East Tennessee family history mystery solved
This story starts with Tilly Baker.
"Like I knew of Krista in theory, but I had no clue how to go about finding her," said Tilly Baker, 34.
Tilly Baker did a 23 And Me test in the spring of 2018. Her goal was to find out if she had any Cherokee heritage.
her half sister Krista Jackson.
"After our last story aired we were contacted by a viewer who said that she was one of like 16 siblings and she had found them all by requesting their birth records from Nashville," explained Jackson, 40.
Putting them on a mission to learn if their family is any bigger, they soon discovered Matt Kelley. He grew up knowing he was adopted.
"I think I heard the newscast and probably turned the channel. Because when I hear adoption my ears raise, but it said sisters and I went, 'Nah', turned the channel," said Matt Kelley, 45.
Not thinking twice, Krista and Tilly were still digging up any information they could.
"I had to prove that I was her child by sending in my own birth certificate. And then saying I was requesting records for any other children she had," said Krista Jackson.
"We didn't think we'd have their actual names, their adopted names and contact information," said Tilly Baker.
"They sent me some forms I had to fill out, of course, I had to sign like a sworn statement saying that if I found them then I wouldn't try to harass them," laughed Krista Jackson.
"I was actually at work and the State called and I thought it was a telemarketer and I didn't want to answer it," chuckled Matt Kelley.
"And then she was like somebody wants to make contact with you and wants to open your adoption, wants to get your adoption records, and I was like well 'who? Can you tell me that?' And, she said, 'yeah, you have a sister'," said Kelley.
Matt's the big brother they didn't know they had. He's the eldest of the siblings.
"I was like 'well, maybe they really don't want to see me now or talk to me now'. So, I had called Nashville and they were like, it's funny because she was like, 'I am actually sending your stuff out to your sister today'," said Kelley.
"I get a text from Krista and she's like by the way we've been looking for you for a year. And I was like who's we? And she was said you have three sisters. That point I had to sit down. It was incredible. The whole thing's been incredible," said Kelley.
But there was one piece missing.
"I always knew I was adopted. That was never a secret," said Rebecca Bayne, 36.
Rebecca said she knew she had a sister after doing research on her genealogy in high school.
"When I got a call saying, 'oh somebody's requested your adoption records,'I thought that's probably who it is," explained Bayne "And when she said, 'yeah, it's your birth sister,' I said OK yeah that makes sense from what I know."
All four of them were raised in East Tennessee.
"So we've all been within about 50 miles of each other the whole time," said Krista Jackson.
But Krista had no clue, and she was the one living with their birth mother growing up until she died a few years ago.
"I think that she's happy that this happened. I think maybe she didn't know how to orchestrate something like this," explained Jackson.
Not sparing a second more apart, they're building memories.
"It was a week after we got Matt's records that we all got together and met at Big Ed's in Oak Ridge," said Rebecca Bayne.
It felt like old times.
"It's changed my life, and I'm so glad that I did it," said Tilly Baker.