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Posted: March 05, 2018

Website’s DNA test helps woman abandoned as an infant find long-lost family members

FILE PHOTO: A digital representation of the human genome.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
FILE PHOTO: A digital representation of the human genome.

By Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

An online DNA kit is starting to help a woman piece together her past and has reunited her with long-lost family members.

Toni DiPina was 9 months old when someone left her abandoned in a St. Louis vacant lot in May 1963, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

For years, she has tried to find out her past. She didn’t even know her real birthday, or her birth name. She was named Antoinette Baker by a social worker and doctors gave her a birthday based on her size. 

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She lived in eight foster homes by the time she reached 18 and had 16 different social workers.

The Post-Dispatch reported that, some of those foster homes were difficult. One woman was blind and wouldn’t leave her chair or even her home. One of her foster brothers died because of malnourishment. DiPina got though it all thanks to her church. She also was placed in a home where she was physically and sexually abused for five months. 

After the horrors she endured in the foster system, once she was an adult she was given a chance to move to Massachusetts and be a nanny for five boys. She would also be able to take college classes. She ended up getting her degree, getting married, having children and eventually followed her calling and became a pastor, The Post-Dispatch reported.

DiPina decided to take an online DNA test, urged by a professor she met at seminary.

Eventually, her test came up with a link to that of Ryne Awkard. DiPina’s test said he was a second cousin. Eventually his mother Rosetta took the DNA test. It came back that she and DiPina are first cousins, The Post-Dispatch reported.

They recently met face-to-face at St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

As they share family, as well as their own, stories, they’re trying to figure out which of Awkard’s aunts or uncles was DiPina’s parent and are hoping more members of Awkard’s family will take the test to get the answer they want to find.

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“I keep thinking that if my mom had known there is no way this would have happened,” Awkard told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “We would have taken her in, no question. She didn’t have to go through any of that. And to know that someone in my own family did this -- I have a lot of anger.”

Click here to read more about DiPina’s and Awkard’s reunion and their stories.


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