DNA test connects Ocoee resident with father – West Orange Times & Windermere Observer

Posted: January 15, 2020 at 1:41 pm

When you grow up without a dad; just imagine theres no daddy-daughter dance, theres no walking you down the aisle, theres no dad protecting you. Its just something thats been a huge part of my life.

April Ciarlones mother gave her a 23andMe DNA genetic testing kit last year, hoping it would lead Ciarlone to her birth father. The present turned into an even larger gift a close relationship with her dad, 47 years after her birth.

April Ciarlone, second from left, has even more to love: her brother, Chase Oldham, left; her father, Barry Oldham; and her sister, Alicia Neely.

The Ocoee woman never knew her father, and James Barry Oldham never knew he had a daughter. But all that changed last April when she received her DNA test results and discovered a familial match. With trepidation, Ciarlone reached out and learned the match was her paternal aunt.

This led to the discovery that she has a big family, including her dad, a half- brother and -sister and a bonus mom, in Decatur, Alabama.


Ciarlones mother, now Donna Hirst, of Milton, was living in Alameda, California, when she met Oldham. She was a high school student; he was about five years older and stationed at the Naval Air Station Alameda. They met in the neighborhood, where she lived at home with her parents and he lived with a roommate in an apartment across the street.

They struck up a conversation, which led to a friendship, which led to something more. When Hirst discovered she was pregnant with Oldhams child, he already had been sent to Vietnam and she had no way of contacting him.

Hirst was 19 when April was born in 1972. Oldham was fighting in a war and didnt know he had a daughter and he wouldnt learn of her existence for more than four decades.

Hirst moved on, met and married another man and gave birth to a son.

Ciarlone grew up with her mother and brother, Rick Snurkowski. As an adult, though, she knew something was missing, and she wanted to know more about her father.


Oldham had a 23andMe testing kit, but he had yet to submit his DNA. After his sister and Ciarlone were matched, he immediately sent it in but had to anxiously wait more than a week for the results.

During that time, my emotions were everywhere, he said. My family was very supportive during that time. When the final results arrived, I opened it up to see a beautiful, brunette female that looked like my sisters! Beside it was the word DAUGHTER! My wife and I looked at each other because we had already decided that if this was true, it was Gods will.

April Ciarlone celebrated her birthday with her father, Barry Oldham, for the first time last summer.

While Oldham, now 70, is upset to have missed out on a good portion of her life, he said he understands the situation. Ciarlone said he was more upset that she didnt have her dad in her life growing up.


With all that behind them, the new family has been meeting frequently and getting to know one another. She spent her first Thanksgiving with them in November.

Ciarlone said she talks to her stepmother, Connie Oldham, several times a week and is grateful for her acceptance. More importantly, the family has formed a bond with Ciarlones daughter, Giannah, who is 12 and has autism.

Connie Oldham is a retired special-needs teacher who worked with children with autism for 40 years another gift, Ciarlone said.

Shes so great with Giannah, she said. Jesus was watching.

Giannah is having fun getting to know her cousins and grandparents.

Barry Oldham and Hirst had not been in contact since he left for Vietnam, but he had one simple message for his daughters mother: I just want you to know youve raised a wonderful woman.

The more the father and daughter talk, the more they realize they have in common.

April Ciarlone, left, and her father, Barry Oldham, favor each other in their second grade photos.

April and I both have a Type A personality, were neat and organized, love music and enjoy an occasional cocktail, Barry Oldham said. All three siblings are health conscious and work out on a regular basis like me. Each of them also likes to have the last word!

Ciarlone said she has noticed small similarities, too, besides the strong physical resemblance to her dad and younger siblings, Alicia Neely and Chase Oldham, such as their tendency to be bullheaded, the way she and her brother like their coffee and their affinity for pickles.

When the family isnt together, there are frequent texts, calls and FaceTime sessions.

April and I are very comfortable in our relationship, Barry Oldham said. I feel that we will continue to grow closer as time goes by. Its like my family has come full circle. April and Giannah complete that circle.

For Ciarlone, her circle now is complete, too.

23andMe changed my life, Ciarlone said. My prayers of finding my father (have) come true. I get to say Dad every day. ... This is my miracle.

Barry Oldham finally has his three children together: April Ciarlone, Chase Oldham and Alicia Neely.

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DNA test connects Ocoee resident with father - West Orange Times & Windermere Observer

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