I Found My Birth Mother & the Answers to All My Questions Thanks to the DNAngels & MyHeritage

I Found My Birth Mother & the Answers to All My Questions Thanks to the DNAngels & MyHeritage

Vicki Streb was adopted at age two and wondered about her origins all her life. After taking two DNA tests, she found several half-siblings on her father’s side, but her mother’s side remained a mystery — until the DNAngels, an organization that helps adoptees find family through DNA, stepped in. They recommended uploading her DNA to MyHeritage, and within a short time, she connected with her birth mother! This is her story:

For fifty years, I wondered who my birth mom was. What did she look like? Did I look like her? What was her personality like? Did I behave like her? Were there medical conditions I should know, that my girls needed to know? How was I born in Michigan but placed in a children’s home in Tennessee? Why did she keep me for two years before surrendering me to adoption? So many years with so many questions all wrapped up in the resigned acceptance that they would never be answered. She was a needle in a haystack. A faceless woman I would only know in my mind — or so I thought until everything changed thanks to the DNAngels.

My parents had been forthcoming about the fact that they adopted me at the age of two. When I was old enough to understand, they informed me that a young mother around the age of twenty had dropped my two-year-old self off at a children’s home in Tennessee. My father was a musician, and my mother was basically on her own. That is the only information my adoptive parents knew about them.

I grew up in a loving and financially comfortable home. I had two older brothers, a loving mother and father and all of the outstanding extended family members as well. I never doubted their love for me and was treated as their very own, even being the only blonde in a family of brunettes. However, I always had a lingering curiosity about my roots. I wanted to find answers to so many questions but had concerns about hurting the feelings of the family that raised me and the possibility that the family I wanted to search for would not want to accept me. I ended up putting all of the questions on the back burner due to these concerns many times throughout my life. 

Fast forward a couple of decades later and those questions still nagged at me, especially as I became a mother myself and would only be able to give my children half of their medical history, as I had none. I began digging through websites and social media armed only with a possible name my father wrote down on the day I was adopted from the home. All of my efforts were in vain.

My first DNA find: a half-brother

I had been aware of the various DNA tests and websites but was nervous about participating in them. Is it safe to have that information out in cyberspace? Could it be used against me somehow in the future? Would results only bring disappointment and heartache?

After much consideration I decided the possibility of what the tests could produce would far outweigh my fears. I went ahead and submitted my DNA through a popular DNA testing company and waited. To my shock and surprise, my results yielded a half-brother! 

Chris, my newfound half-brother, was just as surprised as I was! He too was adopted and had very little information. Our DNA told us we were connected on our father’s side. He had found and met his birth mother, who had since passed away, so we couldn’t find out much more than what we already knew. What we did know was that our father was a musician. Chris and I have remained in contact but I still wanted to learn more about my beginnings.

My second DNA find: two more half-siblings

A couple of years came and went, and I decided I would need to be content with the half-brother. A friend kept nudging me to take another DNA test. She felt confident that the more I took, the better my odds of finding my birth parents, as many people might just use one. So, on Christmas of 2022, my husband bought me a kit from another company. It sat for 4 months on my dresser because that familiar fear crept back in about putting my DNA back out there again and the unlikelihood that it would help. Brushing those apprehensions aside once again, I decided to go through with it.

The results proved to be life-changing! I found two more half-siblings on my father’s side from another mother. Elated, I messaged both of them and had a quick response from Dana, my half-sister. We hit it off instantly and began comparing notes, although my pages were blank. Her mother had also passed and left little information about our father. Neither of us has connected with the other half-brother but Dana knew of an older half-sister her mother had mentioned.

Wait, what? 4 half-siblings from 3 different women on all our father’s side and over 12 years between the oldest and youngest! How many more could there be? Who was this guy, and how many other women might have been charmed by him? Dana’s mother had confirmed his musical background, but details were vague. Deciding he had a bit too colorful of a past, I focused all my attention on my mother. Why have there been no DNA connections on her side? Where was she?

Dana then pointed me in the direction of the DNAngels, a nonprofit organization that helps adopted individuals find their birth families. Through Dana’s encouragement, I messaged their organization, went through the screening process, and received the exciting news that they had accepted my case.

The DNAngels recommend uploading to MyHeritage

My research team was built, and they began their work right away. The date was March 19 and their efforts must have been tireless as they started finding results within days! So much information was flooding in about my father, all thanks to the research team! We discovered he was indeed in a handful of successful bands in the Memphis area and was even featured in a book, Garage Bands of Memphis, alongside musicians such as Sam and the Shams and others. He was a guitarist, proving my adoptive parents correct about his musical background. All of this was fascinating, and I was so happy to have the information about him and the half-siblings that I knew of, but where was my mother? My team pointed out that it just appeared people on her side weren’t testing. I was disappointed since she was the reason I started this journey.

