You know those stories about families who came together after years apart? Maybe it was just a nagging feeling they had in the back of their head that something, or someone, was missing, or maybe it was a weird twist of fate. Whether you believe in destiny or coincidence, these stories are bound to shake you to the core.
Unbelievable Life Turned Film
There’s a movie playing now that’s showing audiences the journey of a 5-year-old who “lost all contact with his family in India,” made his way across the massive country, and eventually to Australia, following his adoption. The film, Lion— which just earned six Oscar nominations, including for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay—tells the story of Saroo Brierley.
Following his inadvertent separation from his family in 1986 when he fell asleep on a train, Brierley was “living on the streets of Calcutta for three weeks by himself,” before he was put in an orphanage and subsequently adopted by an Australian couple, Suzanne and John Brierley. He spent the remainder of his childhood in Tasmania, living there for 25 years.
Amazingly, it was Google Earth which helped him to find his way back to his original home and his biological family. He focused on his memories, tracking train tracks, and looking at images of towns, buildings, and streets he remembered.
After “[finding] his town Khandwa on the map and [traveling] to India,” Brierley was successful in his endeavor, having “finally reunited with his mother,” in 2012.
In 2011, two men who hadn’t planned on spending the day on Waikiki Beach both happened to be there. The first was Rick Hill with his kids and his partner, Maureen, and the second was a man by the name of Joe Parker. Both men were from around Lunenberg, Massachusetts, but had never met.
When “Parker saw Maureen trying to take a picture of the family and offered to take the picture for them so Maureen could be in it,” he set off an unbelievable chain of events.
“After discovering that they were from the same area, Parker and Hill began dropping names, seeing if they knew anyone in common.” It was then that one name in particular, Dickie Halligan, was brought up by Parker. Halligan, they realized, was the father of each of them.
When Parker was 21, he learned that Halligan was his father and not his uncle, as he’d been led to believe. Parker grew up in foster care, but when he replied to an ad Halligan placed in the newspaper, when he learned of the existence of his half-brother. Hill though, had known that Halligan was his father even while growing up, though Halligan didn’t raise him.
Identical In So Many Ways
Identical twins Audrey Doering and Gracie Rainsberry, now 10 years old, were separated when they were each adopted from China by different families. Neither family had any idea the other girl even existed.
As it turns out, Audrey’s mother, Jennifer Doering, is responsible for having connected the dots. After seeing a picture of a very young Audrey, she noticed a girl who was “nearly identical,” also in the photo, and she began a search for that other girl.
It was social media that really helped bring the families together, as that’s how Jennifer ended up getting in touch with Gracie’s mother, Nicole. A psychologist who studies twins, Dr. Nancy Segal, tested the girls’ DNA and “confirmed Gracie and Audrey were identical twins with 100 percent certainty.”
Gracie and Audrey, as it turns out, are not only identical, but share a similar taste when it comes to food, and even conditions that affect their hearts. Both have even undergone heart surgery.
War-Torn and Back Together
The Holocaust ripped families apart and, especially given the limited resources available to search for family members during the 1940s, it’s shocking that anyone reconnected with members of their scattered families.
One such example of this is a woman, a survivor, by the name of Frieda. Following the Holocaust, Frieda was one of the last living members of her family. That is, as far as she knew.
Back in 2013, Jennifer Mendelssohn, who is Frieda’s granddaughter-in-law, worked tirelessly for two weeks to locate what could very well be surviving relatives of Frieda’s. She had no idea until recently that Frieda had two aunts who had moved to America before World War I.
Well, really, the goal was to find out what happened to Frieda’s two aunts, who, upon their arrival in America, “had renamed themselves ‘Bessie’ and ‘Rachel.’”
Though Frieda had originally believed her family to all be gone, it turned out that she “had three first cousins alive and well.” They were the daughters of her mother’s older sister, Bessie.
A Bond Like No Other
Before he had even turned 20, Marcel Levy, now 91, was one of more than 30,000 liberated from the Dachau concentration camp in 1945.
Sid Shafner, an American Army officer who served in World War II, helped to free Levy and his fellow prisoners.
Shafner had a busy month in May 2015. Not only did the then-94-year-old take “a stirring eight-day trip to Israel and Poland,” he was also able to reunite with Levy at an Israeli base.
As the story goes, according to the president of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, Peter Weintraub, Shafner’s “convoy was stopped by a Jew named Marcel,” who then instructed him that he needed to abandon the route on which he was traveling and help them instead. Shafner’s unit did stop and ended up helping liberate Dachau. Levy was only 19 and was the only surviving member of his family.
As it happens, this is not the first time that Shafner and Levy have seen each other since 1945. On the contrary, they “established an instant bond and became good friends,” though this was their first time seeing one another in 20 years.
Social Media Miracle
In 1990, a family was torn apart, when American airman Don Gibson “was forced to return home” and his British wife, Chrissie, and son, Craig, remained in Britain with Chrissie’s sons from her first marriage.
When Chrissie’s ex-husband’s new partner complained to Don’s airbase commander when the family returned a few days late after a vacation, Don was accused by his commander of having “brought the Air Force into disrepute,” and things spiraled from there.
According to Chrissie, “‘When Don went to re-enlist the following year, he was turned down and was forced to return to America,’” but because of her other sons, she made the choice to stay in Britain.
When Craig was 22, following years of both he and Don conducting fruitless searches to find one another (as “both had moved house and had no way of getting in contact again”), Don managed to track down Craig on Facebook.
He even reconnected with Chrissie, and as of 2012, Craig, Chrissie, and Don were all “[hoping] to be reunited for Craig’s 23rd birthday.”
Nearly Next Door
Though brothers Tommy Larkin and Stephen Goosney were put up for adoption at birth and were raised by different families, they each grew up in Newfoundland, Canada.
Larkin, who had been searching for his family since his move to another part of Newfoundland, called Corner Brook, learned his brother’s name from the adoption agency in March 2010. He was sure he didn’t know the man, let alone the name.
Then, before the end of the month, Larkin was told where it was that his brother lived, and, as it happens, “The address of the house was almost directly across the street.” In fact, he could see his brother’s place from where he lived. Though they’d only been in such close proximity to each other for a matter of months, “the two brothers had actually lived on the same street for years,” and funnily enough, though they’d seen one another—albeit rarely—they’d never exchanged words.
The day after that eye-opening call, Larkin and Goosney spoke on the phone, “met and immediately hit it off,” and their sisters reached out to them once “the story became news.”
Side by Side
In 1985, Christine Tallady had a son who would go on to be named Steve Flaig by his adoptive parents—a relatively common story, until it wasn’t.
Tallady “had left the adoption records open in case the child ever wanted to contact her,” which one would think would lead to a pretty quick end to this story. As it turns out though, Steve, who had never been able to find anything on his mom, eventually realized that he’d spelt her last name incorrectly all this time, adding an extra letter.
Upon looking her up with the correct name, “he found out that Christine Tallady lived close to him and even closer to the Lowe’s where he worked.”
When he asked if his boss happened to know a woman by that name, he learned that she was, in fact, “the head cashier who had been hired at the same store a few months earlier.”
They eventually met as mother and son, and Ellen DeGeneres even had them on her show. Talk about a coincidence!