In 2009 Rachelle Dyer and Shannon Nicoll attended a concert together and snapped a selfie. The women’s mutual friends kept insisting that the pair looked alike, but they thought nothing of the resemblance – until 2019, that is, when modern technology revealed the remarkable truth. You see, Dyer and Nicoll – as well as each of their sisters – actually share the same mom.
Back in 2004 Dyer headed nearly 2,500 miles from her hometown of Seattle, Washington, to Virginia Beach, Virginia, for a fresh start. There, she got a job as a special education teacher at Tallwood Elementary. And the woman’s loving family came with her, too. “I have the most amazing son and husband! I am a lucky woman!” she shared on her Facebook page.
Eventually, Dyer came to know Virginia Beach-native Nicoll. And right off the bat, the women shared a connection. After all, Nicoll had completed her teacher training at Tallwood Elementary where Dyer now worked. But while the two never actually met at the institution – since Nicoll went on to teach at King’s Grant Elementary – it seems that they were somehow destined to cross paths.
You see, Dyer and Nicoll shared mutual acquaintances from their respective stints at Tallwood. And these teachers quickly noted that the two women look remarkably alike. Then, when Dyer happened to make friends with a group of colleagues who were particularly close with Nicoll, the coworkers couldn’t help but point out the distinct similarities that the two strangers shared.
What’s more, it’s perhaps fair to say that the women who vocalized the resemblances between Nicoll and Dyer probably have better judgement than most; they grew up alongside Nicoll, after all. She told Good Morning America in 2019, “The crazy thing was the two friends [who] were telling [Dyer] we looked alike were my childhood best friends.”
Then, in 2009 Dyer and Nicoll finally got to see the apparent likeness for themselves. The women met each other for the first time when they both went to a Kenny Chesney concert that year with a friend they shared, you see. And Dyer told The Star in February 2019 that the experience was “almost like looking in a mirror” – owing to her and Nicoll’s similar appearances and behavior.
“Everybody was always telling me I had a sister,” Dyer added, referring to Nicoll. But in fact, Dyer already has a sister: her Seattle-based twin, Kristelle Arthur Harrington. And Nicoll, too, has a sibling of her own, who’s called Lisa Holley Vann. In early 2019, however, all four women would learn the truth about the astonishing connection that they share.
Dyer was the one to crack the case, it turned out. In 2017 her husband, Michael, suggested that she take an at-home DNA test to learn more about her heritage. But when the teacher received her results in the spring of 2018, she didn’t even consider the possibility that she could search for potential family members in the genetic database. However, that was about to change.
You see, in early 2019, the students at Tallwood Elementary were in the midst of completing ancestry projects. And the principal suggested that Dyer use the information from her DNA test to look for genetic samples that match her own. Then, once Dyer delved into her results, she realized that she had a biological connection with a woman named Tracey Hall – who turned out to be her cousin.
Excited to find out more about her family, Dyer subsequently reached out to Hall. And as it happened, her cousin knew precisely who she was. You see, Hall’s mother, Sue – Dyer’s biological aunt – had divulged a huge secret that no one else in their family knew about. Sue told The Star, “I figured, if I died, someone had to know about this.”
According to Sue, her sister, Janice Moore, had given birth to twin daughters, and she had decided to put them up for adoption. But while Dyer already knew that she and her sister had been adopted as babies, she didn’t know anything about her biological mother. And so, now she finally had a link to her real family.
However, the truly shocking news was yet to come. Dyer also discovered that she, as Moore’s biological daughter, has two half-sisters who also live in the Virginia Beach area. And when Dyer heard the women’s names – Lisa Holley Vann and Shannon Nicoll – she suddenly knew that she had encountered one of them a decade before.
In that moment, Dyer was, understandably, in shock – especially given the revelation that she had known one of her half-sisters for years. She said, “When [the Halls] told me we had half sisters, I stood up and turned white as a ghost.” And the news floored Nicoll and Vann, too, since their mother hadn’t told them about her history, either.
Nicoll said on Good Morning America in February, “[Vann] and I had no idea at all that our mother had even given birth to twins in the past.” She also added, “[Dyer and Harrington] knew that they were adopted all these years, so for us, it was pretty mind-blowing.”
