Christina Housel was aware that she was adopted. And after years of searching, she finally found the brother who her adoptive parents had told her about. Then, when they met for the first time in three decades, he had another surprise for her. He had known their mom growing up, and as she lay on her deathbed she told him a secret.
Housel currently lives in Oak Harbor, Washington, with her husband and children. And it was when she had kids of her own that she became inspired to look more closely into her own family history. Her story came with more twists than she could have predicted, though.
Housel’s life began in Naples in southern Florida. She grew up as Christina Cioffi, but only later did she find out that she was adopted. Her biological mother gave her up shortly after she was born, however, so Housel knew very little about her biological parents’ lives.
When she became a mom herself, Housel’s curiosity grew. Through her adoptive parents she knew that she had an older brother, but Housel didn’t have much other information to go on. So with the few details that she had, she took her search to the internet – or more specifically ancestry.com.
And eventually Housel came up with a positive match – she had found a cousin. Inspired by her success, she reached out to other possible relatives on various websites, but with no luck. So next she took the search to Facebook, which is where she first made contact with Lyle James Berryman.
“I think he was pretty skeptical,” Housel admitted to Inside Edition in a September 2017 interview. Although Berryman was living in Phoenix, Arizona, he had been born in Fort Myers, Florida. That, of course, is very close to Housel’s place of birth, Naples.
And despite the decades and miles separating the two strangers, something still resonated between them. They were in fact long lost brother and sister. “When I saw her photo, I knew she was my sister,” Berryman told Inside Edition. “She looks like me.”
Housel flew to meet Berryman on Father’s Day 2017. The pair had a lot to catch up on – almost 30 years, in fact. And it was Housel who would have perhaps the biggest surprise of all. It turned out that her brother’s upbringing had been slightly different to her own.
Berryman had in fact known his mother when he was a child. When Housel had been given up for adoption, he says that their mom left him at somebody’s home in Florida. And when he was five, he was taken in by his maternal grandmother and grew up in Montana.
Berryman wouldn’t see his mother again until he was 11 years old, however. By that time their mom had terminal cancer, and it was on her deathbed that she revealed a secret to her estranged son. Not only did Berryman learn about his sister, but there was also something else that his mother had kept hidden.
There were in fact two other sisters who Berryman knew nothing about. On April 10, 1994, his mom had given birth to twins who were also put up for adoption. But despite his efforts over the years to locate his missing siblings, their whereabouts remained a mystery to him.
Berryman subsequently joined the military in 2003. It was only then, as an 18-year-old, that he met his dad’s side of the family for the first time. To keep himself occupied during his downtime while stationed in Iraq, Berryman set about looking into his family history and looking for his long lost sisters.
Berryman’s dad passed away in January 2017 after a brief illness. Wanting to know more about his sister and where the family had lived when he was a child, he hoped that his father’s side of the family might have more information. No one could remember, however. Berryman had seemingly hit another roadblock in his search.
The breakthrough came when Housel tracked down her cousin, which connected her with Berryman. The reunited siblings then set about finding their sisters. Knowing that the twins had been adopted while in Florida, Berryman and Housel had reason to believe that they might still be living there.
So they created two signs and posted a photo of them on Facebook. Housel’s sign read, “Just met after 30 years.” Berryman’s stated, “Still looking for twin girls born in Florida around May or April 1992-94.” It was a long shot, but Housel nonetheless encouraged her friends to share the post, particularly in Florida.
The message was posted on July 25 and within a matter of weeks Housel and Berryman got a result. The post has been shared a total of 225,000 times by then, in fact. And among the people who saw it were two women who fit the description.
Ashley Bo and Lauren Rutherford had both seen the post. Until then the twins had been unaware that they had an older brother and sister. Bo subsequently told Inside Edition, “I was like, ‘Is this my sister?’” Rutherford added, “It was like, ‘Holy cow, could this really be them?’”
When all four siblings met for the first time, however, there could be no mistaking the truth. One of the first things that the brother and sisters all noticed was the family resemblance. And it wasn’t just the twins who looked the same – all four shared similar facial features.
DNA and looking alike weren’t the only things that they shared, moreover. As well as Berryman’s service in Iraq in the U.S. Army, Housel has also spent some time in the Navy. And Bo’s husband currently serves in the U.S. Air Force, making it a real family affair.
At their first meeting, the four siblings shared photos from their youth. It turned out that the twins had never seen their biological mother before. “It just kind of hits you, because you are actually looking at her pictures,” Bo tearfully told Inside Edition. And the day was rounded out with a celebratory meal – and photos for a new family album of their own.