Like many children of adoption, Shelly Foster, from Valparaiso, Florida, was curious about her birth family, and decided to see if she could track them down.
It just took her a little longer than usual: six decades.
But a lifelong search finally payed off last month, with a beautiful reunion she never could’ve imagined.
It all started long ago when Shelly decided to join the U.S. Air Force after graduating high school. At the recruitment office, she saw her birth certificate for the first time—and found out her real birth name: Ruth Mary Anthes.
Shelly had known from a young age that she was adopted, so this wasn’t a huge revelation. But actually seeing the evidence of a life she didn’t know was a turning point for her.
“Seeing my biological name written down, it sparked something inside of me,” she told the Northwest Florida Daily News.
“It was then that I began the 60-year search for my biological family.”
In these modern times it can be easy to take for granted how easy it is to find information. But for decades, Shelly had no option but to search public records manually for leads. Whenever she would travel, she’d search the local archives and phone books for her birth name.
“It was a lot harder to search for people back then,” Foster told the Northwest Florida Daily News. “It wasn’t until the computer age that we were able to really start searching.”
Indeed, it was only a few years ago Shelly got her first real lead. She found a census record of a woman named Marion Anthes. Believing it likely that this was her birth mother, she joined multiple ancestry sites, digging for information
And last month, at age 78, Shelly finally made a breakthrough.
She found an obituary for a woman named Marion Vanderwoude—who’s maiden name was Anthes.
After decades of searching, Shelly finally had concrete information on her birth mother’s life. But there was an even bigger bombshell:
“It said she was survived by her son, Fredric Vanderwoude,” Foster told the Daily News.
“That meant I had a half-brother.”
Thanks to the internet, Shelly was able to track down Fredric rather easily. He was 76, living in a trailer park in Breckenridge, Texas. Frederic never knew he had any siblings either, but he gladly agreed to take a DNA test.
“He was very cooperative and willing to believe it,” Shelly told the Daily News. “He said he always wanted a brother or a sister.”
They expected the test to determine whether or not they were half-siblings.
But when the results came back, they were stunned:
They were full siblings, with the same biological mother and father.
The two long-lost siblings decided to finally meet in person, agreeing to meet at a hotel halfway between their locations in Louisiana.
Their long-overdue reunion was captured on video:
The siblings joyfully greeted each other:
“There’s my baby brother!”
“Yeah, you’ve got my hair,” Frederic jokes, as the two senior citizens both now have gray hair—but they do note a real resemblance.
“Where have you been all my life?!”
Her newly-found sister-in-law gave Shelly a gift: a necklace that was made by Shelly’s mother.
She also discovered information about her mother that helps explain the adoption: she gave birth to Shelly as an unwed teenager.
“She was an unwed Catholic girl giving birth to a child,” Shelly told the Daily News. “That’s what happened back then.”
Shelly also speculated about maybe finding more half-siblings in the future. But Frederic is just content with what he has:
“We’ve got each other now,” he told Shelly.
“There’s no reason to search for anything else.”