It turned out that Nicoll and Vann’s mother, Moore, had given up Dyer and her twin sister, Harrington, for adoption back in the 1960s. Moore had believed that she was unfit to raise the girls on her own, you see. But that said, the mother had laid out some stipulations for whoever adopted them. The adoptive parents had to keep the twins together, for one thing, and they had to raise the girls in the Catholic faith, too.
Remarkably, Moore only disclosed this secret to one person: her sister, Sue, who later passed on the information to her daughter – the cousin whom Dyer had tracked down through the DNA test. Sue told The Star, “[Moore] was determined to do the best thing for the twins, and we always wondered about them.” And thankfully, Dyer and Harrington had great childhoods with their adoptive family. So, where do Nicoll and Vann come into the story?
Well, two years after giving birth to the twins, Moore met a man named Dean Holley. The couple tied the knot and relocated to Virginia Beach, where they had their daughters, Vann, who is now 51, and 49-year-old Nicoll. And neither could have imagined that they would one day discover that they have more siblings out there.
However, thanks to the online genetic database, the women finally found out the remarkable truth. And once the four of them had recovered from the initial shock, they wasted no time in making up for lost years. In February of 2019, Dyer, Harrington, Nicoll and Vann all met up in person for a meal – and they noticed a slew of similarities that only sisters could share. They spoke in almost identical ways, for one thing, and all of them are outgoing. Plus, each of the women has a passion for style.
What’s more, even the women’s respective family members were stunned by the uncanny likeness. Nicoll said, “Both of my children came to the dinner, and every time the four of us would laugh, they put their hands over their mouths because they couldn’t believe how much we sounded alike. I mean, we were finishing each other’s sentences.” But the similarities didn’t stop there.
You see, the sisters also discovered some strange coincidences about the lives that they had led separately from one another. Dyer revealed, for instance, “My husband’s dad’s birthday is the same as our birth mother’s. Our mom had a pilot’s license, and my husband’s mom did too.” She added, “All this is mind-boggling, but it’s so very wonderful.”
Unsurprisingly, the women have promised to stay in touch with one another – in spite of the fact that Harrington lives so far away in Washington. She said, “Dinner was a great time, and we can’t wait to be together again. The holidays will be hard for me because I have so much family in Seattle, and I know [my sisters will] all be getting together in Virginia Beach.”
For the three women who are able to gather in Virginia Beach, though, the holidays will hold special meaning, since their mother, Moore, passed away recently. As Nicoll explained on Good Morning America, “For us, with losing mom recently, she was Thanksgiving, she was Christmas; she was all of those things and made it everything.”
Nicoll went on to say, “There’s been that void there, but now we feel like we have a piece of her.” Not only that, but the sisters believe that their late mom somehow helped orchestrate their reunion from beyond. Dyer said, “All four of us feel like she’s had a big hand in this, getting us all together at this time in our lives. We all really needed it.”
“I’ve never had my own family in Virginia Beach. And Lisa and Shannon don’t have the mom they grew up with there anymore. But I like to think that now they have two new pieces of her in me and [Harrington],” Dyer concluded. And her newly discovered sister, Nicoll, agreed. In fact, all four women confirmed that this is only the beginning of the moments that they’ll share together.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, when the sisters’ astonishing story hit the internet, it quickly went viral. The tale caused enough of a stir to land them a Good Morning America segment, in fact. And most people who watched the clip seemed to agree with Facebook user Linda Poston Hedrick, who wrote, “This is so amazing and heartwarming. So happy for your family!”
As of early 2018, 25 million Americans had submitted an at-home genetic testing kit, and one in every 25 adults had access to their personal genetic data, according to Technology Review. And so, with more and more people exploring online DNA databases, stories similar to the Virginia Beach sisters’ have popped up around the nation.
Take Connie Moultroup, for instance, whose home DNA test changed her life, too. After entering the world in Indiana in 1949, Moultroup ended up in an orphanage – until a Santa Barbara, California-based couple took her in. Moultroup headed home with them, but, sadly, she didn’t find her happily-ever-after with her new parents.
