Twins Jerry Perry and Terry Atkinson came to Lebanon on Saturday to meet Diana Gibson, Tammy Heister and Mike Heister, three out of eight of their siblings, as well as their mother, Betty Sumner, whom they had never before met. A few other siblings live in Virginia and Florida and were unable to attend the family reunion but were also found.
Gibson signed up for ancestry.com in the interest of finding her father in 2007. Her mother, Betty Sumner, had many children and was able to keep only a handful to raise on her own. All together, Sumner had 10 children. Six were adopted out, and Sumner raised four.
Gibson started searching in 2007 in the interest of finding her biological father. Through a series of searches with ancestry.com and a site called findagrave.com, she found his gravesite in Ohio about a month after starting her search, but she still had family to find.
Ancestry.com allows users to search historical records related to genealogy for free, and also provides services such as building a family tree and DNA matching for additional fees. Gibson decided to do the DNA test about six months ago.
“I don’t know why I did it, because I had already found my father,” Gibson said. “I just had my twin brother and sister on my mind.”
Perry and Atkinson were two of the six children to be adopted out, and the only twins in the family. They were adopted together and raised together, and found Gibson through a DNA test that was gifted to Perry by his wife, Lisa.
“Our DNA test went off the charts,” Gibson said. “They said we were either mother and father or close first cousins, and I knew I wasn’t their mother or father.”
Perry sent an email to Gibson through ancestry.com, and when she responded a few weeks later, the siblings connected for the first time. Perry placed a three-way call between Gibson and Atkinson and, through the conversation, found out they were siblings. Perry then visited the courthouse to confirm it through documentation.
The paperwork confirmed what they already knew. Gibson, Atkinson and Perry, as well as Mike and Tammy Hiester, all have the same mother.
“They showed up yesterday, and I just froze in my tracks,” Gibson said. “It’s like it hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Perry shared the same sentiment.
“It’s overwhelming,” Perry said.
Gibson said although she has found her siblings from her mother, she is still working on finding all of her family on her father’s side. Perry and Atkinson also may have more family to find since they have a different father.
The family reunion Saturday included many hugs, smiles and revitalized connections. If all goes according to plan, the family hopes it certainly will not be the last reunion in their future.