AUSTIN (KXAN) — Since Nancy Friel was a child, she knew she was different. After nearly 50 years searching for answers about her biological father, she found him, and a lot more.
“For 46 years, I’ve wondered who I was,” said Friel.
When her mother passed away about 10 years ago, she knew she had to find her biological father on her own. “I thought I would never, ever find out.”
Friel used an Ancestry DNA kit she’d received as a Christmas gift to try and learn more about where she came from.
“I took the test just thinking that I was going to get my ethnicity results — not realizing that it was going to match me with other people that took the test,” said Friel. “It matched me with three of my siblings.”
Siblings Friel never knew about and had never met. They share the same father, but have different mothers.
Unfortunately, their father, Joseph Riedlinger, passed away about 18 years ago. She was never able to meet him. However, he did leave behind 12 new siblings for Friel and a lifetime of memories to be made.
A handful of the siblings reside in the Austin area. On Thursday, about six weeks after they discovered each other online, Friel flew to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to meet her siblings for the first time.
Few eyes were dry, as the family greeted one another after a lifetime of waiting.
“I want to hear more. I want to know what life growing up with them and 12 siblings in one household and how crazy it was,” explained Friel.
One of her newfound brothers, Steve Riedlinger, said the news first came as a shock.
“Now, just excitement, you know, and just trying to catch up on all the things we missed. Trying to see the family resemblances, connect the timelines,” he said.
Friel says, after an entire life searching for her biological father, she finally has a picture of him. “My son’s 35. He looks exactly the same. For 35 years, I’ve had [my dad’s] face in front of me.”
A family back together at baggage claim now has a lifetime of memories to catch up on. “I don’t feel like it’s — like I’m just meeting them for the first time,” Friel said. “I feel like I’ve known them my whole life.”