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When a grandparent let slip the truth — that her parents used donor sperm — Joyce, then 16, confronted them. They refused to admit it. She wanted to know more, but had no idea where to begin. In Britain, donor children born since have the right to find out the identity of their biological parents when they reach 18; Holland has introduced a similar law. Children born before do not get the same right to know, but what has changed for them is the rise of consumer DNA testing.
Services such as AncestryDNA and 23andMe offer low-cost reports in weeks, including genetic matches to other people who have submitted samples to their growing databases. In Holland, several family reunion TV shows have emerged in this era of genetic accessibility. In , 14 years after she confronted her parents, Joyce sat down one night to watch Familie Gezocht Family Search.
It featured a woman called Amanda. Those are my pictures.
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Those 15 people had already started their searches, and submitted samples. So had Louis.
The children matched each other — and him — and the number quickly grew. He doubts another estimate, which he says came from the foundation, that he may have as many as 1, children. For Joyce, the revelation was overwhelming. Yet her parents refused to accept the DNA evidence. She is now estranged from them. After a difficult pregnancy, followed by postnatal depression, she did not have the time or emotional strength to meet her biological father.
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Not yet. Who Is My Father? They were Maaike and Matthijs. It is really happening. These names had meant something to Louis since the autumn of , when he had spotted a document he should not have seen at one of the sperm banks. He made a note of the names.
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On the show, the twins talked about hoping to meet their father one day. He got a call to say eight children were, at that stage, looking for the same father. The first meeting came later in , when Louis arranged, through the foundation, to see a brother and sister. I had to learn to listen. But they were mine. They really existed.
In the seven years since, Louis has met more than 40 of the 57 children to whom he has now been matched. Joyce emails me a list of their dates of birth and initials. Joyce is among the oldest, and was born in March The frequency of the dates suggests a village school, rather than a family.
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H and J arrive in , and six more in A few months after her own twins were born, Joyce decided to meet up with Louis. She remembers being struck by how alike they looked. Louis talked and talked. All the siblings describe an instant, reassuring recognition when they first met — an immediate ease; a shared sense of humour.
This is captured in a striking clip from a documentary they contributed to in When Joyce answers her door to Amanda, they are wearing very similar floral dresses.
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