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Brothers reunited after years apart

Tracy McKittrick, Staff Writer

Family is rarely too far away, even if we don’t know it. This is the lesson that brothers Rick Bayne of Osgood and Mark Ashbrook of New Washington have learned after being reunited through Ancestry.com.


The last few years have seen Ancestry.com rise in popularity as a means for people to learn more about their family history. Additionally, sites like Ancestry.com and 23andme have branched out into DNA testing, which has helped people find long-lost relatives.

Bayne’s discovery began after a conversation with his daughter-in-law. He explains, “I mentioned to her that I was adopted and she said, ‘Oh really? Would you be interested in doing Ancestry.com?’ And I thought, ‘Sure, why not?’ So, a little over a month ago, she got the test and brought it over to my house. I gave her some saliva for a DNA sample and she sent it in. Then a week ago this past Thursday, she calls me and says, ‘I got some messages from [Ancestry.com] that the results are in and I’m going to stop by your house.’”


Ancestry.com showed Ashbrook’s oldest daughter as Bayne’s niece. Ashbrook says, “My oldest daughter was on Ancestry.com and through a mutual friend that we had in Madison, they were able to get linked together. They put two and two together and that is how we located each other.” Bayne elaborates, “By eight o’clock that night, I was talking to my brother on the phone.”
Ashbrook and Bayne had differing knowledge bases prior to this discovery. “I knew of my other siblings twenty five years ago,” states Ashbrook. “Rick, my brother and I, we just found each other. I knew I had a brother – I knew I had a full brother – but he hadn’t been located.” Bayne, on the other hand, had no knowledge of another sibling. “I had no clue as to any of my history,” he says.


When they finally learned about each other and met, they were both filled with joy. Ashbrook explains, “It was very touching to look one another in the eyes… It was heartwarming, overwhelming. The true meaning of happiness. It filled a void I have had all my life.” For Bayne, the experience was also deeply emotional. “The tears flew,” he says. “It was just overwhelming.”


They also discovered, upon meeting each other, that they were more alike than they were different. “Our similarities are unbelievable,” says Ashbrook. “There are a lot of people who would say we pass for twins.” Bayne concurs, stating, “We look alike, we walk alike, we talk alike, we have a lot of common interests. Our hands are alike, we wear the same size shoes… It’s insane how much we are alike.”


According to Ashbrook, the brothers became separated when they were given up for adoption at birth. “He and I were both results of an affair and the mother opted to give us up,” adds Bayne.


Now that they have been reunited, Ashbrook and Bayne plan to get to know each other better by spending more time together. Ashbrook discusses, “I am retiring and we just plan on… learning more about each other and, for a lack of better words, doing things that brothers do. Neither one of us really knows what that is yet, but we will soon, little by little. Starting off fresh.”


Ashbrook is extremely grateful to have been reunited with his brother and he encourages everyone to reach out and learn more about their families. He is also grateful for the advent of sites like Ancestry.com. “That is something, twenty-five years ago, I did not have… If there are other people who are curious and want to learn more about whether they were adopted, I want them to know: never give up… Just stay with it, there are resources that can help. Be ready to accept whatever it is that you find. In our case, acceptance has not been an issue, but when you grow up in separate lives and come together later in life, it’s a great feeling. If that is something you want to pursue, then by all means pursue it.”


Ashbrook and Bayne’s story is a beautiful testament to the enduring power of family and the power of technology to change people’s lives for the better.