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Allan Harris: Great getting to know my newfound family

Imagine you are 67 years old and you’re sitting at a table in a coffee shop on Niagara Falls Boulevard with two women you never knew. The younger one asks, “Would you like to see a picture of your mother?”

It turns out the two women are my biological half-sisters. How we finally met is an amazing story.

Ever since I learned I was adopted at the age of 12, I had wondered where I came from. I was born in Sisters Hospital and immediately taken for adoption. I would later learn that my mother was never allowed to hold me. It turns out my adoptive parents were best friends with the doctor who delivered me. He would never tell me anything about my mother.

Then last year a former co-worker, Steve Cichon, a historian who writes for The Buffalo News, sent in his DNA to discover his heritage. I hadn’t realized you could do that, so I also sent in my DNA.

When it came back, I was surprised because it matched me with a woman I was told was my first cousin. I emailed her for months and finally she answered saying, “No, we are not cousins. You are our brother.”

My half-sisters were wary. Was this some kind of scam or was I a crazy man? We agreed to meet in public, at that coffee shop. I took along my son for support and Debbie brought along Sue, one of her two sisters. We talked and exchanged stories and agreed to take another DNA test to be sure. Weeks later it was official: We all had the same mom.

I learned that Addie, my biological mom, died in 2003. She had told her three daughters and son that she had given birth out of wedlock (as some say) at only 17. They knew the whole story. They said that a few years after I was born, our mom got married and tried to find me, but the adoption records were, and still are, sealed. Twenty-one states have some form of open records – not New York!

My newfound sisters had been told the name of my biological father. Both of my parents were from Allegany County. With that, I found his obituary from 1977 and was shocked to learn that Ernie had a total of 16 “legitimate” children, 11 of whom are still alive. Now I suddenly had a total of 15 new half-brothers and half-sisters to add to the two I grew up with.

I emailed one of my biological siblings on my dad’s side. She was shocked because the family never knew anything about Ernie’s escapades. The next thing I knew, I heard from a half-brother in Atlanta. I convinced him that I was serious. That led to a half-brother in Tennessee, who agreed to take another DNA test. We matched!

Last summer was a whirlwind, getting to know my mom’s kids, Linda, Debbie and Sue, who all live in the Tonawandas, along with brother, Bob, who flew in from Nebraska. It was weird to find out Sue worked in the same building at the University at Buffalo as my son.

We enjoyed picnics down in Allegany County with my dad’s families of Bonnie, Linda and Laurie and many, many more.

Add all this to my own children, two grandkids and an adopted brother and sister and I am a very lucky person.

My only wish is that I could have learned all this years ago, so I could have had a chance to meet my biological parents. Shame on the State Legislature and the governor for their inaction. Please help support open adoption laws in New York State.