Wayne Turner was adopted more than seven decades ago and grew up an only child, but now has enough siblings to field a baseball team.
Turner sent in a DNA test through the Ancestry.com genealogy website about three years ago. About a year ago, he received a response from a woman who is his half-sister.
"I’ve gone from being an only child almost all of my life to having 10 siblings, eight surviving," said the 71-year-old Turner. "And since my birth mother had several siblings, I have heard from some cousins.
"I have lots to find out about all this family and find it challenging to remember it all."
Turner reached out to the Free Press after reading a story about two half-sisters in their 50s who, born only 44 days apart, found each other via DNA tests.
In Turner’s case, his mother, Betty Jean, was living in Texas and looking after her sister’s children when she became pregnant at 17 by her brother-in-law. Her shocked parents sent their daughter to a home for unwed mothers in another part of the state, where she gave birth to a son in December 1950.
A few weeks later, even though at least one other family member said they would adopt the baby, the child was put up for adoption.
Turner said he was adopted by a career sailor with the United States Navy and his wife, who lived in Rhode Island. They later relocated to California.
Years later, Turner joined the ministry and he ended up serving for almost four decades as a preacher at the Central Church of Christ in Winnipeg, raising his family in the Manitoba capital.
Turner said he did the DNA test because he’d always wondered about his ethnic background.
"My wife and I kept having this conversation about what my nationality was genetically," he said. "I’m blond hair, blue eyes, so I’m the stereotyped Scandinavian. So she bought me a membership on Ancestry and said, go forward."
It was then Turner began getting information about unknown relatives.
"They were four or fifth cousins — that’s pretty distant," he said. "I was thinking I’m not going to find out anymore more and then I received an email saying you have a close relative. And then I received a message from Kathy."
Turner’s half-sister Kathy Cole had been searching for him for years from her home in Texas.
"I was at it for a long time," the 66-year-old Cole said. "Before my mother died, she said she’d had a baby but had to give him up for adoption… I knew he existed but I didn’t have his name or birth date, but I kept looking… She didn’t know where he ended up."
As part of her search, she submitted an Ancestry DNA test about a year ago. Cole received information back about a close relative.
That’s when, out of the blue, about two years after Turner sent in his test, he received a message via the website from a woman in Texas.
"It said possible matches may be grandparent, aunt, uncle or half-sibling," she messaged. "I know for sure you are not one of my grandparents, so that leaves the rest. Hoping to hear from you."
After connecting, Turner found out he had five siblings on Cole’s side. But there were more to come.
A few months later, a family member on his birth father’s side reached out to him through the Ancestry website.
"My DNA results show we are full brothers," said the message. "I’m very confused. I was just checking my ethnicity, so I’m very confused to say the least.
"I called AncestryDNA, and they are saying DNA doesn’t lie… What is your age? I have three brothers and one sister, I’m 66 years old and retired, and both parents passed away."
It turned out it was Turner’s half-brother and, after a few more messages to family members, the current generation discovered the long-not-talked-about family connection.
As for Turner and Cole, they can’t wait to meet each other in person.
Turner said he wants to visit his new-found family in Texas.
"Kathy is really happy because she knew about me and wondered through the years if she would ever have the opportunity to know me. Now, she will."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.