Updated: Dec 5, 2022
After nearly 65 years of nonstop twists and turns, adoptee Greg Brown, turned to investigative genetic genealogy to finally learn the truth.
Greg Brown and his birth mother, Mary
It's been a wild ride for 65-year-old adoptee, Greg Brown. He was born in June of 1956 and was raised in a loving home in Greenville, South Carolina, by the two best parents a kid could ever hope to have.
Truthfully, Greg had never really seriously considered looking for more information about his biological family. In fact, the judge who personally handled his private adoption in their close-knit community had, in Greg's own words, "sent him on a wild goose chase" for decades. So this year when he sought out our help, it was his two daughters who had urged him to finally seek answers.
Sometimes you talk to a person for the first time and you just know straight away that it's going to be a nonstop party. That's what it feels like to meet Greg Brown.
He is about as kind, humble and genuinely entertaining as a man can get. I don't know that I have ever met someone so energized by making people smile. So when I heard Greg's story and got to work on his case, my goal was not only to bring Greg answers, but to give him something to smile about.
Of course there's never any way to know how these things will turn out at the start of an investigation. I just hoped for Greg, as I do with all my clients, that his would have a happy ending.
The investigation went fairly smoothly on my end because Greg had taken an AncestryDNA test and his results had come back with a handful of relatively strong DNA matches. The problem I kept running into was that none of the clues I was uncovering were matching any of the information Greg had been told by that judge all his life.
It's fairly normal for parts of a family rumor to be false and other parts to be true. After all, the rumor usually starts somewhere. Then it gets passed around and repeated, often across generations. Embellishments happen. Memories fade. Names, dates, and small details grow fuzzier along the way.
But the more I investigated Greg's case, the clearer the reality became that essentially no part of his story was true. No wonder Greg had been spinning in circles for the past 65 years—now it had me spinning in circles, too. The DNA was telling me one thing and the judge (who has long since passed) had been purposefully telling Greg another thing entirely. And the latter was a full and true fabrication of the circumstances of Greg's birth.
So with that unfortunate discovery, I chucked out all the stories and tall tales and hearsay and dug my heels in to do the thing I do best: follow the DNA.
When I found Greg's birth mother a couple of weeks later, I remember sitting back in my chair and sighing a great big sigh. I took a brief moment to absorb the enormous sense of relief and justice for Greg; the chance to right the huge injustice that had been done to him so long ago was humbling. None of the lies or misgivings or wrong turns of the last six decades mattered anymore. Greg could finally know the answer, for both himself and his family.
His birth mother, Mary, was just 16-years-old when she had Greg and gave him up. Sadly she, too, had passed, back in 1999. It never gets easier delivering that news to a client. But, one thing I know from experience is that there is always a bright side. And boy, was Greg's bright!
I found that his mother had gone on to get married and have three more children—two boys and one girl—and that all were living in neighboring states to Greg. Oddly, this was the one and only portion of the "facts" the judge had told to Greg that did turn out to be true: the exact number and gender of his birth mother's future children.
I was able to get in contact with Greg's maternal half-sister, Stacey, and within the first 5 minutes on the phone with her, I knew I had found Greg's reason to smile.
Greg and his newfound half-sister, Stacey
After I was finished surprising Stacey with the news of the half-brother she never knew she had, I paused and told her that I knew that it was a lot to process.
"Nah, nothing shakes me!" was her rapid-fire reply. Stacey wasn't shocked—she was beyond excited to meet her new big brother.
I got a call from Greg one day not long after, at which point he shared with me how he and Stacey had immediately hit it off and about how it was uncanny how alike they both were. He told me how Stacey had him absolutely in stitches. Remember, this is the guy who tells anyone who will listen, and in his buttery sweet Southern drawl, that he was "put on this earth to be the entertainment."
Greg and his family are now planning to meet up with Stacey and her family at Disney World sometime soon.
Some people are just natural-born givers. Without a shadow of a doubt, Greg is one of those people. To watch him receive such a well-deserved and long-overdue gift as this—especially because it was one he did not ask for, nor did he have any expectations of getting—is one of the single most powerful moments for me in my genealogy career.
I encourage you to take a page from Greg's playbook: Be sure to hug your loved ones and tell them you love them every chance you get. And if you want to say it with a little extra Greg spin, just say: "Love ya ...mean it!!"
And as always, if you need our help finding answers or closure, or even the opportunity to connect with your birth family, you can find us right here.