This holiday season, the word “family” has a deeper meaning for the Spivey family.
Modern DNA databases led Eric Spivey, a 1991 Samford graduate, to find his birth parents after decades of wondering and searching. Eric Spivey’s daughter and Samford senior, Sarah Margaret Spivey, reflected on her father’s DNA discovery that ultimately connected him with his birth mother.
The past two years for the Spivey family have been filled with surprising connections and long-awaited reunions. Eric Spivey’s journey to meeting his birth mother began two Christmases ago when his adoptive mother gave him an ancestry DNA kit. This simple test connected him to a distant relative and professional genealogist named Sharon.
“(Sharon) was able to determine from his DNA where he fell in her family tree and determined who his dad was,” Sarah Margaret Spivey said.
After Eric Spivey connected with Sharon and determined details about one side of his birth family, he turned to the ancestry.com database to uncover more information. From this, Eric Spivey discovered a distant relative from his birth-mother’s side of the family, resulting in an unanticipated surprise. Three weeks after this find, a woman reached out to Eric Spivey via email, who he soon realized was his birth mother.
“I still get chills reading the message,” Sarah Margaret Spivey said.
In the span of just two years, Eric Spivey and his birth mother were connected for the first time in decades. In August, the two began developing a new relationship through daily email correspondences.
“No one ever knew,” Sarah Margaret Spivey said, regarding the birth mother’s story. “It was a secret that she had kept for so long. So all of the sudden when she found him, she started telling people. She told her children, and told her friends, her pastor… which I think was a joyous moment for her.”
Beyond the emails, Eric Spivey and his birth mother decided to take the next step and meet in person. In November, his birth mother travelled down to Georgia along with her children
to reunite with the Spivey family. Similar traits were discovered, baby pictures shared and a new sense of family created.
“To determine that is really crazy, just to figure out where your genes come from and how that’s passed down when you’ve never been able to do that before,” Sarah Margaret Spivey said in describing this emotional experience.
Through the power of science, technology, and faith, this unlikely reunion was made possible. Eric Spivey’s search and discovery of his ancestry is a powerful story that is only beginning.
“Throughout the whole thing it just proves to me that there is a God and that there is a higher being orchestrating all of this,” Sarah Margaret said.
Witnessing her father undergo this search and discovery process has deeply affected Sarah Margaret Spivey and her understanding of what family truly means. She encourages peers to utilize what modern DNA databases can do to uncover familial links.
“This whole process has really shown me the importance of heritage and legacy and family genealogy and how cool that can be,” Sarah Margaret Spivey said.
Whether it is describing a biological or adoptive connection, or a school or church setting, the word “family” has a beautiful range of meanings.
“We are learning what it means to really be a family with people that share your DNA,” Sarah Margaret Spivey said.
Carol is a staff writer from Huntsville, Alabama. She is a junior English and Religion double major.