A California woman who never knew her parents took a DNA test to learn more about their health history, but came away with the results of a lifetime: a family.
Christine Shepherd, who turns 54 on Saturday, was adopted at birth in 1965 and didn’t know anything about her birth mother, birth father or possible siblings, she told ABC News on Tuesday.
Now, thanks to a 23andMe test, she has met her three sisters and will soon meet her father for the first time.
"I never thought I would find my family … I’ve never had sisters," she said. "I’ve been an only child all my life so to have this wonderful group of women who are so loving and caring is so phenomenal."
Shepherd said she is flying out to Oklahoma from Hanford, California, on Thursday to meet her father, days before she’ll celebrate her 54th birthday.
"For my 54th, I got a full family," she said. "Not many people get that."
It all began back in January 2018, when she took the test to learn about her family’s health history. Her adopted mother had died in 2015 and her adopted father passed in 1994, leaving her without any immediate family to tell her anything they knew. And because she was privately adopted, she could not get information from the state.
About a month after first taking the test, she heard from 23andMe and learned that she had a first cousin on her mother’s side.
The two got in touch and Shepherd soon learned that her first cousin's aunt was Shepherd’s birth mother. Shepherd knew that her birth mother had gone to Vallejo to have the baby and the baby’s father was in the military. Her cousin confirmed to her that was the story he also knew of his aunt.
Shepherd’s mom died 16 years earlier, but she was told that towards the end of her mother’s life she tried to find Shepherd.
"She just wanted to tell me that she loved me," Shepherd said.
In February of this year, Shepherd got another message from the genealogy company, notifying her that there was another relative.
This time, it was on her dad’s side.
The cousin who she was matched with on her dad’s side put her in contact with her three sisters, and they quickly hit it off.
"Everyone has been so welcoming, so loving. That has been something I truly didn’t expect," she said.
She met two of her younger sisters, 53-year-old Kimberly and 50-year-old Cheryl, in her California home and the three spent hours going through old photos and learning about one another.
"We just literally hung out and talked because it was such an easy, seamless situation," Shepherd said. "It was just like three sisters hanging out."
She’s looking forward to meeting her youngest sister, 40-year-old Autumn, when she visits her father, Kendell Fors.
It will also be the first time she celebrates her birthday with her birth family.
"There’s a party and everyone’s going to meet me," she said. "They have family and friends and their church, so apparently it’s a big to do."