AN Irishman has been tracked down by the daughter he never knew existed.
Courtney Hardy, from Sacramento, said a biology lesson while in High School set her on the path to finding her birth father.
Belfast man Emmanuel Cullen was astonished when his American daughter tracked him down after she realised she couldn’t be blood-related to her parents during a class on genetics.
Speaking from the US, Courtney Hardy from Sacramento (27) told the Belfast Telegraph she was learning about genes and traits when the first clue that she was adopted was raised.
"We were learning about dominant and recessive traits. My teacher was using eye colour as an example of how two blue-eyed parents have almost a 0% chance of having a brown-eyed child," she said.
"That was my situation, both of my parents had blue eyes and mine are brown. I went home from school that day and talked to them about it and my parents told me I was actually adopted."
She found out she was adopted at 15 but waited for another seven years before she decided to try and contact her birth family.
She tracked down her mother Wende Moten from San Diego through various searches, including Facebook. Her mother introduced her to a whole new family and soon she learned about her Belfast-born father Emmanuel.
He spoke of the shocking moment when his then 24-year-old daughter made contact with him.
"I was blown away. Her mother got in touch with me and said 'Are you sitting down, because I have a bombshell for you'.
"I thought something was wrong with my son -- who is my daughter's full brother -- but she said "you also have a daughter. I was going through all kinds of emotions. I was ecstatic, as I've always wanted a daughter," he added.
Describing their first meeting, Emmanuel said, ‘‘It was so emotional, as soon as I saw her it was instant," he added. "We just hugged each other and she was welcomed with open arms. She's a diamond. She did it all herself."
Courtney works as an account executive at FOX 40 news and had lived with her adoptive parents Ken and Nancy Hardy.
In August 2011, she first met her birth father and two step-brothers, Ryan and Tony, after arranging to travel to Belfast to meet them.
"I remember walking up to them and they couldn't believe how much I resembled. When I left, my family told me if home ever didn't feel right, I always had a home in Belfast," she said.
Courtney insists that she has not forgotten her adoptive parents since she was reunited with her birth parents.
"To have found my birth parents, it's great. But my parents will always be my parents, no matter what. I was very lucky to grow up with two very loving, caring and dedicated parents. They were at every basketball game, soccer game, school play, graduation. I was just always curious about who my biological family was and what it would be like to have siblings since I grew up an only child.’’
Emmanuel praised her birth parents for providing her with such a great upbringing.
"She had a very good upbringing, her parents are just great people. I thanked them for the brilliant job they had done. I couldn't ask for anything better.
"I just can't wait until she comes back again," he added.