LDS woman finds half-sister through Ancestry.com after 60 years of separation

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 25 2014 6:00 a.m. MST

Four months after meeting one another for the first time, Amy Starin Woodrick, left, and her half-sister Carol Moss attended the RootsTech Conference last week in Salt Lake City. Moss was given up for adoption at birth. The two women found each other by posting their family trees online.

Trent Toone, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Carol B. Moss was ready to know the truth.

More than 60 years ago, Moss was placed for adoption. She was raised in a wonderful family and has lived a happy life. But something was missing.

“As an adopted child, you always want to know where you come from, who you are,” said Moss, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

At the same time, in Georgia and other locations along the East Coast, Amy Starin Woodrick and her siblings knew they had a half-sister, but they had no way to find her.

Then through a series of timely events, the two women found each other by posting their family trees on Ancestry.com. They met for the first time four months ago and recently attended the RootsTech Family History and Technology Conference in Salt Lake City together.

“It’s been nothing but comfortable, so natural,” Moss said. “This fills in something that’s been missing my whole life. There is something very powerful about having natural relationships.”

Moss was born in Pittsburgh and placed for adoption through Catholic Social Services. She knew from a young age that she was adopted and has always felt she was meant to be in her adopted family. She had some non-identifying information about her birth parents, but she didn’t begin searching for her birth parents until her adoptive mother died.

“I knew she would not appreciate me wanting to know who they were. She raised me, and I respected that until she passed away,” Moss said. “It was a sensitive topic for her.”

A few years ago, Moss, a family historian of almost 40 years, was able to work through the Pennsylvania court system and finally obtain the identities of her birth parents. She immediately went on Ancestry.com and found pictures. She also discovered an obituary that said her mother had died in 2000 and was survived by four children, one brother and three sisters. Moss wanted to reach out to her half-siblings but wasn’t sure how.

“I didn’t want to call and introduce myself because (if they didn’t know about me) I didn’t want them to think any less of their mother,” Moss said. “It would be better if they found me. The best thing I could think of was to put myself on a tree and let them find me.”

Meanwhile in Georgia, Woodrick’s husband had persuaded her to post her family tree information, including several photos.

Five years earlier, a relative had finally revealed a big family secret to the siblings — that their mother had placed a child for adoption before marrying their father. Woodrick, the youngest sibling of the four, had always wanted to find this older sibling, but had zero information.

“They kept that secret for 60 years,” Woodrick said. “We were never supposed to know.”

As she uploaded photos to her tree, she noticed a person named “Carol” had taken copies of the photos. As she examined closer, she saw the name and remembered the lost sibling.

“I didn't recognize the name 'Carol.' Then I realized that her mom is my mom, and I’m like, 'Wait a minute,' ” Woodrick said. “ 'My gosh, this must be our half-sister.' It was amazing.”

Woodrick wrote a message to Moss: “I noticed that you’ve been using our mother’s picture. We learned five years ago that our mother had a daughter before she met our father. Would you be that daughter? If so, I’d like to correspond with you.”

Moss responded, and the rest is family history.

“I felt it was inspired. It was the way it needed to happen. The fact that they already knew about me was really great; they were prepared,” Moss said. “The timing of it all just seems amazing.”

The half-sisters met for the first time last September when both women happened to be in Washington, D.C., at the same time. They went to dinner and discovered they had several things in common, including a love of lobster, the “gift of gab” and physical appearance.

“We were waiting in the lobby, and when I saw her coming down, I knew right away," Woodrick said. "She looks just like our mom."

Because both women have a passion for family history work, they attended the RootsTech conference together in early February and openly shared their remarkable story many times, often shedding tears of joy in the process.

“It’s been wonderful; we feel at home here,” Moss said. “This is the community where our story means something and is appreciated. It’s been really fun.”

Moss said she feels a strong connection to Woodrick and the other siblings and they hope to have a family reunion soon, possibly in Atlanta. Although she was nervous about the unknown and how it might change her life, she is glad she found her half-siblings.

Moss also has tremendous sympathy for her biological mother. Two months after giving birth to Moss, she met her husband (Woodrick's father) of 50 years and had four children, which meant she went on to have a happy life.

"That has given me real comfort. I admire her so much. I'm a mother of four and think of the agony she must have gone through. It must have been a painful time, but she did the right thing," Moss said. "I have nothing but respect for her and hope other people do, too."

When asked what people might take away from their experience, the women talked about the powerful connection of families and the blessings of adoption.

"I would encourage anyone, if they are considering placing a child for adoption, to do it. It's a great blessing to that child’s life; make that sacrifice," Moss said. "I would also encourage people if they want to know who they are, don’t be afraid to ask. It’s definitely worth doing it because it’s incredibly fulfilling to finally get the answers of who you are. … There is something that is sanctified here by being natural relatives. It expanded my family circle. … It was OK to do it."

"It was meant to be," Woodrick said. "It’s like my universe has shifted, almost like we have been together all our lives. We haven’t, but it seems like we have."

"A curtain was lifted," Moss said.

Email: ttoone@deseretnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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