After years of searching and wondering, an adopted woman was finally reunited with her biological mother and three siblings in Bradford over the weekend.
Cyndi Lane, 44, of Kintnersville, Pa., traveled with her husband, Scott, and eight-year-old son Dylan to Bradford on Friday to meet the many new members of their family on Friday.
Audrey Gilligan, 82, of Bradford, has been thinking about the daughter she had to give up at birth since July 1968, a decision she said was the most difficult thing she’s ever had to do. Lane was Gilligan’s fifth child, and the circumstances of a deceased husband forced her to give her up for adoption.
On Sunday, the two women, joined by three of Lane’s newfound siblings and other extended family, told The Era on Sunday how grateful they were to find each other after all these years.
Lane said she had always suspected that she was adopted, having grown up with blonde hair and blue eyes in an Italian family near Philadelphia.
“I always knew in my heart something was different, but it was confirmed to me eight years ago after the birth of my son,” she said. “The biggest clues were my baby book starts with me at 12 days old, and there are no pictures of my mom pregnant with me or in the hospital.”
She grew up with the Galliano family, who went on to have a biological child of their own a few years after adopting her. But, they never told her she was adopted.
“My suspicions were confirmed after Dylan was born,” Lane said. “He has been so precious to me because he was the only thing in this world I knew was mine — until I found everyone.”
It was after the birth of her son she started an arduous journey, researching and investigating her true origins — not knowing that her biological mother and eldest brother, Steve (now deceased), had tried to embarked on the same search 25 years ago.
With the strictness of adoption laws, finding one’s biological family can be an uphill battle, filled with obstacles, roadblocks and “a lot of dead ends,” according to Lane.
Born at the former St. Francis Hospital in Olean, N.Y., she and Tracey Hall, who she describes as a “kindred spirit” who helped her in her search, were able to obtain “non-identifying information” from the state of New York.
Armed only with the knowledge that Lane’s biological mother was 37-years-old at the time of her birth and a hairdresser with four children, Lane and Hall contacted lawyers, doctors, hospitals, hair salons and anywhere else that there might be a lead.
Finally, they created a Facebook page with Lane’s information and photographs, hoping it would spread throughout the social media network and reach someone who knew Lane’s biological family.
And it did.
After eight years of searching, it took only two days on Facebook for someone to recognize her story.
The page went up online March 17, and on March 19 Lane was contacted by Teri Ozog, a Bradford native now living in Harrisburg, who she would come to learn was her cousin.
Hall, who was present at Sunday’s reunion, said she knew right away that Ozog was a relative of Lane’s.
“I could tell by her cheekbones that it was family,” she said. “It was so exciting that night when she responded. I still get teary-eyed thinking about it.”
Along with many cousins and extended family, Lane learned she was the youngest of five children: the oldest Steve, who would have been 60 this month; Greg, 58, of Bradford; Chuck, 56, of Bradford; and Darla, 54, of Bradford. A DNA test was conducted, coming back as a 99.997-percent positive match.
Gilligan said she believes it was seeing his baby sister in the hospital before she was delivered to her adopted parents that prompted her son Steve to want to look for her later on. Everyone at the reunion commented on how they wished he could have been there this weekend to see the search come to fruition.
Lane said her biggest fear in search for her mother was that she would find her and nobody would have known that she’d given up a baby for adoption or that she would have already passed away. Her husband Scott Lane said he was supportive throughout the eight-year search, but admits he was worried she could have uncovered something painful.
Lane initially thought her biological family was from Emporium, where her adoptive family had a hunting camp. “It got to the point that Tracey and I had talked to just about everyone in Emporium — all the hairdressers, their customers, beauty schools ...”
Meanwhile, Gilligan had been in Bradford the entire time. A life-long resident, she had her own hair salon for 42 years on East Main Street called Audrey’s. Lane says it all fits because she always wanted to be a hairdresser, but the similarities don’t stop there. They have similar facial features, height and taste in jewelry, a shared love for coffee, chewing gum, pedicures and television shows, and much more.
“We’ve finally found her, now we’re complete,” Gilligan said. She recalls being at a loss for words and breath when she got the call from Lane saying she was her long-lost daughter. “I always hoped I’d get a phone call like that some day.”
Everyone agreed that they were blessed to be a part of this particular family, which is so welcoming to a baby they always knew was out there somewhere.
“This has been a very happy reunion,” Gilligan said. “Now I have my two daughters. None of my kids have ever held it against me for doing what I did because they knew the circumstances.”
Lane acknowledged the difficult sacrifice her mother made with her best interest in mind, saying “I owe her everything.” Her tears were quickly brought to a halt by her joking brothers, something she says they’ve been doing all weekend — making up for lost time.
Her brother Chuck Knowlton told her he didn’t think it was possible to meet someone on Friday and love them by Saturday, and the flood of emotions started all over again.
“We met Friday night, and it’s unbelievable,” Lane said. “Even the in-laws, we’re just automatically part of the family. It’s amazing.”
Gilligan said she is overjoyed to have a new son-in-law and grandson as well. A larger reunion was held Saturday during which Lane and her family were introduced to many members of their extended family, including nieces, nephews and cousins. Her son, Dylan, said he enjoyed meeting and getting to play with his new cousins and second cousins.
“It’s wonderful to have a big extended family,” Lane said. “I just wish we lived closer.”
Currently, the mother and daughter are planning another visit for next month — possibly something special for Mothers Day.
Lane says the experience is summed up by a charm bracelet she was given by the cousin who initially came across the Facebook page.
“It has a charm which says: ‘My search has ended, now my story begins.’”