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Mike Anderson, Deseret News
Biological siblings and their family members who were reunited by DNA testing celebrate an early Thanksgiving together in West Jordan on Friday, Nov. 16, 2018.

WEST JORDAN — Growing up, JanaLe Fox often wondered why she looked like so many people in her small hometown of Farr West, Weber County.

Born in Denver and adopted into a Utah family as an infant in 1959, she says she knew "very little" about her biological family.

Fast forward nearly 60 years, Fox discovered her family was far larger than she could have guessed — with the help of DNA testing.

Fox, the oldest of two children in her adoptive family, at age 58 discovered she had 16 biological half-siblings. And on Friday, she shared an early Thanksgiving meal with three of them.

Family photo
Carlene Tuft (left) and JanaLe Fox (right) are pictured after reuniting with biological brother, Dave Pedockie.

"It's been an amazing year," Fox said. "It is seriously so fun, because for the last 58 years, I've been the oldest. And 30 of those 58 years, I've been an only. And I currently am the baby of 16."

The series of events that led up to her discovering she was the youngest of 16 began in February, when a woman contacted Fox to see if she was one of three adoptees to complete a family tree.

Fox, of Thatcher, Idaho, soon discovered her biological father was a farmer and truck driver who happened to live "just down the street" from her in the small Utah town when she was a child. She even went to school with many of his grandkids.

Two days later, she said, Carlene Tuft contacted her and told her they had matched on Ancestry DNA and might be half-sisters.

"I sent JanaLe a message, and she sent me a message back," Tuft said. "We went back and forth, and boom! We're sisters. It was great."

When Fox requested her birth certificate from Colorado, she learned that she and Tuft did share a biological mother.

She also learned that she was her biological father's ninth child and her biological mother's seventh child.

The reason why she resembled so many in her town?

"I did go to school and graduated with many nieces and nephews, along with first cousins by the droves," Fox said.

Four of her half siblings are still alive, while the rest have passed away.

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The first time Tuft and Fox reached out to their two living half-brothers, Fox said, the men "knew nothing" of the women but believed their mother had gone to Denver to go to school.

On Friday, the four reunited half-siblings met at Tuft's West Jordan home for a Thanksgiving dinner celebration 58 years in the making.

"Not many people get two families in their lives, and it's just amazing," Tuft said. "We're all so accepting immediately of everybody, and (there's) an instant bond."

Contributing: Mike Anderson