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'We are family.' - Stratford woman meets siblings she never knew about thanks to DNA test

A Stratford woman has a lot to be thankful for this holiday -- family she never knew about.

News 12 Staff

Nov 25, 2020, 11:12 PM

Updated 1,301 days ago


A Stratford woman has a lot to be thankful for this holiday -- family she never knew about.
Carina Krischlunas-Ball, 53, met her half-sister and half-brother for the first time this fall in Connecticut. Krischlunas-Ball, John Carlsson and Tammy Kelley were all born to different single mothers in Albany, New York -- within months of each other. For more than 50 years, none had any idea the others existed.
Krischlunas-Ball was born April 4, 1967 and put up for adoption immediately. "The only thing I knew was that my mother was 16 and my father was 18 at the time," she says.
Carlsson, who now lives in Washington, D.C., came into the world June 22, 1967. He grew up as an only child raised by his biological mother and says they moved around a lot.
Kelley was born Aug. 10, 1967. A couple from upstate New York adopted her at the age of 3. She's from San Diego, California.
Each of them say their lives have had ups and downs, often lacking a foundation of family.
"I was actually emancipated at 16, left home, finished high school, went on to college," says Krischlunas-Ball.
"I don't know if I ever stopped feeling like I didn't fit in and wondering and kind of longing and looking for something that was missing," adds Kelley.
So in 2017, as Kelly neared her 50th birthday, she got a 23andMe DNA test.
"It sat on my desk for many months before I finally had the courage to do it," she tells News 12.
There were no life-changing revelations until the following year. That's when Krishclunas-Ball, also curious about her family history, submitted a sample.
"I discovered I had a half-sister, and it was the coolest thing!" she says. "So we eased into a conversation--first, you know, once a week and then more."
"We wanted to exchange pictures right away. And the minute I got her picture there was not an ounce of doubt that she was my sister," says Kelley. "And now my sister has become my best friend."
The two have spoken daily for more than two years and planned to finally meet this year. Then a couple months before the reunion the size of it grew with an email from 23andMe.
"I really couldn't believe what I saw. It said half-brother," explains Kelley.
Carlsson says he originally tried 23andme to find out about his health for his kids. He didn't know anything about his father's history and his mother was adopted, which meant he was in the dark about pre-existing conditions. "I spit in a cup and then lo and behold, I had two half-sisters."
The three of them immediately got on the phone together where Krischlunas-Ball recalls an instant connection. It was a feeling that solidified when they were finally face to face. Krischlunas-Ball and Kelley met first at Bradley International Airport.
"The minute I saw her--for me, the emotions just flooded," says Kelley.
"It was overwhelming to finally meet someone who looked like me, who got me, was as creative as me," explains Krischlunas-Ball.
Carlsson joined them in Fairfield County a day later.
"It was as if we'd known each other forever. The conversation has never broken. It's never been awkward. We're already, like normal sibs do, busting each others' chops," Krischlunas-Ball says.
"To be as similar as the three of us are, is crazy," Kelley tells News 12.
"We all do some level of art, so we have artistic ability. I think we don't mind being eccentric," adds Carlsson.
Another commonality is their father. Together they've figured out he was a traveling teenage musician named Louie Defano.
"A drummer in a band maybe from the Bronx, New York. He was a busy man in 1966," says Carlsson with a smile.
"You know, free love was free love, I guess!" laughs Kelley.
They're hoping to one day find their father and continue to piece together the incomplete puzzles of their past. Krishclunas-Ball, Carlsson, and Kelley were disconnected for over five decades. Now they're bonded by more than just biology.
"We are family, and we'll try to be there and support each other," Carlsson says.
"I guess I've never really known what it was like to now feel so much more complete," Kelley tells News 12.
"At a time when things are so strained and so challenging for most, to find this nugget of family and peace means everything to me," adds Krischlunas-Ball.

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