"All I ever wanted was to meet my biological family" Joanne Perkins, New Jersey

It was only when Joanne Perkins was sitting on the train to Toledo, Ohio on her way to meet her biological family for the very first time that she grasped the significance of this journey. The train was taking her to the family she hadn’t seen since she was eight years old.

Everything started back in June 2016, when Joanne was sitting in her Trenton, New Jersey living room and watching TV. A commercial for MyHeritage came on, inviting people to research their family history and find their relatives. After so many lonely years, Joanne decided she had nothing to lose. She decided to take one last chance and look for her family on MyHeritage.

Joanne signed up to MyHeritage with a free account and wrote a request in the MyHeritage Community section, looking for help locating her family:

Joanne didn’t expect a response to arrive a mere few hours later. She was surprised to see that the response was from the founder and CEO of MyHeritage, Gilad Japhet, who was reviewing the MyHeritage Community that day, helping people personally while practicing his hobby as a genealogist. She was shocked to read his message. He was writing to let her know that he has found her relatives:

“I found lots of family members for you. And lots of details about your parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, and more. For example, here is the gravestone of your brother who died close to birth:

Gravestone of Joanne’s brother, Robert Morton Perkins.

But this wasn’t all. Japhet shared with Joanne a large collection of documents he found about her family, including an article from a local newspaper about the passing of her brother, and her parents’ marriage certificate. Finally, there was a photograph of two women:

Judith and Barbara – Joanne’s first cousins.

“I have found living family members for you on Facebook. You have what seems to be a lovely family, including the following two first cousins of yours.”

Joanne was overwhelmed with emotion. Japhet asked Joanna to tell him a bit about herself so he could look for more details about her family. Amazed by the idea of a “genealogy angel” volunteering to help her in such a meaningful way, she decided to open up and tell her story and share it with the users of MyHeritage.

I lived with my mother until I was eight. My father served in the Army and was sent to Germany. My mother had a mental health episode and was hospitalized, so my aunt and uncle sent my siblings and me to live in an orphanage. A short while later, my mother ended her life. My father ended up marrying someone else. I very badly want to meet my biological family. You have fulfilled a dream I’ve had for such a long time. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Based on the information Joanne provided, Japhet continued to research her family and sent her even more details about the family, including photos of her relatives and their up-to-date phone numbers. Suddenly, all that stood between Joanne and her family members was a phone call. She decided to pick up the phone.

Joanne tells about her first phone conversation with her cousin, Tammy:

After many hours spent on the phone, the family decided to re-unite, and Joanne’s relatives invited her to come for a visit in Ohio. Having until recently thought that she was all alone in the world, Joanne accepted the invitation, hanging up with tears in her eyes. Scenes from the past, which she thought she had forgotten, flooded her memory once again.

I suddenly remembered the last time I saw them, when I was eight, right after Mom died. I remembered the day the family all got together to try to figure out what to do with us three kids — me and my brothers.

Several days before she got on the train to Toledo, Ohio, a messenger knocked on Joanne’s door and handed her a rolled-up package. When she opened it, she was happy to find another surprise from MyHeritage’s CEO: a giant printed family tree, featuring no less than 50 of her biological relatives.


No one has ever done something like this for me. I never imagined that one day people who don’t even know me would come and, out of a desire to help, fulfill a dream for me. The trip to Ohio was a dream come true.

In accordance with the family’s wishes, the emotional reunion in Ohio took place away from the cameras. After so many years and difficult memories, they asked that this moment be private.

Joanne summarized the meeting:

I have closed a circle. When I showed them the family tree I received from MyHeritage, suddenly everyone found themselves on it and understood the connection between us. I didn’t think I’d ever get to this moment, but today I’m no longer alone. I have a large family that loves me and who never forgot me.


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  • Audrey rosenswike

    April 16, 2017

    Can the test determine the Native American blood line of my family?

    • Esther Shuman

      April 23, 2017

      Hi Audrey,

      The test will give you a breakdown of your ethnicities.

      Esther / MyHeritage Team

  • Susan Blackmore

    June 1, 2017

    My story is a little different. My mother was one of eight born in the states to a military family. Not until she was much older, late 30s did she hear that she was another man’s child. No one even her mother ever identified the man who was her father. My mother thought she had an idea, older siblings and relatives have confirmed this but the man had passed before verbal verification could be made. I’ve always felt my mother’s pain and wondered how she went without knowing. She passed away this past July so I am taking the DNA testing for her and me.

  • Edie Woronicz

    November 24, 2017

    Can this test help to determine a person’s biological father. The birth mother put a wrong father’s name on birth certificate, then gave the child up for adoption. The father’s name on birth certificate that was wrong, died right before the child was born. Is there any hope?

    • Jessica Katz

      November 28, 2017

      Hi Edie, Thank you for your question. If your biological father or any of his relatives took a MyHeritage DNA test, or took a DNA test from another company and uploaded it to MyHeritage, you will receive DNA Matches with them once you’ve taken a DNA test.

  • Gregory John Halligan

    November 25, 2017

    I have a 2-pronged problem.
    I come from ancient Polish nobility. My gr.grandparents came suddenly to the US late 1890s. This time correlates with series of pograms against Jews. Other clues lead me to believe I have Jewish blood which I would be proud of. But WW2 seems to have wiped all traces………..
    Also her granddaughter in the US had a child out of wedlock (me) in 1949 father unknown. An aunt adopted me as her own. Some legal documents were changed. All hush hush. Where was he from? Who am I?

  • Davina

    December 5, 2017

    This story gives me hope. thank you

  • Jamine Haight

    December 16, 2017

    I enjoyed reading this article that was sent to me from a friend. My story is very similar, and yet different. I had looked for my biological father for over 30 years with the tools available at the time. I have suffered in silence of not knowing where I belonged. I tried everything possible , plus spent hundreds of dollars, I really didn’t have. Needless to say, I held hope for the link that would change my life. There are many websites and a TV program that has a search team called Omni Source. With my parent’s marriage certificate, my birth certificate and what little Information known, I received received an address. I wrote to my father, but heard nothing back. My husband planned a vacation to the beautiful state of Maine, where I was born. We went by the address, but I couldn’t go up to he door since I had not heard back. Returning from vacation, I wrote another letter and sent a picture of the home at the address That got a response from the caregiver that was unexpected. I had sent it as proof I wasn’t a threatening person, but that was the feeling on their end. There has been no contact other than the one letter concerning my father’s health conditions. The caregiver gave me enough information to let me know I have heart and stroke indicators on both sides of my DNA. Now for Christmas, I hope to have the information from a DNA test it sent recently. This will hopefully give me some answers, but most importantly my sons and their children. This was the biggest concern for me being over the age off 55. My mother will not help or be involved for any reason; as she always said, he never wanted anything to do with you so why keep searching for him. ???? There is a small part that has hope, but it is dwindling each year. ???? Once the DNA test results are back, I can at least have that to pass on through my children.

  • Debra G Martinez

    April 24, 2018

    Adopted at birth. Absolutely 0 knowledge of genealogy. I am now 65 years old and thinking of finding out who I am. Might be quite interesting. It seems by reading the stories that it would definitely shed some light. I will ponder this and make a decision soon

    • Esther Shuman

      April 25, 2018

      Hi Debra,

      We suggest that you look into our new pro bono initiative aimed at reuniting families. You can learn more at http://www.dnaquest.org.

      Esther / MyHeritage Team