DNA Quest Success: New Zealand Siblings Living Just Miles Apart Meet for the First Time!

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In March 2018, we launched DNA Quest, a pro bono initiative to help adoptees and their birth families reunite through genetic testing. The response to the project was incredible. MyHeritage users poured out their hearts to us with their stories of searching, and their hopes for the future including reunification and belonging. We provided thousands of free MyHeritage DNA kits to eligible participants.

We are excited to bring you one of the many life-changing reunions that have taken place as a result of DNA Quest. Without the assistance of this important initiative, half-siblings Susan and Terry, both New Zealanders, living only an hour or so away from each other, may have spent years not knowing the other existed.

Watch the exciting moment they met here:

DNA Quest Application

When Susan Butler, 52, of Te Puke, New Zealand, applied for DNA Quest earlier this year she didn’t want to set her hopes too high. She had originally looked into DNA Quest, not for herself but for her sister-in-law’s mother Judy, in her 70s, who knows nothing about her biological family. Susan decided to try for herself as well.

Although Susan had known both her birth mother, now deceased, and her birth father, with whom she is currently in touch, questions remained. She believed that her father had additional children. She wondered whether she had unknown siblings somewhere out there.

I had not really expected to find anything new, just to find out my ethnicity.

Surprising Results

When Susan received her MyHeritage DNA results, they showed that she had a very close match with a man she had never heard of, Terry Smith. She immediately called her birth father Bruce to see if the name rang any bells. He didn’t recognize the name.

Susan messaged 15 different Terry Smiths via facebook messenger asking if they had taken a DNA test last year. The next day, she received a reply from Terry Smith, 51, in  Whakatane, New Zealand, saying that he had taken a DNA test last year and uploaded his results to MyHeritage. Terry had wanted to see if a DNA test would help him find his biological father because his mother would not tell him his father’s name.

I asked him how old he was and when he told me he was 51, I just knew he was probably my brother!

After learning Terry’s mother’s name, Susan called Bruce back to see if he remembered Terry’s mom.

He confirmed the name was a lady he had been with once — so he found out he had a son!

Terry’s mother had never told his father that she was pregnant, so there were surprises on both sides. Not only was Susan introduced to a half-brother for the first time, but father and son, Bruce and Terry, were also shocked to learn about one another.

The Reunion

It was quite emotional for Susan and Terry when they spoke on the phone for the first time. They agreed to meet as soon as possible, which was fairly simple seeing as Terry lives only 40 minutes from Susan and 30 minutes from their father Bruce. Without wasting any time, they all met the next day.

We could definitely tell our faces had the same features.

Susan and Bruce meet with Terry (right) for the first time.

Both Susan and Terry feel blessed to have this opportunity to discover their biological family. It has changed their lives in ways they couldn’t have imagined.

Susan says:

Thank you so much, from myself, my brother Terry and my father Bruce, we feel blessed. It has been amazing to find I had a brother. For Terry, as well, it has filled a huge gap in his life. I’m so pleased to say he and our father Bruce are already forming a close relationship.

Terry and Susan get to know each other.

Terry could not believe that after 51 years, he had finally met his father and sister.

For me to have found our sister and my father, it’s a lot. Fifty-one years without a father and, all of a sudden I have all this other side of the family. It’s just changed my life.

The New Zealand Herald recently covered Susan and Terry’s exciting story. Thousands of people have participated in DNA Quest, and over the next few weeks, we look forward to sharing more stories of family reunions thanks to this amazing initiative.

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  • Peter Young


    October 9, 2018

    I had my DNA done about 12 months ago and found out that I have 4 sisters and that our mum was related to the first members who arrived in NZ on the Randolph. Ironically I will be meeting with my youngest sister (whom I have never met) in NZ next year and we both visiting our aunt who is living in Napier. From there we will be both traveling from Melbourne up to Brisbane and visiting places along the way where we grew up when we were infants There is many other benefits you get when you get your DNA done. and after tracking mine/ours we find that we come from a bloke who had a significant input in the success for the British in the battle of the Spanish Armada. Richard Hawkins, John Hawkins and his cousin, Francis Drake, where all in the Navy and so was I. My wife did some over lays of my face and John Hawkins and the resemblance is quite canny.
    Anyhow thats it in a nut shell.

