CANADA Brantford, Ontario, woman discovers 4 sisters after taking DNA...

Brantford, Ontario, woman discovers 4 sisters after taking DNA ancestry test

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Carly McMaster (left) from Brantford, Ontario, and Riley Hall, based in the US, found each other through Ancestry.com. Through DNA analysis, they found out that they had the same biological father. (Presented by Carly McMaster)

Carly McMaster was looking for more information about the family from her father’s side when she submitted her DNA to Ancestry.com in 2019.

A longtime resident of Brantford, Ontario, whose father had passed away a few years earlier, said that in an attempt to learn more about her family’s health history, a test to determine her genetic information linked her to the DNA of a Minnesota woman named Riley. Hall.

After connecting via Ancestry.com, Hall and McMaster started talking in April 2019, including how they might be connected.

This is how McMaster learned that they had a common biological father, whom they had never met.

“I was definitely shocked because I had no idea, and really, if I hadn’t done Ancestry, I probably wouldn’t have known,” McMaster, 28, said.

A little girl in a blue hat smiles at the camera.  The photo is a scan of a physical copy and looks like it was taken in the 90s.

Hall, shown here as a child, always felt like she looked different from the rest of her family as a child. Now that she’s discovered McMaster, the two sisters say they see a similarity in their faces. (Presented by Riley Hall)

Hall, 26, said she too was in shock but always felt something was wrong — she felt like she looked different than other members of her family and suspected her father might not be her biological father.

Hall’s mother told her that she was conceived by sperm donation a year before she contacted McMaster.

Hall said her mother always planned to break the news to her eventually, but the timing never seemed right. She said her mother finally told her the truth after Hall told her she planned to take the Ancestry.com test.

“Not everyone has to tell their child that they are from a sperm donor, so you can’t prepare for that,” Hall said.

“I was happy that she told me, but maybe a little upset about the way she did it and that she waited so long.”

The little girl smiles at the camera with her arms wide open.  The photo is a scan of a physical copy and appears to have been taken in the 90s.

McMaster, shown in a baby photo, says she would never have known she was conceived from a sperm donation if she hadn’t submitted her DNA to Ancestry.com. (Presented by Carly McMaster)

Hall said that when she approached McMaster, she did not say directly that they were half-sisters because she wanted to be gentle when breaking the news.

McMaster said that once she and Hall came to the conclusion that they were sisters, the Brantford resident pulled away because she thought Hall was playing a prank on her.

“Now that I think about it, I probably had a little doubt about my identity, but back then it was more like, ‘Push that unknown thing away. I don’t want to deal with it,” McMaster said.

Ten months after Hall and McMaster first came into contact with each other, McMaster said she sat down with her mom and they finally talked about it.

McMaster said her mother told her that she was conceived by sperm donation and the father who raised her was not her biological father.

McMaster quoted her mother as saying, “It was very taboo then, so we didn’t know how to tell you.”

Although McMaster was initially unsure how to process this discovery, “I’m definitely excited about it now because I have Riley.”

Donor

Both McMaster and Hall are in contact with Grant, a Toronto resident who they never knew existed, but who they learn is their biological father.

In the early 1990s, Grant was leaving the Canadian Blood Service, where he was a regular platelet donor, when he noticed an advertisement.

“They had an advertisement for infertility donors in the elevator of the clinic,” Grant said in an interview with CBC Hamilton. According to him, he signed up for sperm donation for the same reason he signed up for blood – because he wanted to help. He did not want his full name to be used for privacy reasons.

Grant said he gave donations twice a week for almost three years, except for Christmas. According to him, each donation produced about four vials.

Grant, now in his late 50s, said he was trying to figure out how many people he might be genetically related to through his donated sperm. He suggests that there may be several hundred of them, but the exact number is unknown.

Hall said her mother went through a full year of treatment before becoming pregnant.

“Because my mom is older, she went to the clinic every month, and she did it 12 times…once a month for a whole year, and at the 13th month they’re like, ‘Oh, it worked. .'”

How Grant’s donor sperm ended up in Minnesota is unclear, but he suggests it was due to his longevity and success as a donor.

Documents showing the appearance and vision check of Hall's sperm donor.

The documents that Hall’s family received when choosing a man named Grant as a donor. At that time, he was identified only by the number of the donor. (Presented by Riley Hall)

“If you are a donor long enough and you have successful pregnancies, they will have to change geography,” he said.

Grant said he was told that for every five successful pregnancies in a given geographic area, the sample would move. (Grant said the bank never specified the exact size of the area.)

Fertility clinics use this approach to keep the area from being overpopulated with children who are genetically related.

Grant said that in the two years between McMaster’s and Hall’s births, the donations likely worked and had to be moved further west.

Grant said that when he donated in the 1990s, he had no idea that technology would advance enough that he could be found using online DNA tests. He said he almost forgot he was ever a sperm donor, as decades passed before he was approached by a young woman, not by McMaster or Hall.

Meeting young women conceived by donors was a revelation for Grant.

“For 30 years you’ve just wondered about it and you know, all of a sudden you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’ve got a kid that’s grown up. What does this child look like? ? You know, nature is against nurture,” he said.

From strangers to sisters

When McMaster hugged her sister in the US, they bonded. At first, they exchanged long phone calls, and Hall said that they still text each other a lot on all social networks.

But their relationship deepened last fall, about a year after they first discovered each other, when Hall traveled to Ontario and stayed with McMaster in Brantford for 10 days.

“When we were together, it seemed so normal,” McMaster said.

“We have a lot of catching up to do,” Hall said.

Close-up of two identical tattoos of two butterflies.  On the left is a woman's tattoo behind her ear, on the left is a similar tattoo with more detail on the inside of a woman's wrist.

McMaster and Hall got butterfly tattoos during Hall’s visit to Ontario last fall to signify their sisterly relationship. (Presented by Carly McMaster)

While in Ontario, Hall met the entire McMaster family and her friends. The two even got matching butterfly tattoos as a symbol of their sisterhood.

Hall plans to return to Ontario this August for an even bigger reunion.

Grant said that at the end of the summer McMaster, Hall, himself and his 17-year-old son would meet and spend the weekend together in Toronto.

“They’re just going to see what happens,” he said.

3 other siblings

There is more to the history of McMaster Hall.

Through DNA websites, they found other relatives.

“We found three more siblings, so there are five of us for now,” McMaster said.

All other siblings are women born in the mid-1990s in Canada. All three live in Western Canada, mostly in British Columbia.

McMaster and Hall said that when they found a potential sibling, they would work together to put together a message that didn’t explicitly mention how they might be related to see if the women knew.

“We don’t want to scare or upset anyone if they don’t know,” Hall said.

“Of course, I never want to ruin someone’s life,” McMaster said.

“Or their relationship with their parents,” Hall added.

Podcast tells the story of stepsisters

Since they both had to tell their stories many times to different people, McMaster and Hall came up with the idea for a podcast they call Our dad is a donor.

A logo with the text

McMaster and Hall’s ‘Our Donor Dad’ podcast explores their story, as well as discussing the stories of other sperm donors. The couple hope to release their first episode on Spotify and Apple Music this August. (Presented by Carly McMaster)

The couple plans to retell their own story, and then expand and discuss other stories of people who were conceived with donated sperm and discovered the truth.

Grant said he was proud that McMaster and Hall started the podcast because it can help others in similar situations.

“Hearing someone else’s story makes us feel better because we don’t feel alone,” he said.

The podcast will be released in August and will be available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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