VERNON - Better late than never is the phrase a 79-year-old North Okanagan woman is using after a series of coincidences led to the discovery of an 86-year-old sister she didn’t know existed.
Faye Viergutz, of Vernon, found out earlier this year that she has an older sister, Jean Fish, who lives in Ontario.
It was Viergutz’s granddaughter, Alissa Edwards, who unknowingly set the chance discovery in motion when she signed up on Ancestry.ca to learn more about her family’s heritage.
“It’s funny actually, because I have black, very curly hair and olive skin and brown eyes. All my life people have assumed I’m Greek or Italian. So, I decided once and for all I’m going to do this test,” Edwards says.
The results came back with zero Greek or Italian ties, but there was a message from a possible relative.
“I had no idea that was part of the service, that they show you other people you’re related to,” Edwards says.
The message was from Jean Fish’s granddaughter, Becca, who, with family members, had coincidentally just given her grandmother a DNA kit from Ancestry.ca for her 85th birthday. Fish was left near the Salvation Army Home for Unwed Mothers in Regina as a baby in 1931 and has long been searching for her biological family. Without both sides submitting DNA to Ancestry.ca, they never would have found the match.
Edwards was stunned. She had no idea her grandmother had a sister — nobody in the family did.
“I called my grandma and said I have some fairly large news,” Edwards says.
Secretly, Viergutz knew there was a possibility she had a long lost sister. Her mother, Evelyn, revealed the secret to her in 1990.
“She told me that in 1931 she had given birth to a daughter, and she had left her on the steps of the Salvation Army Hospital for unwed mothers in Regina,” Viergutz says.
Viergutz wanted to look for her sister, but was sworn to secrecy by her mother.
Viergutz waited almost 20 years before finally deciding to pick up the search once and for all.
“I thought, if she’s out there, I have to find her,” Viergutz says.
In 2008, she paid a visit to Social Services in Regina to search for records of her mother’s daughter. There were none for a sister, but there was another surprise.
“They had a record of her having a son in 1930,” Viergutz says.
On Sept. 25 of 2008, Viergutz was put in contact with the brother she never knew she had. Just a few days later, on Sept. 28, the brother she grew up with passed away.
“I found one brother and lost another,” Viergutz says. “The ironic thing is one worked for a television station and the other was also in (broadcasting). We think they probably met over the years.”
Viergutz assumed the missing sister must have been in fact a brother, and closed that door in her mind. It was reopened this year when her granddaughter phoned to tell her about Jean.
“It was a shock,” Viergutz says.
It took 85 years and a lot of luck, but she found her sister.
“It’s very emotional,” Viergutz says.
They haven’t met in person yet, but have already been told they look alike.
Both families are excited to be growing, and are still shocked at the sheer luck of solving the mystery.
“There were no birth certificates or records or anything,” Edwards says. “There was no other way we would have solved this unless there was DNA. There was no other trail for them to follow.”
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