MyHeritage user Stephen Drake, 70, from North Carolina, applied for a free MyHeritage DNA kit through our pro bono DNA Quest project in hopes of finding his birth father. A DNA match led him to his father, and he was able to develop a relationship with him and visit him twice before he passed away.
Here is his story:
I was born in May of 1952 in Chicago, and placed for adoption at birth. I was always very interested in finding out anything I could about my birth parents.
When I was 30, I was able to locate my birth mother. We were never able to develop a close relationship, since she lived in Southern California and I in North Carolina. Furthermore, her husband didn’t know anything about me. After he passed, we were able to see each other more often, but she never shared much information about my biological father. For reasons only known to her, it turned out a good bit of what she did tell me wasn’t accurate. My mother passed away in 1996, so I can’t question her now.
I grew up alone, and did not have any adopted siblings. My mom had 5 other kids; one of them has passed, and I only have close contact with one half-brother from my mother’s side, George Grivas. He lives in San Diego and we talk and text fairly regularly. One other brother contacts me occasionally but that is about it.
I originally started looking for my dad in the early eighties after finding my mom. The only thing I could try back then was searching phone books in various cities where I thought he might be. I never had any luck — and it turns out that the name my mom gave me was made up anyway. Again, I don’t know why she did that. Maybe she didn’t want me to locate him.
Without DNA testing I never would have found him.
Finding my dad with DNA Quest
It was George who learned of MyHeritage’s DNA Quest initiative to donate free DNA kits to adoptees, and encouraged me to apply. I did, and MyHeritage sent me a free kit. After taking the test, I was contacted in February of 2019 by a first cousin, Wayne Hayse, asking how I could be related to him. I explained my history, and he helped determine which of his uncles was probably my dad. There were 7 males in my father’s family.
My cousin provided me with contact information for my half-brother, Tony Hayse. When I first called him, his wife answered the phone. She didn’t believe my story and would not let me talk with her husband. After I got my cousin Wayne to call and verify my story, she apparently believed him, and told her husband the reason I reached out to them, and he in turn told that to our dad, also named Tony.
Two days later my dad called me, and said: “Mr. Drake,” (it felt odd that he called me Mr.!) “I understand you want to talk with me.” I said yes, and told him how grateful I was that he called me. After a few minutes of conversation I asked him if he indeed knew my mom and could he possibly be my dad. Without any hesitation he said yes to both.
I was numb and completely blown away. Our conversation was better than anything I could have imagined or hoped for. Turns out he never knew anything about my existence. After being involved with my mother, he went back to his hometown because he was called up for the draft. He never knew she was pregnant and they never had any contact after that.
When I started my search I didn’t know what to expect. Because of our age, I didn’t know if my dad would be alive, what he would remember, and most of all — whether he would accept me.
Thankfully, it could not have gone any better. He lived in southern California, like my mother did. A couple of weeks later I flew there and met him, my half-brother, and my half-sister, Teresa.
My father was as happy to find out about me, as I was to locate him. He had lost another son a few years earlier, and felt God had placed me in his life to help fill his loss.
Teresa, my half-sister, also invited me to join her while visiting her daughter, who lives in West Virginia. Meeting her and my niece’s family went great, and I felt completely accepted by everyone.
My father and I were able to develop a great relationship, and talked regularly. I was able to visit him one more time before he passed away in February of 2021.
While I wish we would have had more time together, I will be forever grateful that we got to know each other. I was 67 and he was 86 when we found each other.
It’s never too late to try, and you never know what may turn up.
Many thanks to Stephen for sharing his story! If you’ve also made a life-changing discovery through MyHeritage, we’d love to hear about it. Send us your story via this form or email it to us at email@example.com.