Monday January 01, 2018

When this man took a DNA test, he discovered a 50-year secret

David Jantzik and his wife Joanne Padvaiskas, at home in Pointe-Claire, Quebec.

David Jantzik and his wife Joanne Padvaiskas, at home in Pointe-Claire, Quebec. (Shari Okeke/CBC)

Listen 21:28

By Shari Okeke

When David Jantzik's wife, Joanne Padvaiskas, suggested they both do an AncestryDNA test, David, who was adopted, thought it would be fun to learn about his heritage. 

He had no idea of the shock that awaited him.

David had always considered himself to be German and French, like his adoptive parents. When the results came in, he was intrigued to find out he is 70 percent British and 30 percent Irish.

But the real shock came moments later, when David noticed a tiny thumbnail photo on the screen. It was a picture of a woman who shared some of his DNA, a close relative.

"It said 'parent/child relationship, biological mother.' It just totally threw me for a loop." - David Jantzik

David's (adoptive) mother had passed away a few years earlier. After her death, his father, Luke, had given David his blessing to look for his birth family. But David had never tried.

David's DNA

David Jantzik and his father, Luke (Submitted by David Jantzik)

Now he found himself looking at a link that said 'send message' — an opportunity to connect immediately with his birth mother.

His wife urged him to click, but David needed a moment.

"Part of me was curious. The other part of me was [thinking], 'What if I find someone who doesn't want to be found?'," he recalls.

"I figured, I've had this hole in the middle of me for so long, I'm just used to it." - David Jantzik

But after a few minutes, David did decide to send a message.

David's DNA

David Jantzik and his birth mother, Catherine Murrell-Sandness, at David's 50th birthday celebration in Montreal. (Shari Okeke/CBC)

Meanwhile, in Halifax, Catherine Murrell-Sandness was getting ready for bed when an email arrived.

She had taken the AncestryDNA test months earlier, hoping she might one day find the son she had given up for adoption. But nothing could prepare her for that moment.

"It was just like somebody hit me on the head. My heart just jumped," Catherine said.

Within minutes, the two were exchanging emails.

Then came another surprise for David. He had a brother, Bob.

"I found out I have a brother and he's two years older than me, and that was just the greatest feeling in the world." - David Jantzik
David's DNA

David Jantzik and his brother Bob Bergeron, meeting for the first time at Halifax airport. (Submitted by David Jantzik)

Within a week, Joanne had booked herself and David on a flight to Halifax.

"I knew right out of the gate I had to take him to them and get them together to see what this connection was and to see how strong it could be," Joanne said.

Nerves were frayed as David and Joanne made their way through the Halifax airport and down the escalator to where Catherine and Bob were waiting.

David's DNA

David and his brother Bob at Halifax airport. (Submitted by David Jantzik)

"I got to touch my brother for the first time ever, I gave him a big hug and then I gave Catherine a hug," David said.

It was surreal, especially for Catherine.

"I'm watching those two boys hug and I can't even say how good that was."  - Catherine Murrell-Sandness
David's DNA

David Jantzik (far right) and his newly discovered family, including (from left) his brother Bob Bergeron, his cousin SanDee Leclerc-Vandal, his birth mother, Catherine Murrell-Sandness and her husband Rudy Sandness. (Submitted by David Jantzik)

But David needed more than a hug. He needed answers. Why had Catherine given him up?

She explained she had given birth to Bob when she was 15, and then David at 17.

"I thought, 'How can I bring somebody into this mess?'" Catherine said. "I just thought that [David] deserved an awful lot better."

Several months after the adoption, Catherine changed her mind, but was told it was too late.

Now, 50 years later, David has some answers. "I told her, 'I was mad at you growing up, but I'm not mad at you anymore.'"

"I feel like I became complete. I had no more questions. I had no more worry," he said.

To hear David's full story, listen to the documentary "David's DNA" by clicking on the "Listen" link above.

Shari Okeke - CBC Montreal

About the Producer

Shari Okeke shares stories about the people she meets in and around Montreal on the morning show, Daybreak, on CBC Radio. Born and raised in Montreal, Shari started her career as a reporter at The London Free Press before joining CBC Television in Toronto. She subsequently moved back to Montreal, and since then her work has aired nationally and locally on CBC radio and TV.

Shari loves baking with her two daughters but refuses to share her famous brownie recipe! She also loves spending time in Prince Edward County, a very special place for her for more than three decades, full of family memories.

You can follow her on Twitter @ShariOkeke