Stranger than Fiction

by | Apr 24, 2018 | Realistic Fiction | 6 comments

Rewind a Minute

Well, it’s been entirely too long since I last shared a new #plotdrivenlife adventure, but I hope that this update to a post I wrote in 2017 will absolutely blow your mind and prove to you that books change lives!

In August 2017, I wrote a post entitled Family Ties, where I explained how reading Kate Kae Myers’ book, Inherit Midnight, prompted me to send away a tube of spit to Ancestry DNA in the hopes I could uncover the truth about my family history. As I explained in the post, learning about my family’s heritage was especially important to me because my dad, Boyd, was given up for adoption immediately after his birth in 1952 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We knew next-t0-nothing about his biological family, believing only that his mother had been a teenager at the time of my dad’s birth.

Learning about my dad’s ancestry was exciting, but what has unfolded since has been a true miracle, and I am thrilled to share this story with you.

Stranger than Fiction

In December of 2017, my dad, ever the questioner, decided he would submit his DNA for testing through Ancestry. He wanted to confirm the company’s accuracy, so he didn’t list his full name, gender, etc. He wanted to see if I came up as a genetic match. Spoiler alert: I did. But almost immediately after dad received his results from Ancestry, he received a message through the website from a biological relative. That’s right, folks. Dad had struck DNA gold.

From left to right:
my “BG,” Jeff, Diane, my dad, Fiona;
together over dad’s birthday weekend.

This relative, Shelley, happens to live in his same province and is his distant cousin. She and my dad immediately developed a bond and began to converse almost daily. She was ecstatic that they’d connected through Ancestry, and she wanted to use her talent as a sleuth to help my dad connect to closer biological relatives, if possible. Shelley began digging through family photos and public records, sharing her findings and hypotheses with my dad and mom, and keeping us ALL on the edge of our seats.

While Shelley was investigating, my dad made the emotional decision to request his adoption record, hoping the paperwork would assist in the search. The wait for this information was agonizing for my dad, but in late February, he received it, and he was able to confirm that his mother, Helen Joyce, had delivered him at age 17.

Armed with new details, Shelley set off to contact a shared relative on her and my dad’s Ancestry family tree–a woman by the name of Laurie. Shelley asked Laurie if she knew someone by the name of Helen Joyce, and I wish that I could have seen the look on Laurie’s face when she read Shelley’s message. As fate would have it, Laurie’s mother’s name is Helen Joyce. . .

This story is even more amazing because Helen Joyce is 83 years young, living only a few hundred kilometers away from my parents. She has four children with her late husband, John: Diane, Laurie, Jeff and Fiona, all of whom knew nothing about an older half-brother born before their mother married. It would have been easy for the family to keep my dad at a distance, questioning his motives and fearing the impact this development would have on their mother. My “Bonus Granny,” or “BG” for short, is a spitfire, however, and the whole family has fully and completely embraced my dad and the rest of us with open arms.

Laurie and my dad, hugging it out
after meeting for the first time.

On the weekend of his 66th birthday, my dad and mom traveled to meet his mom and his siblings. The large, extended family celebrated him with a birthday party, eager to make up for lost time. This summer, Mike and I will travel back to British Columbia for a family (re)union where we’ll get to meet everyone for the first time. I’ve had the chance to FaceTime with my BG and my “new” aunts in recent weeks, and I cannot even express to you how full my heart is as a result of this entire experience. All of us are marveling at this miracle, connecting through Facebook and email, and excited for what the future holds for us.

So, I reiterate: books change lives. Had I not read Kate Kae Myers’ book, my BG might still be secretly wondering about the red-faced baby she gave up for adoption six decades ago, and my dad would never have known about the four siblings who bear a striking resemblance to him. Reader, your own life-changing #plotdrivenlife experience awaits you. What are you waiting for?

Happy Reading,



  1. Shelley

    My life has been made so much better knowing you all so it’s been a huge bonus for me too.


    • kellyo

      Agree, Shelley! Cannot wait to give you a big hug when we unite in the summer! xoxo

  2. Deirdre Hetherington

    Well, Shelley (or someone) is going to have to tell you the story about how, a scant two years ago, I discovered via Ancestry that my dad was NOT my biological father, but Shelley’s dad WAS! So now this only child (me) has a half-sister (Shelley) and a half-brother! And, as I’m a Keele now, some rellies in your dad etc.
    Deirdre Hetherington
    Ps We live in Vancouver. Our daughter Erin (who also has new DNA now) lives in Ottawa with her family. I’m already Facebook “friends” with your dad. Don’t ever say you can’t be really surprised even at MY age!?

    • kellyo

      Deirdre, I have heard your incredible story from my mom and dad, and it makes it all the more interesting/crazy/wonderful that there are (at least) two miracle stories in our family! I hope we have the chance to meet one day soon. I have lots of hugs to hand out. 🙂

  3. Gwen Zradicka

    I’m Shelley’s mum, Gwen and I’m incredibly proud of Shelley. She is the most wonderful caring daughter that anyone could ask for. We knew of Deirdres’s existence many years ago. We often kept track of where she was and what she was doing. We never wanted to upset her life, so the idea of telling her the shocking facts of her life, was never considered, so we stayed quiet. Let me add that knowing about her even before she was born was very hard for me. Well, she finally found Shelley and I’m very happy for her and how things have turned out. I’m also very happy to know about Boyd. Strangely, when David (then 9 months old) and I came from England in 1944, the Keele’s were holidaying in Winnipeg and David and I stayed with them at Boyd’s great uncle’s house on Langside street. He was William George Rutherford, a piano teacher!! What a coincidence!! Life has a peculiar way of unfolding!!

  4. Wendie Tarling

    I am Helen’s niece. My Dad Peter is her oldest brother and she is only 11 years older than me so we are very close. I was “blown away” when she told me her wonderful news and I can hardly wait to meet you all.
    Hugs Wendie


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