On a balmy Wednesday afternoon in Houston, Texas, just a few days after Christmas 1971, two women found a newborn baby boy lying in a manger inside the St. Anne Catholic Church’s nativity scene.
“The Manger Baby,” as he came to be called in the press, seemed to be healthy, well-fed but abandoned, with only a handful of diapers, a blanket and some formula with him. He was taken in by a social worker and eventually adopted by a couple in Dayton, Texas.
Now, 44 years later, DJ Williams still has questions as to why he was left in a manger all those years ago and embarked on a mission to track down his biological family.
“My entire life I’ve been searching, one way or another I grab onto any bit of information that I thought might be helpful,” Williams told “20/20.” “Any sort of adoption registries, really anything that I could find to try to fill in some details.”
Today, Williams is a manager at a Starbucks inside a grocery store in Baltimore, Maryland. He lives with his partner Mike and their 6-year-old son Zephyr.
They were watching TV last year when they came across a “20/20” report about Louise Jones, a woman abandoned as a baby in a New York City phone booth, and how investigative genealogist Pam Slaton was helping her find her biological family.
“So DJ actually was watching the first ‘20/20’” Slaton said. “And he felt connected to me and said to his partner that’s ‘the girl that’s going to help me.’”
Slaton is constantly contacted for help and she only works on cases she thinks she can solve. In Williams’ case, she was skeptical at first of a positive outcome because she said, “the odds of finding someone to me were not great” in his case. Both of Williams’ adoptive parents are deceased.
“No witnesses, no real clues as to who his family might be and literally we are starting from a blank slate,” she said.
When he was about 15 years old, Williams said his grandmother showed him some newspaper clippings about “The Manger Baby.”
“It was really just a small column and they had a picture of a social worker holding me,” he said.
But that was one clue Slaton could start with. The newspaper that covered the story, The Houston Post, is out of business today but copies are still kept on microfilm at the University of Houston library.
Slaton and Williams went to look up some articles about the case, which revealed the name of the reporter, Gary Taylor, who was just starting out on the evening crime beat in 1971. But Taylor told them he couldn’t provide more information.
At “20/20’s” request, ABC’s Houston affiliate KTRK interviewed Williams to help get the word out to their viewers about his search.
Slaton also suggested Williams submit a DNA test to Family Tree DNA, a genetic testing company based in Houston. By chance, his DNA hit on a match in their database.
“So the DNA results came back in and much to my shock, I was able to see that there were two first-generation relatives, meaning that there were two people who came up matching his DNA very closely,” Slaton said.
Slaton researched the names of the two people, one male and one female.
“What I eventually found out was that the first person, who was Rose, that matched DJ was actually the niece of the male DNA match,” Slaton said. “Then I realized ‘oh my gosh,’ the uncle must be the brother to the birth mother and the niece must be either a niece to the birth mother or her daughter.”
Slaton got a phone number for Rose and called her. It turned out she was Williams’ half-sister, born two years after him. During their phone conversation, Rose told Slaton that her mother died several years earlier, but that she and her family were Catholic and had attended St. Anne’s.
When Slaton told Williams the news, she said he laughed out loud.
“He totally took me off guard but I think it was shock and nervousness and just like ‘are you kidding me?’” Slaton said. “I don’t think he absorbed initially what I was saying to him.”
As she continued her search, Slaton found that Williams actually has four half siblings, who couldn’t wait to meet the brother they never knew existed.
“I had honestly given up hope for the longest time,” Williams said through tears. “I just can’t believe it. That’s amazing.”
Recently, “20/20” helped arrange for Williams to meet his blood relatives for the first time -- three half-sisters and a half-brother who had all grown up together with his birth mother.
It was an emotional reunion, with hugs and tears all around, but a mystery still remained. Williams’ siblings, all born after him, said they had no idea their mother had abandoned him as a baby or why, but Williams said he has made peace with the fact that he found any blood relatives at all.
“For me, it was about finding that connection,” he said. “You’re just floating in the sea and you don’t have any anchor to hold onto, and so now I have something to hold onto, and I’m not letting go.”