Weird News Raised an only child, Southgate woman, 92, learns she has 19 half siblings
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Adopted as a baby, 92-year-old Mariann Evelyn Jeffery of Southgate grew up as an only child.
Turns out, her family is a lot bigger than she knew. Jeffery recently learned she has 19 half-siblings, thanks to the help of a self-proclaimed family historian and ancestry.com.
Jeffery spent her entire life in metro Detroit, married to her husband of 74 years and raising a family, never knowing until recently that she had a bunch of half-brothers and sisters.
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Jeffery was born in Detroit on Aug. 16, 1927, to Margaret Karns and Thomas Frank Dumas. Her mother was 15 and her father was 18.
After Jeffery was adopted out as an infant, her biological father and mother went their separate ways, eventually married other people (both of them twice) and had children — lots of children. Jeffery's biological mother eventually became Margaret Corwin, and had 11 other children, nine of them Corwins. Her natural father married twice and had eight other children.
So emotions were high at the Detroit Marriott in Livonia on Oct. 20 when the Dumases and Corwins came together to help Mariann Jeffery celebrate her newfound extended families. Old family photos and an organized family tree hung on the walls of the Michigan Conference Room.
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The reunion came together thanks to 48-year-old Robert Dumas of Commerce Township, who about a half a year ago sat at a desk with his computer and started to dissect his family roots on ancestry.com. Dumas always had an interest in tracking his relatives. In the past, he's even helped other families find their long-lost members.
"I've always been the family historian," he said.
After helping a handful of families — even helping a woman find her biological mom — he decided to put his skills to the test and figure out his own history.
Through extensive research and lots of DNA testing, Dumas learned that Mariann Jeffery is his aunt. He began to connect the dots, leading him to discover that not only did she have eight half-brothers and sisters among the Dumases, she had another 11 from her biological mother. All of them lived in metro Detroit.
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"He is so crazy, in a good way, about ancestry.com," said Dumas' 28-year-old daughter, Alyssa Young. "He has found so many of our family members through that and has actually helped several other families find their relatives, as well."
According to a report by MIT Technology Review, "the number of people who have had their DNA analyzed with direct-to-consumer genetic genealogy tests more than doubled during 2017, and now exceeds 12 million."
MIT Technology Review says nearly 1 in 25 Americans have access to personal genetic data.
Walking into the Marriott Michigan Conference Room last month, members of each family wore different colored name tags to differentiate which side they were from. The Dumas' family wore blue; the Corwins red.
Jeffery's biological father, Robert Dumas' grandfather, was in the Merchant Marines from 1926-1930. He went on to marry twice and have 8 children, 4 of them still living, including Robert Dumas's father and his two aunts and uncle.
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On the other side, Jeffery's biological mother had 2 children with her first husband and nine with her second husband, who was a Dumas. Seven of the children, all half-siblings to Jeffery, are still living.
Jeffery's adoptive parents were Thomas and Mildred Hanlon.
"Her adopted parents turned out to be a loving family, (with) a little bit of Detroit auto history," Robert Dumas said.
Her adopted father was one of three men to drive around the world in a Huppmobile from 1910-1912. Their story is told in a book titled, "Three Men in a Hupp: Around the World by Automobile, 1910-1912" by James A. Ward.
Jeffery says she was shocked to find out she has 19 brothers and sisters. She says the meeting reminded her of the parties she used to put on with her husband, Don Jeffery, when he worked for the National Bank of Detroit.
"This is just fun ... it's just absolutely amazing, and they (Jeffery's relatives) are all good looking. Look at them," Jeffery said, at the October reunion.
Her husband is the author of "Don't Throw the Empty Bottles in the Trash: A History of Michigan Banking."
Mariann's half-brother, 75-year-old Robert Corwin, says he was shocked to learn that he has another sister.
"I haven't been this emotional and surprised since my daughter was born. This is truly amazing to find out after eons that you have a living sibling," he said, with tears in his eyes.
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