Sunday 19 November 2017

Irish woman discovers long-lost brother after they both do online DNA test

Kathy Armstrong

An Irish woman says her "head can't stop spinning" after a chance DNA test led to her brother that she never knew existed getting in touch

After Cathy Hanley Drury's friend asked her to do a test with Ancestery.com last year, the last thing she expected was for her long-lost brother Jim Smith to contact her.

It emerged that Cathy and Jim's late mother Mary Jo Hanley (née Higgins) gave birth to her son in a mother and baby home in London in 1948, before she later returned to Ireland.

Cathy is set to fly to Ireland from her New Jersey home this weekend, when she will meet London-based Jim, 68, for the first time.

The 54-year-old told Independent.ie: "I did the test last year and didn't even get the result because it was posted to a friend, I wasn't bothered.

"I had a few cousins get in touch but on March 7 my friend said someone claiming to be a very close relative of mine had contacted her, I then spoke to my brother for the first time on March 7."

Cathy Hanley Drury
Cathy Hanley Drury

Jim never knew he had siblings so when he had also happened to do a DNA test on Ancestry.com, he was shocked when Cathy's results appeared in the database and were so similar to his own.

Jim told Cathy that his mother Mary Higgins lived with him in the south London home for six months until he was adopted.

Cathy, who was born and raised in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, said that although he always knew he was adopted, discovering he has siblings has given motivational speaker Jim a new lease of life.

Cathy said: "I can't begin to tell you how happy he is, our heads have just been spinning since we first spoke.

Cathy's Mum
Cathy's Mum

"He'd always thought he was an only child, now he suddenly has nine siblings.

"He told us he always felt incomplete, he was adopted by a loving family but it was hard not knowing who his birth parents were.

"His daughters said he always had a sadness in his eyes but now he's laughing and happy all the time."

Cathy says the first time they talked earlier this month was extremely emotional and she expects meeting for the first time this weekend will be too.

She said: "My mother never mentioned my brother, although I suspect my father might have known.

"She passed away two years ago this week and my father's anniversary is also around this time so I'm coming home for that and I asked Jim if he would like to join us.

"It's just going to be the siblings, it would probably be a bit overwhelming for him to meet all his nieces and nephews yet, but we're going to meet him at Knock Airport with a huge sign and t-shirts saying, 'Welcome to our family', we'll also bring him to her grave.

"My niece is getting married in October and she lives 15 minutes away from him in London so he's going to come to her wedding and bring his daughters.

"It's just so surreal."

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