    • Esther


      October 9, 2018

      Hi Peter,

      What a nice story! We’d love to hear more. Can you please write to us at stories@myheritage.com.

      Best,
      Esther / MyHeritage Team

  • June Karen Scott


    October 9, 2018

    I’m adopted,found my family. Gonna meet my Aunt, 10/15/18 in NM.

    • Esther


      October 9, 2018

      Hi June,

      That’s fabulous! We’d love to hear more at stories@myheritage.com.

      Best,
      Esther / MyHeritage Team

  • Rhonda


    October 9, 2018

    Wow great news for you, my mum had one of the adopted kits but we are finding it hard to work out who her mum or dad is, it might be because she is 81 and if she had siblings they would probably not be around. It’s been a bummer as want to be able tell mum who they are, as my sister and I have health problems.

  • Katherine Eckstrom


    October 9, 2018

    Seeing families reunited is fascinating. In my own case not so much. Truth be told, I have 5 half siblings on both sides. None of them too pleased with my and my twins existence.
    But I do now have a close attachment with a niece, who is as open minded as I am.
    My twin and I were adopted together.
    I am looking for a baby girl, born in San Francisco 1954-1956. She is a niece. Still not found, but I have hopes. I am 81 years old, it would be nice to complete my family
    Katherine Eckstrom

  • Cassie Gillies O’Brien


    October 9, 2018

    I have always been a family history buff and am fascinated by it all. A few years ago I was on a family history site and just put my maiden name (Gillies) into the search. There were quite a few threads in the discussion boards with that name but none of the names mentioned seemed familiar until I got to a thread that was about 5 years old at the time. It was a detailed list of my paternal grandfather’s brother and his parents AND their parents including pictures, pictures that I have seen! I was floored. I emailed the linked email and low and behold it was still active!! Over the course of a few weeks I had the pleasure of getting to know Grace (my father’s first cousin). The craziest part is that she lives in London and had moved there from the Philippines where she grew up with her mother. Grace and her mother where her father’s “second” family and she has always been denied her place by her father’s “first” family. She has been told that her mother was a liar and gold digger. Well, I always knew that Grace really is a Gillies!! She looks like my dad! Last year for my birthday I received a MyHeritage DNA test as a gift and I anxiously awaited my results. The following week Grace took one as well! Guess What?! We really are related and now her nieces and their mother have to eat crow. 😛 That isn’t the point though…. The point is that from across the planet from Texas to England she was FINALLY able to find and prove her paternal family. We are friends on Facebook and we keep in touch that way. One day I hope to meet her in person, in England or maybe in Utah where our common ancestors are buried. Either way I am happy to call her family and look forward to one day being able to give her a giant hug!!

  • arlaine ambrose


    October 10, 2018

    I adopted my daughter, Danielle in 1991, as an infant. We know who her birth mother is but she would love to find her birth father. Birth mother is no help. I think she does not know.

  • Elizabeth L. Dowswell


    October 10, 2018

    I received a free DNA kit from My Heritage a couple of months ago and as a result I have been reunited, via emails, messenger msgs and phone calls from my 4 1/2 sisters and some of their children, non of whom I knew of nor they of me, although a couple of the them had been aware of the fact their mother (now deceased) had had a child but that was all. I also have a 1/2 brother, now deceased of whom I knew nothing of. I was adopted in Edmonton Alberta Canada at 12 days of age and while I have always know I was adopted, as my adoptive parents had told me from an early age , gave me my adoptive papers etc etc. When My Heritage offered me a free DNA kit which I completed and the rest is history. It’s been a lovely reunion and while it is doubtful we will ever meet face to face the frequent contact we are now enjoying is great. By the way I live in New Zealand and my newly found family live in Alberta and British Columbia Canada.