Making up for lost time: Siblings find one another through DNA website after decades apart

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Four siblings in the Cape Fear are making up for lost time after finding one another in late 2020.

Their story began when Jay Burney, the oldest, was given up for adoption at birth. The same happened for the next sibling, Terri Russo-Alesi. Their mother then married and had Jack and Kay Mathis, who grew up together in the same home.

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After using Ancestry.com, Terri’s friend called Kay to let her know she may have a sister.

“We had no idea that we had a brother or a sister, so we woke up one day and found out I’ve got an older brother and an older sister,” Jack said. “I’m no longer the big brother, I’m the little brother!”

To their surprise, Jay also lived in Wilmington for their entire lives.

“They’ve been in Wilmington my entire life, so I could have sat as close as this in a restaurant or stop light and didn’t even know it,” Jay said.

Terri ended up in Georgia. She grew up with older parents and no siblings so, much like Jay, she felt alone until finding her family.

“My life is whole. The final puzzle piece had been placed in the puzzle,” Terri said. “They were so loving and they opened up their hearts and their homes the first time that we met that I just knew instantly that it was only going to get better. If that was even possible because it was great from the very beginning.”

Her children were out of the house and she lived alone, so she made the big move up the coast to Wilmington to be with her family and currently lives with her older brother, Jay, and his family.

After being separated for their entire lives, they aren’t wasting any time making memories with one another. One of Terri’s favorite memories is a bike ride with her brother.

“That’s when I really felt like everything was complete. All the things I didn’t get to do as a child with siblings, I’m getting to do now,” Terri said. “I told him, that one moment I’ll always cherish was that bike ride with my brother. So he went out and got a bike, so now we’re going to have a multitude of bike rides.”

“Maybe we can get these guys on bikes,” Jack said. “We can all go on bike rides together!” Terri added.

Not only did they gain one another, but they also gained nieces and nephews, their kids gaining cousins. Some were already closer than they thought.

“I called Jack and started a dialogue and he said, are you any relation to Mary Margaret Burney? I said well yeah that’s one of my children,” Jay said. “He said, well do you know that your daughter and my daughter are living in a house and going to UNCW together?”

Thanks to modern technology, four people connect the branches of a broken family tree and make the most of time with one another.

“I just want to thank God that he put this together,” Jay said.

“Very blessed,” Jack added. “I feel like it came from upstairs,” Jay said.

Unfortunately, the mother died before Jay and Terri were able to meet her, but they do have living aunts that they are arranging a time to meet with soon.