For the first time in his life, 49-year-old Matthew Robertson is eagerly searching for a Mother’s Day gift.
“I haven’t been able to celebrate Mother’s Day my entire life,” said Robertson, who resides in the San Francisco Bay area. “I’m so giddy about it because I actually have someone to celebrate Mother’s Day with.”
Adopted at birth, Robertson’s mother died when he was 6 years old, leaving a void in his life.
That hole was recently filled again as an AncestryDNA kit helped Robertson reconnect with his biological mother and three siblings more than 40 years later.
“Having lost my mother at that young age, I always felt like I needed to fill that gap,” he said.
The search begins
Robertson was in his 20s and attending college when he started looking for his biological mother. He hired an individual to see what she could find.
The woman located Robertson’s adoption decree, a legal document issued by the court when an adoption is finalized. It revealed the name Mary Judith Vaughn and provided a descriptive profile of both father and mother, including height, weight and hair color.
Unfortunately, no other information was available. Still, it was a starting point.
“The name stuck with me,” Robertson said.
The genetic answer
More than 30 years later, Robertson was married and raising three children when his wife surprised him with an AncestryDNA kit for Father’s Day in 2020.
Robertson appreciated the gift but admitted he didn’t know much about the family history company or its DNA research. He expected the kit to help him to trace his ancestors back to their original countries, but nothing more.
“Never once did it enter my mind, ‘Oh, this could lead me to finding my birth mother,’” he said. “I thought that ship had sailed.”
More than 19 million people have taken an AncestryDNA test, according to the Deseret News.
Robertson submitted the kit and received the results a few weeks later. He said his “jaw dropped” when the first match was a distant cousin with the last name “Vaughn.”
“I remember that feeling like there’s no way it could be this easy,” Robertson said. “It wasn’t, we still had to do some digging, but the name ‘Mary Judith Vaughn’ had always stuck in my mind.”
Robertson reached out to the individual he matched with on Ancestry and related his story. The cousin didn’t know a Mary Judith Vaughn but promised to ask around in the family.
A few weeks later, he received a photo with the message, “We think this might be your mom.”
Meeting mom and siblings
Robertson and his wife used the image to find his mother on Facebook. The woman, who now goes by Judy Lloyd, confirmed that she was his mother, but needed time.
The next contact came in the form of an emotional telephone call.
“There were some tears on both ends,” he said. “Not too many questions, more along the lines of a disbelief that this is really happening. Going that many years without a mother and then to be talking to her on the phone, it was pretty dramatic.”
Robertson learned that Lloyd lived in Georgia, that he has two brothers and a sister and that his mother wanted to visit him in San Francisco. She flew out with his younger sister, Lauren Chapman, and they toured Alcatraz, hiked among the Redwoods and spent time together like tourists.
“By the third or fourth day, I realized it was something special,” Robertson said. “We went from barely knowing one another to ‘I love you,’ hands around each other and hugging. We were joking and laughing more. By the end of the trip, we were already planning our next trip to go down and meet the brothers.”
Robertson met his brothers in Florida several months later. There was an immediate bond.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” he said.
His biological father
Robertson still maintains a good relationship with his adoptive father, Sam Robertson, a former college football coach, who resides in Louisiana.
He hasn’t asked a lot of questions yet about his biological father but learned he died some time ago. He expects he will learn more in the future.
His siblings have told Robertson that some of his quirks and interests remind them of their father.
A family reunited
Robertson and his family now talk on the telephone all the time.
There is a new joy in Robertson’s life and sometimes he catches himself walking around with a “silly smile plastered to his face.”
He still has many questions but knows there will be plenty of time for answers. For now, he’s grateful to have this “instant family” and know they have matching DNA.
“The story is so unbelievable.” he said. “It does fill a gap. It’s been such a wonderful thing. Even though I’m almost 50, it’s never too late to find that extended family.”