Massachusetts pastor Toni DiPina was abandoned as a 9-month-old in a vacant St. Louis lot in 1963. Her name was chosen by a social worker and she was assigned a birthday based on her size. Placed in foster care, she went through eight homes and 16 social workers by age 18.
More than 50 years later, an Ancestry DNA kit blessed by a congregational prayer helped DiPina find her cousin, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
"That test allowed DiPina to arrive in St. Louis and hug a close blood relative for the first time, unleashing a complex mix of emotions and still more questions about how she ended up on that blanket alone that day in 1963," journalist Erin Heffernan wrote in the article.
DiPina, now a grandmother and ordained minister in Northbridge, Massachusetts, tried posting on social media, telling her story to reporters and hiring a private detective before trying the DNA kit.
The DNA results, processed in the Ancestry.com database of more than 7 million people, led her to her first cousin, Rosetta Awkard, who lives in Ohio. They met at the St. Louis Lambert International Airport about a month ago.
"We're three years apart and I know that if we had known each other when we were kids, we would have been friends," DiPina said of the meeting. "So there's a lot of emotions. I'm elated but I've also had to mourn all the times we could have had."
DiPina continues to search for her parents and the story behind her abandonment. She also hopes to meet more family members, perhaps even find a sibling.
"I'm not angry at the mother or father who left me," DiPina told Heffernan. "I know they must have had their reasons, but I want to hear that story."
Read the entire article over at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.