'DNA testing saved my life' - Woman traces birth family after 50 years

Sarah Turner was adopted by a couple in Felixstowe. She has now made contact with her biological family

Sarah Turner was adopted by a couple in Felixstowe. After over fifty years apart, she has now made contact with her biological family in Canada. L-R: Sarah Turner as a child, and centre, with her half sister, left, and father, right. - Credit: Family of Sarah Turner

Some stories seem too outlandish even for the premise of a Hollywood tearjerker. You think they could never happen in a million years – and yet, sometimes, they turn out to be true. 

This is what happened to a woman from Felixstowe, who decided to trace her birth family and uncovered an incredible story that started five decades ago and would save her life. 

Sarah knew she was adopted from a very young age, and her parents were always very open about how they had made their family.

Sarah knew she was adopted from a very young age, and her parents were always very open about how they had made their family. - Credit: Family of Sarah Turner

Sarah Turner had always known she was adopted.  

“Mum and dad were very open about it,” she explained. “They told me when my brother was due to come along, when I was very young, so I’ve known for a long time. 

“My childhood was idyllic. We grew up sailing and going for walks in the village. They gave us the best life.” 

She did feel some curiosity for her birth family, but this was always at the back of her mind, never the forefront. This stayed the same as she grew older, married and became a mother herself. 

Sarah decided to trace her biological family after growing curious about her medical history.

Sarah decided to trace her biological family after growing curious about her medical history. By this point, she was a mother herself, and was getting ready to marry her fiancé. - Credit: Family of Sarah Turner

Things changed, however, when Sarah began to question her medical history, having had a knee replacement aged just 42. 

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“I probably saw ten different doctors, and the first thing they all said was, what’s your family history? And I had to say, 'I’m adopted, so I don’t know.'” 

So, in the summer of 2019, Sarah started the process of looking into her birth family.  

“I did a DNA test, and got access to the ancestry site, which matches you with relatives,” she said. 

“I was a close match with a few people. 

“One of them looked very like me. I emailed her, explaining who I was, and gave her some of my mother's details. I knew her name, her last known address, and that she was Canadian. 

Sarah says her childhood was idyllic, and her adoptive parents have given her 'the best life.'

Sarah says her childhood was idyllic, and her adoptive parents have given her 'the best life.' - Credit: Sarah Turner

Family of Sarah Turner

Sarah says that her curiosity about her birth family were always in the back of her mind, but never at the forefront. This stayed the same well into adulthood. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Sarah Turner met her birth father and his daughter, her sister, in person for the first time in February of this year

Sarah Turner met her birth father and his daughter, her sister, in person for the first time in February of this year. She says she is overwhelmed by the similarities they share. - Credit: Family of Sarah Turner

“She said, that's my sister.” 

However, Sarah’s maternal aunt had no idea that her sister had given up a child for adoption. This had been a secret her birth mother had kept hidden for fifty years. 

Sarah asked her aunt about their family’s medical history, and learned that her mother had also had a knee replacement very young. She also learned that her grandmother and two other aunts had died of breast cancer. 

A week later, Sarah received another email. 

“It said, ‘Hello, I am your mother.’”  

As if this wasn’t enough, Sarah had at the same time found a lump on her breast. 

“I went to the doctor, and for the first time in my life, I could tell them about my medical history. 

“Within minutes, they were on the phone making a referral. 

“I had a biopsy, and it confirmed I had breast cancer. I was getting married a week later." 

So, Sarah walked down the aisle, before breaking the news to her family, who did not yet know that Sarah had traced her ‘other’ family. 

Luckily, her cancer was successfully treated with radiotherapy – and then lockdown hit. 

“I believe to this day that DNA testing saved my life, because I never checked my breasts. I'd never have gone to the doctor without knowing my history,” she said. 

It was then that she made contact with her father’s side, after being contacted first by her father’s niece, and then son and daughter – her siblings.  

“Our first Zoom call lasted for three hours. It was very emotional, there was laughter, tears and disbelief." 

Having met Sarah, her siblings broke the news to their father that he had another daughter. 

“He couldn’t believe it, in fact, he didn’t at first. But then he wanted to meet me immediately. We all had a Zoom call together, and again, it was very tearful. 

“I am very like my father. I knew instantly, the minute I saw his face. The sense of belonging was overwhelming.” 

Sarah was able to piece together the story of her birth. 

Both her parents are Canadian, and had met serving in the army in Germany when her mother fell pregnant.

She hid her pregnancy from everyone she knew and flew to London to give birth, wanting to have her baby in an English-speaking country.

She named Sarah, a name she later gave to her second daughter, and returned to Germany.  

After talking online for more than a year, Sarah’s birth father flew to England with her sister in February of this year, and they met in person for the first time.  

As Sarah’s family, adopted and biological, take their time getting to know each other, they have decided not to reveal their names. 

However, Sarah says so far, everything is going remarkably well. 

“We find ourselves so alike. We've got a real bond between us.” Incredibly, her birth father had also met his biological father for the first time aged 51.” 

Indeed, the more Sarah gets to know her birth family, the more similarities and coincidences she finds. 

"It’s turned out so well. I've had the best life, being brought up by my mum and dad. But now in later life, I’ve found another family, and that’s also a happy story. 

“Being adopted is not negative at all. It's a definite plus.”