Instead, the family faced two tragic events. Moultroup’s adoptive mom succumbed to cancer – shortly before her adoptive dad learned that he was suffering from a heart problem, which eventually proved fatal. And so, by the time that Moultroup was five years old, she had already lost both of her guardians. This left the young girl in the care of her late father’s second wife.
Tragically, however, it turned out that the stepmother would not care for her newfound daughter in the right way. And instead, she allegedly abused Moultroup. This left the little girl to daydream about what life might be like with her biological mother, according to Moultroup’s daughter, Bonnie Chase.
“The whole time, she just wanted to find her actual mother to rescue her from that horrible situation,” Chase told CNN in 2018. Understandably, then, Moultroup spent decades trying to track down the woman who had given birth to her. But she had little luck – until she was introduced to an at-home DNA test when Chase gave her one as a Christmas gift in 2017.
As Moultroup recalled, “It took me a while to use it, but when I finally got the results, I went from having only three known relatives – a daughter and two grandchildren – to 1,600 relatives. I was floored.” But despite the 69-year-old’s shock, she nevertheless jumped at the chance to reach out to some of her newfound family members.
Among Moultroup’s DNA matches, she pinpointed a distant cousin, who she hoped would know more about her biological mom. However, the surprise of finding so many relatives paled in comparison to what happened next. Moultroup said, “I told [my cousin] my mother’s name was Genevieve Purinton, and my cousin said, ‘Oh, that’s my aunt.’”
What’s more, the cousin went on to reveal that Purinton is in fact still very much alive. And understandably, Moultroup was blown away. “I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I was going to meet my mother.” But although the 69-year-old was certainly shocked, no one would be more surprised by the news than her biological mother. That’s because Purinton had believed that her baby – born almost 70 years previously – had died.
You see, Purinton had fallen pregnant at 18, and she had stopped going to high school once her baby bump had started to show. But the teen had nevertheless earned her diploma and, coincidentally, had received the certificate in the mail on the exact day that she had welcomed her daughter in Gary, Indiana. Purinton had been by herself as she had delivered the child – and she never even got to see her.
Purinton told WTVT, “When I said I wanted to see the baby, [the doctors] told me she died.” Remarkably, according to research by author Ann Fesler, this was commonplace at the time for women giving birth outside of wedlock. And in Purinton’s case, a doctor at the hospital had secretly organized her daughter’s adoption – even deceiving the new mother into signing the papers that had been required to legalize it.
After that, Purinton did the only thing a mother could do in such a terrible situation. “She continued with her life, not knowing I was still alive,” Moultroup told CNN. But in her 88th year on earth, Purinton finally found out that her daughter had in fact survived. This news presumably delighted the octogenarian, who had previously believed that she was alone in the world.
After all, Purinton never had any more kids after giving birth to Moultroup in 1949. By 2018, moreover, she had lost all of her siblings. The 88-year-old was truly by herself, then – until her long-lost daughter contacted her, that is. But as well as discovering that her child is still alive, Purinton also learned that she has a grandchild and a couple of great grandchildren out there, too.
After speaking on the phone for the first time, Moultroup and Purinton decided to meet – after almost seven decades of being apart. So, Moultroup traveled to her mother’s Tampa, Florida, retirement home. And it perhaps goes without saying that the reunion was an emotional one. “I met my mother and my cousin in person, and we cried. It was just a crying fest,” Moultroup recalled.
Afterward, Moultroup shared a touching photo of the reunion on Facebook – along with some happy thoughts about the occasion. “I’ve just met my biological mother for the first time in my life!” she wrote. “What a blessed and wonderful Christmas present! It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life… literally.”
But the remarkable news doesn’t end there. After all, Moultroup went on to connect with two half-sisters through her biological father’s side, and she plans on meeting them face-to-face, too. If the incredible stories of Moultroup and the four Virginia Beach sisters are anything to go by, it’s fair to say that at-home DNA tests have the power to dramatically change people’s lives – often for the better. “Not everybody has this kind of outcome when looking for their parents, but I recommend you give it a try,” Moultroup told CNN. “You don’t know what will happen.” We bet these women are extremely glad that they found out.