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Daughter given up for adoption finds father who never knew she existed, 50 years later

By Christl Dabu

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    TORONTO (CTV Network) — Jodi McDaniel says her journey to discovering the truth about her family has been “a whirlwind” puzzle that led to an emotional meeting with her biological father who never knew she existed.

The 53-year-old woman from Muskoka says she was born in Oakville, Ont., and adopted as a baby. Although her adoptive family didn’t want to talk about her adoption, she says she grew up in Burlington, Ont., with loving parents and a younger sister who was also adopted.

About six years ago, she signed up with the AncestryDNA test program, which connected her with relatives on both her biological parents’ sides. She says she was surprised to learn she had more than 400 relatives listed. She also discovered her ethnic background: She is mainly Scottish, Irish and English, with some Liberian and Sudanese ancestry.

In total, she has discovered her biological father, one half-sibling, a first cousin, 14 second cousins, six third cousins and 608 fourth cousins, to date.

“When Ancestry and 23andMe and all of the (DNA testing) programs came out, I did them all and found relatives all over,” McDaniel said in a video interview with, noting she emailed many of them to try to find out how they are related.

The pandemic was a blessing in disguise, she says, giving her the time to do research about her biological family. “It’s been a really, really amazing journey and just that downtime of COVID enabled me to do that.”

Thanks to those DNA tests, she found her first cousin Lucy and a second cousin. Four years ago, Lucy and her second cousin’s wife Amber helped McDaniel connect with her biological father, Bryce Aitken.

At first, McDaniel couldn’t believe it was him.

She began seriously investigating her family history about 20 years ago. After begging the hospital where she was born to release her files, McDaniel was able to track down her biological mother.

She says she showed up at her biological mother’s home, carrying flowers. Her biological mother welcomed her inside and told her she thought her biological father had died. But her biological mother didn’t want a relationship with her, McDaniel said.

“They were really young and I’m grateful (she) gave me up because I don’t know, at 16 … I could barely care for myself,” McDaniel said. “I couldn’t imagine caring for a child, a baby. So (she) gave me up and I really had many opportunities because I was raised in a family that wanted a child.”

McDaniel says she did her own digging, creating spreadsheets and cross-referencing her data and research. During a FaceTime conversation, McDaniel says Lucy, who is Aitken’s niece, confirmed that he had a relationship with McDaniel’s biological mother.

Though she had doubts, McDaniel says she decided to email her biological father. She drafted a letter, editing it about 15 times, introducing herself to Aitken. In the email, she explained when she was born, her birth mother’s information and described how she connected with her cousins through the DNA programs.

She received a reply the next day. McDaniel described feeling happy, overwhelmed and emotional as she opened the email and her birth father confirmed the details about their connection.

It was an instant bond that grew, she said, making her feel a connection to Aitken – who never married and didn’t have any other children – and his family. She says she loves hearing how she looks like her father, who has similar eyes and nose.

She discovered she grew up minutes from him in Burlington and worked for the same parent company.

After emailing back and forth, they decided to speak on the phone. During their first phone conversation, she says both of them were crying a lot and she kept saying, “I can’t believe this is you.”

“We were just so happy to have found each other,” she said.

She described the moment she finally met her biological father in October 2020 at a park in Oakville, Ont.

“It was like early morning. I was sitting in my car doing this box-breathing exercise,” she said, noting she was nervous. “So I knew it was going to be OK. But I kind of waited my entire life for this moment.”

She tried doing a video talking to herself for a vlog, but initially she says, “I couldn’t even get a sentence, a word out. I was crying.”

By the time they met, both she and Aitken had red eyes from crying.

“It was just like one of those moments,” she said. “I wish someone had filmed it. … We were happy-sad. We went for lunch and we just kept hugging like it was unbelievable.”

McDaniel says he was “thrilled” about meeting the daughter he never knew he had. She added that they meet every few months.

“He had no idea,” she added. “He was shocked.”

She learned he was a birding fan, a photographer and retired. Both love hiking and other outdoor activities.

She says he also ordered a DNA test, which later confirmed their relationship.

Aitken visited her family, including her husband and two daughters, in Muskoka the following month, where they shared photographs and stories.

“He’d never been married, never had any other kids that he knows of, and all of a sudden now he’s a father and a grandfather and it’s really a cool story,” McDaniel said.

Last summer, she met her long-lost family members from her biological father’s side in Prince Edward Island. “I have cousins and I got to meet my aunt and my uncle, and it’s just amazing to be so welcomed into this family that before two years ago, never knew about me.”

She says she and her biological father have started a tradition of sending a daily selfie to each another. Before speaking with, she says she sent him a picture of herself showing their DNA match results from AncestryDNA.

Her DNA discoveries didn’t end there. She created her own family tree with close to 7,000 people, some going back to the 1600s.

“I’m fascinated by the history of it. So now it’s kind of become my hobby.”

Before Christmas, she discovered through AncestryDNA that one of her friends is actually a fourth cousin on Aitken’s side.

A distant cousin of her adoptive father, who has since died, recently reached out to explain how he had done a family tree and may have found someone who is her half-brother.

She would meet her apparent half-brother Wayne in late March, observing how he strongly resembles her adoptive father, including his mannerisms.

“My heart is just full. I’m just so grateful for all of the goodness that has come about this,” McDaniel said. “So, it’s been really an amazing journey.”

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