By Heather Janssen

MANTECA (CBS13) – A Manteca woman wanted to know about who she is and where she comes from, so she took a 23andMe DNA test to find out. When she got the results earlier this summer, she learned she had family members only miles away.

Flipping through a photo album, Barbara Austin looks at pictures of people she never met until 2021.

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“If I would have just found them a little sooner,” Austin said. “You never what your DNA is going to say about you, or who you’re related to, you know?”

For years, Austin had wanted to take a DNA test to learn more about her ancestry. She was never close with her mom, and didn’t know much about her dad. Raised by her aunt, she was eager to see what she’d find when the results came in.

“I didn’t know who he was, and this was all I had to go on,” she said.

The kit connected her to cousins and extended family, hopeful to connect with her father. She was disheartened to learn her dad passed in 2014.

“You wait so long for somebody to figure out who they are,” Austin said. “Hear their voice, see their face, ask them questions. It never got to happen. Nobody knew I existed. Nobody knew anything.”

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An overwhelming search for her father, though, introduced her to half-siblings. Her sister Monique Navarette was one of them, shocked to learn she had more family.

“It was a surprise,” Navarette said. “I don’t know how to describe all the emotions and feelings that came with it.”

What was an added surprise – how close the family lived to each other. Mere miles away in Modesto, both Navarette and Austin unknowingly crossed paths earlier in life.

“We were in the same schools and we didn’t even know each other,” Navarette said.

Both are glad to know each other now. Austin and her family gathered for a potluck this month, where she was able to learn more about her dad’s story and given a photo album to cherish for years to come.

“I feel a sense of relief now,” Austin said. “This chapter is finally solved.”

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These distant family members have now turned friends, and Austin finally has some closure to a lifelong mystery.