After more than 60 years, a Madison County woman has found her sister.
Linda Farnham, 63, discovered she was adopted at the age of 24. At the time, she had inherited a trunk from her grandmother. Inside was her original birth certificate leading Farnham to discover that she had been adopted as a baby. She said the discovery made sense. Growing up inside the Capital Beltway area in Maryland, she said she always felt out of place in her family.
“I was different from my family,” Farnham said. “My mother was a city girl. I liked the country. I was never the princess she wanted me to be.”
Farnham said her siblings, who were the biological children of her mother born after Farnham’s adoption, were much more like their parents. And though she loved her family, she said finding out she was adopted was a relief.
“I didn’t fit in and it’s no wonder,” she said. “It would have been easier had I known. I would have been less reserved and [more myself].”
In a quest to find her biological family, Farnham purchased and completed a DNA kit from Ancestry.com. Purchasers submit a saliva DNA sample using a small tube provided in the kit. It’s then mailed back to the company which processes the DNA and uploads the results to the Ancestry website. Those results are then used to discover details about the purchaser including ethnicity and genealogy. Users are also flagged as being potential relatives. Farnham sent her kit away on Father’s Day. Weeks later, she had a match.
Hundreds of miles away, Pam Barbeau, 65, of South Carolina had also completed an Ancestry.com DNA kit. She was adopted at the age of 2 from the Maryland area and relocated to Florida. Growing up, she knew she was adopted, but wanted to find her biological family, especially because her family often visited her brother’s biological family. He was adopted at the age of 7. Her adopted father had tried to make contact with her biological family when Barbeau was a teen, but it was unsuccessful.
A few years ago, Barbeau received papers regarding her adoption from her adopted father. She started tracking her family information back and joined Ancestry.com to discover more. She was sent a DNA kit by another user and like Farnham, completed it.
“I didn’t know if [I would find anyone],” Farnham said. “I was afraid to hope. I was shocked, surprised, delighted and excited [with the results]. I formulated a message and sent it, very open-ended.”
Farnham said in the message, she asked Barbeau if she was ready to talk. Barbeau’s response?
“Beyond ready,” she said.
The two met in-person for the first time last week. Barbeau and her daughter, Adrienne, drove up to Madison from South Carolina and spent several days with Farnham.
Sitting side-by-side at a table in the Literacy Council of Madison County office, its obvious Farnham and Barbeau are related. They both wear glasses and share similar facial features.
“I’ll look at her when she’s not paying attention and be like ‘I do that the same way,” Farnham said.
And it’s not just their looks that are similar. The sisters said they share similar political views, are both tolerant people and are nature-oriented. They also sit the same way and both Farnham and Adrienne enjoy yoga.
Barbeau said her daughter and grandchildren are excited for the new family connection. Like Farnham, she said searching for her biological family didn’t take away her love for her adopted family.
Farnham said her sons have been a bit more cautious, perhaps not fully understanding how much finding biological family means to her.
The sisters said they encourage anyone looking for biological family members to take an at-home DNA test. The pair also hopes to find additional family members including their mother who was from the Capital Heights area. Barbeau said she spent years trying to locate her, but without success. In the meantime, they said they are communicating via email and Facebook and plan to meet up again in the future.
“Not everyone has a success story like ours,” Farnham said. “I just wanted to find my sister, someone who looks like me. It’s like looking in a mirror.”