James Michaels found out he was adopted at age 10 but didn’t really delve deeper at the time.
Curiosity eventually got the better of the now 31-year-old Sugar Land resident, leading to the discovery of his birth parents as well as siblings he never knew he had.
“As a teenager it didn’t matter, because I was comfortable with my adoptive family, but over the last few years I became more curious on what I was,” he said. “Other than the fact that my birth mother’s last name was German, I really had no idea about anything.”
Michaels, originally from Big Rock, Illinois, said he knew he was mixed race, but became more curious about his identity as time wore on. He finally decided to pull the trigger on genetic testing through a company called 23AndMe in early January.
“For most people, (genetic testing) is more of a curious excitement, but for me it was a must at 30 years old,” he said. “I needed to figure out who I am, where I really came from and who my parents were.”
About a month after submitting the DNA testing kit, he received the shock of a lifetime on Feb. 7 – a match with his uncle, who lives and works in Pennsylvania. The two met up just three days later during a conference his uncle’s pipeline company was attending in Houston, and it was then Michaels discovered a link to his birth mother. His uncle told him he had found a long-lost sister through a private investigator in 1992 – Michaels’ mother. The revelation was mind-blowing for Michaels, who then reached out to a second uncle to link up with his mother.
“I didn’t think I would know so much within a week,” Michaels said.
More revelations were to come. Shortly before Michaels said he planned to reach out to his birth mother, she made first contact and revealed he had two younger siblings – a 14-year-old sister, Katie, and a 25-year-old brother, who both live in Illinois.
“(Katie) was all excited to have an older brother,” Michaels said. “She calls me for homework help, questions and advice on everything.”
Then on Oct. 7, his mother called again – this time to tell him she’d run into his birth father at an Illinois Walmart, and he wanted to connect with his son. Upon hearing those words, Michaels said he momentarily lost the ability to think. But after recovering his wits, he reached out to his father the next day.
“I thought my father was going to be a mystery my whole life,” he said. “I’m thinking, ‘What is happening? How?’ I was kind of speechless. For about five minutes, my mind just went blank.”
This has been the first holiday season for Michaels knowing where he came from. He met up with Katie for the first time over Easter in Houston, where she was visiting other relatives, and said the two have instantly formed a strong bond.
He is planning a trip to visit his birth parents in Illinois in March and said there are two other half-siblings he has yet to connect with.
It’s the perfect present that outshines all the others for Michaels.
“I was overwhelmed, and it was both a comfort and a shock,” he said. “It all just fell together so fast.”