Ontario resident Carlie McMaster says she sent her DNA to Ancestry.com in 2019 to find out more about her father’s side of the family after his passing.
The 28-year-old Brantford, Ontario resident said she just wanted to know her family’s health history, when she made the discovery that would change her life.
The website matched her genetic information to a woman in Minnesota named Rylee Hall, and they began a conversation about how they might be related.
“I didn’t really talk too much when Rylee first approached me because I really didn’t know. I just questioned everything… It was kind of shocking,” McMaster told CTV News Toronto on Monday.
“I think it was four months later that I finally got back on Instagram and said maybe we’ll try to do some research and work it out.”
At this point, she said, she and Hall spoke frequently, discovering unique similarities: their mannerisms, the distinctive blue ring around their hazel eyes, and their musical background.
They eventually learned that the similarities were not a coincidence, as McMaster and Hall shared a biological father and were both conceived through sperm donation.
“I was surprised at first. I think it was a lot of questioning my identity but also being very excited to have this connection at the same time,” McMaster said.
“I had to process the fact that the father I grew up with was not my biological father, but also that I have this new connection.”
Hall said the sibling connection wasn’t a big surprise to her because her mother had told her she was conceived through sperm donation a year before she was tested.
“I knew there was potential to meet siblings,” the 26-year-old American told CTV News Toronto on Monday. “So I wasn’t in shock when the news was confirmed.”
The brothers say they are grateful to have met.
“For me, it’s just winning someone who I know is there for life. It’s such a strong bond that we share,” McMaster said.
Their story took another turn when they decided it was time to search for their “donor dad.” Hall said she managed to find him on Facebook after connecting with other relatives on ancestry websites.
“He messaged me after I added him,” Hall said.
“Which was good because it was kind of a confirmation that he does want to talk. We’re not forcing him to do it, which was good,” McMaster added.
The brothers said they now talk to their biological father, a Toronto resident, at least once a week.
“He’s already very supportive of us,” McMaster said. “He’s been really great so far and he’s a sweet, great guy.”
They said that in the early 1990s, her biological father was donating at Canadian Blood Services, where he was a regular platelet donor, when he noticed an ad asking people to help families unable to have children.
“In the documents my parents received, there was a question, ‘Would you be willing to meet any children?’ and he checked ‘yes,’” Hall said.
Hall said he plans to visit Ontario for a second time in late August. The sisters say that she, too, will be meeting her biological father in person for the first time.
The sisters say they have discovered that there are three other brothers they know. The other siblings, they said, are all female and were born in the mid-1990s in Canada.
Both Hall and McMaster said that while they are excited to meet new siblings, they are very careful in how they approach potential siblings, not wanting to give the information away prematurely.
“It just depends on the other person and whether they’re open to having siblings because some people probably don’t want to deal with that at all,” Hall said.
The sisters will launch a new podcast on Monday called ‘Our Daddy’s a Donor’. The podcast will delve into their experiences and discuss the stories of others who were conceived through sperm donations and discovered the truth later in life.