Finding a half-sibling: opinions, advice, experiences wanted

Long story as short as I can make it:

As a senior in high school, my dad had a girlfriend. She got pregnant. Since this was the late 60s in a fairly conservative town, she went to live with relatives in the country until she had the baby. My dad saw her and the baby (a boy) just one time, and never heard from or saw them again.

My dad told me this story years ago (I think I was in high school). (He was very careful to leave out names, dates, and other pertinent details.) The strange part is that he didn’t tell my older brothers - just me. So, for almost ten years I have known that, somewhere in the world, we have an older half-brother.

Just a few days ago, my mom and I were talking about my dad and how weird he is about relationships (my parents separated in 1993), and she mentioned that he had only had one girlfriend prior to meeting her. And then she told me the girl’s name - first and last. She asked me if I knew the whole story about dad and “Patty.” I said I did, and then she asked me the same question again, emphasizing “the entire story?” When I confirmed that yes, I knew about the baby, she left it at that.

So now, almost ten yeras after hearing the original story, I have some information to work with, should I so choose. I have always been curious as to who this other person is - how’d he grow up, what did he do with his life, etc. This curiosity was heightened after one of my brothers died unexpectedly last fall.

Does anyone here have any experience with something like this? Did you choose to seek this person out? If so, how did you go about doing it? A quick Yahoo people search shows six people with the girl’s last name in the town where this all started, one of which is listed only with initials that match hers. Do you send a letter? Call? Email? Help me out here.

Advice from a guy (my husband) who used to find people for a living: If you are close to the town, go to it, go to the library, look in the high school yearbook. This may tell you where she went to college (if she did) - college alumni association would probably put you in contact.

Looking for more than one person, he says, is easier than looking for just one person. Looking for the girl, her mother, her son, her sister is easier than just looking for her son.

If looking up the yearbook and the city, the library almost undoubtedly has a city directory for the high school year. Compare this to 2006 city directory. This is to try to confirm an address for her.

I would’ve had experience except it happened when I was too little. My parents found that my father’s father had remarried after he left Grandma, and there was a half-brother and half-sister. They found out in line talking to a stranger while waiting for a show!! Good God, you had a father named X- Y- too??

The half sister was schizophrenic and borrowed money from my folks for a while before she disappeared cross country. Nothing really useful for you there.

A problem with direct contact is the mother may have told your half-brother a different story. Circumspect contact (through people who know mother and son) might be a way to go.

Best wishes on your journey.

Oops, I meant where the child went to school.

The mom or the child.

My parents divorced when I was 14, and my mother informed me that the man I’d always thought of as my father was actually my step-father. He had adopted me at 3 when they got married. I also found out that he had a son from a former relationship, and that my biological father has three children. It was a bit of a shock, but I never had the desire to seek them out. My feeling was, they had their lives and I have mine. I’m not going to intrude because of some silly sense of ‘family’ (not that I think you’re doing that, or that your desire to seek your half-brother out is wrong).
My biological father made contact with me when I was 19. Completely out of the blue, he called me up and we arranged a meeting. I also met my two half-sisters and half-brother. It was very weird and awkward…these people were strangers to me, and I to them. After meeting a second time, I decided that was going to be the last one. I felt no connection to them and already had a family, people that had been there for me and with me throughout my life. I didn’t need another one.
As for my step-father, I’d never had a good relationship with him, so any desire to meet his son was miniscule. I don’t think he even keeps in contact with his son.

I hope it works out for you, Avarie.

I started a thread on this subject awhile ago. I have two older half siblings that I wasn’t raised with, and didn’t know about at first. I’ve met them both, but at this point I don’t feel any need to have a relationship with them. Maybe things will change as time goes on. When people ask me about my siblings, the only person I think about is my sister from both of my parents. The other two don’t even cross my mind 99% of the time.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do, and I hope things work out for the best.

Late in my junior year in high school I went on a date with a girl named Colleen and things went just a bit too far for only a few seconds. It was enough for her to end up pregnant. Out of shame her parent packed her up and sent her to Alaska to live with an aunt and uncle. She returned to our high school for the second semester of our senior year but I did not see or talk to her at all, I had enough credits to graduate and did not go school the second half of my senior year. From talking to a girl that live in the neighborhood, I did find out she had a son and he was named Jeremy.

Fast forward about 8 years later, my older brother calls me on a Sunday morning and says he had just been called by a girl named Colleen and she wanted to talk to me. No one in my family knew of what happened and my first thought was she was looking for child support. I gave her a call and she told me she had gone to the races at Spanaway Speedway the night before and had seen me competing. She thought that I might want to meet my son. And she had no interest in going after me for child support.

I met them at a McDonalds, I was shocked to see a miniature version of me. Colleen married a guy she met in Alaska after she graduated from high school and this guy had adopted Jeremy as his son. Jeremy’s birth certificate listed his father as unknown so I was not involved in the adoption process. They had since divorced and she thought it was time for Jeremy to meet his father. We have had a rough go in our relationship a few times but get along pretty good now, it’s a lot better than my relationship with my other son. At 13 Jeremy took my last name, he did not like having the last name Fish. He has married a wonderful gal name Cathy and they have 3 children, Jason 10, DeeDee 6 and Jamie is 3. He has been fully accepted as a member of the extended family and to this day is an important part of my life.


My dad was a WWII baby. His mother was fifteen. His father a soldier. They were married (I think after she got pregnant) but divorced when he was very small. After that - because it was the 1950s, because his bio father lived hundreds of miles away, because my grandmother can be a bitch - contact was dropped.

