"Thanks to MyHeritage, I found him and I am so grateful for that."
Jan Gobbens, Netherlands
Jan Gobbens from the Netherlands was adopted at a young age. As a young adult, he reconnected with his mother, but she passed away before he was able to locate his biological father. After years of searching, a DNA match with a cousin on MyHeritage led Jan to the discovery of a lifetime — finding his birth father and half-siblings.
In 1964, Jan’s 17-year-old mother Conny was sent to an orphanage out of town before her pregnancy showed. She placed Jan for adoption in the orphanage and returned home. Jan was fostered by a nice couple Jac and Corrie at 1 year of age, and they legally adopted him at age 5.
Jan found out that he was adopted and that Jac and Corrie were not his biological parents when he was 7 years old. From that day forward, he dreamed of growing up and getting his driver’s license so he could search for his biological parents. He felt like a part of his life was missing. His mind was filled with questions: Do I look like them? Does my mother miss me? Does she remember my birthday? Why did she place me for adoption?
At 18, with the support of his foster parents, Jan became serious in his search. He had no expectations of his biological parents. All he wanted was to sit down and talk with them. Jan’s biggest fear was that his mother wouldn’t want anything to do with him and that he would be rejected a second time.
Luckily, that wasn’t the case.
Equipped with the name of his biological mother, he wrote letters to city hall. Conny no longer lived in the same place, so Jan wrote to many other cities until he managed to locate her after 7 years of searching. He reached out to her and she was happy to hear from him, and for the next 10 years, they got to know each other and made up for lost time. Unfortunately, their relationship was cut short when Connie passed away.
Connie had given Jan the name of his biological father, but though Jan made every effort to locate him, he wasn’t successful. He even aired on national radio and appeared in the national newspapers pleading for help, but nothing came of it.
In the summer of 2017, Jan bought a DNA kit and decided to upload his results to MyHeritage and a few other sites. He didn’t receive any matches from the other sites, but he would periodically get emails of new matches on MyHeritage.
One day, he noticed a second cousin match. Though the relation was somewhat distant, Jan figured it was worth a try. He sent a message to his cousin through MyHeritage. The cousin himself didn’t know how they could be connected, but he put Jan in touch with his own father, who knew more about the family tree. While reviewing the tree, Jan saw a name that resembled the name his mother had told him before she died.
Jan contacted his father, Leo, and after further testing, it was confirmed that he was indeed his biological father. They were finally united after 54 years! Leo wasn’t even aware that he’d fathered a son with Jan’s mother, but he welcomed Jan with open arms.
“My father accepts me as his child and is a wonderful dad,” says Jan.
In addition, Jan learned that he has a half-sister Suus and a half-brother Roel, both of whom were also thrilled to accept Jan into their family.
“My biological father told me that my mother was his first love,” says Jan. “She broke up with him by letter, but she didn’t mention that she was pregnant.”
The two lived far away from each other. Leo never saw Conny again after they broke up. It was a huge surprise for Leo to learn that Conny had had his son.
Leo moved on and married another woman, Els. They had two children, a daughter, and a son. “His wife accepts me as if I were a child of her own, which I think is very outstanding.”
On October 18th, 2019 Jan’s new family came to celebrate his birthday with him, for the very first time in his life.
Jan’s new stepmother Els has already invited Jan and his family to spend Christmas together. Jan was very emotional to be included, and can’t wait for the expanded family to spend Christmas together for the very first time.
Jan never imagined that he would locate Leo, but now that he has, he can’t believe his luck.
“Thanks to MyHeritage, I found him and I am so grateful for that, I can’t tell you how much,” he says.
Jan and his newfound family are taking time to get to know each other. They are working on building a strong relationship. Their motto is: “Nothing to be forced and everything is good.”
One of the more incredible coincidences that they’ve uncovered is that when Jan was 18, he was in the army, stationed in a town only a few hundred meters away from Leo’s house. Leo even owned a gas station and bar where Jan filled up his tank every week! He even visited the bar a few times, and probably stood eye to eye with Leo without knowing he was his father.
“I am still in an emotional rollercoaster,” says Jan, “but I’m so happy that I finally found him!”