DNA Testing Reunites Long Lost Families Decades Later
Science & Tech| | By Robin Milling
The science of DNA testing can reveal many things about who we are and where we came from. Those little molecules that make up the genetics of living organisms never lie, which is why they are so popular when it comes to locating long lost relatives. That was the case with Anthony Wiggs and Raymond Abreu, brothers who hadn’t known their own mother for 46 years, until a DNA test found her.
Finding estranged parents with the help of a DNA swab is now a business and not just a miracle of modern science. There are any organizations such as Family Finder, 23andMe, and Ancestry.com who offer an “autosomal” DNA test for less than $100. You simply order a home test kit and collect your own DNA by rubbing a swab inside your cheek or spitting into a tube. A few weeks after mailing in your sample, your results will be compared to everyone else in that database. Collectively, more than two million people have taken one or more of these tests and found their familial matches.
Just last May 2016, after 43 years, Kimberly Sebeck found her mother Cheri Hahn DeSalvo — who had ambivalently given her up for adoption — through a DNA test provided by Ancestry.com.
The brothers Wiggs and Abreu were split up by social services in Puerto Rico in the 1970s after their mother Elsie Ramirez and her military husband broke up. Abreu, only 10 months older than his brother, moved in with his grandparents and was then taken to San Antonio, Texas to live with his father. His brother Anthony was adopted by Marta Wiggs after he had been dropped off at the Ramey Air Force social services office in need of a home.
It was the adopted Wiggs who became curious about his family tree and ultimately connected with his brother Raymond’s ex-wife living in Texas who reunited the brothers. Now they were on a mission to find their mom. In May 2017, Wiggs received an unusual gift from his girlfriend — a DNA test. This led to a DNA database of historical records of relatives. The first match was Ramirez’ nephew who shared the news that their mother was alive and well and, living in Massachusetts.
A further Facebook search miraculously found her best friend who gave Wiggs his estranged mother’s phone number. The threesome first reunited on the phone. “She was actually at the mall in the restroom. There was a lady in there next to her who heard her screaming and crying out of joy,” Wiggs told CNN.
The family came face-to-face after almost five decades surrounded by their family and friends at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport baggage claim. Their reunion was filled with hugs and tears. In the video of their reunion captured by CNN, Raymond Abreu translated for his mother, “She said that after 47 years she prayed and prayed and prayed. After awhile she was just like, ‘I’m tired of praying.’ It doesn’t matter if we’re older now. We’re still her babies.”