"Next thing I know, there were 42 people welcoming me to the family." Rae Robinson, Washington

Washington state resident Rae Ellyn Robinson grew up with her biological mother but never knew her biological father. Her mom never gave her any concrete information to go on. Rae searched for her paternal family for 31 years. After trying many DNA testing services, it was a DNA upload to MyHeritage that cracked the case for her and her family.

The history

Rae was born in New Mexico in 1966. Her biological father was a soldier that her mother met before he had to leave for Vietnam. When she was 3 months old, her mother married another man, who was the man who raised her. She found out at age 8 that he wasn’t her biological father.

Rae and her mother, c1966.

As Rae grew, she questioned the story she had been told about her biological father, but her mother never shared anything more. Curious about her heritage, she took a DNA test.

I only got results for a few distant cousins. I spent days researching family history, trying to prove a family line, but not being able to figure out which of the matches was from my dad’s side.

MyHeritage DNA

After hearing about uploads at MyHeritage, Rae decided to upload her DNA data to MyHeritage, to cast a wider net, and to meet new relatives who hadn’t tested with other services.

I remember I spoke to a relative of mine and said wouldn’t it be wild, if on MyHeritage it will pop up something like – this is your half sister of brother?

Almost immediately, she received new DNA Matches that she had never before seen. That same night Rae was at home and received an email from MyHeritage saying “you’ve got your matches.

The very first one was my aunt!

Rae sent a message to the woman she had just matched. She now had a name. She also found what she thought was an old picture of her family.

Rae’s paternal family, c1964.

I discovered the picture that was the last picture taken when everybody was alive. There were 10 kids plus a mother and father in the picture, and it was taken in 1964. I quickly realized that this woman I had matched with is the second youngest out of the 10 kids in the photo, so she was probably my aunt.

A few days later — what seemed like forever to Rae — her aunt replied. Rae learned that her aunt had six brothers. They worked together to figure out which one was her father. A few days later, the aunt came back with an answer. Her little brother, Woodrow Levell Drowns (who goes by “Joe”) had served in the Air Force, stationed in Almagordo — the city where Rae was born.

raes father when he was in the military 1970s_Woodrow Levell Drowns_Joe

Rae’s father, Woodrow Levell Drowns (Joe), when he was in the military. c1970s.

Not only had she located her father, but also four additional half-siblings — three sisters and one brother!

Rae and her dad spoke for the first time on Father’s Day, and they continue to speak on an ongoing basis.

From that point everything went fast. I created a little FB page, because I was talking to all, and they were like – ‘tell us about you, where do you live etc’. And I was repeating it all over again, so I just decided to create a group that was just for family. I added the eight people that I know were family, and they added people. Next thing I know, overnight there are 42 people welcoming me to the family. 

In addition to the four half-sisters and half-brother that she didn’t know about, Rae found aunts and uncles still alive, plus 14 nieces and nephews, eight great-nieces and nephews, and more than 30 cousins.

The reunion

She arranged to travel to meet her father and three half-sisters in San Antonio on her 52nd birthday! She couldn’t contain her excitement and nervousness to meet her biological family for the very first time.

When the big day finally came, Rae and Joe cried and shared a big hug. The family spent the weekend enjoying dinners, getting matching tattoos and recognizing resemblances in one another. They celebrated Rae’s birthday as one big happy family.

Joe can’t believe the family resemblance:

She looks just like my older sister. Big resemblance!

MyHeritage users can upload their raw DNA data from other testing services for free, or pay to access additional features. Learn about the advanced DNA features that you will enjoy when you “unlock” an uploaded kit.

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  • Kevin mardling

    January 21, 2020

    It’s a great site but if you don’t get a close match and only extended matches like 2 cousins etc it’s very hard to understand which side of the family the connection is .
    I’m in a very similar situation and 52 years of age not knowing my father after being denied that information all my life and my mother passing 10 years back but I keep waiting , hoping and searching as I have for over 30 years hoping it’s it’s not to late .

  • David Powell

    January 21, 2020

    My mom and biological father divorced when I was just a few months old. I have never met him. I am 56 years old so I’m pretty certain he has passed away. I DO atleast have a half sister. I took the 23andMe test and also sent the results to myheritage. I have matched cousins but that’s is it. I dont know how to tell if any of these cousins come from my biological fathers side. Maybe some day I will get a closer match. Thank You for reading this.


    January 22, 2020

    This past year I had a very similar story except it was my mother who was raised by my grandmother and her parents. My mother passed away at 61 never knowing about her father. She was adopted by my grandmothers 2nd husband, who abandoned them just a few years later. So I took the DNA test (mostly for the health portion) and uploaded results. Right below my son, I saw a first cousin, of which to my knowledge I had none! I contacted him and found his father and my mom were 1/2 siblings! This was huge!!! Found out her dad married twice after my grandmother and had 7 children before he passed at age 37. We set up a meeting and I traveled to Michigan and had a whole restaurant of relatives waiting to meet me! We had our first annual Ward reunion in July and keep in close touch. Some of her sibs were even born at same hospital, lived in same town as adults, and all look like mom did. I was so happy to fulfill her lifelong dream.

  • Shona

    January 23, 2020

    That’s wonderful,
    I had a similar experience. When ordering my Mums (she was brough up by a single parent during WW2) birth certificate, It had her biological fathers name on it. After searching, I found a man who had the same name in his family tree. I messaged him and asked if he had any photos of hid Dad, he sent me one. The resemblance to my middle son was uncanny. We did DNA testing, it came back that he was my Uncle, my Mums half brother and like you, I also have found an Aunt and another Uncle and numerous Cousins. I grew up thinking that my Mum was an only child. The only regret I have is that my Mum isn’t alive to finally meet her Family.

  • Lori Clinton

    January 25, 2020

    I think all DNA sites should all link together so no matter which site people go through, you can locate all the relatives that have put up their dna.


    January 26, 2020

    Through your service my now ex husband was found by a lady that he had unknowingly fathered while stationed in DaNang , Viet Nam.
    She had migrated to the United States with her husband and two sons. She had been searching for 25 years when she was matched with a first cousin. They did a paternity test that came back with over 99% certainty that they are father and daughter.