When my Dad was 40, his bio-Dad made contact with him. It has never been a close relationship, but its been a worthwhile one. My bio-grandfather had no other children. He is now in his 80s (my dad in his 60s), widowed (he remarried and was married for many years), and has almost no family. My dad, the son he never knew, has been asked to be his next of kin - its the only kin he has left.

Timely, because my Dad just saw him for the first time in several years - they still live hundreds of miles away…

I think the key is to have realistic expectations. Maybe your half brother will shut you out. Maybe he’ll want occational contact. But don’t expect some sort of long lost sibling, soulmate situation. People who go into this sort of thing (my son is adopted, we’ve done lots of research on “reunion”) with high expectations are far more likely to be disappointed than people who say “hey, I want you to know I’m out here - and if you want to get together for dinner a few times, that would be cool.”

If I were you*, I’d send a letter explaning my intentions and that you’d just found out how to reach him, and maybe a photo. Then, let him take the next step. I’d also second the advice to be realistic about your expectations. Who knows how much this guy knows about the story. He could have grown up thinking that someone else was his father, or something, so there’s a possibility that his mother might never tell him that you made contact. If he does get the message, he may wonder if you’re out to get something. Or, of course, everything could go smoothly, and you could gain a new friend. If you do meet him, take it slow. Don’t get too attached too quickly, and remember that although you two share a parent, this person is a complete stranger.
*you being someone who wants to make contact.

I was born out of wedlock. My biological father had been married many years before he met my mother, to a woman he later divorced. My mother knew he had children with this first wife, but didn’t know their names or fates. So I have half-siblings out there, somewhere, who probably have no idea I exist. I think about them all the time. I wonder what their names are, or what they look like (hell, I wish I had a picture of my biodad. Mom didn’t bother keeping any photos of him). Sometimes I would stare in the mirror, examining my features for some sign of my biodad – my hair, my jaw, my eyes – as though I could reconstruct him piece-by-piece. For a long time it felt like I had this gaping hole in me, this loss no one seemed to understand. I can’t explain how it felt to finally learn the names of my biological grandparents, as though I found a part of myself that I didn’t know had been missing. I wish I could find my brothers and sisters, too.

I was adopted, and always knew I had a brother. (He is a full sibling, BTW, not a half. My biological mother left my father, who apparently deserved it, but did not feel she could do right by both of us. I was taken home from the hospital by my adoptive parents at the age of 1 day and only found out much later that my bio mom had changed her mind, but after it was too late.)

I knew the names of my birth parents and spent years looking for them, to no avail until I found a message on the Internet that my brother and half-siblings were looking for me. My birth mom was dead, and one of her sisters let something slip and my brother remembering his mom being pregnant and then being told that the baby died. She remarried and had two more children.

Last summer I went to a family reunion with all of them and it was amazing. My whole family went, along with my daughter-in-law, who said it seemed like any family reunion to her, i.e., it was as if we’d known each other our whole lives instead of just for a year. I grew up as an only child and it is great fun to have two brothers and a sister–I talk to them often and see them whenever I can.

I have not spoken to my biological father but I have talked to his brother at length. My bfather was estranged from his whole family and didn’t speak to any of them for more than 40 years, during which time he changed his name and got a new social security number. (No wonder I couldn’t find a trace of him.) My brother has not seen him since before I was born. I have a picture of him, and in his case I think that’s going to be enough–but I am really happy about the relationship with the rest of my siblings and very glad we got together.

I’ve got a half sister that I’ve only seen three times. We shared a dad.

There was eigtheen years age difference between my parents. Dad had been married and divorced before Mom started school! Anyway, I ended up with a sister over twenty years my senior. Mattter of fact, i have a niece and a nephew who are older than me and two slightly younger.

I didn’t even know my sister existed until I was about eight or nine. I didn’t see her until I was thirteen, at my grandmother’s funeral. The next time was at another funeral, my uncle’s, when I was twenty-too. We talked and ended up going out for a drink a few days later, along with her oldest daughter. It was okay, but awkward. I actually ended up talking more to my niece who was much close to my own age. I haven’t seen or heard from her since. That was back in '82.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it just fizzles, but on the whole, I’m glad we at least had that brief connection. You see, I’m an only child and it’s nice to know she’s out there and if I really want to, I can probably find her. She did seem like a very nice lady. Now that I’ve raised kids, we’d probably have a lot more to talk about.

I am a professional genealogist who specializes in finding lost family members. I’ve reunited two people with their missing mothers, and two people with their missing fathers (including one right here on the SDMB).

The name you have of your dad’s old girlfriend: is it her maiden name or her current name? If you have her maiden name, it is somewhat unlikely that she still lives in the same town, and uses her maiden name, almost forty years later. I would hestiate to contact this person, even though the person has the same initials.

Similar to what gabriela said, I recommend that you do some research before writing anyone. One simple way would be to contact the alumni office of the high school that she attended, and ask for her current name and address.

Another way is to contact the public library of the town where she and your father lived, and ask if they have city directories (not phone directories) from that era. Say the girl’s maiden name was Philips. Ask them to photocopy the Philips pages from the years around when this girl would have turned eighteen (most city directories do not list children until they turn 18). Offer to reimburse them for their services.

Once you know the names of her parents from the city directories, use the online Social Security Death Index to see if either of her parents is deceased. (If she was in high school in the late 1960s, it is likely that she was born in the early 1950s, and that her parents were born before 1930.) If either parent is deceased, find the parent’s newspaper obituary. (Try the obituary lookup volunteers.) Newspaper obituaries usually list the current names of the children, their spouses, and where they live.