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Consumer DNA test unlocks family secret for this Canadian father and daughter

Adriana Brown stepped quietly down the darkened hallway of the North Vancouver apartment building, stopped in front of the last door on the left suite 232 and took a deep breath.

Then she knocked. A few seconds later, she stood face to face with her birth father, a man she had never met in person.

“Hi Dad,” she said.

There was silence but only for a moment.

“My God,” said Bob Rodger, staring in shock. “Are you kidding?”

The tears and laughter began to flow as they embraced Saturday morning, marking yet another happy connection made courtesy of consumer DNA testing.

It’s an industry that’s expanded quickly in recent years, as millions submit samples of cheek swabs or spit in order to find out about their ethnic background.

Brown was adopted into a family of five children and was always curious about her background. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

In fact, that was all 46-year-old Brown was looking for when she mailed in her sample in March to Ancestry.ca. Brown was adopted. She found her birth mother a decade ago, but she, too, was adopted and Brown wanted to know more about where her birth mother came from.

A few weeks later the results came back: mainly English, Scottish and Irish.

‘My heart started pounding in my throat’

On May 13, Brown was sitting in her kitchen in Saskatoon, looking at her iPad when she saw another email from Ancestry.ca.

“And it said ‘DNA match’ and my heart started pounding in my throat,” said Brown, seated comfortably beside her dad on the couch in his apartment.

“So I opened the email and it said ‘Bob Rodger relationship parent/child. Bob Rodger is your father.’ So yeah, I sat at my kitchen counter in tears.”

The surprise result from Ancestry DNA showing Brown’s relationship to Bob Rodger.(Submitted by Adriana Brown)

As fate would have it, Rodger had submitted his sample within weeks of Brown. He too was looking for information about his ethnicity.

“And that’s the only reason. I’ve got my hands full with the people around me. I didn’t need to look for other people. So I wasn’t looking for a daughter.”

Rodger helped raise two boys and two girls and is a stepfather to two other children.

When Brown emailed him about the match, he was initially skeptical until she told him the name of her birth mother. He recalled a brief tryst and knew Brown and the DNA were telling the truth.

DNA testing a ‘game changer’

Vancouver-based genealogist M. Diane Rogers called the advent of DNA testing and digital collection a “game changer” because of the relative speed and ease of gaining information.

But she said she warns clients of the risks that can include unwelcome surprises.

“Definitely there is the possibility of coming up with family you’ve never heard of before that you may be hesitant to accept,” said Rogers.

Rodger, 75, wasn’t aware Brown was his biological daughter until she contacted him after both had registered with an online DNA service. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

In Brown’s case, the welcome has been overwhelming.

As soon as Rodger acknowledged her as his daughter, he told everyone about it, proudly sharing her photograph with his children, grandchildren and others.

Brown was flooded with emails and Facebook requests from her new extended family.

Proud birth father

“I feel like I found my people,” Brown said. “This is the first time in my life that I look and act like someone and it was pretty special growing up being adopted.”

Brown decided on the surprise meeting shortly after she and Rodger connected. Initially she was going to bring her husband and three children to Vancouver in August to meet Rodger’s entire family.

Brown and her husband Scott, right, plan to keep in touch with Rodger, his wife Barb and Adriana’s four half siblings.(Rodger family photo)

But Brown couldn’t wait that long and made the arrangements to fly to Vancouver this weekend.

The smiles said it all.

“This has happened really quickly. It’s not even been a month,” Brown said.

“And she’s beautiful, beautiful, and I’m so proud of her,” Roger said, beaming.

“Likewise,” Brown said.


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