Watch the moment 2 siblings meet after more than 5 decades of searching
When she stepped out of the car in front of an inauspicious Motel 6 on a cool Tuesday evening, Yvonne Springer’s hands shook: Right there in front of her in the parking lot was a face she had given up hope she would ever see.
“You look like our grandfather,” she half-laughed, half-cried as she embraced the man she had only recently learned was her half brother.
Springer and Frederic Turk are half siblings who had never met before April 4. They were recently connected via Ancestry.com, where both took a DNA test to find out their family history.
With the connection, they joined a quickly growing population of people who have connected with long lost or unknown family members through a feature on the website.
Springer, 69, of Los Osos, had been aware she had a brother since she was 17, she said, and had searched fruitlessly to find him for the better part of her life.
“I’ve dreamt about him for 55 years,” she said. “ ’Cause I always felt alone in the world. I always felt like an outsider.”
We’re hoping this will inspire other people, because it would not have happened if both of us had not done our DNA.
Yvonne Springer, Los Osos
Turk, 70, of Columbia Falls, Montana, on the other hand, had never known about Springer — just a feeling for much of his life that there was someone out there he was connected to, more so than his adoptive family, he said.
“I always felt deep down inside that I had a sister, or somebody had to be there other than just me,” yet he never found anything, he said.
The pair’s road to reunion at that Morro Bay hotel was decadeslong and weary: At separate times, each considered it a lost cause to search for their mysterious family connections.
“We’re hoping this will inspire other people, because it would not have happened if both of us had not done our DNA,” Springer said.
Though Ancestry.com doesn’t track the number of family connections made through its DNA tests, public relations manager Dallin Hatch said the company hears stories like Springer and Turk’s almost daily — and expects that to increase as more people take the test.
“Since Ancestry has the largest consumer genomics database in the world (more than 3 million people have taken the AncestryDNA test), the average customer now receives more than 500 fourth-cousin matches or closer in their results,” Hatch wrote in an email to The Tribune. “In some cases, those connections are really close, as is the case with (Springer and Tucker). The numbers of connections will only increase over time as the database gets larger, which it’s doing at a rapid pace.”
The pair’s story starts in Bishop, California, where their mother, Vera Tucker, was raised.
In 1946, Tucker was 17 and dating an Army man named Fred Springer, who was expected home soon from the war. But when he arrived home, he found Vera five months pregnant with another man’s child.
“My father’s impression was that it wasn’t a consensual pregnancy,” Springer said. “He could have just killed the man.”
Fred Springer and Vera Tucker then eloped to Nevada, with Fred Springer intending to adopt the child as his own.
Tucker’s parents had other plans, however, and sent her to a Catholic home for unwed mothers in Los Angeles where she was forced to put her newborn son up for adoption.
That son — Turk — was adopted by a North Hollywood couple in a closed adoption and raised in Southern California.
Meanwhile, Fred Springer and Vera Tucker settled down in Bishop, and about a year later, Tucker gave birth to a daughter they named Yvonne. Seven months after that, Vera Tucker died at the age of 20 of polio.
Yvonne Springer and Frederic Turk lived the next years of their lives in the same state, but unaware of each other.
He said her dying words were to find the babies and keep them together.
Yvonne Springer, Los Osos
The pair’s paths may have even crossed unknowingly during those early years: Springer would spend summers in North Hollywood with her grandmother, just blocks away from Turk’s home, and both can remember playing at the same parks and playgrounds as children.
“It’s crazy,” Turk said, shaking his head. “We never knew. We may have even met.”
When Springer was 17 and leaving home for college, her father finally shared her mother’s secret with her.
“He said her dying words were to find the babies and keep them together,” Springer said. “It’s been my fantasy since then to find him.”
Meanwhile, in North Hollywood, Turk tried to find information on his birth mother after accidentally discovering at the age of 12 that he was adopted.
“I’ve searched since I was 12 or 13, and the neighborhood kids found out,” he said. “They heard their parents talking that I was adopted. The kids being mean and whatever, said, ‘Hey, they’re not your real parents.’ So I found out when I was 12 or 13 that I was adopted.”
As they grew older, both at different times would search for their family’s history, with little success.
A match made in DNA
Though they tried fruitlessly for years to get information — both were repeatedly denied access to Turk’s sealed adoption records — it was when they were least expecting it that the siblings finally made an all-important connection on Ancestry.com.
The genealogy website allows its members to build and research family trees, and share information with other users who have related ancestors.
In 2012, the website rolled out its AncestryDNA tests, which were marketed to allow users to learn about their genetic heritage. It tells users what regions their ancestors hailed from, and what percentage of each heritage they are.
That’s all Turk was expecting to get when he sent in his test results.
“I just kind of wanted to know what I was, you know?” he said. “Scandinavian, German, whatever. I had no idea this would be what I’d find.”
Springer took the test to help her daughter get a grant to travel to Alaska so she could teach indigenous tribes.
“I thought I knew we had that (Native American heritage) in our ancestry, so we took the test,” she said.
Then all of a sudden, 70 years old, I’ve got a sister. It’s a whole new world.
Fred Turk, Columbia Falls, Montana
Then one day, after Turk turned the DNA information over to his son Zachary for a closer look, Zachary called him over to look at some information on the screen.
“He said, ‘You have a sister,’ ” Tucker said. “I couldn’t believe it. I was walking around like that old commercial — ‘I have a brother!’ — except I’m, ‘I have a sister?’ ”
Turk then reached out to Springer via email, alerting her to their possible kinship. From there, it was quick work for Turk and his wife, Dawn, to plan a road trip down to Los Osos, where Springer lives.
“It was like, ‘I gotta go, I gotta go,’ ” he said. “Once we found out we existed, it was a priority to get down here.”
A day after meeting each other, brother and sister had fallen into an easy familiarity: Over breakfast, Turk reached out and rested a hand on Springer’s shoulder whenever she recounted difficult memories of their shared mother, and the pair easily quipped back and forth about their love of food — “Bacon IS a vegetable,” Springer laughed as they were handed their plates.
So far they’ve talked a little about everything, they said: What their mother was like, common health problems, their childhoods, their own children.
“I asked God all my life, I’d like to know where I came from, and if there’s anybody from that world,” Turk said. “Then all of a sudden, 70 years old, I’ve got a sister. It’s a whole new world.”
Now that the pair have connected, they are planning twice-a-year family trips with their assortment of children and grandchildren. They’ve also begun reaching out to potential relatives online who may know about Turk’s birth father.
“Now we’re complete,” Springer said.