Kansas City, MO (KCTV) — At-home DNA testing has exploded over the last few years.
You can find out everything from what countries your ancestors came from to what you’re genetically predisposed to, to what breeds the family mutt is made of.
But for some, the tests unlock questions they’ve been trying to answer their whole lives.
More than 26 million people have submitted their DNA to companies like 23 and Me and Ancestry.
However, for one local woman, it was about much more than just curiosity, and the answers she found changed the lives of two people forever.
“To me, just knowing the truth is important,” said Tamatha Steinwachs who always knew her father was out there somewhere.
“I was always looking for my father,” Steinwachs said.
She submitted her DNA to 23 and Me and found her half-brother, Nathan, so she called him on the phone.
The man who answered the call? Charles Messer. And were they ever in for a surprise.
“At that point, I asked if he was Nathan’s biological father or stepfather, and he said his biological. So I said, ‘Well, I think I need to speak to you. I think that you are my dad,’” Steinwachs said.
After decades of questions, Steinwachs had answers.
“It was pretty quick. It was from May 5 to May 7 that I found from Nathan being a half-brother to him being my dad,” she said.
“It took a little bit to get used to that idea,” Messer said.
“Unless you’ve lived through this, you have no idea what it feels like to not know who your dad is, and to just be daddy’s little girl,” added Steinwachs.
Messer lives in Florida but was born and raised in Gardner, Kansas.
It just so happened he was heading to the metro for a class reunion. It was a trip that would include much more than meeting up with his old high school buddies.
“That was the first time we met … right at the front door of this establishment,” Messer said of the Blue Springs Applebees where the two sat down with KCTV5 News.
It was a moment that’s tough to put words to.
“Well, she was speechless for a change,” Messer said.
“I couldn’t catch my breath, and I’m not usually that emotional of a person, but I cried like a baby for maybe 30 minutes. I couldn’t catch my breath! And he just gave me a big bear hug. It was great. It was amazing,” Steinwachs said.
Since then, the two have met up a couple of times — both in Kansas City and in Florida — making up for lost time.
“I got to meet all his friends, got to be at his house … so we spent Father’s Day … it was my first Father’s Day that I got to spend with my father, so it was great,” Steinwachs said.
The timing, in its own way, was perfect.
Steinwachs’ daughter was weeks away from getting married. Not only would Messer be able to see his granddaughter get married, he’d get to have a long overdue father-daughter dance with Steinwachs.
“We practiced while we were in Florida, because we never danced together … who knows what that was going to look like?” joked Steinwachs.
“We’re going to do a real simple box step,” Messer said.
And while they can’t get back what they lost all those years ago, they talk every day.
They are now focused on the future and making new memories that will last a lifetime.
“I’m glad she found me … couldn’t ask for a better daughter,” Messer said.
The father-daughter duo say if there’s one thing they want people to take away from sharing their story it’s that if you’ve ever hesitated on finding family through these DNA tests, don’t. They say you never know what you’re missing.
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