FAIRMONT — A 73-year-old Fairmont woman was thankful for family more so than ever this Thanksgiving.
With the help of Ancestry.com, a site that operates a network of genealogical, historical records and genetic genealogy websites to help people find their roots, Claudia Dent, who was given up at birth, spent the holiday with with her five blood siblings. She met them for the first time just three weeks ago.
“I’ve always had a yearning to find them,” Dent said.
On Wednesday, Dent made the more than 400-mile trip from Fairmont to Maryville, Tennessee, where she was born, and where her five older siblings, sisters Billy, Barbara, Eva and Wanda; and brother, Bobby, now live.
Dent was born Aug. 8, 1946, at a hospital in Maryville.
“I was left in the hospital, and I’ve always wondered who my family was,” she said. “I used to wonder about why my mother had five other kids and why in the world would she give me up.
“I’ve wet more pillow cases than pillow cases itself crying about not knowing where I came from.”
Dent was adopted twice. First, right out of the hospital. When her first set of parents were unable to care for Dent, she was adopted again by her first adoptive mother’s sister Amma and her husband, Greg Hayes, from the Barnesville Community southeast of Fairmont.
“I use to tell my children I was a bad little girl cause it took three mamas and daddies to get me settled,” Dent said jokingly.
All of her life Dent prayed, asking God why her mother gave her up.
“When I got older He revealed it was OK. She did it for my good,” Dent said.
She tried for years to find her family, but faced many obstacles.
“It was like brick walls would come up when I had been trying to find out,” Dent said. “I thought it must not be meant for me to find out.”
It was while visiting a friend with whom she went to school, Clifton Sutton, that Dent got a renewed energy to search for her family. When traveling to Lumberton to run, she had the urge to visit the old friend, Dent said. Sutton shared that he had been told his whole life that they were first cousins.
“I said that ‘you opened another door into this whole scenario,”’ Dent said.
Sutton encouraged Dent to get a DNA kit from Ancestry.com. The results showed they were not related, and she did not get any leads on other family, Dent said. What Dent did not know was that 400 miles away, her nephew Jeff Owens, was compiling his own family tree on Ancestry.com, and Dent entered her DNA test results on the website. A hit on his account was created.
Dent said her nephew’s mother-in-law, Brenda McQueary, who has been managing his Ancestry family tree, contacted her son through Facebook in a bid to find Dent. Her grandson told her that a woman asked, “Is Claudia Dent your mother and by any chance is she adopted?”
“He said ‘Mama this woman said she’s found your sister,’ so I rushed over to his house,” Dent said. “I was just overwhelmed.”
Dent spoke with McQueary, who told her she fell onto Owens’ family tree under a category that meant more than a cousin. Jeff Owens didn’t know a Claudia Dent, but was told by his mother and aunts and uncle that they had a sister named Claudia Mae who was given away at birth.
About three weeks ago, McQueary spoke with her sister, Barbara Owens, for the first time.
“When I said ‘hello’ she just hollered out ‘Are you Claudia Mae?’” Dent said. “She said ‘You have answered my prayers,’ and I said, ‘You have been praying and I have been praying and God answered our prayers.’
“It was the warmest welcome.”
Soon after the phone call Dent made the trip to Maryville and met her brother and two of her sisters for the first time. She was excited on Wednesday to meet the others for Thanksgiving.
Dent was told that her mother was Prudent Goforth. She died just four years ago at the age of 93. But she made peace with her mother after learning the reason she was given up, Dent said.
Dent believes that everything happens for a reason. She said that although she questioned most of her life why she was the only child out six given up, the decision by her parents has made her the caring woman she is today.
Dent’s dream has always been to open up a home in Robeson County and fill it with children “who never heard the word love.” Although she never opened that orphanage, Dent has followed into her adoptive parents’ footsteps. She recently adopted a 10-year-old girl who lost both of her parents.
”Children mean so much for me,” Dent said. “I have a yearning for children and I think that’s the reason. I’ve always said that’s the reason.
“The reason I am the person I am is because they (her adoptive parents) raised me. We didn’t have riches, but we had love.”
Although she found her family, Dent is learning more of her history. She is currently in the process of getting a court order to unseal her birth certificate. She also plans to build her own family tree on Ancestry.com.
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or 910-416-5865.