DNA Dreams Do Come True


After five years of searching and coming up against brick walls, my cousin, Toni Angelique Harrison, has finally found her biological father!

For those who have not been following this story, or don’t know me, or haven’t read this blog; Toni is my biological cousin.  She is an “orphan” from the Vietnam War.  The child of an Black American Soldier and a Vietnamese woman.  She was adopted in the UK when she was around age 2 and has lived there her whole life.  But she isn’t British.  She sounds as British as Queen Elizabeth, but her ethnic make up is African American and Vietnamese.  She is American, but she has never been to the United States.  I wonder if the State Department will honor her citizenship? Hmmmm….

But I digress… this is a happy story!

Toni has been searching and searching tirelessly for information about her birth family.  Her adoption story is hers to tell when she is ready, but whatever her adoption story is, her burning desire to find her father and eventually her mother has been unquenchable.

I met Toni a little over three years ago when I took a DNA test.  Since I had already found my birth family (so I thought) and really wasn’t testing for that information, I honestly only took the test  for fun.   My Australian cousin, Chris, bought me the kit.  Chris isn’t related by DNA but by the marriage of my Maternal Great Grandmother to his maternal uncle.  That connection and story is another story all of itself.  And adds an interesting twist to all of this because I am  British by DNA, yet I grew up in the United States.  And Toni, who is not British at all, grew up in the UK.

Life is really such a funny trip sometimes.

Anyway, back to Toni’s story.  With the help of our other DNA cousin, Angie McCusker,  we all worked together to try to untangle Toni’s famiy tree.  And was it a seriously difficult task!  We met and befriended lots of other cousins along the way.  Mary Eberle lent her genealogical advice on mirror trees.  But for years…. Y.E.A.R.S…… all we came up with were dead ends.

And even though my help through the years was sporadic, because of moves and connectivity issues, Angie and Toni stayed true to the search and kept digging and looking and searching and matching trees.  Tirelessly they searched until one day they hit pay dirt!

Angie called me “We found him Cuz!!!”

“Oh my God!!!!”  I couldn’t believe it.  After all this time and all this work, they had finally found Toni’s father.

I then immediately spoke with Toni.  Who confirmed that they thought they had found him, but she would not be 100% until she got proof.

He had to take a DNA test.  I raise money for this very purpose and happened to have an extra kit on hand, so I shipped one to his sons, who then brought it to him and then the wait began.

The wait ended this past week:

“…………. is your father”

If you’ve never read something like that for the first time at forty-something (because we are unsure of Toni’s actual age) years, you can never understand what it feels like to read that.

I must’ve said “Oh My GOD!” a million times.  And we already kinda knew it was him!  But still….. that feeling.  That  feeling…..

You just could never know.

I always thought it would be possible.  The odds were in our favor, I had thought when we were seraching.  After all, how many Black men could have possibly been in Vietnam at that time who were also related to many of us as well?  Seriously, how many could there be?

The answer…. A LOT!

How hard could it be to find this man?

The answer…. super hard…..

And these discoveries in and of themsleves were sobering.

So many young Black men taken from their families in their prime to fight a war that was ultimiately lost.

So many families torn apart.  Like Toni’s.

Toni’s mother probably had to place her in an orphanage to save her life.  The chaos of the war and the fate of Amerasian children at that time was horrifying.

Now, forty plus years later, there can be some answers.  Some closure.

Toni needs to come to the United States to meet her father.  He is in a care facility in North Carolina.  This will likely be the only time that Toni will ever be able to see her father, as she has a life and a son in the UK.  Not to mention that her father is ill, and time is of the essence in getting her here.

As she has been on her own since she was thirteen, she needs help with the finances of this trip.

She deserves to be able to see her father.  To hear his story.  And to set off with this new information to Vietnam (Or here in the U.S. as her mother may have immigrated) to find her mother.

Do we dare to hope for a double miracle?

I sure hope so, because no one deserves this more than my cousin Toni.

Well, all adoptees deserve it.  All adoptees deserve to have their questions answered.  No matter what the question may be.  If we want to know where we came from, we have the right to know.   Not all adoptees do.  But for the ones who do, they deserve to know.

And I am so happy that my cousin Toni now has seen one of her dreams come true.  I am excited to see what the next chapter holds for her and I am thankful that she calls me family and allows me to bear witness to her miracles.

Bless Cousin, as Toni would say,  Gwan.


About sjwoods318

Mother of six children - five girls and one boy; wife; community organizer, family chauffeur, philosopher, trans-racial adoptee, Deadhead, person of mixed racial heritage, artist, poet, writer who loves to swim, read, and run around with my family.
This entry was posted in Adoption, Biographies, Biography, Life Story, Reunion, Social Justice, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to DNA Dreams Do Come True

  1. nada62 says:

    This is wonderful! It also reminds me that you and I are DNA connected. Am I matching Toni, also? What part of NC is her father in?

    Congrats to everyone!


    PS … I’ll put this same comment on FB.

  2. Ask Toni if she’d be agreeable to doing a Skype interview with me?

  3. Linda Machi says:

    I am beyond touched with Toni’s story! I am currently trying to find a half brother of mine who was born in Vietnam during 69 and highly likely was an orphan. I have tested with two DNA cites, resulting in 4th-5th cousins as a closest match. I’m very curious to know what I should do from here to continue my search. I’d like to know what other tests, etc Toni did when she hit a road block like I have. I hope my message can be relayed to her in some way. Thank you!

    • sjwoods318 says:

      I can answer your questions-

      My cousin Angie McCusker is a huge help in these areas. She is the best at doing this research. Toni tested with all three big DNA companies – Ancestry, 23&me and Family Tree. She also uploaded to Gedmatch. And she diligently followed every lead and never tired of searching. She’s currently looking for her Vietnamese birth mother- so her search continues! Please feel free to friend me on Facebook- Sara Heslin Woods and you can follow the journey and we’ll be talking more about how we did the search. Please also feel free to send me a message with any question

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