An Owensboro woman recently discovered a big sister she never knew she had living in Germany. Randi Caldwell and Crimson Smith are meeting for the first time later this year after finding each other through genetic testing.
Caldwell’s mother died when she was very young, and now as a mother herself, she wanted to learn more about her history and heritage for her own daughter.
So Caldwell purchased a 23andMe DNA kit to learn more. Her initial results were nothing unexpected, but this spring she received the surprise of a lifetime — a message from a woman matched with her as a half-sister.
Caldwell said as she was growing up she lost her family one at a time. Her mother died when she was 4 and the man she thought was her father died in 2010, and she was then raised by his parents. They passed away when she was a teenager, and Caldwell bounced around from state to state for a while.
“I learned during this time that my dad wasn’t my real father, but because my mother was deceased no one had any idea of who he may be, other than she once mentioned he lived in Georgia,” she said.
In 2019 at 30 years old and as a single mom, Caldwell decided to find out more.
“I wanted to see if I could learn anything about my family by doing a DNA test,” she said. “This was my only option because no family members were left. I got my results and lots of second- and third-cousins, but none that I recognized. I did learn a lot about my medical history, which I was happy about.”
In March of this year, Calwell woke up to a message on the 23andMe app from a female in Germany.
“She said that she had taken the test and it claimed we were half-sisters,” Caldwell said. “She asked me if there was any way it could be true.”
Caldwell said it took her a few moments to gather her thoughts but she messaged back and then waited.
“I did some digging and found her on social media,” Caldwell said. “When I looked at her photos I was shocked at how we looked so much alike.”
Smith is 16 years older than Caldwell, and together they figured out that their shared father met Caldwell’s mother while on vacation.
Caldwell was thrilled to find out the identity of her birth father, though disappointed to learn he died before the age of 50 from heart disease. However, she was glad to learn about this important health history for herself and her daughter.
Caldwell and Smith message constantly now that they have connected. Smith is based in Germany with the military and is hoping to visit the U.S. this summer to meet in-person for the first time.
“It’s strange to see pictures of an entire family that look just like me,” Caldwell said. “I’m excited for the future and what it holds.”