A Remarkable Reunion: Johannes Discovers Biological Family Through DNA Quest – MyHeritage October 6, 2019

I noticed this earlier today on MyHeritage – A Remarkable Reunion: Johannes Discovers Biological Family Through DNA Quest – MyHeritage October 6, 2019: https://blog.myheritage.com/2019/10/a-remarkable-reunion-johannes-discovers-biological-family-through-dna-quest/.

Johannes Nielsen grew up knowing that he’d been adopted as a baby from South Korea. But he knew nothing about his biological family — not even where to begin looking. Through DNA Quest — MyHeritage’s pro bono initiative to help adoptees reunite with their biological families — Johannes was finally able to piece together the extraordinary circumstances that separated him from his biological family. This past July 2nd, Johannes traveled to the United States to reunite with his biological mother and brother for the first time in 43 years.

A year ago, Johannes applied to take part in MyHeritage’s pro bono initiative, DNA Quest, which offers free DNA kits to adoptees searching for their biological families. MyHeritage sent Johannes a free kit, and he did the test.

A month later, his results came in and he discovered a DNA match — a 2nd or 3rd cousin who had a big family tree. He contacted her, and though she knew nothing about the story, she was excited and eager to help. She had a hunch that Johannes was related through her maternal grandfather’s side of the family. Johannes then started mapping out potential fathers on that side of the family tree.

There was one more clue: a doctor had told Johannes as a teenager that he believed Johannes was of mixed ethnicity. His MyHeritage ethnicity estimate confirmed this: it showed that he is half Korean and half west European. Based on this information, Johannes guessed that his father was an American soldier. “I knew that in the 1970s, the US navy still had a base in South Korea, so I started looking into the family tree for males who were 18-25 years old in 1974.”

Later, he received an even closer DNA match, and through that information he was able to narrow down a possible father in his family tree. Johannes googled his name and found an obituary of him from 2006. “In the obituary there was a name of a small town where he lived,” says Johannes. “I found a Facebook group of this town and asked the group members if someone knows this man. I went to sleep, and in the morning I got a reply from a woman who said, ‘I knew him, he was my uncle. Why do you ask?’”

At the beginning of the conversation, Johannes was very careful. “I didn’t want her to panic, so I asked general questions about him. My last question was if he served in the Vietnam War.”
“Yes he did,” the niece replied. “He was based in South Korea.” As the conversation continued, Johannes revealed that he thinks her uncle was his father. She mentioned that her father had told her that her uncle and aunt had left a child named John behind in Korea due to health issues. Johannes explained that he was born with a harelip (cleft palate) as well as tuberculosis as a baby. The niece couldn’t believe her ears.

“She was in shock,” says Johannes. “She told me that she once heard from her father that his brother once had a child who they believed suffered from tuberculosis in Korea.”
And then she gave him the most wonderful news of all: “Your mother is still alive and living in the USA.”

Then the unbelievable story of Johannes’s adoption unfolded. During the Vietnam War, Leonard was an American soldier stationed in South Korea. He met a young woman named Chong, and they fell in love. They eventually married in South Korea and had 2 children together. Their second child was Johannes.


When Johannes was 3 months old, Leonard was sent back to the United States and was allowed to take his wife and children with him, but when the authorities found out that Johannes was suffering from tuberculosis, they barred him from going with them until he had recovered. Leonard and Chong were forced to leave their son under the care of a family friend. They would then return as soon as possible to retrieve him when he was well.

Johannes’s parents wrote countless letters to the family friend but they remained unanswered. When Chong arrived back in Korea years later, Johannes was gone. Chong was told that he may have passed away from tuberculosis.

She went back to the U.S. and mourned the death of her son. 15 months after arriving in the U.S. for the first time, the couple had another child, and they remained happily married until Leonard’s death in 2006.


After her conversation with Johannes, Leonard’s niece decided to pay Chong a visit and give her the big news — the son she thought she lost was still alive.

