marriage was given that name, too.

Being cautious, I went to the website instead of clicking on the link. And it's a legit message. From someone who I believe is one of our two half-brothers.

I've done the free 2-week trial but have not yet been able to swing getting the paid subscription. I've been motivated to research because one of my great nephews is interested in our family genealogy. So, I had entered my info and I get messages frequently trying to lure me into the abyss of tracking family records. Somehow it hadn't really occurred to me that anyone from dad's second family might be looking, too.

He reached out. The message was short, polite, and not at all suspicious. So, of course I'm suspicious.

This guy writes in complete paragraphs, with proper punctuation and spelling. He's not pushy and doesn't make any questionable statements or scary requests. In a way I think it would have been easier if he had. I would have brushed him off and blocked him at the first sign of bad behavior.

We exchanged a few cautiously worded paragraphs, neither of us giving out too much information. But enough to verify in my mind that he is who he says he is. He offered one valuable piece of information that I've never known and had always wondered about.

I've always known that dad was adopted. He was pretty angry about that. Now I know a little about dad's birth mother. Her first name was Retha. Dad was born in a Kansas City home for unwed mothers, where he was adopted.

Not a happy situation in the late 1930s, but I'm ever grateful that Retha had my dad and that he was placed with the family that he was. Whatever else happened in our family, that adoptive grandpa was one of the most influential people in my life. (Grandma died before I was born.)

We left off agreeing that we both have things to process and left open the possibility of keeping in touch, but with no pressure on either side to do so. I'm thankful for that.

I'm trying to remember that he lost his father to a heart attack at about the same age I lost the same father to divorce. I'm thankful that we both decided to tread carefully on what can be a tough topic.

I'm thankful that what at first looked like a spooky October trick seems to be a benign connection to the past. (Of course, I'm going to check him out before I decide to keep in touch or not...)

I'm not at all sure how I feel about it. But thanks for letting me ramble. I'm thankful for the platform to do so, and for everyone who hangs in there while I overthink things.


  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have found a lot of family on ancestry and digging in files and photos. It's been mostly a positive adventure. But you do tread lightly.

    My one cousin and I are more like sisters. She lives in GA. We have never met but talk every day.

    I have met some wonderful relatives, very cautious family members and a few that were not at all welcoming.

    My family is very unique and huge. Growing up in Pa. I always heard I was related to half of Georgia and its true. Up here in Pa we did not have a lot of family.

    One other part of family research I really enjoy is the history that comes along with it.

    Enjoy the adventure.

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,481 admin

    @Linda Bittle I have never had an experience such as yours but more & more I’m keen to go down the ancestry path. More for the unknown history but hey you never know who you may find. I have had friends have similar experiences to yours with different outcomes, happy, all encompassing, welcome to the family sort of thing or sorry, leave me alone, I don’t believe it kind of thing. So treading lightly seems a very sensible thing to do. I do hope you have a positive experience.

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,131 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November 2022

    My sister and I have had some contact with a few possible relatives, but nothing closer than 2nd and third cousins. We'll have to post our family tree as well as we know it. My husband has found a few relatives and gotten information about a bit of his lineage.

  • Linda Bittle
    Linda Bittle Posts: 1,469 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Here's an update. I decided to proceed cautiously, and all signs point to my half-brother being a good and decent human being. He has, out of the blue, given me a couple of bits of information that answer some questions that I would never ask. It's so precious to know that Dad never forgot us like Mom said he did.

    While that does not look good on Mom, it's nothing that I didn't at least suspect anyway.

  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,272 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Linda Bittle With all this craziness we're living through what a good time to get distracted and find long lost family!

    My uncle spent many years on ancestry and other sites trying to fill in our family history. I never got involved in what he was doing or learning. It would be interesting someday to visit him and see what he's learned.

  • water2world
    water2world Posts: 1,046 ✭✭✭✭

    @Linda Bittle I have not had as much luck as you have, but your story inspires me to keep looking!

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 1,938 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I made contact with several family members on my father's side of the family several years ago on Ancestry. It was unexpected and funny. They were offering a free weekend and just for the heck of it I put in my maiden name. They found some old messages and such. Didn't think much of it at first. A couple of the old posts had email addresses in them.

    I was fairly sure these folks would be some kind of relative. My older brother had done a family tree search many years before the internet and gotten a copy of our family crest. The results of his search showed everyone with that last name was related. Not a common last name (Cutway.)

    So I thought, what to heck. I emailed the two addresses I found. First one responded in just a few minutes. He said that I must be related to the "other" Cutway family. They lived a ways down the road in the same area. I emailed back and explained the search my brother had done years before. It was kinda late at night and I did not hear from him again that night.

    I did however hear from the second address I had emailed and a woman popped in saying we were indeed related and did I want her to tell "the rest of the family" for me and make contact. I said sure, and she warned me to get ready for a lot of contact. lol

    She wasn't kidding. By the next day, I was receiving emails from at least 30 "new" relatives. Through one of them we figured out the connection to the first fella I had contacted. We now know we are cousins (not sure anymore at which level, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) And he and I are still in touch regularly. Through him I reconnected with an aunt and uncle we had lost touch with many years ago. And one of their son's who I stay in touch with pretty regular. He is in FL a few hours from where I was raised and is a bee keeper where I now order all my honey from.

    I do have a sister who was put up for adoption who I tried for several years to find. Never had any luck in finding her.

    Good luck and I hope your contact remains at least cordial and that it becomes something you are happy to have in your life.

  • Cornelius
    Cornelius Posts: 872 ✭✭✭✭

    @Linda Bittle Congratulations on making contact! My Mom and sister have been using ancestry and had some luck, but there are still a lot of gaps to fill in.

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,131 ✭✭✭✭

    My sister's boyfriend has a very interesting family history. He was born to an unmarried mother. She gave him up for adoption. He knew he was adopted. He fairly recently, found or was found by his birth family siblings. He really likes his half siblings. He still has not been able to find out anything about his father.

  • dipat2005
    dipat2005 Posts: 1,203 ✭✭✭✭

    Years ago I put my name on some message boards and that is how some of my cousins found me. Cousins I didn't even know about! One of them looked so much like me! One of them had a business in Nevada, Missouri and had a business in town. He went to one of the cemeteries in town (where his ancestors were buried) and took down all of the information like birth, death and names and made a place on his website for all of the information on his website! I thought it was very kind of him-this was many years before other gravesite information!

  • nicksamanda11
    nicksamanda11 Posts: 713 ✭✭✭✭

    I am still way too cautious about giving away my DNA on those things. The fine print says something like they have rights to do with my DNA sample whatever they want, when it leaves me they own it. Um- no way!

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    My father had a very similar experience. He had a half brother and sister he had never met growing up. After his father passed away my father contacted them. My newfound aunt came out to visit, so I had a chance to meet her. She and my youngest sister were peas in a pod. It was so strange to see the family connection. She passed away from cancer a few years later, but I’m forever grateful we had the opportunity to know her.

    @Linda Bittle Congratulations! It’s so nice to get answers to questions you’ve had your whole life.

  • MissPatricia
    MissPatricia Posts: 308 ✭✭✭

    In some ways, I wish that I had not done the test, but it did reveal some interesting facts. The most important is that I found out who my paternal grandfather was. My dad never knew him because he left my grandmother when Dad was either not born or very young. He proceeded to add a new surname and remarried ??and fathered 3 more children. I connected with one granddaughter and got to meet here and her family. It was a pleasant experience. We also started our exchanges cautiously, not knowing what we were getting ourselves into; I didn't want to reveal too much either, at least not until I knew more.