Thanksgiving is all about going home and getting together with your family. The holiday is extra special when you get to spend time with relatives you haven’t seen in a long time and catch up on things.
But this year was extra special, and emotional, for the family of William Woolery.
Amazingly, a new family member was joining them—one who none of them had ever met, but who held a special place in Woolery’s heart.
It all started 36 years ago, when William Woolery was a 21-year-old U.S. Navy sailor stationed in the Philippines. He had a relationship with a local woman that lasted two years. But soon, they would be forced apart: Woolery’s tour was ending, and he would have to leave the island.
If that wasn’t bad enough, there was another heartbreaking complication: Woolery’s girlfriend was six months pregnant, and he wouldn’t be there.
When he returned home to the States from his military service, he received a letter from his ex-girlfriend. She had his child, and it was a precious baby girl.
“The letter said, ‘She is everything from A-Z and more,’” Woolery told Inside Edition.
“I never heard from her mother again.”
Woolery never knew what happened to his ex, or his daughter. For 36 years, he knew she was out there somewhere—but was never able to track her down.
But this year, he received an e-mail that changed everything.
Woolery’s cousin had signed up for 23andMe, a popular genetic testing service. The cousin had received a message from a stranger who he evidently shared a strong DNA match with—a woman from the Philippines.
He emailed Woolery, letting him know the potential bombshell news:
“I think I found your daughter.”
That woman’s name was Natosha Brown. While she was born in the Philippines, she was now living in Texas—she was adopted from her home country when she was six months old. It was a search for info on her background that led her to the genetic testing site 36 years later.
“I did 23andMe for just health reasons and for ethnicity reasons,” Brown told Inside Edition. “I wanted to know what my ethnicity was and get a little health background.”
She never imagined that it would lead her straight to her biological father.
The cousin put Woolery and Brown in touch, and the two began chatting. They both agreed to take a DNA test … and discovered that they were a 99.9% match.
The test confirmed what they suspected: they were father and daughter.
Both were overjoyed at finally finding their long-lost relative. And after a lifetime apart, they wasted no time in reconnecting.
With Thanksgiving coming up, they decided it would be appropriate to have festivities early this year, and have a long-overdue family reunion.
In their decades apart, Brown and Woolery have each started families of their own. Brown has two children, and Woolery has four other adult daughters, all of whom Brown met at their Thanksgiving celebration in New York.
“It’s been great getting to know them,” Brown told Inside Edition.
“The thing that fascinates me the most is how alike we are.”
But for Brown, the most special connection is with her father, who she’s been in contact with every day.
“I describe him as my new best friend,” Brown said.
Since the first reunion was such a success, Woolery has said he wants to travel to Texas soon to meet Brown’s family. He’s thrilled to have finally made contact with the daughter he never knew.
“I was overjoyed and overwhelmed,” he told Inside Edition.
“I always knew I had a daughter out there.”