Ontario woman reunites with sister after three decades apart thanks to DNA

Two sisters were reunited after being separated for 35 years. The reunion was made possible through My Heritage's pro bono project called 'DNA Quest'. Stella Acquisto reports.

By Stella Acquisto and Meredith Bond

Two sisters who were adopted by separate families have reunited once again after spending 35 years apart.

Ashleigh Brown and Laurinda Collado were both born in the Dominican Republic. Laurinda was born in 1987 and given up for adoption at five months old.

Two years later, in 1989, Ashleigh was born. She was adopted at six weeks old by a different family.

Laurinda was adopted by a family in Bristol, Connecticut and was an only child. Ashleigh was adopted by a family in Barbados and later moved to Niagara, Ontario, where she lives now with her daughter.

“As soon as I found out about [Ashleigh’s] existence, I was on all these different websites trying to find her,” said Laurinda. “So, I spent 17 years trying to find her.”

At the same time, Ashleigh was searching for her sister, even looking in old phone books from the Dominican Republic with her mother’s last name.

“I had this feeling that I had a sister out there who I needed to find. I can’t explain it. It was just a hole in my heart that I just needed it to do this right. I know she’s out there.”

It wasn’t until May 2019 that they finally found out who each other was, thanks to a program from myheritage.com.

“I had been working on my adopted family tree on MyHeritage when I saw their pro bono program, DNA quest, which was aimed at helping adoptees reconnect with their family members, and I decided to write into their program,” Ashleigh said.

The Ontario resident sent in her DNA kit and instantly knew she was on her path to finding Laurinda. When she got her results back, Ashleigh emailed Laurinda; the rest is history.

Later that day, they jumped on a phone call and finally met in person in 2019. However, the COVID-19 pandemic kept them apart for another three years.

Just last week, they got to see each other in person again.

“Even to this day, three years later, I’m looking at her, and I can’t believe it. It’s the wildest thing to finally be able to see somebody that looks like you, resembles you. Even our mannerisms and a multitude of things we have in common are just mind-blowing to me,” Laurinda tells CityNews.

For Ashleigh, this isn’t the first connection she made on this particular site.

A few years before meeting her sister, she connected with a relative who was able to reconnect her with her biological family in the Dominican Republic, giving her the chance to meet her birth mother.

Unfortunately, six months before meeting Ashleigh, their mother passed away.

“She would always break down, saying, ‘I would give my life for you to be able to find your sister.’ And you can’t help but think that by her passing six months before us reconnecting, that is exactly what she did,” said Ashleigh.

“We both know she’s in heaven smiling down on us and at peace now that her girls are together.”

Laurinda said it was heartbreaking not to have been able to meet her mother. “But to be able to see, through the videos that they took a meeting them on the island, [I was] able to live vicariously through my sister’s experience.”

MyHeritage DNA Quest was offered to 15,000 people for free after they submitted an essay about the family they wanted to find in 2018.

“I’m not sure what we were expecting. It was just sheer curiosity to see who takes the bait,” explained Sarah Vanunu with MyHeritage.

“We got flooded with so many beautiful stories, and I had the job of, you know, wading through these incredible stories. Each one in their own right is magical and amazing.”

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