Ancestry website helps Suntree woman find long-lost half-sisters


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Janet Johns, 79, center, is joined by her new 68-year-old twin half-sisters Janet Jean Neumiller, left, and Janis Joan Mork in Johns’ Suntree home.

Ernest Arico

The great English writer Geoffrey Chaucer is the first person to have put the proverb “better late than never” into print in “The Yeoman's Prologue and Tale, Canterbury Tales,” around 1836.

And while this proverb is often expressed with a degree of sarcasm, apparently saying or doing something positive or do something later than expected is better than not at all.

That might be the case for 79-year-old Janet Johns of Suntree, who recently found out she had twin half-sisters — siblings she hadn’t seen or known to have existed for more than 65 years.

Johns found out about her 68-year-old twin half-sisters — Janet Jean Neumiller and Janis Joan Mork — through the website AncestryDNA.com.

According to the company’s website, AncestryDNA is a cutting edge DNA testing service that utilizes some of the latest testing technology to revolutionize the way you discover your family history.

The service combines advanced DNA science with the world's largest online family history resource to predict your genetic ethnicity and help you find new family connections. It maps ethnicity going back multiple generations and provides insight into such possibilities as: what region of Europe are my ancestors from, or am I likely to have East Asian heritage?

In addition, AncestryDNA also can help identify relationships with unknown relatives through a dynamic list of DNA matches.

It all begin in December 2018 when Johns’ adopted daughter, Marnee, purchased and then ran the AncestryDNA program for Johns’ youngest biological daughter, Lainie.

“Marnee was a very curious person because she wanted to find out about her birth parents,” Johns said.

Marnee then found a link to one of Johns’ twin half-sisters, Janis Joan Mork in North Dakota. Marnee then got her mailing address and wrote her a letter saying: “I think my adopted mom’s mother is related to your mother.”

Janet Johns was born and later adopted in Fargo, North Dakota.

“I was born in 1940 and you have to remember things were a lot different back then,” Johns said. “My mother was 22 and my father was 25. They were not married when she had me so she thought it would be best to put me up for adoption.”

Janet Johns and her twin half-sisters shared the same biological mother, Evelyn Jessie, who died in 2010.

Evelyn Jessie married in 1941 and had twin girls in 1951. Janis Joan was born 4 minutes earlier than her sister, Janet Jean. Today, the twin sisters reside in Jamestown and Bismarck, North Dakota, respectively.

“Our mother never told us we had a half-sister, Janis Joan said. “I guess she didn’t want us to know what happened to her. She (Evelyn) was very tip-lipped about her past.”

“We were a little apprehensive,” Janet Jean said. ”We were very close to our mom (Evelyn). Why  wouldn’t she tell us about our half-sister? How can this be?”

After an exchange of emails and a check of adoption records in North Dakota, Janet Johns and her half-sisters finally realized they were related.

“I was shocked, surprised and delighted,” Johns said. “I never thought I had sisters.”

On July 15, Janet Johns and her twin half-sisters got the chance to meet when they gathered at Johns’ Fostoria Drive home in Suntree.

“We could see right away the resemblance of our mom (Evelyn) in Janet,” Janis Joan said.

“We have so much in common, it’s unreal,” Janet Johns said. “I play the piano and love music and so do my sisters.”

Now that all three sisters have met, future plans might include a family reunion and trips to North Dakota.

“We’re so very close now,” Janet Johns said. “I feel like we’ve known each other for a long time.”

Janet Johns and her husband, Russell, have been married for 56 years. She is the music director for the Cocoa Beach Community Church.

Janis Joan and her husband, Doug, have been married for 45 years. She is a retired investigator for the State Attorney General’s Office in North Dakota.

Janet Jean and her husband, Daryl, have been married for 43 years. She retired after 37 years as a dental assistant in North Dakota.

For more information about checking out your ancestry, go to the websites AncestryDNA.com, ancestry.com or myheritage.com.