Genealogy Site Reconnects Georgia Woman With Her Son After 71 Years

By Kelly Fisher

June 9, 2021

vintage family photo album and documents
Photo: Getty Images

Genealogy sites have the power to reconnect people with long-lost relatives, and a Georgia woman’s story was more than seven decades in the making.

Lifelong Ringgold woman Jean Stapp, 88, is about to meet her eldest child for the first time this weekend, 71 years after giving birth to him.

Stapp, then Jean Bell, was a preacher’s daughter who was only 16 when she got pregnant. It wasn’t an option to give birth at home. Under the guise of medical purposes, Stapp ventured to Seattle with her mom and her mom’s friend. There, she had her son and immediately came back home.

"My mother was so strict, and she didn't want anybody to look down on our family, so we had to go somewhere else to have the baby,” Stapp explained to Chattanooga-based WRCB-TV. She added, “after I had (the baby), I wasn't allowed to see him…People was there to take him. As soon as he was born, they took him."

Since then, she’s kept quiet.

But the long-kept family secret was unearthed when Stapp’s granddaughter, Donna Afman, submitted DNA to Ancestry.com. In March, she learned that her DNA matched with a close relative.

It turns out, that relative had been searching, too.

Patrick Sherman, of Washington, submitted his DNA to Ancestry in hopes of finding out who his birth mother was. His eldest daughter, Adawna Ruthart, told WRCB-TV that, over the course of about five years, their hope of finding answers had waned.

Then, they heard from Afman.

Sherman only knew that his mother was listed as “Jane Doe Bell” on his birth certificate and, remembering her grandmother’s maiden name, Afman connected the dots and approached her grandmother about it.

Seventy-one years later, Stapp finally told her family about her long-lost son. Though they’ve “met” over the phone, they plan to meet in person for the first time this weekend with Stapp’s other children and with Sherman’s family later this year.

Ruthart told WRCB-TV of her father: “I had not seen him that happy I don't think ever."

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