Two half-sisters have lived separate lives, but thanks to Ancestry.com’s discovery of their children’s social media, they were united in Rome last week.
“We cried all day,” Kristin Watson said.
“My eyes are swollen because I cried so much,” Kristin’s half-sister Terri Lynn said.
Terri Lynn is 57 years old and lives in Mission Viejo, California. She was put up for adoption as a baby and has been searching for her birth family for decades.
“I actually found my birth mother 23 years ago after an 18-year search,” Terri said. “My biological father, I knew, had passed away in the early 70s. I knew he was an only child. I knew his parents had died. So that was it…His stories about him were just that they were in love and you know happy together and he was this really great guy, and that was basically it.
She had no pictures of him.
“In my mind, I had to develop that image of him,” Terri said.
Terri said she had given up hope of finding a connection from her biological father’s side of the family until Mother’s Day weekend this year.
Terri’s new half-sister, Kristin Watson, lives in Rome. She also didn’t have much information about the paternal side of the family. He died when she was four years old.
“Our father passed away when I was four,” Kristin said. “Before he met my mother, on the other hand, my grandparents had passed away, so we had no connection with dad and no way of getting in touch with any known relatives.”
Fast forward to Mother’s Day weekend 2022, Kristin’s son Justin did an ancestry search. He found the typical items that a person is looking for. He was more Scottish and Irish than he thought. But no one could have prepared him for what he discovered.
“I’ve always been a bit interested in my ancestry. There’s a list on the app of other people who have taken the test, who share their DNA with you,” Justin said. “…and I see these people that I don’t recognize. I see Terri and Courtney Lynn.”
He dug a little deeper and got the free trial subscription.
“Now I see his dad is my mom’s dad,” Justin said. “I’m like, ‘wow’, and honestly, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even know how to tell my mum.
He told his mother. There were tears and excitement.
“Justin started to think a little deeper,” his mother, Kristin, said. “He said the match with my niece now seemed like enough to be a cousin, so he messaged them on Facebook and Ancestry, then dug a little deeper and tracked down Terri’s family, which… .wow! It was a shock when it came to my father. My husband was in the background yelling, “You got a sister, you got a sister!”
“There were tears from my mom,” Justin said. “Especially because my mum, growing up, thought she never had siblings and finding out after all this time was just awesome.”
Then Justin used Facebook to find a connection. He texted Courtney, who’s a flight attendant.
“I was airborne in my kitchen and got a message from a random person named Justin Watson,” Courtney said.
Then another message from Justin arrived. It said, “Hey, I think our moms could be sisters.”
Courtney, who flew to Rome with her mother last week to meet this family they had been looking for so long, who finally found them, told us: “I knew my mother’s story. I was with her when she found her birth mother, so I kind of went on this whole journey with her.”
For Terri, it’s a piece of a puzzle that, for years, even decades, has been missing. She had made peace with not finding answers, but had left a clue just in case someone could find her!
“When I did my DNA,” Terri said, “I put my family tree in it in hopes that maybe a fourth or fifth cousin would come out of carpentry one day and maybe I would have some sort of connection.”
Never in her wildest dreams would she have thought of finding a sister.
“I’m so grateful to Justin because he followed through,” Terri said. “He kept looking. I was always the one watching.”
For Kristin, it was a piece of the puzzle she knew in her heart that was missing from her life.
“It’s a miracle,” the two sisters said together.
“The door was closed on my end,” Kristin said, “because my mother passed away many years ago, so there was no one to ask for an answer.”
Hundreds of text messages and phone conversations took place between the discovery and the meeting.
The first piece of the puzzle for Terri was a photo of her biological father.
“We started talking about photos,” Kristin said. Terri asked if she had one saying she had never seen her father.
Kristin provided that and then albums full of photos when Terri came to visit.
The half-sisters discover similarities, familiarities, and can end sentences.
“It’s so familiar,” Kristin said.
“There are so many times I’ve texted her and she’s texted me and said, ‘Do you like this or that? – and we both do,” Terri said. Both ladies love sunflowers.
Their father, Warren James Knight, better known as “Jim”, loved music according to their mothers.
“My mom told me he always wanted me to learn to play the piano,” Kristin said. Terri is a piano teacher.
The meeting was not without concern.
“I wanted to be who she wanted me to be,” Terri said. “I wanted to live up to her expectations. That was my anxiety, I just hope to be the sister she wants and needs.”
“When I hugged Terri, it was like hugging a piece of my dad,” Kristin said.
The two spent time at Lake Nick in the Old Forge, went ghost hunting in Rome and visited their father, Warren James Knight’s grave at St. John the Baptist Cemetery in Rome, while Courtney and Terri were visiting from the west coast.
And to think that if their kids hadn’t helped make the connection, they might have spent their lives never knowing the other existed.
“Just to see my mom’s whole adoption journey come full circle,” Courtney said. “We are all so grateful to Justin for going on Ancestry, finding us and reaching out.”
We contacted Ancestry.com. They sent this statement: “We are delighted that Ancestry was able to play a role in connecting Kristin with her biological family. We hope they can continue to explore their family history together and we wish them the best. “
This trip to Rome will probably not be the last connection for these two families.
“We fill our lives, but we can’t wait to live together,” the two sisters agreed.