Story Feature

Sibling Roots

Brooke Hurley

August 15, 2023

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I’ve been asked many times over the years, what’s your background? But my mom was adopted so I was never able to fully answer that question.

In 2017, I decided to purchase one of those 23andMe kits to find out my ancestry. I didn’t realize it would also potentially connect me with relatives. But a couple months later, I was at a local pub with my husband when a message came through 23andMe from a person who said he was my mom’s half brother. He said he’d also found another half sister.

I remember putting my phone down. I couldn’t even tell my husband. I just needed a moment to process. After I told him, I called my brother and then my mom. She was thrilled to find out she had these siblings, especially as someone who grew up as an only child and never really had an extended family.

It turned out my mom’s biological father – my grandfather – was a player. He had worked on the railroad and gotten these girls pregnant but he had no intention of being around to raise the babies. The young women would give them up for adoption. We learned this from a fourth half-sibling we found who had actually lived with him.

We all connected really quickly. It was like we had known each other our whole lives. I especially bonded with the children of my mom’s siblings – my cousins – many of whom were just around my age and grew up without knowing much about their ancestry.

Some of us were in Canada and others were in California, and we decided to meet up. In 2019, we got together in Niagara Falls.

“It was a mid-July heat wave so I put on my Roots tank top. I just felt like it would make sense. These are my roots, these are our people.”

- Brooke Hurley

My cousins from California were like, I like your shirt but what’s Roots? So I took them to a Roots store in Niagara Falls.

Since then and as we’ve gotten to know one another, Roots has become a theme for us. At Christmas I send everyone Roots clothing.

When we met up last year in Vancouver, we went shopping in a Roots store. As a Canadian, it’s something that has always been around me, but now, having a connection to all this family, the meaning has changed. It’s much more about where I’m from.