Imagine going through your whole life as an old child—only to find out that you are actually one of 19 half-siblings. That’s what happened to 92-year-old Detroit native Mariann Evelyn Jeffery, thanks to ancestry.com and a determined family historian named Robert Dumas.
48-year-old Dumas had always been interested in genealogy—and he acts on his findings. Once, he even helped a woman find her biological mother.
“He is so crazy, in a good way, about ancestry.com,” said Dumas’ 28-year-old daughter, Alyssa Young. “He has found so many of our family members through that and has actually helped several other families find their relatives, as well.”
It was only inevitable that Dumas would decide to tackle his own family history. He turned to ancestry.com for help. Through research and DNA testing, Dumas learned that Jeffrey is his aunt. As he began to connect the dots, he discovered that not only did Jeffrey have eight half-brothers and sisters in the Dumas family, she had another 11 from her biological mother.
Jeffery had been adopted out as an infant, so none of this was known to her. Jeffrey’s biological mother Margaret Karns and father Thomas Frank Dumas were 15 and 18 when Jeffery was born. They then went their separate ways and eventually married other people (both twice). They also were pretty prolific with their child-making. Margaret Karns became Margaret Corwin and had 11 other children, nine of them Corwins. Dumas had eight other children.
Jeffery’s adoptive parents were Thomas and Mildred Hanlon. They “turned out to be a loving family, (with) a little bit of Detroit auto history,” Robert Dumas said. Her adopted father was one of three men to drive around the world in a Huppmobile from 1910-1912. You can read about their story in the book “Three Men in a Hupp: Around the World by Automobile, 1910-1912” by James A. Ward.
After discovering all of this family history, it made sense to introduce Jeffery to her new/old family. On October 20th, the Dumases and Corwins came together at the Detroit Marriot in Livonia to help Jeffery celebrate. A family tree and old family photographs were used as party decorations. Each family wore different colored name tags to differentiate which side they were from. The Dumas’ family wore blue, and the Corwins wore red.
Jeffery says she was shocked to find out she has 19 brothers and sisters. She says the meeting reminded her of the parties she used to put on with her husband, Don Jeffery, when he worked for the National Bank of Detroit.
Jeffery wasn’t the only one shocked and emotional at the reunion. Mariann’s half-brother, 75-year-old Robert Corwin, says he was amazed to discover that he has a sister.
“I haven’t been this emotional and surprised since my daughter was born,” he said. “This is truly amazing to find out after eons that you have a living sibling.”