Press "Enter" to skip to content

She Found Her Birth Father’s Identity and a Half-Sister with a MyHeritage DNA Test

Teresa Scharf was adopted by an American couple from Madera Baby Center in Athens when she was 7 months old. The American couple who adopted her at the time were both in the U.S. Navy, serving in Kénitra Port Lyautey, Morocco.

“My adopted father was in the military until I was 12 years old,” says Teresa. “I had the privilege of traveling very often, because that was during the Cold War. He got orders for a new duty station every 18 months, so we went to Midway Island in the South Pacific from there. We went to Japan and I attended first grade. From there, we moved to Turkey and other places. When I was eight years old we flew to Athens and they took me and showed me the orphanage where I was placed as a baby.”

But the discussion about Teresa’s past and the adoption didn’t go further than that. Over the years there was hardly any talk at home about her roots. “I respected my American parents enough that I didn’t ask many questions,” says Teresa. “They were not warm, comfortable people. So it would have been received as being defiant and insulting if I had asked many questions.”

After she got married and had a child, though, the question of identity resurfaced and occupied her thoughts. “Because being pregnant was wonderful and being a mom has been wonderful. I wondered, why would somebody give up a baby like that?” says Teresa.

One of 12 first cousins

A friend of hers, who is also of Greek origin, urged her for years to search for her roots. But it took until 3 years ago for Teresa to make the decision to pursue the issue. “He sent me a newspaper article about the Eftychia Project, which helps Greek adoptees find their biological family.” Teresa decided to purchase a DNA kit. “I matched with my first cousin, who lives in Chicago,” she says. “Last May I flew to Chicago and met him and his wife and family and spent some time with them. We knew that we share the same grandparents, and now we need to narrow it down. We realized that apparently his mother and my biological father are siblings. Except we didn’t know which of his mother’s brothers was my father.”

This was the most complex part of the research, because there was no way to know with the information they had which of the brothers was the biological father. “It could have been this uncle or could have been that uncle; we didn’t know,” says Teresa. “So I reached out to Linda from the Eftychia Project, and we decided to go to Greece and to test my new cousins. I stayed at my cousin’s house — the sister of my DNA Match, who lives in Athens. She took me to the village where our grandparents were from and where most of the family still lives. I learned that I am one of 12 cousins on this side of the family!”

MyHeritage is proud to partner with the Eftychia Project. We provide free MyHeritage DNA kits to help the organization reunite Greek adoptees with their families. Teresa and Linda Carol Trotter, who heads the project, traveled to the village with MyHeritage DNA kits in hand and tested many of the cousins. The tests showed that they were all first cousins — but none of them shared the same father with Teresa.

‘She looked exactly like me at that age’

Then, two months later, a cousin who hadn’t been present at the family gathering in the village, Angeliki (Angie) Palaeologou,  took a DNA test. At the beginning of January 2024, the results came in and showed that she and Teresa are half-sisters — meaning they shared the same father.

Teresa (right) with her half-sister, Angie

Teresa (right) with her half-sister, Angie

“She is 5 years younger than me,” says Teresa. “She was raised with her father and we have different mothers. He had been married to her mother for five years when I was conceived. So he had a very active social life.”

The two spoke via video call shortly after the discovery. “She showed me pictures when I video chatted with her. She showed me pictures of herself with our father when she was little, and they look exactly like me when I was that age. She was raised as an only child, but said that she grew up always feeling like there had to be other children out there.”

Angie shows Teresa a photo of their father on a video call

Angie shows Teresa a photo of their father on a video call

“Our father had a reputation in life as a flirtatious man,” says Angie. “For years after he married my biological mother, we had a standing joke. I would say to him, ‘Dad, one day someone will knock on my door and say ‘Hello, sister.’” She says he was a handsome man and that his army service took him to many different cities.

On Sunday, March 17, Teresa landed in Athens and met her biological sister in person for the first time.

Watch the moment they met here:

“It was beyond anything I could think of. We found we had a lot in common, we stayed up every night until the wee hours of the night to talk, we spent almost 24 hours seven days a week together.”

“I am excited that all around us find external and internal similarities to my father,” says Angie. “Our relatives immediately recognize something in her appearance, in her smile, which is very similar to my father. I am overwhelmed in the most positive sense possible. We found out that we think the same way.”

Teresa and Angie wearing matching shirts designed by Teresa’s daughter

Teresa and Angie wearing matching shirts designed by Teresa’s daughter

“In the picture you can see both of us wearing identical purple shirts,” says Teresa. I brought them from the US, this is a shirt my daughter designed. One of our days together Angie asked me if we could wear our matching shirts, the sister shirts.”

‘I finally know where I came from’

“I finally know where I came from, I know a little more about my father whom I never knew. I have an identity that I never had before,” says Teresa. “My son recently retired from the US Army as a Major and he was so excited when I told him that I found out his grandfather was a colonel in the Greek Army.” She says that her son is excited about his Greek heritage and that he gave both of his children Greek names. “When he and his partner came to us to announce the third pregnancy, a few weeks ago, they said they had a daughter and they would name her after my sister,” she says.

Watch this video of the sisters sharing their story via a video call with our team:

“I was always an outsider, it was not a happy way to grow up,” says Teresa. “I remember that my cousins from my adoptive family used to ask me where I’m from and where’s my real family and that they know I’m not one of them. So sitting around the table with all of these cousins in Greece, even before we discovered who my father was, and telling me, ‘We don’t care which one of our uncles is your father, you are part of the family now’ — I felt that I was totally accepted, it was amazing. I’m usually not a person short on words. But I can’t quite completely articulate that. It was fabulous.”

Teresa enjoys a meal with Angie and friends

Teresa enjoys a meal with Angie and friends

When Teresa asked Angie what she thought their father would do if he were alive today, Angie answered, “I am sure in the depths of my soul that he would have died on the spot, because he would have realized that he had let a soul not be under his wings. Now I am sure he is watching us from above and celebrating our reunion in the sky.”

It was difficult to part at the end of the trip, but as Angie said: “This is the beginning; it’s not any goodbye.”

Many thanks to Teresa and Angie for sharing their beautiful story with us. If you’ve also made an incredible discovery with MyHeritage, we’d love to hear about it! Please share it with us via this form or email us at stories@myheritage.com.

The post She Found Her Birth Father’s Identity and a Half-Sister with a MyHeritage DNA Test appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.

Source: My Heritage

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *