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Two sisters who did not know the other existed finally found each other after more than 50 years.
Diane Ward, 59, and Mary McLaughlin, 56, were both born in Michigan to the same mother.
They were raised by different families, however — and finally met face-to-face for the first time in June 2022.
“I’ve won the lottery,” Ward told Fox News Digital about meeting her sister. “I couldn’t ask for more.”
Ward, who currently lives in England with her husband, was adopted soon after she was born.
McLaughlin, meanwhile, who lives in Paragould, Arkansas, was raised by their mother for a few weeks before her mother’s neighbors took guardianship of her, the sisters told Fox News Digital.
Ward knew she was adopted but did not know anything about their biological mother when she was growing up in Pittsburgh.
However, McLaughlin, who grew up in Michigan, was able to maintain a connection with their mother.
Neither of them knew they had a sister until about four years ago, the women said.
“For some reason, it just never occurred to me that I might have a sibling.”
Ward said that in 2018, she decided she wanted to find her biological mother.
For Christmas that year, she got a DNA kit from MyHeritage, a company that helps people research their family history through DNA tests and historical records.
“I was focused on parents,” Ward said of her attempt to track down her mother and father. “For some reason, it just never occurred to me that I might have a sibling.”
Ward did the test and got her results back within a couple of weeks.
In those results, Ward saw that she had a second or third cousin — whom she reached out to for more information.
After confirming that McLaughlin was comfortable being connected to Ward, the cousin then introduced the half-sisters to each other online.
They said that soon after that, they were meeting on a video chat for the first time.
“Just talking about it, I still get so excited,” Ward said of the sisters’ call.
“It was fantastic.”
McLaughlin told Fox News Digital that her husband was in the room and was watching her face and her body language to make sure everything was going OK.
“He went, ‘Oh my God, that’s your sister,'” McLaughlin recalled.
The sisters talked for three hours, Ward said.
After that call, they continued to video chat and message on WhatsApp daily.
Over time, they discovered their numerous similarities, including “weird pinkies,” “webbed toes” and a snarky sense of humor.
Ward was also able to learn more about her personal and family history.
She was put up for adoption after birth because her mother was still a teenager when Ward was born.
Ward and McLaughlin said that since meeting virtually, they’ve learned that they spent their childhood summers in the same areas.
Meanwhile, their mother cared for McLaughlin for a few weeks before she asked the neighbors to babysit — and never returned, McLaughlin told Fox News Digital.
Social services asked the neighbors to take guardianship of McLaughlin, and they agreed to do so, which is how she was raised by her adopted family.
McLaughlin’s mother did eventually return, but the neighbors continued to raise their new little girl.
Their mother died after fighting breast cancer, according to McLaughlin, who said she was unsure of the year their mother died.
Ward said she still does not know who her birth father is — though she is looking for him.
Ward and McLaughlin said that since they met virtually, they learned that they spent their childhood summers in the same areas.
Though Ward’s adoptive family moved to Pittsburgh, her adoptive mother’s family stayed in Michigan. So Ward and her family would return to the town where she was born to see relatives.
“There were occasions when we were literally, probably, houses away from each other,” McLaughlin said. “I would be visiting friends, and she would be visiting family.”
“That random piece of it was really mind-boggling,” she added.
Similarly, McLaughlin spent some summers visiting Pittsburgh since her adoptive mother had family there.
Even today, McLaughlin lives close to where some of Ward’s adoptive family lives.
“It is so crazy,” McLaughlin said.
Ward added, “We’re meant to be in close circles to each other at all times.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ward and McLaughlin were not able to meet face-to-face until June of this year. That is when McLaughlin invited Ward and her husband to join her extended family for a vacation at the beach.
“It’s like the whole family are all wise-cracking and funny smart-alecks,” Ward said. “It was just everybody bouncing off each other and just having such a good time.”
As Ward was saying her goodbyes, McLaughlin’s daughter, Liza, gave her a hug, then turned to Ward and McLaughlin to make a joke.
Ward recalled, “She looked at both of us, and she goes, ‘Oh great. Now there’s two of you, one on each continent.'”
“And I said, ‘Well, you’d better be careful because we might do another DNA test and find another one,'” Ward added, laughing.
“Now there’s two of you, one on each continent.”
When Ward and McLaughlin first met, McLaughin said she was angry that she did not get to grow up with her sister or have someone to talk to through all the difficulties of life.
“Initially, I really, really was ticked off,” McLaughlin said.
Over time, McLaughlin has come to realize that it was perfect timing when she met Ward.
Ward said she had a similar experience. Meeting McLaughlin has “answered a lot of questions that I’ve grown up my whole life wondering,” Ward said.
“I don’t think I would have appreciated them when I was younger,” Ward added.
“I think it would have passed me by and I wouldn’t have appreciated Mary the way I do now.”
Even though she started her journey with MyHeritage in search of a mother, Ward is so happy to have found a sister — and a friend.
“Mary and I get on so well, and we think alike, and we have very similar personalities,” Ward said.
“And I enjoy spending time with her … In fact, I wish I lived closer.”
“To have a sibling instead of a parent … it was a godsend,” Ward added. “I think it was what was meant to be.”