“She told me that she couldn’t stop crying for a week,” says Johannes.

Thanks in part to MyHeritage DNA, Johannes was reunited with his mother and two brothers.


On July 2nd, Johannes flew to the United States to meet his family for the first time and celebrate Independence Day together.


The family is overjoyed to have found each other after all this time. After a lifetime of searching, Johannes couldn’t be more thrilled to have found his biological mother and brothers through DNA Quest and MyHeritage DNA. He treasures his biological family and is delighted to begin this new chapter with them.

Are you looking for biological family? Find out how you can discover new relatives with MyHeritage DNA!


About Wichita Genealogist

Originally from Gulfport, Mississippi. Live in Wichita, Kansas now. I suffer Bipolar I, ultra-ultra rapid cycling, mixed episodes. Blog on a variety of topics - genealogy, DNA, mental health, among others. Let's collaborateDealspotr.com
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10 Responses to A Remarkable Reunion: Johannes Discovers Biological Family Through DNA Quest – MyHeritage October 6, 2019

  1. SLIMJIM says:

    Wow what a story

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I do DNA presentations, I always warn you may find relatives you didn’t know about or find out one or both parents weren’t your parents. Not all new family members are as receptive to learning about the connection.

      Liked by 1 person

      • SLIMJIM says:

        Yeah…that’s good you say that

        Liked by 1 person

      • Most people don’t think about or believe their parents were angels who would never have had a child without telling the other children. A step half-cousin (basically a half-uncle’s daughter may have a sister that was adopted out – not sure if she knows about it.

        A friend’s brother paid for med school by selling to the sperm bank. My friend never thought when he tested that some of the brother’s 500+ contributions may have led to children. He was shocked when he found his first niece that was a result of his brother’s creative way to pay for med school. I doubt it will be his last niece or nephew. Plus, the promised anonymity to his brother from the lab has become meaningless.

        One guy in Europe is believed to have fathered around 1,000 children through doing the same thing.

        Liked by 1 person

      • SLIMJIM says:

        Wow what a story

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mom introduced me to genealogy indirectly. She mentioned her first daughter. She was not a genealogist by any means. It was only after I started doing genealogy that I learned her parents names. We visited her father’s grave when I was young. I was pretty young at the time. I wrongly assumed the woman buried next to him was Mom’s mother. Turns out it was his first wife who died of stomach cancer. Grandmother Cora is buried in her parents’ plot about 8 miles away as Grandfather Charles only purchased enough plots for him, his first wife, and his mother.

        Back to my original point, Mom mentioned a lot of things about Lorraine, her first born, but she got some things wrong, probably misremembering, but she also left out key things that meant it took 40+ years to find Lorraine. Starting with born 1947 in Macon, Georgia to husband #1. Husband #1 was correct in a technical way as the first marriage was annulled because Mom was too young which meant Husband #2 could be considered the first husband from a legal standpoint. Fast forward to 1950-1, Columbus, Georgia around 2012 or 2013, I found Lorraine after reading Grandmother Cora’s wedding announcement for Mom. A bit more research turned up a birth/death announcement for Dorothy Lorraine Strange who was born/died same day or stillborn March 1951 in Columbus. I haven’t had a chance to visit her grave, but hope to make it one day as I doubt any family member has been to her grave in a long time. I did a post about Lorraine, one earlier this year remembering her birthday and one in 2014.

        Liked by 1 person

      • SLIMJIM says:

        Wow a lot of family history here

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, there is. I don’t think Mom intended to turn me into a genealogist, but talking about Lorraine was something she did on rare occasions. My take-away has been don’t trust what people tell you as sometimes it’s misremembered and other times it’s not the truth. Same goes for official documents as they may have their own errors.

        Liked by 1 person

      • SLIMJIM says:

        That’s very true. Good sleuthing 🕵️‍♀️ brother

        Liked by 1 person

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