My team asked if I would be comfortable using one more DNA platform, again causing me to pause. Would it even matter? My mom seemed to almost not exist at this point, and again is it safe to keep using these sites and allowing access to complete strangers to my information? Still, I really wanted to find her, and the strangers were starting to feel more like family themselves, so I agreed to upload my DNA to MyHeritage.

Uploading DNA to MyHeritage

Uploading DNA to MyHeritage

It was the best decision, as it connected me to my mother’s maternal side! MyHeritage for the win! My team combined all of the results and used their unique talents and intelligence to start piecing together my family tree using information from cousins of my biological grandfather. Right in the sweet spot was a woman with a name extremely close to what my adoptive father had written down. Only the middle name was off by one letter. There was no way this could be her! There is no way the DNAngels could have found her so quickly.  It just simply couldn’t be her!

It was not 100% sure that it was her, but very likely. Considering this possibility, I became filled with anxiety. Do I reach out to this person who may or possibly may not be my biological mother? She may have been so hard to find because maybe she didn’t want to be found. Would I be upsetting her life barging in like a freight train? Would she want a relationship or even a simple single correspondence?  Would she think I want something materialistic from her? It appeared she had a brother and sister as well, much younger than herself. I snooped on social media and discovered the sister. Should I send her a message? Or perhaps she doesn’t even know I existed yet, blowing up my potential birth mother’s life in a different way?

I will never forget the words: ‘It looks like you found her’

The DNAngels were able to send me different possible contact information for Debi, the woman who was likely my mother. Everything from possible email addresses to home addresses and phone numbers. I was astonished and suddenly hit with the reality that all of my questions could possibly be answered. So, after composing an email that I tried to phrase as sensitively as possible, I sent it to two different possible addresses and nervously waited. A few days passed with no response. I decided to send a letter through the mail to one of the addresses. I was too afraid to call on the phone for fear of putting her on the spot. I listed all of the different ways she could contact me and tried to explain I just wanted basic information and, if nothing else, just a reply that she would not like to connect so I knew it was her and would stop looking. I also asked if it was the person I sought to please be kind enough to inform me.

As each day passed, my anxiety increased, and I tried not to get my hopes up. I prepared myself that if this was her she may be overwhelmed and not respond in any way. Then the impossible happened! A voice message arrived from a kind woman saying that she received a letter from someone looking for her birth mother, and she stated my birthday — I had only disclosed the year. She said the following six words I will never forget: “It looks like you found her.”

Vicki and her birth mother Debi

Vicki and her birth mother Debi

I cannot explain my flurry of mixed emotions, everything from elation to nervousness to caution. This is happening, but do I want to invite this person into my life? Once these wheels are set in motion, there is no going back. I sat with my phone in my hand, tears in my eyes, shaking at the sheer improbability of it all. I worked up the courage to call her back, but she did not answer. I began contemplating the possibility that she might have changed her mind. I did not sleep much that night, weighing the different outcomes of what had happened. The next day, however, she did call and said, “What took you so long?”

The answers to all of my questions

We spent the next couple of months learning about each other, and I now also know so much about my birth father. My half-siblings now know our birth father too, thanks to Debi. She never kept me a secret from her loved ones, but vowed that she would not try to find me but would “be here if I ever found her.” Her mother made it clear she would not be a part of her life if she had me at the age of twenty-one. Turning down the proposal of marriage from my birth father due to his musician lifestyle, Debi tried to raise me for two years, but doing it alone proved difficult. This brought her to the extraordinary and loving decision that she wanted more for me. Feeling confident in her decision and love for me, Debi surrendered me to the children’s home.

Debi came to visit me after corresponding for a handful of weeks. We had dinner with my adoptive family and she seemed over the moon that they were so wonderful. She could see where I was raised, married, and where I work. She met my daughters and husband. She was never married and never had any other children, and neither did her siblings, which is why she was so difficult to find — but thanks to this new connection, she has a daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren! I talked with her sister, my biological aunt Lisa Jo, and will be visiting her soon.

Thanks to the DNAngels, I now have the answers to all of my questions. I no longer have to mark “unknown” on medical history. Yes, I do resemble her. According to my family, we have the same mannerisms. We even have the same taste in jewelry. After Debi’s visit, when we hugged goodbye, she cried and held on for a long time. I told her that she did good and everything she wanted for me had come true. We continue to stay in touch, and I will visit her this summer.

Thank you, DNAngels and MyHeritage, for changing my life! You are no longer strangers and researchers but a family that provides the best support a person could ask for!

Many thanks to Vicki for sharing her incredible story with us! If you’ve also made an amazing discovery through MyHeritage, we’d love to hear about it. Please send it to us via this form or email us at stories@myheritage.com.