PRINCETON — People who were adopted when they were infants often grow up wondering if they have any siblings out there in the world, but one woman born in Mercer County started getting answers thanks to a Christmas present she received about three years ago.
Deborah Ann Hill, 53, of Lima, Ohio, said she’s lived in her present home for over 30 years, but she’s a native of West Virginia.
“I was born in Princeton, grew up in a little town called Ballard, close to the Peterstown area. I was adopted at 3 months old,” she recalled.
Like other people who were adopted at a very young age, Hill wondered if she had any siblings. She said that she had been adopted by a good family, but there were still unanswered questions.
“I went all my life not knowing anything,” she recalled. “There was that unknown in my life, not knowing anything.”
Hill has three children, so she “finally had a bloodline,” but she didn’t know if she had any brothers or sisters.
“I would rather know the truth,” she said. “That’s just how I am. My kids always knew what a struggle that was for me. I would go to bed crying.”
Hill’s search for answers started when her oldest son, Andrew, gave her an Ancestry DNA test kit for Christmas in 2018.
“He said, ‘Mom, just take it. You never know,’” she said. “Six weeks after I sent that test off was when I started finding all of these half siblings. The ones I found, yes, they had used the Ancestry DNA test.”
The DNA test results led to a half brother and two half sisters.
“I had no idea. I had no idea at all,” Hill stated. “The first half sibling I found was Doug, (Meekins) and he’s the first half sibling I share a father with. I found him first.”
Hill found her half brother through Facebook.
“But when I came to the profile page, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up,” she recalled. “I was pretty sure I had found him; so I called him and he called me back that night.”
And he had no idea that he had a half sister, Hill said.
Hill later discovered that she had two half sisters. She reached the first, Cynthia Miller Wolfe, who lives in Columbus, Ohio. It was a emotional moment when they first spoke to each other over the telephone.
“The next person I found was Cynthia,” she said. “I found her in February of 2019. I contacted her through the Ancestry page and she got right back to me. I just sat on my bed and cried and cried and cried. We knew we had found each other. She called me and we just started putting things together. We were both born in Princeton, both of us had the same mother, all three of us girls were adopted. We were given away shortly after birth.”
Hill was put in contact with her other half sister, also named Deborah, in January 2020. Deborah Taylor lives in Hurricane.
“Actually, her daughter took the DNA test and her daughter contacted me and said, ‘I think you might be my aunt.’ And from there, she told Debbie and Debbie ordered the test and, yea, that’s how we found each other,” Hill stated.
Now the siblings are in contact regularly. Hill said that while she, Debbie and Cynthia are half sisters, they don’t call themselves half sisters.
“It’s just been quite an exciting journey. It really has,” Hill said. “We had a little overnight trip together at Bellefontaine, Ohio. It’s the first time all three of us were together, yes.”
Cynthia and half brother Doug, were unavailable for comment.
Hill said that both her mother and father passed away in 1992.
Deborah Taylor, 54, of Hurricane said that she’s the middle sister while Deborah Hill is “the baby” and Cynthia is the oldest. Like her middle sister, Taylor’s road to finding her siblings started with an Ancestry DNA test that her daughter, Kristine, had taken.
“I didn’t even know that she had taken the test,” Taylor recalled. “I was unaware that she had done this. In January, she received her results; this was January 2020. It was on a Saturday evening and pretty late, close to 10 or 11 o’clock maybe, when she called and said she got her Ancestry DNA results. She said, ‘there’s these two women that are on the list and you look a lot like one of them.”
The half sister who shared a strong family resemblance with Taylor was Deborah Hill.
People who use Ancestry DNA can exchange texts with people who match them, so Taylor sent Hill a text and explained how her daughter had taken the test. When her daughter looked up the matches on Facebook, the information was “the real shocker,” Taylor recalled. She saw a picture of Hill and Cynthia holding a picture of their birth mother. Taylor said it was the first time in her life that she knew anything about her birth family.
“I thought I was part of another family in Florida,” Taylor said. “Once I figured out that’s what I belonged to, that I wasn’t connected to that family, that was even more shocking for me.”
Taylor had always wondered if she had any brothers or sisters that she didn’t know about. Taylor’s adoptive mother had given birth to a son after she became part of the family, but she didn’t have a sister.
“I’ve always wondered,” she said. “Growing up, I never really wondered about my birth mother and birth father that much, but I did wonder if I had brothers and sisters.”
Taylor decided to make sure about having sisters by taking the DNA test, too; there was a chance that they could be cousins. She got the results back in March 2020.
“When those results came in, they said there was a 100 percent chance of us being half sisters. There was absolutely no doubt,” she recalled. “There was no doubt about them being anything but half sisters to me.”
Deborah Hill got a clue about Taylor’s existence 30 years ago when she did some research at the Mercer County Courthouse. Records with their mother’s last name, Boden, listed under children “baby girl...7.11.66.”
“She found my birthday and she realized that she had a sister, but didn’t know how to reach me,” Taylor stated, “She carried that in her mind all these years knowing I was out there somewhere. When she met Cynthia, her birthday wasn’t in July. They were really surprised when I popped into the picture. I think it’s amazing the three of us did Ancestry so close together and we showed up there at the same time.”
The three half sisters set up a group text. They had met just as the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to limit travel and make personal contact hazardous, so they communicated over the internet.
“We talked for hours and hours and exchanged photos,” Taylor said. “We talked about our childhoods, we even talked about our toys, the schools we went to – we are so into music – church, our parents, growing up, vacations, marriages, divorces, children and grandchildren. We’re still talking. We still have so much to know about each other.”
Cynthia Miller Wolfe and Doug Meekins were unavailable to add their parts of the story.
In June, Deborah Hill, Deborah Taylor and Cynthia Miller Wolfe met face-to-face in Bellefontaine, Ohio.
“That was a very emotional weekend,” Taylor recalled. “We cried a lot and we hugged a lot. The whole thing, it’s been very overwhelming.”
Taylor compared not knowing everything about one’s own past and family to having a huge, complicated jigsaw puzzle that’s missing one piece.
“You get it all together and you have that one piece missing,” she said.
The puzzle missing that one piece is always around, but the last piece can appear suddenly.
“And one day you look and it’s there, she said. “It was very overwhelming.”
Contact Greg Jordan at email@example.com