One of our sales managers has been reunited with her biological brothers thanks to a do-it-yourself DNA test, almost 60 years after she was put up for adoption.
Caldicot-based Heather Wood, who works in Lydney as senior sales accounts manager for The Forester and The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Review, recently managed to reconcile with her estranged brothers through an ancestry website after her husband had bought her a DNA test kit for birthday four years earlier.
Now her own birthdays’ list has got a bit longer following an emotional reunion with them both this month.
Mother-of-two Heather was born in Hereford, before she was put up for adoption at six months old.
She was raised by her adopted parents in Caldicot, where she has lived for most of her life.
She explained: “I was raised by a loving family and was always told I was adopted, that I had other family.
“I wasn’t bothered through childhood about finding anything out, I was quite happy.
“It wasn’t until I moved to Reading years later that I went to a friend’s house and her landlady thought I looked familiar.
“I told her I was born in Hereford and was adopted, and she asked if my original name was Jennifer, which it was. She then said ‘I know your mother’, which was just shear chance.”
That led to her meeting her mother and brothers for the first time 39 years ago.
But, respecting the wishes of her adopted mother, the contact with her biological family ended there.
“Because of the situation – my adopted mother didn’t really accept it – I didn’t keep in touch. It was quite sad, being an only child it was difficult.”
Then, years later when she was camping in the area with her daughter Carys, they went into Hereford to explore her roots.
But upon arriving at the address where she had met her mother years earlier, Heather learned from a neighbour that she had sadly passed away many years previously.
“I asked where my family were but they didn’t know, I left a few phone numbers but nothing came of it.”
Heather said her husband had always said he felt there was something missing for her, and that her curiosity about her family and ancestry would come up again one day.
So on her birthday four years ago, he bought her a testing kit for family heritage website AncestryDNA, by which time her adopted mother had also sadly passed away.
She completed and returned the test and set about compiling her family tree with the information she knew, which initially threw up only a few possible distant relations.
But then, just two weeks ago, she logged into the site for the first time in months to find a message from someone who thought they may be her first or second cousin.
After a connection was established, Heather asked whether they had any contact with her brothers.
“She said ‘well my mother lives opposite your brother’, Dean, and that’s when it all started.
“She contacted him and he rang me that night but put the phone down, he wanted to compile some words which he sent to me overnight about how he missed me, and that he’d always told people he had a sister.”
She described her first meeting with Dean, a carpenter and joiner from Hereford, and Stephen, a communications accountant for a military engineering company who lives in Tewkesbury, as “super emotional”.
“Me and Dean were texting for a week before we arranged to meet – we were both a wreck leading up to that.
“It seems like it was meant to be, because all those years ago I lost contact, and if my cousin’s daughter hadn’t done a DNA test, I probably never would’ve met them again.
“It seems like fate – people don’t get this chance once in their lives, and I’ve had it twice.”
She also spoke of her relief at how supportive her 89 year-old adopted father, who lives with her, has been.
“I didn’t want to upset him, but he’s said that it’s exciting and he’s embraced it, he understands that the chances of it happening like this are slim.”
Heather, who has two grandchildren, is now looking forward to her family developing new relationships with her brothers, as well as her niece and two nephews, over the coming weeks and months.