Born in Hungary shortly after WWII, Cathy grew up knowing nothing about her father except that he died when she was about a year old. While trying to learn more about her father’s identity, Cathy took a MyHeritage DNA test — and stumbled across a 70-year-old secret her mother had taken to the grave.
Cathy was born in Sárvár, Hungary in 1947, and spent the first few years of her life in a migrant camp in Austria because the Communists had taken over Hungary. “My father was taken by the Russians when I was about a year old,” says Cathy. “We never heard anything more and we presumed he was killed. My mother was scared they might come for her too, fled in the middle of the night with me and her sister and their family. We ended up in a migrant camp run by the red cross in Austria.”
When Cathy was 4 years old, she and her mother Jolan received passage to Canada, sponsored by a Canadian Jewish agency. Jolan, a seamstress and hatmaker, had two aunts living in New York who had immigrated before the war, and soon after their arrival in Canada, she sent Cathy to live with them for about a year — ostensibly so Jolan could work and get back on her feet financially. Then, Cathy returned to Montreal, and she and her mother moved in with her mother’s boyfriend, who soon married Jolan and became Cathy’s stepfather. “He was a father in every sense of the word,” says Cathy.
In 1971, when Cathy was a young woman, she decided to move to Australia together with some cousins of her mother’s. Eventually her mother followed too. Cathy went on to meet the man who became her husband, Gaby — who was also born in Hungary and arrived in Australia the same year Cathy and her mother arrived in Canada. When Gaby introduced Cathy to the family, one of his aunts took one look at her and recognized her from around 20 years ago, and then they realized that Gaby and Cathy had actually grown up in the same migrant camp together in Austria!
Cathy and Gaby married and had 3 children, who eventually gave them 7 grandchildren. Cathy remained close to Jolan throughout her life. After her mother passed away, she decided to act on her curiosity about her father’s identity. So in 2020, in the middle of the COVID pandemic, she took a MyHeritage DNA test.
Initially, she wasn’t able to make any breakthroughs with the results, and enlisted the help of a “DNA angel”: a retired solicitor in Melbourne who was recommended to her through Jewish Genealogy, named Stephen Schmedig. Stephen was known for reuniting a number of families, and Cathy hoped he could help her.
‘Are you sitting down?’
One day, Stephen sent her an email asking her to give him a call. When she did, the first thing he said was “Are you sitting down?”
Cathy confirmed that she was.
Stephen asked if Cathy had looked at her MyHeritage account lately. She had not. Stephen said, “Well, I didn’t find your father. But I found your brother.”
Cathy was shocked. She had grown up without any siblings, and had never even considered the possibility that she might discover one as part of this journey. She’d been hoping Stephen had news of the father she’d never known, and immediately assumed that this brother must have been through her father. But in fact, they shared the same mother. The mother who had raised her all her life and with whom she had been very close — and who had never told her that she’d had another child.
Once Stephen shared the news with Cathy about the discovery, Cathy’s daughter helped find her brother Michael on Facebook. Cathy was amazed to see the resemblance between Michael and her mother. “When I saw his picture, I said well well there’s no doubt whatsoever,” Cathy told The Daily Telegraph in an interview. “The resemblance to my mother is quite notable. They have the same eyes.”
It turns out that Cathy and Michael had taken MyHeritage DNA tests almost at the same time. Michael was adopted at 6 months by a Canadian family of Lithuanian Jewish origin. He currently lives in Vancouver, and his adoptive parents passed away in 2014-2015. His partner’s daughter encouraged him to try learning about his roots with MyHeritage, since he had no biological family of his own… or so he thought. He never imagined he’d find a sister.
It appears that Michael was born and placed for adoption during 1952, the year that Cathy and her mother were apart, as he is 5 years younger than she is. “I was sent to live with my great-aunt and her husband in New York while supposedly she was establishing herself in a new country,” says Cathy. “However, the real reason was because she was pregnant with Michael and didn’t want me to know about that so she sent me to relatives. At that point she was encouraged to give the baby up for adoption, as it would be too difficult with 2 young children and work full time. When she came to get me she had had Michael, but never mentioned it to me.”
After several canceled attempts due to strict COVID travel restrictions in Australia, Michael finally traveled to reunite with his sister last October.
Watch the moment they finally met here:
Cathy says that they “clicked almost immediately” and that now she has a “baby brother” she can “boss around, to make up for all the years we missed out on.”
Cathy did eventually discover the identity of her birth father: she found his name on her parents’ marriage certificate, and discovered through Jewish genealogy records in Canada that he was a photographer who apparently displeased the Russians and disappeared without a trace when Cathy was about a year old. “Perhaps he took some pictures the Russians were not happy with,” Cathy guesses. Furthermore, Cathy’s DNA results indicated 54% Jewish origins, while Michael’s indicate closer to 93% Jewish origins — meaning that Cathy’s birth father was not Jewish. Her mother had never mentioned that, either.
“I’m so grateful to MyHeritage and so excited to have found my brother,” says Cathy. “I never would have imagined this in a million years. I think it’s by far the best onsite platform to find out about relatives you did not know you had. The resources and files they have access to is incredible.”
“It took 67 years for me to find my family,” says Michael. “It’s like I’ve turned a whole new page, opening a new chapter in my life.”
Many thanks to Cathy and Michael for sharing their amazing story with us! If you’ve made an incredible discovery with MyHeritage, we’d love to hear your story, too. Please send it to us via this form or email us at email@example.com.
The post She Took a DNA Test to Find Her Father… and Found a Brother She Never Knew Existed appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.
Source: My Heritage