A Michigan woman said she has reconnected with her biological father after they were separated two decades ago, and the reunion wouldn’t have happened without the help of strangers on Facebook.
Jordyn O’Neil, a resident of Novi, Michigan, told “Good Morning America” she and Brian Ahern of Lincoln Park, Michigan, talked over the phone first and then met in person recently after 25 years. Both said they knew they were each other’s family almost immediately.
“I got out of the car and I look at him and I'm like, ‘Wow, I look like him.’ Yeah, he looks like me, that's for sure,” O’Neil recalled. “I think we both just kind of sat there looking at each other, like, soaking it in.”
O’Neil, who was born in Michigan, said she grew up in Athens, Alabama with her maternal grandmother, Marilyn O’Neil, and her husband Joey Clem, after her mom, Denise O’Neil dropped her off one day and didn’t return.
“My mother had taken me to Texas when I was around eight months old and so when I was about a year old, she took me to my grandmother's in Alabama, dropped me off and said, ‘I'm done being a parent. Here she is.’ So that's when my grandmother and her husband went through full adoption with me,” O’Neil said.
The 25-year-old said her mom died when she was a child and it wasn’t until April 2020, after her maternal grandmother also died, that she wanted to search for her biological dad.
“After she passed away, I started looking for family members or anybody that would want to know that she had passed,” O’Neil said. “She was everything to me and so after losing her, [it] was really hard. So, I wanted to know who else I had left, as far as my father and maybe his side of the family, thinking, I could lean on them for support and just having them back in my life.”
But it wouldn’t be an easy search – O’Neil didn’t even know her biological father’s name or knew where he would be.
“After searching and searching and searching, I just kept hitting dead ends because I didn't have any information on him. You know, you can't really find someone if you don't know who you're looking for,” O’Neil said.
It wasn’t until O’Neil said her boyfriend, who coincidentally is also named Brian, encouraged her to get an Ancestry DNA kit in March, that her search took a different turn. In order to “build” her family tree, she needed some more information so she called her great-aunt Pam, Marilyn O’Neil’s sister, who finally shared her biological dad’s name with her and located a couple of old photos of her parents for her.
O’Neil said she shared the snippets of information and the photos in local Michigan Facebook groups and in one group, “Downriver and Friends,” she hit the jackpot.
“[The Facebook post] blew up. So many people knew him. They were messaging me with his phone number, his address. Somebody went and knocked on his door to tell him about the post. Like, it was getting crazy,” O’Neil said.
“I was shaking, like, I was nervous. I wanted to throw up. I had so many emotions going through my head like, ‘Oh, my God, this is finally it. Like, I have found him.’ And it was too late at night for me to reach out to him, but I called him the next morning,” she continued.
Ahern, 65, told “GMA” he never stopped praying or talking about reuniting with his only daughter one day. He said he had told his friends about her and even told his landlord about wanting to find his daughter.
So, when his phone started ringing constantly and his friends stopped by unexpectedly one day in March, the construction worker said he wasn’t shocked and instead, felt excited.
“I didn't have any doubts because I know all those guys that came over my house, all my construction buddies. My phone kept ringing off the hook and it was quite an interesting day that day,” Ahern recalled.
“We shared pictures of the delivery room and stuff like that, so I knew it was her,” he continued.
Ahern said he last saw his daughter in early 1998, about eight months after she was born in July 1997.
“I had her for the first eight months and then her mother was involved with that eight months too, don't get me wrong. Then her mother just came, I just got [done] changing her diapers, her mother came and just grabbed her and said, ‘I'm moving to Texas.’ And that's the last time I saw her,” Ahern recalled.
“I talked to her a couple of times, maybe within the first year that she said she’d keep in touch and then she just totally lost all contact with me. Her number got changed. I couldn't get ahold of her and then this went on for this long and I've always thought about Jordyn. I prayed to have her back in my life,” he added.
Now, Ahern said he’s determined to “make up” for lost time and build a relationship with O’Neil and her son, a three-month-old named Asher.
“I'm gonna be with her as much as I can be,” he said.
The father-daughter duo say they now talk everyday on the phone.
“Being able to pick up the phone and be like, ‘Hey, Dad,’ it's surreal,” O’Neil said. “It leaves me speechless even still. I still just can't believe it.”
Ahern said reuniting with O’Neil feels like a “gift from God” and O’Neil said it’s “absolutely amazing” and that she’s grateful for everyone, including the strangers on Facebook who helped reunite them.
“Those people didn't have to share anything with me,” she said. “They don't have to be loving and supportive, but they have been and my heart really just goes out to those people. It's been an amazing journey and I couldn't be more thankful.”
O’Neil said she is expecting the results of a DNA test to confirm her biological relationship to Ahern in early May.