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Siblings reunited decades after being put up for adoption

Posted July 6, 2013
Updated July 7, 2013

Seven adult siblings, adopted as children, were reunited Saturday at a family reunion decades in the making.

— Seven adult siblings, adopted as children, were reunited Saturday at a family reunion decades in the making. 

Some of the seven found out they had siblings when they were children, but others did not learn about their brothers and sisters until they were married with children of their own. 

"Family means togetherness, loyalty, sacrifice," said James Cotton, 49, of Charlotte.

The eight Brown brothers and sisters were separated shortly after birth and were adopted by families across the country. Dorothy Wilkerson, 56, Valerie Stewart, 54, Debra Elam, 51, James Cotton, 49, Jason Miller, 48, and Julie Conner, 46, reunited in Raleigh for the first time in more than four decades. One sibling was still in route when our cameras arrived at the event and the eighth sibling has passed away. 

Julie Conner, 46, of Raleigh, is the baby of the family.

"We were all born in Hackensack, New Jersey," she said.

Conner was a teenager when she found out she was adopted. 

"You always go to the doctor's and they ask what's your medical history and you're like, 'I don't know. I was adopted,'" she said. 

Through Internet searches several years later, Conner learned she had brothers and sisters. 

"When I got a picture of (my sister), I almost fell out. It looked like me with a wig on," said Miller.

After more than 40 years apart,  the word family takes on a whole new meaning.

"You always feel that loss. You feel like the black sheep of the family. You always feel that emptiness," Conner said. "I've found that hole and I'm glad we're filling that hole today."


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  • bombayrunner Jul 8, 2013

    good story ... good news too.

  • beachboater Jul 8, 2013

    I'm adopted and I am grateful that my birth parents put me up for adoption. I went to the most loving home with the absolute parents anyone could ask for. My daddy always told me, "son, you know we wanted you because of all of the hoops they had to jump through to get me. Both of my parents are now deceased, and I still see both of them in mind and miss them both every day.

    I wish I could find some information on my birth parents for medical reasons. They could well be dead because of the age. My mother would be in her nineties and father would be in his 80's. I've never tried to find them because I loved my adoptive parents too much and I didn't want to hurt them. I could not have loved anyone more than I did my adoptive parents. They were not rich, but they were educated, and made sure that my sister went to college. About 8 years worth for my sister.

    I wonder how they found each other?

  • Whosays Jul 8, 2013

    I am so glad they found one another!.

  • BlahBlahBlahBlahBlah Jul 8, 2013

    Great Story!!!
    So heartwarming!!
    Thinking of the song......WE ARE FAMILY!!!!!

  • 3TeensGrowinUp2Fast Jul 8, 2013

    What a wonderful story. It's sad that the 8th child passed away, but how wonderful is it that the other 7 got to meet each other, what an awesome reunion! Kudos to their mother for making a difficult choice and giving them all up for adoption, but she had her reasons and I hope they've all had happy lives, and what a happy day that they could reunite.

  • icmfal Jul 8, 2013

    "Not to be a downer on this story" Yes you were trying to be a downer.. Why I have no idea.

  • zile1porkey Jul 8, 2013

    This story is about reunion not about the mother and she was a great mom because she had strength to give them up for a better life when she was faced with not being able to keep them she didn't abandon nor kill them her spouse could have died we don't no the real circumstances what a happy reunion for them!

  • JustAName Jul 8, 2013

    Not to be a downer on this story, but a woman had 8 children within a 10-12 year period (based on ages of surviving children) and gave them all up for adoption.